Tuesday, January 17, 2017

the new building

a layered brick building
rises slowly
on the slope where horses
once ran,
where the trees bend
in the sunlight.
it's worthy
of frank Lloyd wright,
simple
and clean.
it reminds me of Falling Waters.
the lines are perfect.
I welcome
and admire this new
sublime structure,
walking by it
to watch the workers
lay bricks,
and set glass between
the pillars.
in no time it goes up.
and when I return,
one night,
I see the sign shining
in red and yellow
neon.
Chicken Out.

rebel

I kick my feet up
onto the coffee table.
no one
yells at me for doing that.
like they used
to do
when I was a kid.
I don't make my bed,
or take the trash out
on trash day.
there are days on end
when I won't
eat my peas,
or get my elbows off
the table.
I truly am in a rebellious
phase these days.
I might
even go to sleep
on the couch with the tv
still on, the door
unlocked.

ragweed betty

the blood work comes
back
from the lab
and the allergist tells me
I am
allergic to nothing on
this earth.
he shows me the list.
sheep sorrel, no,
cat dander, no.
Bermuda, Johnson, Kentucky,
orchard or
timothy grass, no.
nada.
mugwort? aspergillus fumigatus?
no.
not even pigweed rough.
there are thirty seven
components on
the list.
I read the list to my
friend betty,
who sits close to me
on the couch.
I shake my head,
blowing my nose
after sneezing.
they may have missed
one.

on broadway

as we were speeding
down broadway at sixty
miles an hour
I asked a cab
driver in new York city
how many people
he ran over
and killed per day.
this made him stop eating
his kabob, look into
his mirror and laugh,
spitting
lettuce, lamb bits,
and sour cream onto his
windshield,
which he wiped with off
the sleeve of his pajamas.

she loved gum

when we made love,
she used to talk into my ear,
my good ear
about her mother,
or her cat.
sometimes she'd go off
and talk about a shoe sale
at Nordstrom.
she liked to chew gum
too and occasionally
would snap it loudly
as we continued with
our romantic interlude.
she loved gum.
flavored, orange or lemon,
sometimes blowing bubbles
very close to the end.
we were in different worlds,
maybe
we were different
species. it's hard to think
about her now,
without thinking
about gum.

wanting

I want less.
I want more.
I don't know what I want.
it's a day by day thing
at this point.
there is no five year
plan,
no gold watch waiting.
no parade.
nothing looms, nothing
is on the road
up ahead that
I can see through this
fog.
I won't say that it's all
good,
but I won't say that
it's not too bad
either.
I want less.
I want more.

Monday, January 16, 2017

she's still in china

she's still in china,
doing something.
spy things, maybe.
she's very mysterious and coy.
she says things like,
you don't know me,
or I can't tell you what
i'm doing, because
then i'd have to kill you.
I usually answer her by
saying, whatever, or
I don't really care.
to which she says, oh
really.
it goes back and forth
like this for days, texting.
like fourteen year olds,
while she's still in china.
or at least she says she's
in china.
my friend betty, said
she saw her in target last
night buying towels.
so I don't really know.
betty wouldn't lie to me,
not that she doesn't have
her own issues.

distraction

i'm easily distracted.
I see you
scratching the side of your
leg as you stretch them
high into the air,
and I want to know
what's up with that.
did a bug bite you,
a rash perhaps?
maybe I should take a look,
rub some massage oil
on it. here,
let me help you get
those yoga pants off.

some people

you think
you know people, and then
they
do something
that surprises you.
they're unusually kind
or nice.
getting you a cup of
coffee when you didn't even
ask for one. they are
almost human.
while other people,
who you
don't think are necessarily
evil
are caught going
through
your closets,
peeking under your bed,
looking
at your very very
personal things.
you never know with
people.

on hold

i'm on hold listening
to bad music,
I have the speaker on
so I can attend
to other things
while I wait my turn.
I make dinner, I make
the bed.
I make peace
with some members of my
family,
writing them
a friendly card
of apology for not
being interested in
their crazy dysfunctional
lives.
I strip a chair of old
stain, and refinish
it with a nice
matte gloss polyurethane.
the music keeps playing.
I can't go far,
my turn is coming up
soon.
very soon I hope.
mom is so busy these days.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

swimming towards you

i take my
chances with
the ocean, the waves,
sharks.
the coral reefs.
the cold brunt of salt.
I can see the wet mirage
of an island
in the south seas.
open arms.
I point myself in that direction,
and go.
arm over arm,
legs kicking.
breathing, side to side.
I've been swimming
for a long time
without you,
today is no different.

without heaven

without heaven,
what are we doing here.
taking
our shoes
off. lying in bed.
praying on beads,
one hail mary after the other.
a clue.
a whispered
voice.
a scream. something would
be nice.
i'll get up
in a little while and fix
something to eat.
turn on
the tv.
maybe the phone
will ring.

the game

tired
of the game.
it's worn me down.
chiseled
the hard stone off of me.
left me with this.
this husk
of life
that sways in the wind.
this might be how it ends.
fluttering in pieces,
stem by stem,
across
the wide field.

the stranger

stay in touch, he says.
shaking my hand before boarding his
flight. he brushes his white
hair to the side.
don't let
another year go by without
coming
to visit.
he hugs me and picks up
his bag
then disappears into
the crowd.
I wonder who he is.
who he thought I was.
I just came in for a drink,
a paper and to watch
the planes come and go.
I miss him already.

early

I listen
down the stairs, but
hear nothing.
a drip.
a dog outside.
the neighbor rising just
past the thin wall.
a car door close
and drive away.
there is no
one in the kitchen.
no one
at the stove
cracking eggs,
stirring. no crackle
of a hot pan.
no coffee brewing.
I like it this way.
I don't like
it this way.
but i'm up. i'll move
on.

a spoon of light

a spoon
of sunlight comes in.
sits
upon her leg,
sleeping.
I don't want to wake her,
not yet.
let her go on
in that other world,
where she's happy,
unafraid,
not sorry and quiet
with regret.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

from siberia

she sends me a photo
from Siberia.
she's wrapped in a bear coat,
or chinchilla, i'm not
sure, but she looks warm.
there is snow and ice
around her. narrowed bands
of light.
a small white dog or wolf
is in her arms.
I can barely see her
eyes.
blue, glazed with cold.
the tumble of her hair
is wind blown.
I look at a map of Siberia
and put my
finger on it.
I wonder why she's there.
I look at her ankles
for shackles.

she used to cry a lot

she used to cry a lot.
sometimes
it was something I did
or said,
or didn't say or didn't
do,
but mostly
it was for mysterious
reasons only she knew.
occasionally i'd question her
sympathetically, asking,
is it your mom, your dad,
your dog, your horse. work?
the election results?
no answer.
I kept a supply of Kleenex
in the car.
in the house, prepared
for stormy weather, always
on thin ice.
let's talk about it, i'd say,
as she sobbed into
her hands, her head bobbing,
bent over.
i'd rub my chin, pace
the room, offer to make her
a pot of green tea.
tell a joke or two,
which only increased
the depth of her crying.
do you want me to leave,
i'd ask, and she'd said,
no, maybe, I mean if you
want to, if you don't care
or love me, do you whatever
you want.
after awhile she ran out
of tears and would stand up,
stretch. do some sort
of yoga breathing.
she'd go into
the bathroom and splash
cold water onto her face
and reapply her make up.
she'd yell out to me, could
you open the wine please
and pour me a glass.

wolves

new homes
have risen where the wolves
were.
small castles
for small kings and queens.
they shaved the land
of trees.
flattened it
with wide black
streets.
not a trace of blood
or bone remains.
green signs, mail boxes,
sand pits
have grown
in place.
new saplings bend
in the wind.
strapped
tightly to posts.

in passing

they walk
alone, or in pairs
against
the woods, along
the lake.
dreary blue,
dreary grey,
the rain soaked day.
it's hard to lift
a head
and wave or say hello
to those who pass.
what grief
there is, what sorrow,
what reason
to be so quiet,
so alone, is unknown.

still hers

her children
have wandered away
as children
tend to do over time.
no longer
needing
the milk,
the tuck or prayer
before sleep.
the brush or comb
against
the hair.
they have
grown into themselves,
but though
far in miles
they are still hers.

she delivers

if you ask her
for something sweet.
she brings
sugar cookies
on a green plate,
and lips.
she delivers
with a wink
and a well placed
kiss.

in transition

she's in transition,
she tells me.
between love,
looking for work,
a new place to live,
carrying ashes
from the past.
I say to her, who isn't.
who isn't
stepping of the train
each day
with a bag, a sigh,
a well worn map.

watering

putting the coffee on,
staring out the kitchen window
over the sink.
the day is blue,
the sky
unlit still by any light.
annoyed at the plants
upon the sill,
bending brown
in the cold.
watering them once more
to bring them back to life.
I could use some watering.

remember whens

-i need some new memories.
tired of the old
remember whens.
some fresh
thoughts, different points
of view.
it's time to shed
the skin
of time passed and
begin again.
maybe tomorrow after
if I've flipped through
this box of photos
for the hundredth time.

Friday, January 13, 2017

squirrel stew

how could I say no
to her squirrel stew recipe.
we were in love.
mountain love.
she scribbled it
on the back of a pink
piece of paper with drawn hearts.
onions, potatoes, carrots.
celery. red wine,
preferably thunderbird,
or boones farm.
three squirrels, (check for rabies)
fileted and sautéed.
salt and pepper
to taste.
boil in a large
pot of well water,
or tap,
if well water is unavailable.
strain, stir.
add possum or deer,
if the squirrels
are slender
and rare this season.
serve with biscuits
and cider.
serves four.

relentless

the watch,
ticking away in a drawer.
with other
watches, most
unworn,
some with bands,
others
broken off.
together they talk
with
their ticking,
their quiet
chambers
making small whispered
talk.
relentless they are,
each with a different
time,
unwound, unshaken.
batteries
nearly drained,
and dry.

an apple

it's just an apple
with a worm.
there will be more apples
fallen or
picked from rows of trees
in the northwest
chill
and sun, like eden.
there is the stem,
the seed,
the crunch of apple
meat.
it's in hand.
in a bushel.
here, have one. have
one
on me, says
eve.

what comes next

the day after,
the after effects
of this
or that.
after dinner,
after breakfast
after we make love.
after we go
our separate ways.
after the rain.
there is always
an after.
after i'm over a
cold
this headache,
this heart ach4e.
after
birth,
after sleep,
after work.
after you.
after life.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

peaceful together

a line
from the forest
appears
at the counter
of the medical center.
cards in hand.
id's.
a rabbit wrapped
in a bandage,
after being bitten by
a fox.
the fox
with a cane,
hit by a car.
raccoons coughing
with the flu.
a gaggle of geese,
bills stuck
with plastic wrappers.
a deer
grazed by an arrow.
the owl
with bad vision needing
glasses.
a mouse squeaking
in his grasp.
how peaceful we all
are together
when suffering.

what friends do

her sorrow is not mine,
so it's hard
to get there, difficult
to imagine
and feel what she feels.
pretension takes hold.
empathy
to some luke warm degree.
it's a not a large
tragedy,
not a death,
or fire,
or disease. it's less
of any
of that and more of
day to day
living.
but we try, we do as friends
what friends
must do
when in need.

the waiting room

the baby crying,
beneath the blue
blanket
in the waiting room
is the only sound
we hear.
the mother
tends to him,
with a finger to his lips.
whispering
soft words.
the baby keeps crying
despite love,
despite caring,
despite everything.
we sit quietly,
staring into magazines
we have no interest in,
having
learned, unlike the baby
yet, to mute
our tears.

unleashed

the dog
in the street, running side
to side.
panicked, unleashed,
uncollared,
panting with thirst
and hunger.
how quick
we are to run
without a plan,
not knowing where we're
going,
or how to get back
again.

the lines are blurred

the lines
are blurred. as is the creek
through
the window,
the sheers, the trees
now bare with
winters breath,
the row of houses on
the ridge
are sealed
with quiet voices.
smoke
lingers and pulls
out from chimneys
on the tilt of grey tiled roofs.
there is nothing on the list
of things
to do,
but I can tell you
that at times like this,
I miss
and love you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

no cowboy

there's not a rodeo
bone
in my body.
I say no
to horses and cows,
get along little doggies.
no chaps, please,
or ten gallon hats,
or ropes,
or lariats, or lassos.
no bulls to ride,
or sheep to herd.
no campfire, no baked beans
on a tin plate,
or yodeling.
there's not a thing
I want to fetch, or fence
I want to fix
along the lower forty.
I've got no fondness
for the cowboy
world.
I don't even like their
football team.

miscues

the missing tooth,
the key
lost, a button
fallen
off, a thread pulled.
a left turn,
a coin into the grate,
a dollar
torn,
a phone called
missed, an earring,
a shoe,
an
appointment,
your birthday,
the burner on the stove
above
a boiling
pot of stew. her name,
her name,
her name,
as she stares and waits
aghast
at you.

blood pressure

she takes your arm
between hers,
says relax.
straps a Velcro band
around your bicep,
plugs a thermometer
into your mouth
then starts
the machine.
it tightens as your
legs swing
beneath you.
your mind goes
elsewhere,
to the street when
you were ten
with worn sneakers
on your feet.
the ball in the air.

out takes


I don't like
the out takes. the practice
sessions,
the bootleg
release.
it's a mish mash of
wrong
instruments and lyrics,
a different piece
altogether,
misplaced whistles and drums.
it's unnerving.
you can't even sing
to these songs.
give me
subterranean homesick
blues
straight up
after it's
been polished
to it's stinging
tune.

a single bar of soap

it's the single
bar
of soap
a white new cake
of suds
and bubbles
that sits upon the corner
of a full
tub of hot
water.
untouched
till now.
how quickly it goes.
growing
smaller
with each use.
down
the drain, where I
suppose everything
including us
will eventually
go.

Monday, January 9, 2017

we were that hungry

I can see my mother
standing on the porch, glasses
on, waving
a spoon, calling us in.
yelling out, dinner's ready.
what are we having,
i'd yell out, as if it mattered,
to which she'd reply,
get in here and wash your hands.
all of you.
it's on the table.
we'd get one more kick of the ball
in, one more throw, or
rounding of the bases chalked
in the black top street.
but she only had to yell once
and we came.
we were that hungry.

the good china

the good china
sits in a box in the basement
awaiting fine
company. royalty perhaps,
not unlike
the ex in-laws.
gold leaf
porcelain plates.
tea cups and saucers.
even a gravy boat to match.
I think about it sometimes
when
spooning mashed potatoes
and meat
loaf, green beans
onto to a flimsy paper
plate.
the jello I have bowls
for, though
heaven forbid, not the good
china.

maybe it's nothing

i'm easily bothered
lately,
on edge, distracted.
less tolerant
of the world and the people
that have filled it.
maybe
it's the weather,
the lack
of love. the lack of warm
air.
the absence of son
and dog.
maybe it's being another
year older
and less wiser.
maybe it's nothing,
nothing
that a good sleep won't
wash away
in a pleasant
wave of dreams.

full circle

it used to be a dry cleaners
called Get it White,
the store
on the corner, the brick building
with the windows and doors
caddy corner to the intersection,
a four way light.
then it was a Chinese
restaurant.
Woo Hung. they delivered
all hours
of the night.
after that it was a coffee
shop,
gourmet beans,
with home made
pastries, cakes,
Belgian waffles and buns.
then it was empty
for a long time.
a hollow dark room
with broken windows,
a cave for
pigeons,
mice,
young lovers, or wayward
bums.
today a new sign has been posted.
coming soon.
clean as a whistle
dry cleaners.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

the crystal ball

my gypsy friend
Lolita
was out on her porch
the other day smoking
a cigarette.
drinking wine.
her crystal ball was beside
her.
I could see
the crack running around the glass
globe.
steam seemed to becoming
out of it,
in ribboned bands.
what's up? I asked her.
I broke my crystal ball
she said.
dropped it on the floor
when I was spraying it with windex.
i'm out of business for awhile.
I have one on order from
Lithuania,
but amazon said it would take
a week, at least.
what bout your tarot
cards and Ouija board>
nah,
I have better results with
the ball.
the Ouija board is kind of lame
anyway.
i'm tired of looking at the lines
in peoples hands too.
I caught a terrible cold
last month.
people need to wash their
hands more, or use
that germ killing liquid.
I need to buy a jug of that and
keep it near the door.
yup, I said.
that's why I wear gloves
all the time.
good idea she says.
you're a smart cookie.

card game

a band
of cold mice
find their way into
my cupboard
seeking warmth
and food.
they are playing cards
at a small
table of hard cheese.
there is a candle
lit,
as they each nibble
at the edge
of a saltine cracker,
and sip
bourbon.
shut the door, one
says, shivering
in his grey fur,
with a scarf round
his little shoulders,
you're letting a draft
in.

each day

each day
with increasing speed
it seems that someone
who's been part of your
life
in the news, in
movies
in a band, or on
tv
has passed away.
your world
as you've known it,
on a turn table,
in black and white,
and technicolor,
is crumbling
bitter sweetly away.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

her boots

do you like my boots,
she asks,
spinning around with a drink
in her hand,
wearing only her boots.
tight black leather
that rises above her knees.
she makes herself so dizzy
that she tumbles
into the table
knocking over a vase
I bought in Italy ten
years ago
when I was flush with money.
it explodes in a cloud
of ancient dust.
it mushrooms towards the ceiling.
oops, she says.
sorry, i'll buy you another
one, okay.
target?
don't worry about it,
I tell her.
I like your boots.

pale blue

it's blue out.
the snow. a solemn crust
of white,
a half effort
by a weak storm,
lies still
with its own shade
of blue.
a blue you can live
with.
sleep on.
brush away with
a swipe of your gloved
hand.

we need to cut

it's not
butter, or milk,
or pollen, or bread.
it's not the weather.
not dust,
or mites,
bed bugs, not mold
or dead leaves,
not grass, or trees,
or bees,
or even fleas.
it's none above,
the doctor says, sticking
a fine metal tube
of light
up your nose,
it's these.
we need to cut them
out if you
ever want relief and
to be able to breathe.

brown sugar

while hammering
a bag of brown sugar
on the kitchen floor,
trying to get some
loose for my oatmeal,
I thought about you.
how hard it was to get anything
sweet out
of you too, just a few
granules on occasion
would have
helped.

loose ends

there are loose ends.
always.
a thread to be cut.
nothing tied up in a neat bow.
knotted
and done.
there is always
a small
detail to be dealt with.
some lingering
word that
needs to be said,
thing to be done.
it's hard to quit, to stop,
to move on
without the shadow
of the past
not far behind you.

catholic guilt

I feel bad about
taking the pen from the bank.
slipping it into
my pocket after filling out
my deposit slip.
I pause when I get out
to my car.
maybe I should take it back.
somebody might need
this pen.
but then
I think about how
they have my money, how
they are making money on my
money being in there.
why shouldn't I have a pen
from the bank.
not to mention their crazy
lazy hours.
the fees, and the continual
annoyance of showing
my id.
what's wrong with taking one
single pen?
I turn the car off and take
it back, setting it
on the desk, but grabbing
two lollipops before
I leave.

blue water

lying
in the c scan machine
I think
of a blue water
paradise.
the whirring sounds
are birds wings,
the red light
beyond my closed eyes
is the sun
coming out
from the clouds.
you are there too.
beside
me, drink in hand.
kiss ready.
wishing me luck.

back to back

we could talk about
it.
discuss calmly
our differences. apologize
and confess.
make
love not war,
get back on track.
or we could continue
on like this,
alone in winter,
beside you in bed,
back to
back.

Friday, January 6, 2017

being round

a curved earth
is a good earth,
nice and round.
a pleasant blue sphere
circling.
well planned
this symmetry.
no one falls off,
the gravity holding us
in place,
keeping our feet on
the ground.
we could learn much
from what's not flat,
or skewed,
oblong,
but round.

fond memories


after buying her first
grande skim vanilla soy latte
of the day
she goes to the beauty parlor
to get her nails done,
then it's off
to get a pedicure, then a
full body massage.
after that stressful morning,
she goes to yoga
to stretch and meditate.
she then has some green
tea with her girlfriends
to talk about
their husband's short
comings,
by five, I get home
and stumble through the shopping
bags that litter the living room.
I open the refrigerator
to make a cheese
sandwich.
my son, doing his homework
at the table, says hello.
dad, he whispers, be quiet,
mom has a terrible headache,
she's trying to take
a nap.

divorce advice

my father
when I called him to tell
him about
my divorce,
could only say,
and say it with self knowledge,
whatever you do now,
don't start drinking.
there are plenty of fish in the sea.
I briefly thought about
flounder, catfish, perch
and herring.
wild salmon.
I laughed.
he laughed.
then I poured just a small
amount of vodka
onto the top
of a tumbler full of ice.
just one,
I said.
just one, he said back.

exploring

it's over
for Columbus,
Magellan, Lewis and Clark,
who needs you.
there's no where left to go,
to plant a flag
and call it
home.
everything's been taken
and called dibs,
as far as
the eye can see.
even to the moon,
a flag waves still upon
the barren rocks
and sand.
each star has a name,
each planet
a billion light years
away
is made familiar
with a number.
and yet it's
strange how I don't even
know, beyond a single wall,
my neighbor.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

the daily news

I can't swallow the news
anymore,
nor chew,
or bite into its ripe
delicious
gossip.
I won't digest a single
word
of what they say,
or inhale
one scent of its cooked
and seasoned
gruel.
the kitchen is full
of one armed
chefs, all
swinging a different
knife,
stabbing madly with
a fork,
depending on how they
lean,
left or to the right.

fallen angel

when are the plow trucks coming
through,
my neighbor asks me, as the snow
falls and levels
the street with a fine
white powder. we both stand
on our porches
looking up into the sky.
my knowledge of the plowing
schedule is limited,
so I tell him I don't know.
we're supposed to get six
inches, he says, maybe more
if the winds shift down
from Canada.
perhaps, I say, lying down
in my white yard,
fanning my legs and arms
to make a fallen angel.

raising ships

they are bringing up
the ship
from the sea bottom, slowly
raising it's hull
in salted pieces.
boots and purses.
belts undone,
eyeglasses.
tea cups.
all once in the hands
of passengers
now white boned and settled
loosely
in the dark sand.
it's a graveyard of sorts,
without the dirt
or the headstone,
or church beside with which
to mourn.

it'll be fun

let's go sky diving,
she says excitedly,
rattling the newspaper
in front of me.
I stare deeply into
a black cup of coffee,
studying the ripples
before looking up at her.
it's clear who we are now.
how different.
look, we can cut out
this coupon and be in
orange county by noon.
no experience necessary,
it says. it's two for one.
I look out the window.
the sky is blue.
bluer perhaps than it's
ever been. I can't imagine
or dream it any bluer
than it is right now.
today? I say. sipping
my coffee.
yes, she says. why not?
we have nothing planned.
it'll be fun.
I thought we were going
to take a walk around
the lake, i tell her,
feed the ducks.

the first and last page

I can see the end
at the beginning.
how the plot will unfold.
how the story
will build
and rise after
the first kiss, then
plateau. I can see
the last page
with the tragic
or happy ending before
finishing the first,
but i'll still plow
through
to make sure
it is, or isn't true.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

free verse

it's not a mystery
book,
this life.
not a travel tale,
or a detective
story.
it's not
a novella, or sonnet
or a play
for the stage
or screen, it's not
a romance novel,
or pulp fiction,
it's more free verse
than anything,
with very little rhyme
or reason
that we can fathom.

the plateau

I feel no more
wise
than I did a year ago.
or smart.
I feel I've
learned nothing new
over the past
twelve months.
I eat the same food,
read the same
books over
and over again. watch
the same movies
and write the same poems.
my wardrobe is exactly
as it's always
been.
I am still attracted
to long legs
on women.
I have plateaued perhaps,
but finding
it a pleasant place
to be.

her dog

her dog came between us.
in the bed.
at the table.
in the car.
he slobbered. he barked,
he scratched
himself.
he needed to be walked
to be fed,
to be taken to the vet.
her dog came between us.
purposely so
I realize now.

the new rich

the uncle, the rich
uncle
in his long white caddy,
his spats
and wide brimmed hat.
dapper
as only one can be from
south philly.
a garage mechanic who struck
it rich.
how clean his nails
were now.
confident in a cloud of perfume.
he would pat you on the head
and slip
a five
into your palm
before he kissed your
mother,
his sister farewell
and left
again to be whoever
he thought
he had become.

their hunger

you can't have
a shark
as a friend, or a lover.
or adopt
one, making it a relative
of sorts.
there are too many
teeth to reason with,
their primitive
hunger would devour you.
look at my arm,
my leg,
my heart. I know first
hand what I speak of.

unknowing

unknowing someone
is hard.
to discover who
they really are.
the sun rises, it sets.
all seems
the same
until the day
you awaken not to the sun
but to some
other planet
orbiting your life.
your eyes are clear
as you look up,
look around.
stunned but who you've
found.

knowing

the knives
and forks,
the spoons too
all lying beside one
another waiting their
turn
to be used.
they shine
as the light hits
them
when the drawer is
pulled.
they are quiet in
their place,
without ego,
knowing their purpose,
never
yelling out
which one I should
choose.

it might clear up

it might clear up
later
she says,
turning on the overhead
light
in the kitchen. it's ten
o'clock in the morning
and we're both
in our pajamas
drinking tea and squinting
at the paper.
I saw on the news where
the sun
is supposed to come out.
I remember the sun,
I tell her.
that yellow ball of warm
light in the sky.
yes, yes. she says.
that's exactly how
I remember it too.

through the glasses darkly

the girl
at the optometrist office
says,
they look good on you.
the black
framed
clark kent glasses.
shop glasses, thick
and wide
in order to protect my
eyes from flying
pieces of metal or
wood as I make an ashtray
or a pot holder
in 7th grade
shop class.
no, I tell her. I need
something more
glamorous,
something that makes
a statement
about who I am.
ahh, she says,
I have just the pair for
you, taking out
a squared pair of spectacles
a la ben franklin,
or the lead singer in
the Kinks.
no, I tell, looking at
myself in the mirrors
that stretch along the wall,
they don't fit my face.
she nods, agreeing
that my head is more egg
shaped.
after an hour or so, she
gives up on me
and goes over to an old
lady
who knows exactly what she
wants.
I keep trying pair after
pair trying to find
the real me, finally settling
on a pair that I
once saw
Elton john wear,
with flamingos on the frames.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

the lemon pie cake

my therapist, who just
bought a new car, has been
busy lately,
what with the holidays,
the divorces
the sex changes.
who isn't confused about
something.
she's nosy. too,
obsessively so,
keeps asking me all these
questions
about my childhood.
my mother,
my father, why I don't
wear any shoes,
or underwear.
it's my business what
my attire is.
I want her to wave a magic
wand
and make me happy.
content.
make me forget that
my mother forgot my birthday
when I was twelve
and bought me a lemon
pie instead of a cake.

next year

this year has been nothing
but trouble,
my friend betty tells me on
the phone.
but, I say, we are only
three days into it.
I know, I know, she says,
but i'm done with this year.
you don't know the trouble
it's been.
I can't wait for next year.
things will be different then.

good wood

some worship wood,
the grain.
the color, they tell you
what kind of wood
it is.
cherry, or pine,
oak.
something from the Brazilian
rain forest.
please, be careful
with those floors,
those cabinets,
those doors.
while others
paint right over it
and move
on with their lives.

a small hole

she spends
you save, she sees
a sale
and gets in line,
you wait
until
the shoe
has a hole in it.
she borrows,
you
lend.
a small thing,
but even
a small hole will
a sink a ship,
in the end.

Monday, January 2, 2017

one earring

the clean
closet feels good.
almost holy
as the saying goes
about cleanliness.
each shirt
on a hangar.
white and blue,
not a stripe to be found.
each black sweater folded
sleeve over sleeve,
set in a place.
each box of papers
saved, tucked neatly
away.
what's old and unused
is bagged
for the curb, your scarf,
your shoe,
one earring,
for Monday.

banana bread

he has three
stories to tell me
this morning, one is
about his brother's wife.
how she went
to the bank
and took out all their
money.
the other story,
is about who spoke
at his AA meeting yesterday.
a celebrity
newsman, now
clean and sober for years.
the third story is about
his friend's
father,
who shot himself
on new year's eve twenty
seven years ago.
I listen, say nothing.
I nod and shake my head,
then unwrap a thick
loaf of banana bread
from the foil
and offer him a piece.

cleaning windows

in the later
half of her eighth decade,
she stood
on a ladder,
leaning towards each
window.
one hand circling
with a cloth
while the other sprayed
a mist of blue
upon the glass.
the last day of the year,
no rest,
no reason to.
this made her not so much
happy,
as useful
to someone.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

the carousel

I picked a white horse.
she seemed heroic,
strong.
her black eyes gleamed
with polished paint
in the low
river of sunlight.
her mane blew in the wind,
imagined, as
carefully I mounted her
hollowed body,
I locked my
feet into the stirrups,
gripped the reins.
I yelled out, giddy up.
the man at the controls
smiled, one tooth
black gapped on his weary
face, then hit the switch.
around and around we went
as the music played.

number eleven

greetings
the letter said.
the lottery has picked your
birthday at number eleven
on the bouncing balls,
so you have been
invited
to take a physical exam
in order to serve
your country in the army.
we need to know if you are healthy
enough to die.
please come at seven a.m.
to Baltimore.
we need you. your country
needs you to help rid
the world of the red menace.
so you
are cordially
invited
to join. pack light.
food, clothing and travel
plans will be provided.
we want you, we need you,
we can't live without you.
greetings. see you soon.

darkly forward

the unkind
are many. the selfish,
the spiritless,
the disgruntled
are amassing.
whatever joy
there was has been washed
grey.
life is too hard
to be happy in.
it's easier
to put one's head down,
grumble,
pressing darkly forward,
and be this way.

we speak fondly

we speak fondly
of her in death. polishing
the chrome
on her long bumpers.
ignoring the rust and dents,
the way
she wouldn't
start on a cold morning.
we'll speak of
the radio that
doesn't work,
collecting static from
three states, no
music left in her
dashboard.
the bald tires have all been
kicked.
we'll miss her, the way
she wobbled
at all speeds,
the way the steering
wheel would veer.
we won't talk about the wrecks,
the tow trucks,
the heat that wouldn't
heat. we'll forget
all of that and talk about
the time
we road together
to the eastern shore.
we were young then,
we were singing,
we had the open
road in front of us
as we drove along in this
new car.

what's to come

the sail is up.
I've kicked the shore away.
i'm out to sea
under a white winter sun.
no motor
running,
no oars in the water.
i'm adrift,
but moving, moving
towards what's
to come.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

unfunny

the elbow striking
the door
edge, sends a storm of
electrical
current up your arm.
you rub it
gently until
the pain goes away.
hardly a funny bone.
not a single laugh,
or smirk
in it.
are there sad bones
too.
weary and angry bones,
curious bones,
bones that are aloof,
that ignore you?

a new year

i've been counting
down
all day,
ten, backwards to one,
warming up for tonight,
as if i'm
on a liftoff mission
to the moon.
but it isn't the moon
we're going to,
is it?
out the window
are the same trees,
the same
parked cars,
the same
kid with a runny nose
and training
wheels rolling
down the street.

what isn't true

what isn't
true, is this. this
memory
of what was, what happened
then.
I've
glossed over it nicely,
polished it after
sanded it down,
agreeing to make it
what it never was.
of course, your memory
is different
than mine,
as it should it be.
we need
to remember life that way.
makes it
easier for everyone
involved,
all around.

Friday, December 30, 2016

flies by

all the lights are green.
the traffic has
thinned.
the roads are dry.
let's drive all day
all night,
find a place to rest
our weary bones
let the new
year bring what it
brings, watch as
another one flies by.

love poem

do you
need to go so soon,
stay a little longer,
one more cup
of coffee,
one more
splash of cream,
another lump
of sugar,
one more
stir of your spoon.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

sugar sugar

it's hard to give up
sweets,
the cake
the candy, the sugar
filled
sodas,
the m and m's
that I pour
from a bag into my
mouth when
the movie starts.
I could use
some sugar, sugar,
any ideas?

the next day

the dog
in the laundry basket
chasing his
tail,
circling,
circling,
reminds me of things
I have to do
soon,
maybe tomorrow, or
the next
day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

this will pass, maybe

let's not call them tears
today, dear heart,
not crying,
not sobbing,
no.
let's just say it's bad
weather.
a small storm
that will pass.
i'll help you, hand
you a tissue,
put my arm around you.
i'll listen,
i'll say things like
don't worry,
things will get better,
you'll see,
though I won't believe
a word
of what i'm saying.

a day away

a day away,
would be nice, a stretch
of three
or four
all days
and nights together.
on the open
sea
to an unknown
place,
a port, an island,
some dune
to perch upon and ponder
what's
come and gone,
what's coming.

the photo

the photo,
black and white was pinned
to a board in his den,
left behind,
once the room where he lingered
and stared
at all the things
he was, had become.
the diplomas,
awards, family and pets
long gone.
what would be, had happened,
now what?
but the photo, of a girl.
in black and white.
unsigned, undated,
was there too. her golden hair,
or was it golden?
did she have blue eyes or
brown,
who's to know.
and him, with glasses,
shyly beside
this flower, looking down,
at something,


church people

the bed was too heavy
to move,
made of steel and real wood,
anchored to the wall,
so we covered it
and painted around it.
crawled under to get what
we could with a brush
and roller.
above it was a mirror
secured to the ceiling.
they were small people,
church people,
but they needed
this big bed for some reason,
with an ocean of a mattress.
it made you wonder.
what was going on here.

a stack of white bread

there was a lot
of white bread on the table,
growing up.
butter,
slabs of bologna,
yellow mustard,
yellow cheese,
powdered milk when the real
milk ran out.
occasionally
my mother would fall
in love
with a fireman,
or a delivery man,
or a married man with a ring
in his pocket.
the refrigerator
would become more
full then, for awhile,
but there was a price
to pay.

Monday, December 26, 2016

we're good people

it's a sinister sky.
look how low the clouds are,
like
blue knuckled fists
about to punch us.
what do they want out of us.
we try so hard
to live a good life.
what's with the floods,
the tornadoes,
the wild fires.
please dear lord, spare
us another earthquake,
or missed field goal.
and the traffic, while
you're at it, the freeway
is a mess every night,
my cat has a rash,
just to say in passing,
and if you have
the time I have this
lottery ticket, I could
use the number nine.

the spiral ham

the wonder
of the spiral ham,
precut and cooked,
a modern
miracle, no less important
than say
the discovery
of insulin
or penicillin, the building
of the great wall
in china
or the taj mahal.
they have nothing on this ham
that someone stood in
line for three hours to buy,
not me.
but yes, let's bow
and give praise
to the honey baked spiral
ham,
sweetly glazed, oh my,
are those pineapple rings?
a moment of silence
and appreciation
please, before the first
bite.

enjoy your life

he yells to me,
as I speed by on my bike,
head down
in the wind,
hands gripping
the bar
as I make the wide turn,
pedaling hard
for the hill i'm about
to climb.
he yells to me,
this old man in a fedora,
enjoy your life, then
repeats it again,
stopping to see if I look
back.
I nod, he nods,
he adjusts his hat,
plants his cane
into the gravel and moves
forward,
so do i.

the heap

it's the flat
tire
that slows me down.
a cracked
windshield making
it hard to see out.
it's the blinking light
on the dashboard
telling me
what I need to do to keep
this heap running.
it's an earring on the floor,
lipstick
and a coat,
red heels from the night
before.
it's the window
that won't roll down,
the heater
that won't heat.
it barely keeps me going,
this old car,
as I hit the gas
and find
a stale donut
stuck between the seat.

early morning

you wake up
not unhappy in the cold
air.
the rain
falling.
work another day
away,
the covers up to your neck,
you could lie
here all
morning, call
ginger and tell her
that the key
is under the mat.

small print

the print is too
small
to read in this early
morning light,
and so
am I, so are you.
each to his
own
set of directions,
set of rules.
not everything is clear
about how
to start us up,
keep us going,
make us right
and rarely are
batteries
included.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

she says my name

she's grey. her silver hair,
her nails
untrimmed, her knees
shake, she rocks
back and forth
as she says my name,
her brown eyes full of confusion.
a Christmas tree is beside
her, the lights off.
she says my name.
rocks and rocks.
how deeply I want her to sleep.

fish bowl

these fish
in a bowl. swimming.
swimming.
day in
day out. bright gold.
reaching
without hands
or understanding
to the top
for sprinkles from
you, their strange
God.

sneeze sniffle blow

the cold
keeps you home near
the tea kettle,
blanket and stove.
you sneeze, you cough,
you blow.
hard to be cheery when
deep into
these woods,
knee deep in a
drift of snow.

fresh fish

fresh fish
the sign reads. which is good.
who wants
old fish,
wrapped in yesterdays newspaper,
flies buzzing,
inedible no matter how
seasoned
and fried.
fresh love
another sign reads,
making you pause and think,
who wants old
love,
wrapped in yesterdays newspaper,
flies buzzing
after too much
time gone by.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

baking for the holidays

with my apron on,
my holiday apron with snow flakes
and candy canes
I set out to make
a few batches of Christmas
cookies
on Christmas morning.
I like to give out warm
cookies.
it's who I am.
I get the large bowl out,
the mixer
and preheat the oven.
I make myself a large
egg nog with a splash
of rum, two splashes.
I take out my old betty crocker
cookbook and turn
to the cookie page.
eggs and flour, it says.
a rolling pin,
cookie sheets,
sugar.
sprinkles.
I need to go to the store.
I have nothing.
maybe they have cookies.

the home made gift


for thirty two dollars
he found
a local artist who
made a portrait and a t-shirt
imprint of his
grandson.
he showed me the finished
pieces of art,
taking them out
of his car.
the child looked inhuman.
a greenish hue
had blended into
the flesh tone,
the hair was pointed
and wet.
the kid's eyes were
crossed, one green, the other
more blue.
his head was shaped like
an unshelled peanut.
saying nothing would have
been the best response,
but I said, oh my.
do you think she'll like
them, he asked,
folding the t-shirt neatly
and placing it back into
his car.

the tree

my father pulled over
to the side of the road one
snowy December
and chopped a tree down
a mile from
the Mt. Vernon estate,
along the state park,
beside the Potomac river.
he'd been drinking for
most of the night.
he turned the headlights
out towards the dark woods,
then carried a small hatchet
out to a line of trees.
in no time he came back
dragging an eight foot
blue fir which he
jammed into the trunk
and off we went,
his eyes glazed
blue with what he'd done,
smiling.

the fix is in

the fix is in.
it's all been decided
before you were ever born.
this is the way
it will go
and there is nothing you
can do about it.
tomorrow has already
happened.
from day one until the last
day, the last breath
you take,
each hour has
been composed. you're
just playing out the role
of you, wondering
where it all goes.

the sporty red one

her sister was cuter
and funnier than she was,
she had sass,
but I had no shot at her,
so I settled in
with the one I met
and made a go of it.
smart plain jane.
I often wondered what life
would be like
if I had gone with
the younger one,
but I think that way
about everything.
the meal I just ordered,
maybe I should have
had steak
not this plain
piece of chicken on my plate,
or the car I bought,
reserved and grey, instead
of the sporty red one.
how many white shirts
can I buy?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

at the gate

i stand alone
at the gate.
i have come
to this at this point
in my life.
at this gate.
this iron fence.
behind it something waits.
there is always
something waiting, behind
each door
i knock on.
i know nothing about where
i'm going,
but i accept that easily
with each
passing year.
the days brush by like
bullets
from a gun. i no longer
hear the bang,
or see the smoke,
i just feel
the bullet rush by,
missing me once more.
today i am at the gate,
tomorrow, God willing,
i'll be at another.

is love here

it's a narrow door.
my shoulders
rub against the frame
as I squeeze in.
the stairway
is narrow too, and dark.
a single
bulb swings
from the top of the tiled
stairs.
the stairs are a sea
green, almost brown.
the walls are
glossed with a thick
paint.
graffiti in large
black swipes
goes up as far as an
arm can reach.
I smell cabbage cooking,
I hear a dog
barking.
a baby crying.
televisions blare
behind each metal door.
there is a yellow
puddle pooled in the corner.
I wonder if there is love
here.
there has to be,
how else could one
go on.

free range

i'm in love with
a chicken farmer, she tells me.
I met him
online, well, not really met him,
we've been writing
to one another.
he sent me a picture of
his chickens.
some are white, some are brown.
he says that he
wants me to come
visit him on his ranch,
or farm,
whatever it is.
I told him that I have a fantastic
recipe for
chicken pot pies, which
upset him.
he said that he doesn't kill
his chickens,
he sells them and they
kill them.
he is very attached to his
chickens, they are almost
like pets.
free range chickens, he calls
them.
he told me to not worry about
my shoes, he has
little slip on booties
to cover them up.
as I said,
they are free range chickens.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

the good woman

he starts off
by saying, when I was indigent,
I couldn't get
insurance, or buy a car.
in fact I gave my old
car to my sister.
look at my ankle. I have gout.
a soap opera
is on tv, there is a cat
on top
of the tv.
I went to a good school,
he says,
moving strands of hair
across his bald head.
i'm an engineer
by trade, but when the market
fell,
I was out of work, i'm
still out of work.
I've haven't worked since 2002.
I have a good woman though,
he says.
she works everyday,
she leaves early and comes
home late.
I don't know why she's good
to me, he says.
but she is.
i'm trying to lose weight.
it's hard.
I take a walk everyday.
I go up to the 7-11. and back.
i'm going in a few minutes,
if I can get my shoes on.
is there anything I can get you?

sun rise

the sun is without manners,
barging in
all warm
and yellow with her
brilliant
smile. settling across
my arms,
my face.
she is not unkind,
just persistent
as she rises
and tells me gently
to get up,
get up boy, start
your day.

the unknown

I am
the man on the roof
in the hot sun
spreading tar,
the beautician
with a pair scissors
and sore feet.
I am behind the counter
cutting meat,
I am taking
money
from hand to hand
at the toll both,
I am
underground digging coal,
cutting lumber,
the clerk
from nine to five
at the
hardware store.
I am the cab driver,
the woman
cleaning homes.
I am without glory
or celebrity.
I keep my nose to the ground,
make enough
to get by.
I am invisible
to the other world
above
and below.
I am born into this,
and will
go unknown, except
for those
that love me here,
and when i'm gone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

blue lights

one light goes
out on the string and they
all go out.
which one it is
will take some time.
each needs to be spun
and tested.
you hope it's not
a blue light.
it's the only color
that you really
care about.
you can live without
orange, red
or white.
green is okay too, but
blue is
your favorite.
by Christmas
you should have it
figured out.

hurry, the bus is coming

who isn't busy, I tell
her on the phone. who doesn't
have a thousand
things to do,
places to be.
who isn't driving the kids
to school,
taking the dog in,
waiting for the plumber,
the maid,
late for work again.
who isn't in a hurry?
you, she says.
you seem to be past all
of that.
true, I say. true.

snow chains

my father on his knees
wrapping snow
chains around the rear
tires is an image I have
of him.
cigarette in his mouth,
no gloves, a car jacket
on. his soft shoes.
the car running, a blue
cloud of exhaust
dirtying the snow.
I see him in the morning,
out there, trying
to get away, to get somewhere,
he's always been on the run,
just out of reach,
wrapping snow chains
around tires, clueless
about love
and what it takes to stay
home.

receipts

you keep the receipts
to everything.
one never knows if a gift
needs to be
returned,
if it's even given.
things change.
how easily the storm
moves in,
makes love cold.

now sold

how quickly we
disappear. the voice
you heard
last night,
the presence, those light
footsteps
down the stairs.
how quickly the bed
is cold.
one dish set out,
one key
left on a table, the sign
gone up
for sale, the empty house,
now sold.

Monday, December 19, 2016

holiday shopping

i take a day off
from work
to go Christmas shopping.
it's too early
to start drinking,
so i don't.
I stare at the bottle of
Russian vodka
in the ice box.
the tonic water and lime.
I look at the untouched
fruit cake
that my father sent me.
thirty pounds of hardened goo.
re-gifting crosses my mind,
but there is no one
that I dislike that much.
my circle of friends
that i must reciprocate gifts
for has shrunken
down to just a few.
death and distance has taken
its toll. some have become
devout atheists and are
going to hell
in a handbasket, so
the list is short.
life is short.
it's cold out, where are my gloves?
but I digress.
everyone has everything
already.
who doesn't have a toaster
oven,
or a food processor by now?
how much lingerie
or pairs of fuzzy slippers
can a woman have?
I sit in my car and stare
out at the vast
parking lot of the shopping mall,
excuse me,
I mean towne center,
the acres of cars.
it's almost time to go in.
I see the salvation army santa
putting out his cigarette
beneath his unshined
boot,
he rings his bell in his slow
methodical way, adjusting his
yellowed beard.
I break some smelling salts
under my nose,
take a sip of my black
coffee. I go in.

the weathervane

a dry spell
arrives across the land of you.
the hills
bare and brown.
the sky a low
band of white clouds
doing nothing.
you sigh.
you look around.
there is no inspiration
in the well.
the hills,
the face in the window
wondering
what's wrong with you.
the weathervane,
is unmoving
on the peak.

men are different

for women
it's not a one day celebration.
it's a week or two
week long
affair of gatherings,
and parties,
balloons and cakes.
the announcements before
hand
so that everyone knows,
so that everyone
comes and can join in.
it's
candles blown out,
tears and hugs.
gifts and flowers.
men are different,
they say, oh yeah, it
was yesterday.

ancient love

just a vase.
a relic from another age.
spun
and shaped
by someone's hands
in Italy,
or france.
or maybe bayonne new jersey.
who's to know
where things
come from
anymore.
but now, it's dust
and shards
upon the floor,
tumbled down
by a shaky leg from
the end table
you pulled out
from the wall.
don't worry, she says.
it was a gift
from someone I don't
love anymore.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

after bible study

i picked Susie
up after her bible study
one night, one winter,
a thousand years ago.
she didn't want to go home
right away, so we
bought a bottle
of wine, drank it in the car
then went back to the church
where she showed me
the wooden shed where they kept
the Christmas
decorations. the long strings
of lights and candles.
the manger,
with the straw.
the shepherds. the three
kings. mary, joseph and the
baby Jesus.
we sat down next to the
bales of straw. leaning on
a plastic camel
lying on his side
and kissed, drank more wine.
the moon shot through
the cracks of the split planks,
lighting us up in stripes.
we shouldn't do this,
she said. pointing around
at the still figures.
i turned each of them away
so that their eyes were not
looking at us, but still
she said no.
for a little while.

liver and onions

I remember my
mother standing over the stove,
at the thick black
pan spitting grease,
sautéing beef livers
and onions.
we gagged.
wanted none of it.
she knew that, finally
finding one
thing to eat
that we didn't want
to share and devour.

the side of the road

you hate
to see a dead cat
or dog
on the side of the street,
off the leash,
a collar
on. a runaway from
home.
careless out
on the open roads.
but with muskrats
it's different,
armadillos,
or squirrels, even
a bird
that flies into
your windshield,
a snake, perhaps,
you just don't have
that same
fuzzy sadness for them
and drive on
quickly
forgetting about it.

the rear view mirror

after many years,
it's easy to look back
and think
what was I doing
at that point in my life,
in that job,
in those clothes,
driving that car, married
to that particular
wife.
she can't be thinking
the same thing,
can she?

her birthday at 65

I don't want cake,
she says, no
surprise party for me.
I don't need
another wish
after blowing out my candles.
I don't need
a gift,
or a dozen roses,
or a card telling me
to be happy.
I just want
love
and another twenty years
in good health
to enjoy it.

no worry

no worry
or wonder presents
itself
to the small bird,
sparrow,
browned and grey,
or black bird,
cardinal bright as blood
against the fallen
snow.
no stress
in what has occurred
overnight,
with wind and darkness
in the absence
of light.
it is just a day,
and what is needed will
be found,
or not, it continues,
or the next step of life
will occur.
none seemed bothered
like we are,
by it all.

loose change

the blue bowl
on top of the refrigerator
is full of
change.
lint, screws and nails,
nuts
and bolts,
debris of the day
taken from
my pockets.
in time i'll take it
all to the bank
and let it roll through
the machine,
counting out
my cash.
spooning the nickels
and dimes
into the slot.
keeping the trash out.
it's clean
money
going in, clean going
out.
it feels like a bonus
for some reason.
like finding
change between the cushions
of the couch,
or dollars
in the dryer, warm
and crisp.

small claims

you tried not
to finish his sentences
as he struggled
to get the words out.
his stammer and stutter
a slow nervous go
as you both stood in front
of the judge.
he was your lawyer for a small
fee, a small
case.
a life long friend.
so you let him go,
let him ramble
in his stop and start way,
his confidence never
swayed by
his gulping for air
and words.
in time, he finished
and won, shaking your hand,
happy to have
helped you,
happy that you kept
quiet
and let him be himself.

Friday, December 16, 2016

i've been here before

I remember you,
the doctor's assistant says.
a little button
on the side of her nose,
her shoulders squared.
her hair, a helmet of hair.
she's german.
I remember you, she
says again.
allergies, right?
whatever, I say.
sniffling and blowing
my nose into a fist full
of tissue.
sit, she says. I need
to take your blood pressure,
stand.
I need to weigh you.
tell me how you are.
allergies, I tell her.
wind, rain, the earth.
it all makes me sneeze.
blow into this tube she says.
let's measure your lungs.
I blow.
three times, I blow.
each less than the one
before.
she shrugs. oh well, she
says. and marks
something in a chart.
the doctor will be with
you soon. wait.
I sneeze. I wait. I've
been here before.
as in all in things now.
I've been here before.

the skaters

the ice
grows thick across the pond
while the melt
of sun
slips under a blanket
of woolen
blue.
the skaters wait,
skates tied tight as
a moon rises
across the mirrored curve.
these are places where
lovers go,
where the lonely
go,
where children
play, and me
wondering where you
are today.

where we stand

the yard
divided by a stretch of fence,
a wall,
a line of trees
or shrubs
keeps us
in our place. keeps
us home,
across
the border which tells
us where
we should be. what's mine
is mine,
what's yours is yours.
the space between us
is
not unlike
these barriers, whether
soft or hard,
defining where we stand.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

the long drive home

she was wearing her
white plastic
boots
out in the yard, a hoe
nearby in case
a snake slithered up.
she was raking leaves
in a long
dress, her hair up.
her face a plum color
in the cold.
the trees were bare
and the sun was
as low as it gets for
that time of year.
i remember looking out
the window
watching her,
raking, pulling weeds,
moving rocks from one place
to another
for no other reason
than it felt right.
sometimes she'd look up
and wave.
i'd wave back and think
about how empty the trees
had become.
i'd think about the long
drive home.

our five and dime

we miss our
five and dime, Lydia
and me.
we miss
the short walk over
past the old Anderson house.
the coffee shop,
the hardware store,
the alley where the bums
hung out.
we miss our five and dime,
our red vinyl seats where
we could sit all
afternoon
and drink coffee,
eat pie
and talk about
the good old days,
before this, before that
how everything was better
back then.
we miss our five
and dime.
Lydia and me, when
she was around,
we'd go hand in hand
to our little
store, sometimes
stopping to kiss
under a lamp post,
at the beginning of us,
at the edge of town.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

she loves to dance

she likes to dance.
no, let me correct that.
she loves
to dance.
she loves to tell everyone
within range
how much she
loves to dance.
in fact, every chance
she gets
she tells someone
i'm going dancing tomorrow
or tonight,
or Saturday.
I might even go alone,
she says.
she'll stretch
her arms
out, touch her toes
and arch her
back, leaning on a bar stool.
she'll ask if she ever
told you
that she loves
dance, then kick
her leg into the air
to show you
how limber she is.
we should go dancing sometime
she tells you.
do you dance?
you say no, looking at your
watch.

the lollipop

despite
my accounts, my picture
id
and deposit slip
with my name and address
clearly printed
on it,
the teller
at my bank is highly
suspicious.
he needs to go talk
to the manager
he says,
looking at me sideways
turning the check
over and over,
squinting
at the numbers.
he locks up his drawer
then leaves.
I take a lollipop from
the bowl
and wait.
sucking on it's sweet
pineapple
candy
until he returns
to ask will that be
in fifties or twenties.

tomorrow

what's sweet
isn't always so. what's
golden
doesn't always
glow.
what's real
sometimes is just
an illusion.
which are you today,
tomorrow,
before we go any further,
I need to know.

the barking dog

does that dog bark
all day,
the new owner asks,
as we paint his house
and he comes
to see the progress
of the work.
no, I tell him,
only when you are here.
oh, he says,
looking out the window
at the chained
dog, the hair
on his back standing.

christmas cookies

she offered us
a cookie.
a sugar cookie, hot
from the oven
with sprinkles.
red and green,
Christmas cookies.
she held the plate
out
and said, take a few.
they're still warm.
so we did
for the ride home,
but I wondered
where the icing was,
like my mother used
to do.

don't borrow money

don't borrow money
from a friend
or relative, or go into
business with
them.
don't sit a table
and discuss
politics or religion.
don't confess
or listen to confessions.
don't offer
advice,
or seek counsel.
close your ears when
a secret is whispered
towards you.
to make this love last,
quiet acceptance
is the best
route to take.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

her wings

I look at a road
map, to see how far it is
to where she lives
across country.
I look at the red lines,
the blue highways.
the mountains,
the streams and valleys
i'd need to cross
and go through to get to
her. it's hard
getting from here to there
without wings.
she used to have wings.
she used
to arrive with feathers
flying.

the love notes

each day
there is a note attached
to your door.
the gutters are going to be
cleaned,
the roof replaced,
we need to get into
your back yard
so unlock the gate.
we will
be painting next week,
digging up
the old to replant
the new.
trash pick up will be
on Friday this week not
Thursday on account of
the holiday.
never is there a note
saying I love
you. I stopped by to crawl
into bed with
you and kiss you
all over.

preparing for the worst

you have enough
of nearly everything.
spoons
fill the drawer, clothes
are stuffed
in the closets.
more shoes
than you'll ever need
are lined against the wall.
there is milk
and bread,
eggs.
cans of food you'll never
open or eat.
you've spent a lifetime
adding more
onto more
of things you don't need.
you have been preparing
for the worst, it seems.
waiting for the mushroom
cloud on the horizon.
you are still running
home from school
with the sirens blowing
looking up into
the sky
for end.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

i hardly know you

she says no.
you say why not.
she says
I hardly know you.
you say,
I know, but what's
the point.
perhaps in doing this
we will get to know
one another better.
maybe, she says.
good,
you say.
that's better than
a no.
perhaps tomorrow i'll
hear a yes.
maybe,
she says. maybe,
but for now it's no,
so it might be
best that you
put your shoes back on
and go.

space travel

they've given up
on going to the moon.
been there,
done that.
there is no reason to return.
we have our own rocks
here on earth.
on the moon there is
no air.
no water.
no heat.
no coffee.
they ponder mars next.
peering through
the long telescope,
nodding yes.
maybe
it will be more accommodating.

barcelona 1959

the wooden wagon
pulled by a horse,
an old
horse, sagging at the seat,
sloped
from his work,
stops
to deliver ice.
with sharp tongs
the man in a striped shirt
pulls
a block of melting
ice from the back
of the wagon,
undrapping a canvas
cloth.
he carts it in
to where your mother
chips it
on the kitchen floor.
a hammer and chisel
in hands.
she stores
what she can into the ice
box,
keeping cold
for another week
milk
and meat.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

the old tricks

I see the trick
in you. the way the cards
are held,
the way, you turn
and hide what you're
up to. the deceptive shuffle.
I see the full
sleeve, the top hat,
what's in your pockets.
I know all of your
distractions, your ploys
to make me
look the other way.
I know you.
you know that don't you.
so stop, please
and come here and sit,
tell me
what's on your mind.

flames

the fire grows
as you bend and feed it
sticks
broken in your hand.
tossing more into the flames.
like affection,
the more you give,
the more love and fires
grow.

the subway ride

his long black
coat
hung thick and wide
on his
bone thin body.
his hand held the strap
as the subway
car veered
and swayed beneath
the cold bricks
and pavement of the city.
his wife
sat near, studying her
gloved hands.
his silvered eyes
watched
as the stations
rolled by, his good ear
leaning towards
the sound of the conductor's
voice.
when they arrived,
the doors slid open
then he nodded to her,
and together they rose
and went to town.

before you go

before you go,
kiss me.
before you leave,
put your hand
upon my heart and say
you love me.
before you
close the door and
walk away
for the last time,
tell me something
I can hold on to
and not be sad.
before you go,
kiss me once
more, like you
did before, when our
love was new,
when it just began.

Friday, December 9, 2016

the pie eulogy

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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

before night

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

these woods

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

she's not there

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

firmly ashore

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

what draws near

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

the game

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

these tools

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

giddyup

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

love notes

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

the new you

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

heading south

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

escape plan

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

how easy


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

rest in peace

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

the beard

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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

the rainbow arm

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

the all night store

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

Saturday, December 3, 2016

physics class

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

was it fun?

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

the day and the next day

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

this wind

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

i've met someone

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

season tickets

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

like us

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

be happy

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

Thursday, December 1, 2016

spit polish

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

we need you

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

hot tea

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

you're welcome

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

unlike mine

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

holiday decor

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

nothing said

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

i understand

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

islands in the fog

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

new choppers

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