Thursday, May 25, 2017

at sea

his hands
are still curled from
the cold,
from dragging in
the heavy nets
of fish
and crab,
the wet cold slabs
alive,
some staying
for food, for sale,
some too small,
going back over
the side.
his face is red,
his blue eyes
squint even without
the sun.
he wets his lips,
turns the ship towards
home.
his hands
curled around the wheel.
what else is there
to do,
or know.

let's stay in

let's stay in
tonight,
build a fire.
make dinner.
do nothing,
but lie upon the sofa
in candle light.
let's spin
whatever music
there is
that makes us happy.
let's listen to the rain
outside
upon the trees,
the roof,
the ground.
let's see
what lips can do against
each other.

beauty

a bag of oranges,
half bad,
soured
and rotting in the mesh
net.
when were they picked,
trucked
to this store.
what happened along
the way?
they look so bright,
so sweet
and juicy in
their stacks,
in the store lights.
not so you discover
in the first
peel
and bite.

it comes back

it's easier
now to take the nearest
exit.
to stop
listening to things
you don't want
to hear. to get out
of the long line,
to go easy
in the right lane.
to be
slow to anger,
quick
to praise.
be kind.
it all comes
back,
though, not always.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

hot dog

all day
people look and stare
at you.
they see how you fist
your chest
and burp.
they know what you've
eaten.
the bright yellow
stain
screams mustard
along your once white
shirt.
the relish you brushed
off,
but the mustard
stayed. forever.
they are jealous
people.
them with their garden
salads
and unsalted
nuts. their cod
and flounder, carrots,
cut,
still hungry.

pardon me

people are
happy to point out
that your
tire needs air, or that
you have shaving
cream in one
ear.
or spinach between
your teeth.
they point and smile,
and say
gently so as not
to embarrass,
there's something
stuck to the bottom
of your shoe,
that your zipper
is not quite
pulled where it needs
to be.

one for me one for you

there is a museum for everything
and everyone
these days
when it used to be
just art
and sculpture,
natural history, that
sort of thing.
now sex has it's own
building
with an entry
and a man taking tickets.
come see what's new,
what's old,
what's borrowed, what's
blue.
your race or creed
will get you one as well,
as does the news.
atrocities
are popular too,
who killed who
and with what,
stand in line for that one,
no pictures,
please. keep it
moving. don't touch.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

nellie

I can hear my grandmother's
voice as clear
as if she
were still in the other room
eating toast
and tea, cursing the entire
state of politics,
especially
those damn kennedys.
I can smell her cigarettes,
see her polishing
her nails,
putting on lipstick,
red, of course.
she liked to paint by numbers.
geese over
a pond.
a moon rising in the purple
layers
of oil paint. tall blades
of grass.
her looking at the tv,
telling us
to kneel and touch the screen
when billy graham came
on and asked sinners to
come forward.

three sisters

three sisters.
all brown eyed and wide
hipped.
black hair,
like their mother's.
the distance between each
no more than two years
or so,
but time
has pushed them apart,
hardly a word,
outside of
Christmas or birthdays
gets said.
once they lay
side by side
in twin
beds.
each brushing the other's
hair,
wearing each other's
clothes,
talking boys, talking
life, wondering together
what tomorrow
might bring. tomorrow
has come and gone.

move it along

the cop with his flare
sparking orange,
standing flat footed
in the rain,
in the middle of the grey
road,
with his blue parka
on, his plastic tilted
hat. he waves us on
with his mechanical
like arm.
he's seen a lot of wrecks
in his time.
move it along he says
with his whistle, his
look of boredom, a wide
yawn,
move it along

the three minute ride

the rodeo is us.
the short wild ride,
the lasso,
the round up,
and corral.
the eventual throw down
to the ground.
slapping my hat
onto my leg
getting up
and trying again.

your good side

it's come down to this,
your good
eye,
your good ear,
your good arm,
your best side.
you've been reduced
by half,
by living so long
and hard.
which is fine,
one is better
than none.

Monday, May 22, 2017

full circle

with enough money
piled
high
in your vault, you decide
to stop
working. to stop
what you do
day in, day out,
and rest.
you decide
to go rome, go to paris.
you buy and Italian
sports car,
a new suit,
new shoes.
pick up ginger on
the way
to the airport.
you buy a white scarf
and throw it
around your neck.
you position your dark
sunglasses
on your nose.
the world is black
and white now.
it's 1953. you've come
full circle.

coming towards us

the sky, darkened,
crocheted in blue
and grey,
yarn of white.
a pillowy rough
of
cumulus clouds
with rain and wind
in sight.
let's sit
on the porch,
swing and drink,
say nothing,
watch it move
towards us,
watch as we hold hands,
the lighting
strike.

the other side

there's another side
to this
story.
one you haven't heard.
but you don't
listen, you don't lend
an ear,
you don't sit
and stop talking for
one second.
it's only the story
you want to be
true, is
the one you hear.
so I can't help you.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

more to come

are there less
chills,
less thrills
as
age unravels us,
taking
us to the unknown?
do we know all
that needs
to be known, have
we seen enough,
done enough?
hardly. there is
always more
to come.

stay tuned

the newsman,
in his suit and tie,
powdered
and bright beneath
the lights,
goes on and on with
a story.
a murder, a mystery,
a gun,
a life.
we don't know what
happened here,
or who,
or why, but we'll
update you on what we
don't know
as the hour goes by.
stay tuned, is ice
tea bad for you?

cry baby

the baby in the crib,
in the other room
is crying.
this is where it begins.
where we
learn
to get what we need
or want,
or both.
turn red, hold your
breath,
let out a primal scream
and cry.
someone will come
eventually
to see what's wrong.
I see it every day,
and do it myself
sometimes.

Friday, May 19, 2017

severance pay

the cleaning woman
knows she is going home,
so she steals
as much jewelry as she can
carry,
cash, credit cards.
underwear
and shoes.
she takes a suitcase
too.
I see her leaving
the house
in a hurry wearing my
wife's fur
coat.
she looks at me and sighs.
I throw
her the car keys
and tell her to hurry.
your flight leaves soon.

the hidden gifts

we would shake
the wrapped gifts, throw
the wrapped
football
to one another in the cold
basement.
things were not hidden
very well.
the new bike
with a ribbon on it,
behind
the steps.
a pair of skates in a box.
the doll that cried
when turned
upside down.
the bat wrapped tight
in a candy cane print,
the ball and glove
too.
we had so little, but
amazingly,
somehow
we had Christmas.

the L word

let's call it
something else.
let's not
use that word.
the L word.
let's tuck that word away
for later, if
there is a later.
let's just
keep going the way
it's going.
why ruin a perfectly
good thing
by trying to make
it last
forever.

the house and senate

by law
the elected men and women
of the house
and senate, on both
sides of the aisle,
are now
required to wear
clown suits.
clown wigs
and make up.
a plastic flower on
their lapel
that squirts lemon juice
into our eyes.
the president
too.
a big red shiny nose,
a derby full
of small birds, suspenders,
with floppy shoes.
this is who they are.
who they have become.
let's have
transparency from this
day forward.
God help us all,
is there no one left
to lead,
to choose.

the high step

the step
is taller than the other steps,
so you
unintentionally
misstep and tumble
forward, two
drinks in hand
fresh from the bar.
face first you
go,
hitting chin
against the waxed tiled
floor.
you lie there for a moment.
the drinks still
upright, hardly
a splash spilled.
both olives in place.
the day is not lost,
you think.
your date
decides to stay and see
what's next
in your finely tuned
repertoire.

midnight snack

I forgot I
had chicken wings in the oven
at 350.
what was that smell, I thought
from the comfort of my
bed.
four hours later,
they were small wings,
but really crispy.
even the bones
were edible at this point.
a perfect
midnight snack
with hot sauce and blue
cheese
for dipping.
perfect for watching
man on a train,
at midnight.

the ringing bell

he hit the snooze alarm
for
nearly thirty years.
he couldn't get up,
get out of bed.
there was just enough
milk
and bread,
the phone worked,
the t.v. too.
there was enough gas to
get the car around
to places
that had no urgency.
sleeping in was a wonderful
thing.
then, finally,
he woke up to a ringing
bell that wouldn't stop,
as most of us eventually
do.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

the best

she liked
to tell you what was the best.
this is the best
orange I've ever eaten.
the best meal I've
ever had.
you're the best friend ever.
I know the best
place to go on a vacation.
we had the best
time ever, you should have
been there.
if you need a hotel
to stay in let me know.
it's the best.
this is the best
day ever. the best shoes I've
ever walked in.
etc.
she slowed down with
the superlatives
though
once the pills wore off
and it began to rain,
although she did have
an enormous umbrella,
it was the best
I've ever seen.

side by side

two trains
can't be on the same
track
going in opposite directions.
it doesn't
work that way.
side by side,
or one ahead of the other,
or behind
is the only way
things can stay
on the rails
and keep from crashing.

a flip of the coin

it's a flip
of the coin kind of day,
kind of
life, now that I
think of it.
live here, live there.
drive this
drive that. what's
for dinner?
what to wear?
which direction should
I go now
and with who?
it's in the air,
the silver
catching light
as it twirls in
the early sun.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

the wedding

the traffic stops
for a while.
we sit in our cars and wait,
as the church ahead
lets out a crowd.
finally
you can see the bride
and groom
at the top of the stairs,
their faces
unlined by life,
her in a brilliant white
dress,
him in black, with buttons
and white shirt.
they smile broadly,
waving
to family and friends,
each dressed
in their sunday best.
the sky is blue
as far as the eye can see,
and the birds sing
sweetly,
for now

a world without books

soon, there will be no
books.
no yellowed pages
that smell
of sweet mustiness.
no brittle
covers with bent spines.
there will
be no more dog eared
corners,
no markers to see where
we left off
and will start again.
there will be no card
in the back, stamped,
saying when to return
it to the public
library.
no one will know what
the dewy decimal systems
ever was.
the books
will be gone, stuffed
inside
our phones, our lap tops
behind the lights
of nothingness,
hardly to be touched
or seen again.

cold soup

having never had
cold soup
before, it surprised me,
this red bowl
of beet broth,
chilled. I brought
it to my lips
and raised my eyebrows.
saying nothing.
I was young.
hardly a hair on my
chin
that needed to be shaved.
no fat on my bones,
barely a brain
ticking
within my skull.
she wanted to kiss after
we ate,
me sipping at the strange
soup
with a hard spoon
as we sat
in her studio apartment.
there was an ironing
board near the window.
a potted plant,
and a picture of home,
wherever that may have been.
so we kissed
and almost made love.
which wasn't love at all,
but something else.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

once free

you see them
in the parks. at the benches.
perhaps
sitting on the stone
ledge
of a fountain.
throwing bread towards
the ducks.
men and women
gone grey.
it may be early day,
or late
into the afternoon, no
matter.
the other life
has ended. the clock no
longer
a factor in where they
need to go
or be. it's this now.
unleashed to do whatever
it is one finds
to do, once free.

the accent

her irish accent
throws you off considerably.
you catch every other
word,
do you laugh, do you nod,
do you say
something incredibly
stupid and out of context
in response.
she sees you struggling
so slows down,
talks to you like a child
or koko
the monkey, which
helps a little. you order
more drinks
thnking about the irish poets,
how hard they are too,
but worth it once
you've solved the puzzle.

the last card over

impossible
to know what anyone is
thinking,
especially her,
so you guess,
you put your finger
into the air
to see which way the wind
is blowing.
you sniff
and stare, ponder
whatever words
slip out
from her lips.
legs folded, arms
tight against her chest.
she doesn't show her
cards very often,
but when she does
turn the last card over,
you know
it's going to be a
long long night.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

vacation

a luxury ship
sinks off the coast of Greece.
the passengers hardly
have a chance at
a second cup of espresso
or tea.
the news shows
the tourists bobbing
like corks
in their orange vests,
waving madly
in the blue
Aegean Sea.
it will be a memorable
trip, they think,
as they swim
towards shore
off the rocky coast
of Santorini.

sunday morning

sunday morning
is when the neighbor
takes
out his hammer and begins
to bang on
the walls.
he waits until 8 a.m.
so polite
he is.
the pictures must
cover every square inch
inch of space
by now.
i'm curious as to what
they are.
black and white
prints.
photographs of trains,
oils
or hotel renderings
of snow
capped mountains
with yellow eyed owls
in the trees.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

it's coming

the wind
slams shut a door.
the curtains pull.
the chimes
sing madly
on the front porch.
you look out at the darkened
land,
the blue fists
of clouds
approaching.
thunder.
whips of lightning,
but no rain,
not yet.
it's coming, you know
this storm,
you've been here
many times before.

the green ill

it's a sickness.
the green
ill
of jealousy. the want
and need,
a maniacal desire
to have what
can't be haved
anymore.
who hasn't been there,
in that feverish
state
of longing,
and now look back
red faced
at how sick
and strange a love
can be.

a closer look

from above, high in the sky.
a bird's eye view
perhaps, or from a plane,
the plots
of land are small, squared
off by
fences.
postage stamps of green
and brown.
they seem like nothing
but patches of earth.
hardly worth
owning,
but taking a closer look
you see people
on their knees
bending over, digging,
planting, nurturing
bushes and flowers,
vegetables, planting seed.

it's noon already

you fall in love.
you fall out.
you miss her, you start
over.
you hold the phone
in your hand
and put your finger
against her
number.
but you don't call.
you close the phone
and set it on the nightstand.
you get out of bed.
look at the clock.
it's noon already.

Friday, May 12, 2017

one more cup of coffee

I remember the grown
man who hired me
leaving the office in tears
after he was fired.
white shirt, blue tie,
suspenders.
he carried his cardboard
box full of his
personal belongings,
pictures of his wife
and children, a trophy
for volleyball,
cups and ties with spills
on them.
tears rolled down
his cheeks into his mustache
as he walked down
the commercial carpet
of the airless hallway,
past the other offices
and staring faces.
he sobbed and wiped
at his tears,
but managed to stop
at the coffee machine
for one more cup
of coffee and a slice
of crumb cake
brought in for someone's
birthday.

not your fault

the hammer that strikes
your thumb
is ambivalent
about it all.
your scream, the blood
and bruise
means nothing to the hammer.
it will wait
patiently
to be used again, as
you dance about
the room saying horrible
things
about it.

play on

the dice are loaded,
the cards
marked.
the game is rigged,
no one
gets out alive.
but play anyway, put
your chips in,
your cards
on the table, spin
the wheel
and pull the arm.
there's nothing really
to lose anyway,
seeing that you can't
take anything
with you.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

office visit

the doctor will see
you shortly,
the nurse says, pointing
towards the door.
take off your shirt,
and pants,
shoes and socks.
put this silk robe on
and lie down on that table,
the one with
the hotel sheets tucked in.
I hope you like feather pillows.
if you'd like
I can make you a martini.
sure, I tell her,
dry, three olives.
music?
yes, I tell her.
perhaps a little marvin
gaye, or al
green.
good choices, she says,
dimming the lights
and pushing a button
to bring the sweet sounds
of al green
singing, i'm tired of
being alone
into my ears.
i'll tell the doctor
you're ready. she's almost
done with her other patient.
oh, by the way, why
are you here?
i'm not sure, I tell her,
I just like
coming here. it's a swell
office.

sun up sun down

he was proud of his
tools,
his hammers,
saws and drivers.
a screw for each purpose.
a nail
for every board
set against another.
measure twice,
cut once.
he liked the smell
of sawdust,
the taste of coffee
as he set the level
against the edge
of bricks.
sun up, sun down.
his truck clean and polished,
his overalls
and boots
dusty and wet from labor.
a lunch pail
on the ground.
there was nothing
he couldn't
fix, or make, or tear
down and build
up again.
the world will miss him,
as he will
the world.

listen to me

my mother always
had something to say
to her brood
of children.
they were more like
announcements
that she issued
from the kitchen or the
screen door
with the wave of her
hands.
wash up.
come in for dinner,
put that stick down,
who's is it?
don't chew with your
mouth open,
read, do your
homework.
quit teasing your
sister,
or i'm telling your
father
if and when he ever
comes home.
brush your teeth,
comb your hair.
put the seat down.
take out the trash,
walk the dog.
there was a lot of
pressure being
ten years old.

see me in my office

your son
is not applying himself,
the counselor says
behind
her closed office door.
it almost seems like
he doesn't care, or
that he's too good for
this school.
he's having lots of fun,
and he's quite a clever,
funny fellow,
but that's not
why we're here, is it?
you want him to get into
a good school,
don't you?
get a job, work forty
years on the day shift,
the night shift,
doing something, anything.
maybe he's good with his hands.
he has to get with
the program and buckle
down or I see trouble in
his future.
you weren't like that,
were you?
well....sort of.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

the rental

what if I just want
this one
wall painted, half way
up.
how much would that be?
or can I touch
it up myself
with the same paint?
just dab it.
the can is rusted,
about ten years old and
I can't get it
open, but maybe
you have a trick of
the trade to do it.
it's just a rental,
and we don't really care
about these people,
but we want top dollar.
should we
dim the lights
and open the windows
to get the smell out?
I think they had a goat.
oh, and do you have anything
on your
truck to get out
that blood stain
in the rug?
it drips up the stairs.
we've heard the baking
cookies
in the oven
will give the house
a pleasant smell.
maybe set out a bouquet
of flowers?

every box

every box is saved.
every empty can
stacked.
why throw out a perfectly
good empty bottle?
each bag holds another
crumpled bag
within.
three cats roam
and scratch at shallow
pans
of sand.
saucers of wet food
are on the sink.
the narrow paths
of debris
would make a fireman
cringe.
the furniture
has been passed down
from
one death to another,
the dust too.
not a window
can be opened.
it's hard
to breathe.

beauty

the rose,
the petals soft
and red,
cups of silk,
are alive in
color.
done being
what they're
meant to be.
only the thorn
gives
warning to what
lies beyond,
what's part of
what you see.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

potato salad

she kept her wedding
dress
in a see through bag
in a cedar closet.
sometimes she'd take it
out and unzip
the long zipper and try
it on again.
she'd stare at herself
in the long mirror,
turning to the right,
then left.
pacing, as if down a long
church aisle.
sometimes her husband
would come into
the room and see her
walking around in the dress.
are you nuts, he'd say.
come one we're late
for the picnic, I thought
you were making
potato salad.

the war wound

the uncle,
uncle rudy,
who served in korea,
with one
eye and a patch
on the other
had a few card tricks.
we'd seen
them at weddings
and birthday
gatherings.
always with a deck of cards,
a slight of hand.
he'd
gather the children
around his
table
and do his act.
pick a card, any card,
he'd say,
then stick it in the deck
and shuffle.
how did he know?
and what was up with that
one eye.
we all wanted
to see that.

wireless

we are
wireless creatures,
needing
no stings,
no plugs or switches.
no cords.
we just
keep going
until there is no
more juice
within.
each to his own
power source.

moon glow

it's a designer moon,
a silver
orb carved
and set on a velvet
blanket
of stars.
we see it together,
and point,
we think of love,
and poetry,
of sweetness, of all
that passes
before us,
disappearing
too soon.

Monday, May 8, 2017

free our chickens

some people in the city
are up in arms.
they can no longer openly
raise chickens
in their yards.
how will we get fresh
eggs? they say.
these chickens are
family to us.
save our chickens.
they make signs
and get a permit to march
and protest.
they bring their
chickens with them
in wooden crates,
rolling them down
Pennsylvania avenue.
free our chickens
the signs read.
the protesters shout,
and scream,
all three of them,
all day.

unanswered prayer

her prayer
goes unanswered.
it comes back in the mail.
return to sender.
it's unopened,
crumpled and wet.
who needs to read
what it says.
you can just look
at the envelope,
hold it up into
the light.
and know.

with you

another train
arrives
and leaves.
the platform is empty,
then full.
the sky changes
from grey
to blue.
this world keeps
turning.
it's fast, even
faster
when i'm with you.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

designer jeans

how much were those jeans,
I ask
ginger
as she picks them up off
the floor, there is
an enormous hole in them
from where
my dog has chewed and nibbled
the entire night.
I look at the dog
who has denim in his teeth.
he's gnawing on
a silver button.
they were two hundred
and thirty five
dollars, she says.
what?
you're kidding, they're
just jeans.
designer jeans from Italy,
she says, putting them on.
her silky black underwear
sticks out the back.
you'd better go straight
home, I tell her.
that hole is pretty big.
is a check okay?

opening the bag

I can't open the sealed,
air tight
package of cheese
doodles no matter how
hard I tear
at the bag with my teeth,
or pull on it.
I run it under hot water,
then cold water.
I throw it onto the kitchen
floor
and kick it across
the room.
I can't find the scissors.
I pick it up
and read the label.
tear here, it says,
but my fingers are too
slippery.
I think about burning a
hole into the side, but
I have no matches.
the hammer does nothing,
but crush what's inside.
finally I get out a knife
and stab the side
of the bag letting out
a whoosh of cheese
doodle air and a spray
of orange dusty crumbs.

the suspects

behind the one way glass
the perps
can't see you.
they line up the suspects
and have you
take a look.
turn left, they say,
turn right.
they are all nicely
dressed,
attractive women.
each one could be the last
one who broke your
heart.
have the one in the middle,
with the shopping
bag, make a motion
like she's swiping
a credit card.
thet tell her to do so.
okay,
now have the one on the end
hold her head
like she has a headache.
they do that too.
hmmm. tell the second one
from the left to hold
a phone up to her ear
and pretend she's
asking her mother to come
stay for the summer.
geez.
I don't know, I tell the
detective.
it could be none of them,
or it could be
all of them.

Friday, May 5, 2017

daily prayers

what's up with your knees,
I ask my friend ginger.
why, she says.
they look bruised or calloused.
she looks down
at them, pulling on the hem
of her skirt.
I've been praying a lot
lately, she says.
mostly for you.
I thought so, I tell her,
my ears have been burning
and I keep feeling guilty
about almost every thing.
should I let up, she says.
nah. keep it going.

i could use a drink

i could use a drink, i tell
my pal
jimmy.
it's been along week.
my wife left me for the landscaper,
carlos,
my dog ran away
and my son
is questioning his gender.
my four oh one k,
is now a two oh one k.
he takes a flask out
of his seer sucker suit
coat
and says, here,
have a swallow of this.
southern comfort.
no, i tell him,
i mean lets go to a joint,
a dark bar
with a black and white
tv in the corner,
pretzels on the bar,
like the old days
and have a drink.
oh, he says, sipping on
his flask, sure,
let's go. i take the flask
and turn it up
to my lips.
good start.

baby talk

I make no
effort to hide my feelings,
my thoughts
about this Lamaze class.
my eyes are rolling
as I shake my head.
breathe in,
breathe out.
huff and puff,
etc.
they pass around a rubberized
version
of a baby and instruct
each husband
on how to hold the baby.
purposely
I hold the child
upside down and get
firmly rebuked.
they show us how to burp
said baby.
how to feed,
how to change a diaper.
I think about my little sister
when I was ten
and she was an infant,
I got this, I say out loud.
the only difference now
is Velcro
instead of safety pins.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

relax

I treat myself to a massage
at the local
parlor. why not,
I've worked so hard
this month.
back, neck, legs, feet,
fingers, arms.
that's it.
she's a thick woman
with broad shoulders
and the thin shadow
of a mustache
trimmed about her lip.
she knows what she's doing.
she finds
every ache
in every joint and muscle.
you be very tense,
she says. I think eastern
bloc.
relax, imagine pleasant
thoughts.
for a second I think about
the beach,
and then a shark biting my leg.
I try to relax, but the pain
is relentless.
I grimace and let out a
whimper. raising my hand
in the international sign
for stop.
quit being a girly man,
she says, as she hops
onto the table and puts
a knee into
the middle of my back.
I feel her elbows dig sharply
into my shoulders.
I have tears
in my eyes, and I mention
my mother
in a whisper.

excuse my french

I remember when
I was seven and my grandmother
with a pall mall
hanging off her lip,
a manhattan in her hand,
said that the cab driver
who picked her up
at penn station
was driving like
a bat out of hell, which
she followed with,
excuse my French.
for years I wondered which
word was French,
I analyzed the sentence,
breaking it down
word for word, but
had no luck.

siblings

you completely cut
ties
with most of your family
on social media.
you've grown tired of
the whining,
the cookies being baked,
the vacation photos,
ala ralph lauren.
white on white.
the multitude of grandchildren
photos
and updates
on health and religion.
prayer requests
come daily.
God is extra busy it seems
on facebook.
it's not that you no
longer love
these siblings, but they
have your number,
and you have theirs.
anyone can call and talk
when the mood strikes.

the gold fish

she talks to her fish.
calls them by name.
both
fat with orange,
feathery white fins.
she talks to them
as if they
were babies.
saying hello sweet
things,
then sprinkling
food onto the water.
there is so much love
within us,
just aching to
get out.

at eighteen

we lift anchor
at some point, jump
out of the nest,
set sail.
we might have small
clues tucked
away in our pockets,
but we really
don't know how,
or where,
or what to do. we
just know that it's
time to cut
the strings
and move on to whatever
lies ahead,
but always coming home
for a warm
hug, a hot meal.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

photos

pictures come in the mail
with a small note.
remember these?
enjoy. they are
yellowed
and crimped.
smudged.
a darkened restaurant
with bottles of
beer on the oak
tables.
a plastic basket of bread.
there's me at twenty two,
a girl
beside me, someone
I was with for an
hour or two.
friends across the table,
one dead,
the other a podiatrist
living
in Baltimore.
the other photos are more
vague.
strangers, people
I've never met before.
why are these pictures
sent?
none are suitable for
framing.
they do nothing
but sadden me.

the axe will fall

the wood is soft
with
water, termites,
bugs
of all sorts
feasting on who knows
what.
they gnaw
like no tomorrow
at the old shed, musty
without light,
teetering,
the door loose
on its hinges,
the roof opened to
the rain.
eat now, I tell them.
go ahead
have your fun, your
day.
tomorrow the axe
will fall.

blood and money

the vultures gather
as the news
comes down
the vine of illness,
of bones about to rattle.
you can hear
their wings
flap,
their claws scratch
against
the wall safe,
nudging the heirlooms
gathering dust
inside the attic.
they come with solemn
jowls, in black,
but with sharp beaks
awaiting blood
and money.

landfill

who doesn't have
a land fill, a place where
things
have been plowed over,
things no longer needed.
who hasn't
pushed the past aside,
shoveled over
words said, or deeds
done, missteps along
the way
in work or love.
some mounds are higher
than others,
while others are just
getting started.

seeds planted

there goes one,
he says, pointing at the rabbit
running
away with a carrot
in his mouth.
they dig and make
a hole
in my garden,
they don't ask, just
take.
but he doesn't seem
to mind.
nothing is going to waste.
the seeds
planted
have come to good.

the steps

the concrete steps
go straight up along
the grass slope.
a rail beside them.
on the other side
is water.
geese.
people fishing.
rowing
along the shallow
lake.
a grill is on fire,
I can see a plume
of smoke
across the blue sky.
but these steps are
hard.
each year
they get harder to
run up
without stopping.
without
bending over to rest
and catch my breath.
each year
there seems to be more
of them.
steeper too.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

slippery fish

time is a slippery
fish.
as are people you don't
have time
to meet.
the line wiggles,
the bobber
goes up and down.
the rod bends,
but the sun sets,
and the week
evaporates before
anything gets off
the hook and onto
dry ground.

the candy shoppe

it's a small candy shop,
nestled between
a hardware store
and dress boutique.
there's a bright
red sign out front.
fancy sweets.
inside, behind cooled glass
sit chocolates,
bite sized, both round
and squared,
ready to be boxed
or bagged.
high end stuff.
deep rich darks
and milks,
some filled with
caramel
or raspberry, others
dipped
and striped with white
swirls.
it will be out of business
in a week
or two.
but there's coffee
as well, so it may drag on
a bit longer.

some farming to do

it's a warm day.
the sun is up, I can see
the chickens
in the back yard.
the cow
eating grass in the field.
the pigs are rolling
in the trough.
I see the red
tractor waiting for me.
someone's ringing the bell
for breakfast.
I pull on my overalls,
step into my
boots
and strap on my straw
hat. I got some farming
to do.

the wedding cake

let's dance, she says
spinning around
to the wedding band
playing proud mary.
come on, stand up and shake
a leg.
I get up brush some crumbs
off my old suit.
I shake my leg.
I shake the other leg.
I tap my foot on the floor.
see, you can do this.
now wiggle your hips.
shimmy your shoulders.
bop you head
back and forth.
feel the beat and let's
go. she takes my hand.
wait, I tell her,
sitting back down.
I feel sick.
I think I ate
too much cake.

out there somewhere

don't try to find me,
he says.
the house now sold,
nearly as dark
as when he lived there
under the soft
weak glow of twenty
five watts.
he's on the road
somewhere, huddled
in a box with no
forwarding address, no
phone to hold.
there's no way to visit,
or say hey,
or talk about remember
when.
he likes it this way,
and so do most people
who know him.

fixing things

we can fix this.
this
door that leans
with
a loose hinge,
getting stuck at the top.
the stairs
that squeak
when we go up or down,
the furnace that rattles,
the windows
that seep and wheeze
when the wind
blows. we can fix
the leaky sink,
the water that runs,
the light
that flickers,
the vent where the squirrels
get in. we
can fix a lot of things,
but what about
us.

Monday, May 1, 2017

save the rest for morning

she's sleepy.
i'm sleepy,
the cat can hardly hold
her eyes open.
it's dark out.
it's raining.
the bed awaits.
we both agree to
one small kiss and save
the rest
for morning.

shoe shine

as a kid
i'd take the shoe shine
kit
and give
my only pair of shoes,
brown,
a good polish.
using the brush the cloth,
the paste.
how the tops and sides
did shine.
and then
a small cut circle
of cardboard
was slipped
into the sole,
to cover the hole,
to the keep
my foot warm
and dry.

this again

the world yawns.
hasn't it seen it all before.
what
hasn't come down
the pike
a dozen times or more.
the news
repeats itself. yes,
there is love,
and hate,
peace and war.
the tree grow thick
and strong,
then fall.
it's not what's next
anymore, or
what's now. it's oh,
this again.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

no fun anymore

i can't eat carnival
food like i used to
when i was ten, i tell
ruby, my new girlfriend
who loves amusement parks.
the deep fried twinkies,
hot dogs,
the tall whipped loaf
of cotton
candy, the peanut brittle
and caramel
apples.
it all comes out
when i get on the ferris
wheel, or look at the scrambler
winding about.
i can't even go into
the fun house anymore, i
tell her,
and see myself
in the wavy mirror,
or walk on the tilted floor.
she laughs as she eats
her giant sour dough pretzel
covered in mustard
and says,
you're no fun anymore,
and she's right.

special needs

she has three cats,
two dogs,
a horse,
a bird. goldfish.
there's hardly any room for me.
sure I get
fed and brushed,
washed.
petted, but I feel
left out
most of the time,
unlike all those
other creatures,
I have special
needs.

the curve ball

I could never hit
the curve ball. i'd always
step out,
or duck. it fooled
me every time I was at
the plate.
I still can't figure
out the curves coming.
the one's not involving
a baseball.
i'm still shy at the plate,
expecting
something easy down
the middle, fat and slow,
something I can connect
on and hit it out,
but no.

dorchester street

the old street looks same.
the thick
telephone poles still up,
the licorice lines
of wires still
strung from
side to side,
a thin painted line,
faded
is still there, the flat
roofed duplexes,
red bricked boxes
with casement windows,
all there.
scrub brush and weeds.
no ac, no wind passing
through.
the screen doors
keeping the bugs out.
someone on the porch.
someone
washing a car.
someone looking out
a window
waiting for things
to change. a dog is
still barking.

a simple recipe

it's a simple recipe,
one you don't need to look
up.
you can do it in your sleep.
a cup of affection,
three spoons
of sugar,
stir in a cup
of love.
let it bake and cool,
or take
it warm, a slice
or two, depending
on her mood.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

right there, to the left

after a while
you don't really need a mirror.
why look?
people will tell you
if
there is lettuce
in your teeth, meringue
on your upper lip.
a blemish where there was
none yesterday.
a wild hair
out of place.
red sauce on your shirt.
people are good that way,
pointing things out
about you
that are in disarray.

making friends

he was a nice hold
up man,
mugging me on the street.
well dressed,
nice shoes,
polished and clean.
he looked like
he just had a hair cut
and a shave.
he told me to put my
hands into the air.
I told him I was tired,
I had just had
a long day.
he said, okay, just one
arm then. you can
put the other one
down.
I told him I only had
a twenty
and needed bus fare,
so he broke
the twenty and gave
me a ten back.
i'm meeting him for lunch
tomorrow,
his treat, he says.
we're friends now.

wild flowers

the flowers grow
despite me.
how many years ago
did I spread
the seeds of wild
flowers.
purple
and blue, rose colored,
green
upon the dirt
and weeds.
their resilience
and beauty
surprise me.
what else can I do
without trying?

the yellow bird

strange to see
this bright yellow bird
among
the trees,
with the dull browned
sparrows
and black
birds.
all eyes are on her.
how jealous they must
be, watching,
as she flies,
fluttering her golden
wings.
how they must talk
behind her back, saying
things like
just who does she
think she is?

Friday, April 28, 2017

i guess that's it

I am awakened in the middle
of the night
by the neighbors making love.
pedestrian love.
the picture on my wall
shimmies on the nail, just
slightly, but
it startles me,
having never heard a word,
a single word
from either of them
the entire time
they've lived there.
no television, no music,
nothing but silence.
and now this,
the symphony of bedsprings
and the steady
rap of a headboard
against our shared wall.
thirty seconds later. it's over.
the dog sits up and looks
in that direction,
turning his head, as dogs
are prone to do, then looks
at me.
it's okay, I tell him,
I guess that's it.
go back to sleep.

i like her cherry pie

i didn't like
the picture of her wound
with the bandage off
that she posted on facebook.
it sort of made
me ill. however i did
like the pie she posted
the very next day. both
literally
liked, and actually liked.
it's a cherry pie,
with the crisscross
crust.
I can almost smell it
through
the glass, taste its tart
cherries in
my mouth.
shame she lives in seattle
and i'm here.
I like her
cherry pie and would
like a slice
right now.
i vote for more pie
and less open wounds.

grape vine

it's a grapevine
of sorts,
sisters and brothers
tending
the vine,
where news and information,
gossip
trickles down
in some diluted
and twisted form.
maybe it's true,
maybe not.
I let it in though,
and roll
it around
the box, sift it
for
facts, if any exist,
then nod,
and say, oh isn't that
interesting.

the party

I can't decide what to wear
to the costume
party.
I don't feel like a pirate,
or
a cop, or
a magician.
I could throw a sheet
over me
and be a ghost,
or put fangs in my
mouth and look
for blood, a neck
to bite. but no.
I can't pretend.
i'm lost.
I don't even feel like me
anymore.

hot soup

I burn the tip of
my tongue
on the hot soup.
she shakes her head
and says
I told you it was hot,
that you
had to blow on the spoon.
you don't listen,
do you?
everything I say goes
in one ear
and out the other.
she's right, I hear
but I don't listen
sometimes, like
now.

what's coming

it's your turn,
soon,
you're next in line to get
what everyone
else will get,
to get what's coming
to you,
eventually, all in good
time.
the line gets shorter
everyday,
each with his hands
cupped to take
what's coming
and there's no stopping
it.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

arriving

I like
the calm person.
the unhurried soul, who sits
with hands
folded,
eyes still,
body in a cat like
pose.
the soul is quiet.
I can see
the placid sea within.
the aura
of blue around
the white halo.
they want nothing of
you. nothing of me,
they have found a way
to know that what
they have,
is all that they need.

five hail marys

you want to be a good person.
truly you do.
but sin
gets in the way.
menial sins for the most
part, nothing
to write home about, but
even a small pebble in a shoe
will make
you stumble and fall.
confession helps
and is good for the soul,
but embarrassing too.

spice cake

if our relationship
was a cake in the oven.
it would be a spice
cake, very hot,
and uneven as it rises
in the pan.
I can smell it and
almost taste it before
it's fully baked,
and the doorbell rings.

differences

i find it strange,
women's infatuation and love
for horses,
as they must do
us men for cars
and sports. yes, there
are lines
crossed.
even men like to ice
skate
and dance on occasion.
none that i know of,
but I've heard tales
of such things.
and there are women who race
cars,
and can lift enormous
weights over
their heads, their
necks and shoulders
bulging with veins,
most of these women
scare me, as do the dancing
men, for some
deep reason, best left
to be discussed on a couch
with a doctor.

first kiss

I can remember
many things that have no use
to me now.
equations,
the periodic table.
mickey mantle's
life time batting average.
I carry them with
me like I might
chap stick, or
gum, or a map in
the glove compartment
of my car,
never to be used or needed
again.
I remember kissing
the girl
next door, Karen
for the very first time
when I was nine.
I think about it quite
often.
and yet, what good is it
now, to know
and remember that
feeling, that tingling
of first infatuation?
hard to call it
love at that age,
but it seemed to be so.

the nerve of you

your family,
being Italian
on your mother's side,
can hold a grudge like no other
family you
know of.
uncles don't talk for decades.
sisters have forgotten
what the fight was
all about, but still
are silent and cold
to one another.
god forbid you call anyone
out on
their behavior.
they turn it into a scene
from the godfather.
you're dead to me, they say.
how dare you tell me to stop
lying, cheating,
and being an unscrupulous
human being.
the nerve of you.
from now on, we're nothing.
it's a shame.

tell us how we're doing

just a pinch
and a burn, won't be but
a second.
hold still while I slice
this
little blemish off the top
of your egg like
head.
we'll send it to the lab
and see what gives.
i'm sure it's nothing,
or maybe it's the prelude
to an early death.
either way,
you have to pay your
copay on the way out.
we'll send you a survey
to tell us how we're doing.

the pain in the neck

there's a pain
in your neck, no, it's
not
your mother or ex wife,
or the neighbor
who bangs on the wall,
it's something else
that aspirin or vodka
won't touch.
it's a deep throbbing
unkind thing.
it's something that needs
a long trip
to some tropical
isle with
ginger to make it go
away.

can i come with you?

i'm leaving you,
she says, it's over.
i'm breaking up
for a nicer person,
a better lover.
someone that makes
more money, lives
in a bigger house
and has
an expensive car.
he has a pool in his
back yard
and belongs to the country
club.
his staff includes a maid,
a butler
and a cook
and an on call massage
therapist.
i'm sorry if this breaks
your heart,
but i'm going now. see ya.
wait, wait a minute.
can I come with you?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

we need to see your papers

with a clip board
in hand,
two brown shirt neighbors
goose step
the courts. pointing at
a sticker expired,
a gutter loose,
a shutter that needs
paint.
what's that bag of trash
doing out early
on the stoop?
that dog
needs to stop barking,
he needs a muzzle
and to be on a leash.
who told you
you could change locks,
or a door knocker?
turn the music down.
pay your dues on time.
your car is on the line.
we need to come in,
check your smoke alarms,
have a look around.

sweet nothings

she cancels
again and again.
it's the rain, her cat,
an ache,
a broken heel,
a family matter,
or spat. she's
trying to tell
you something, but
you are too dumb
to know what it means.
she kisses you
on the cheek,
sometimes she'll even
pat you on
the back and shake
your hand
as if the deal is done.
the sweet nothings
are just that now.
nothing.

closed

the doors were locked.
chairs
were on tables in the unlit
room. a dusty cavern.
silent now.
closed,
the sign said.
how could this be?
the place
that held so many memories,
now shut down.
the building about
to be razed.
we press our faces
to the glass
and see twenty years
gone by.
there's you, there's
me, at the end
of the bar,
pretending
to be happy. where to
now?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

disorder

the house
waits for us when we leave,
closing
and locking
the door behind.
the dishes
still in the sink,
the clothes in
the dryer.
the bed unmade. things
are just the way
you like
them. disordered.
even the couch,
the curve of you still
there,
where the pillows
lie,
the blanket unfolded.
the glass
on the table, half full.

it'll be fun

I warn my neighbor
about going up into a hot air balloon.
the colorful striped
ones with a huge
basket to hold twenty
lost souls.
I show him
pictures of them
caught in the power lines,
or trees,
dangling in flames,
the bodies tumbling
to the hard earth,
cameras in hand,
the horror, but do they
listen, no.
they go, they ask me to go
too.
they tell me how much fun
it will be to be high up
in the air.
they were good neighbors.
I miss them.

my friends across the sea


my friends, my late
night friends who call at
all hours
are kind and gentle souls,
introducing themselves
by their first names,
Andrew, Sandra, Freddie
and james, though
they mispronounce mine,
despite our familiarity.
they have such deals
on pills
and things, windows,
and trips to the beach.
they want my car to be
covered
under an umbrella insurance.
they want me to never
be let down
during a romantic activity.
they want the best for
me, my friends
across the sea.

no more

there isn't anymore.
you shake
the box,
empty the crumbs from
a bag,
pour a drop or
two from
the bottle. all day,
you thought
about it,
that one bite, or
swallow,
but there isn't anymore.
even you,
won't give me a kiss
goodnight.

Monday, April 24, 2017

busy

we are busy people.
we hardly
have time to pick up
the phone to call,
to visit,
to drop in and say hello.
no one sits
on the porch to wile
away the hours.
we are caught up
in our wind,
our own cyclone
of things to do,
how important we have
become,
our schedules tight,
our time
being money, the minutes
few.

iowa girl

she misses iowa.
corn fields.
livestock.
long flat stretches
of nothing.
dirt roads
and fences.
she misses the weathervane
on the barn roof.
the chimes
on the porch.
singing in the church
choir,
every one she ever knew
singing,
praying in their
pews.
she misses her mother
in a long dress
standing at the window
as she boarded
the bus
to take her here.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

look in my purse

it was an adventure
to go into my mother's purse.
we'd ask if she had any gum
and she'd say
look in my purse.
I remember it being deep
and wide,
white plastic with a gold
clasp, almost
too heavy to lift.
she slept beside it.
it had long worn straps
so she could lug
it around when shopping.
it seemed bottomless.
gum and candy,
Kleenex. rosary beads.
mints. loose change.
pills of all sorts, floating
free like white
dots.
rings, bracelets, hand creams,
lipstick and mascara.
a ball of keys were in there
too, although what they
went to
who knows. we never locked
the door and we
didn't have a car
for years.
there was iodine and salt
tablets.
band aids. kotex?
an extra set of glasses.
broken frames,
without lenses. rubber bands
and string.
there was a short list
of names and phone numbers.
laminated on a white
sheet of paper.
sometimes there was gum, too.
spearmint,
her favorite.

the clocks

we have these
clocks.
the baby clock,
i'm getting old,
i'd better hurry.
the job
clock.
school and moving out.
the train waiting.
the alarm.
tick tick tick.
the clock
of height, of weight,
of marriage.
of going somewhere
we've never been
before.
it ticks from the first
second of birth
and never ends
even at death we hear
the slow familiar
tick in our ears.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

who lives here?

why so many
cans
of food.
the expiration
dates smudged smooth.
soups and stews.
beans.
so many boxes of pancake
mix, prunes?
what's with
all the parmesan cheese
and bottles
of ketchup,
dried bay leaves.
who lives here,
anyway.
who bought these
things
and put them there?
what's up
with the apricot
preserves?

the march for science

being the activist that I am,
i decide to march down
Pennsylvania avenue
for earth day.
i love the earth
and no longer pour
oil down the storm drains
when working on my
four barrel carb chevy
camarro with dual exhausts
and baby moons.
I like
the sun, air, water,
and a hot pastrami sandwich
from Katz's deli in new York city,
who doesn't?
i put on my lab coat,
which is really a deli
coat, but they look almost
the same, except for the splotches
of blood and pickle juice.
I pull out my childhood
microscope from the attic
and my son's place mat periodic
table, which I make into a hat.
I wipe off an old petri dish then
tape a dead frog
to it, one that i find
on the side of the road
because of all
the rain, stepped on
by the throng of other
marchers, rabid in their pursuit
of cleaner air and soy milk,
I can see the imprint
of a wide earth
shoe on his swollen little belly.
he had a good life, and
now, this dead fat
frog will be
dedicated to this march.
to saving the earth,
he will be a martyr
for the cause.
I hold him up as we march along
the policed lined road,
chanting hell
no, we won't go
and one two three four
we don't want your stinking
war, until
someone reminds me that
those were chants from the 60's
to end the war
in Vietnam. oops, my
bad I say. it's been awhile
since I've been out here.
I press on
in the rain, holding up
my frog, his stretched out
suction cup arms and legs
taped to the petri dish.
surprisingly though he's
blinking his eyes now
and seems to be okay.
startled and confused
as most frogs are, but okay.
hold on little buddy,
I tell him,
only eight more blocks to go.

Friday, April 21, 2017

a circle of friends

we were fatherless boys,
or maybe it was the time we
were in, the late sixties,
the early seventies.
that's what comes to mind now,
so many years later,
it gives reason to why we bonded
in loyal groups, in rooms
or basements where we smoked
and drank,
passed around weak strains of
awful pot, home grown.
the fathers were not around
and the mothers never knocked
on the shut doors. they were
happy to know where we were.
work, or women not their wives
and alcohol kept
the fathers at bay, away from teaching
us anything, not that they could.
maybe that was part of it too.
they didn't know what to say to
young men without
direction. go to school,
get a job, any job, do something,
anything, what more was there
to say. what direction did
they have, and now it was
their turn to pass nothing along.
we evaded the war
that dragged on, hoping it would
end before our number was
called. our minds were on
girls mostly, sex and sports,
tonight, not tomorrow, tomorrow
was too far away.
so many summers we
listened to music with the door
closed, the weekends going
slowly by, like some old
river, waiting for us to jump
into and swim away.
some of us in time, did,
some didn't and still remain.

yo

there's a certain age
when teens
want to sound like gangsta
rappers,
my nieces and nephews were
all this way.
despite being pasty white
like flour.
it was impossible to have
a conversation
without the word yo
being tossed in for emphasis,
or some strange linguistic
reason.
every other word was a curse.
they all had big speakers
in their cars and wore
thick chains around their
neck. piercings of noses
and tongues were present
at the thanksgiving table.
tattoos.
yo, uncle joe, pass me the gravy,
followed by some hand
sign across their chest.
one's a teacher now, prim
and proper, married with
children, another is in the
navy, a chief, no less.
but a couple are still driving
around the hood,
bobbing their heads to
the music, talking about
how the man is keeping
them down.

we can help you

we can desensitize you from
aspirin
the doctor says.
no longer will you have
this allergy.
you come in for a few days
and we
give you a lot of aspirin,
very heavy doses. big
round pills.
if you don't
bleed out, or suffocate
from the constriction of
your lungs, or have a stroke,
which is rare, mind you,
you'll be cured
and will no longer
have to worry about
taking aspirin. so, let
me know when you have a few
free days. we can set
up an appointment to almost
kill you.

no such luck

she was stingy with her
kisses.
making love was an annual
affair.
her purse
had cobwebs on it
from lack of being opened.
she'd yell at you to go left,
go left go left
as you drove her somewhere,
but you held
the door and massaged
her neck, you
brushed lint off
the back of her black
dress.
you buttoned her up
and told
her how nice she looked.
she was too beautiful
for her own good
but you, being an optimist,
thought she'd
come around,
no such luck.

the next life

we wait
to go out to sea.
leaving the dock
we wave to the strangers
below, as they see
us off.
the ship sounds its horn.
we are wearing white.
we have hats on to keep
the sun off our faces.
we stand at the rail and watch
as the land
recedes, the gulls follow
as far as they can go,
then turn back.
there is nothing left
to see.
everything that was there,
is gone, soon,
there is only water.
we have arrived.

stay home

I used to ask her, plead
with her to take
a vacation, to go somewhere.
have fun and see the world.
perhaps the eastern shore,
or further north, or south,
anywhere, but here.
but she said no.
I have my home, my garden.
my friends, my children,
my dog.
I know what's out there
and have no desire to see
anymore and go.
it took some time, but
I understand it now.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

the white

you dream
of nothing,
of white.
of an endless white
sky.
it's not heaven,
or hell.
it's something else.
something
that needs to be filled
before
you die.
it's
the in between years
called life.

the sale

the salesman at the door is
tired.
his satchel
sits near his worn
brown shoes. it's raining.
what i say, opening the door,
what is it?
he takes off his hat
and begins to speak, but
stops.
it doesn't matter, he says,
you're busy. you look
like a man who has everything.
i'll just be on my way.
i'm sorry to have bothered you.
wait, I tell him. what
are you selling?
he picks up his satchel,
the weight of it pulling
on his arm.
it's okay, he says, i'll just
be on my way.
my wife is waiting for me.
my kids.
it's been a long day.
I need to get home, get out
of the rain.
he starts to walk away, then
stops, looks back, hoping,
but it's too late, he
watches as I close the door,
and turn the porch light off.



ashes

shadowed self
no longer shaved,
shirt
misbuttoned.
still blue in the eyes,
but watered
and confused.
each cigarette is lit
with the last one.
the photo on the mantle
shows the younger
version.
broad shouldered
in the sun,
feet gripping the links,
a club in hand.
and now,
the tv sits ten feet away,
the light
of it all
pulling him in,
the cigarettes piled
in ashes
in a once white tray.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

hide your peanuts

the elephants
at the senior home for former
circus
animals
were sitting around the pool,
smoking cigars,
eating peanuts
and talking about the old
days.
remember the time
I stepped on that clown?
the one with the red
nose and floppy yellow
shoes?
together they all laughed
and threw
their trunks into the air.
I couldn't stand that clown,
one said, blowing
smoke rings out of his
long grey trunk,
he wasn't funny at all,
and believe me I know funny.
I think there's a part of him
still stuck
to the bottom of my hoof.
I used to leave him a little
extra when
he swept up behind us.
hey look, here comes jimmy,
that crazy monkey
who used to play with
the organ grinder.
geez he's still wearing that silly
hat. newsflash jimmy.
the party's over.
he thinks he's a know it all
with that almost human DNA,
he never stops chattering.
quick, look the other way.
too late, he see us.
hide your peanuts.

a day or two, at most a week

okay, for now.
I can live
with this blue wall paper,
checked in white,
this rug,
this picture
of a mountain between
the lights.
after pulling back
the heavy
drapes,
I can live with this
view
of the kidney
shaped pool, covered
still with leaves,
the fountain,
that doesn't spring.
I can see the coke
machine
from here
as well. the sturdy
red box
humming along.
it's just a few nights.
or a week
at most
until I've made
up my mind
in which direction
to go.

really old, town

will this truck
in front of me ever move
down these cobbled stones,
this trash
truck
with men hanging off
the back
in jolly orange
jump suits. will
this beer delivery man
in his shorts
and crates,
wheeling out his weekend
bottled brands
ever finish doing what
he's doing
and move on.
the brown truck, doubled
parked, lights blinking,
there's no room to go around.
will the trolley bus
ever go more than two
miles an hour
full of tourists from
Wisconsin,
and jersey. their faces
pressed
to the windows, and maps,
in no hurry to get
to the old mill,
or see what a butter
churn looks like.

rose colored

her rose colored glasses
broke,
and that changed
everything.
the lens cracked,
the frames bent.
no longer was she fun
or perky
in the morning,
there were no more
cheery greetings
and salutations
to be said.
she finally saw things
as they really
were, not the way
she imagined behind
glass,
tinted red.

Monday, April 17, 2017

the promise

as she lay there,
almost gone, she whispered
with a loving smile, sweetheart,
my dear,
please promise me this,
that when i'm gone
you'll find someone else
to love,
you are young and strong,
you have so much to give.
don't mourn too long
the loss of me.
she had forgotten our arguments,
our long winter
silences,
our differences about
everything in this world.
the anger and cross words
we shared.
the fever had apparently erased
all of that from her memory.
she took my hand and squeezed,
then closed her eyes.
okay, I whispered to her,
brushing her hair
away from her face. okay.
if you insist. I promise
i'll find someone else
when you're gone.
that was three weeks ago,
and she's ringing the bell now,
asking for hot tea.
what gives?

in the end

the mushroom cloud over
the city
surprises me in the morning.
the explosion
shook the goldfish bowl
sending lucy and desi
into a fish frenzy.
it's really
a nice day out.
there's a blue bird on the sill
with a half of
worm in his mouth.
the coffee is hot
and I can smell
honeysuckles
blooming in the back yard.
I just started
the crossword puzzle
but have since stopped.
I figure I have about thirty
seconds before
the first shock wave
of the nuclear blast obliterates
me
and everything
in its path.
I add another sweet and low
to my coffee and stir.
i take a quick
couple of bites
of a chocolate covered
donut I've been
saving for later.
why not?

homeward bound

can I sing for you, she asks,
sipping her wine
in the darkened
corner of a cave like
bar at the edge of town.
I can see a motel
light flickering
through the window.
the neon sign flickering,
vacancies.
I have other thoughts
on my mind.
hello, she says, hello,
did you hear me,
can I sing you a song
i'm working on? my guitar
is is in the car, I can get
it if you want. umm, that's
okay, but sure,
sure, I tell her, go ahead
and sing. but
not too loud, we don't
won't to disturb the other
patrons around us. okay,
let's hear it.
so she leans over the table
taking my hand
and begins to sing.
everyday's an endless
dream of cigarettes and magazines.
wait a minute.
I stop her.
I know that song.
simon and garfunkle.
homeward bound.
each town looks the same to me,
I say out loud,
the movies and the factories,
every stranger's face is see reminds
me that I want to be,
homeward bound.
oh, she says.
well.
I changed some of the lyrics
later in the song.

no room for more

it's not overnight
that
things happen, the fridge
gets full
of old food.
chicken
from last Wednesday,
legs up
in the dish.
the grease solidified
into a pretty
pond of yellow.
Chinese
from Friday, the rice
stuck
together
in fist clumps.
the bark of duck
stiffened beside
a Dixie cup of plum sauce.
I should turn those
apples
to keep
them from getting sores,
those grapes
are as soft
as marshmallows.
only the eggs
have stayed dignified
and calm,
separated by the little
swinging door.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

taking measure

I hear
third hand about the younger
sister
paying a visit
to a stranger in a strange
land.
her father, at ninety
is confused
by the sudden drop in,
the ring of the bell
and her face
at his door.
where was she the other
forty years?
not a single call or card.
she stays an hour, having
taken her measurements,
having sniffed
what lies
within, what might glitter,
or be gold,
what might
be hers one day,
when it ends.

sunday cookout

the yards
are full of smoke, ripe
with
seared
meat, the coals lit,
going black
to white.
the drinks are in hand,
the balloons and eggs
are colored
pink and blue,
green, orange. a red
one floats away.
music plays.
I can almost hear
their voices
from my window, saying
things,
all the things
I used to say.

an oak tree

the winds
run out of breath late
in the day
as the sun
fades
under the bloom of grey.
the green of spring
has erupted.
the earth cools
the sleeve
of stream behind your
view, less silver
without the sun.
you'll take
the concrete steps
down and see the tree that
still holds
the carving
of your knife.
the math of your love
and hers
etched
and dated so
many years ago. it's
what you
do on easter day,
though she rises less
with each passing year.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

i don't know you

I don't know you
at all
she says, wiggling her toes
at the end of
the wide
sheet,
a pale blue, not unlike
a Carolina sky
in june.
you're a mystery to me,
she says.
neither leaning
to look into my eyes
or move a hand to touch
me into
talk.
I know I say, whispering,
as a cloud
might before
it drifts away.

spring ocean

the bliss of beach.
the plateau of blue water
hinged to the bluer sky.
the sling
of white gulls searing
the sea.
skipping lightly
across the brown sand.
the ocean is cold, too
cold to swim,
but let's go down,
let's walk, let's
let this mystery roll
across our feet.

the empty tomb

the blur
of time, eyes seen
or ears heard
what
happened,
the persuasion
of words,
we measure distance,
with a calendar,
what's written, or
said
over a gathering,
around a fire,
or in a cave
where the wind can't
reach you.
what's true or untrue
is uncertain,
at some point
it comes
down to faith
and standing in an
empty tomb.

crying

some babies you can't shut up.
they keep crying
despite the bottle,
the breast,
the soothing hand of mother.
even dry
once wet and full,
they keep at it, crying,
crying. they want what
they can't have,
they don't even know why,
but it's a pattern
for down the road,
in time, there's
one now,
behind me, grumbling,
in this long slow line.

boiled eggs

a dozen eggs
should do. boiled
hard
over the flame
in a deep pot of water.
let them cool.
take the cracked ones
out. strip
the splintered shells, salt
and pepper those,
eat them warm.
then dip
in small pools of color
the ones that made
it through,
make them
your own with stripes
and tones,
stickers
and what not.
give matisse or Picasso
a lesson or two.
keep the ones you like,
or give them to someone
else.

Friday, April 14, 2017

day one

enough with
these white sheets, these
pills
and strips
of gauze, enough with
the soups
and ice,
the legs raised
the head
propped.
the spitting of blood
into the trough.
enough
of being dizzy
and slow,
carefully holding onto
tables, chairs
and walls.
enough.
how unkind the clock
is when stalled.

becoming green

the seed buried
will rise
in time with enough
sun,
enough water,
enough
of being left alone.
come to me
then
when I've broken free,
become green,
and grown.

family weapons

mothers are naturally
nurturing and loving,
feeding their children,
tucking them in,
caring for their bumps
and bruises while
whispering love
into their ears, so
when the mother of all
bombs is dropped,
it makes you wonder,
is there a father
of weapons, an uncle
of all bayonets, the sister
of all bullets.
aunt bea
and her machine gun?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

making it

this height
makes you dizzy. catches
you by
surprise
at how your legs go
soft and weak, your
gut
suddenly full
of a thousand
butterflies. how hard
you tried
to get here,
to be praised
and welcomed.
how long can you possibly
hang on
to this rung, so high.

the front stoop

how hard she scrubbed
those steps,
the marble front
porch
without a rail.
and each mother, or
grandmother
in mourning black,
with apron,
down the narrow street
bent over
with raw hands and
went at it in the cold
sun.
first impressions
meant so much, still do,
but so few
bend to scrub
anymore.

what's next

the slip
of tongue, the loose
word
dropped
in sight
to be heard and seen
is done,
now what
is there to do,
but wait
and wonder what's
next, what's
to come.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

special blue

the boy,
while his mother digs
in her yard,
two doors up,
comes up to you
on the sidewalk
holding his crayoned
art, he
says hello. do you want
to hang out?
sure, why not?
it's you and him
under the april blue sky,
sitting, sitting
as you once did with
your own son.
he shows you his colored
drawings.
telling you,
from one to ten
which one he likes best,
then it's your turn.
you agree with
him. you tell him
that your favorite color
is blue, and point
to it on his paper.
that's special blue
he says.
the others are light
and dark.
you agree.
the sunshine is warm.
what else
do you want to talk
about he says,
looking into your eyes,
that begin to tear.

what's in there

so much of us
stays within.
so many words unsaid,
feelings
described,
music unsung, poems
unwritten, unread.
paint stroked onto
canvas.
we take so much
with us
in the end that we
could have shared.
the love,
the joy, the wonder
of who we are,
so often and always,
afraid to let known what's
in there.

the operation

I hear the old woman
in the other curtained
block
of wheelable beds
say the same thing I did
ten minutes ago
before the subtle
drowsing of drugs
kicked in.
my underpants too, she says.
yes, the nurse says.
everything comes off,
i'll help you with this robe
that ties in the back.
someone asks me my name,
my date of birth.
I tell them i'm catholic
but fallen away.
five hour later,
i'm unmasked, unwired,
unplugged.
the needle in my hand
removed,
a bright blood spot
on the gauze still taped
across my veins.
i'm seeing the olive room
with strange
watery eyes, the garden
of trees
in near bloom
out the window, i'm
afloat in a half dream,
plastic buttons
stuck all over me, some of
which I won't find for
days.

Monday, April 10, 2017

pick me up at 8

I don't believe in cars,
he says, putting
on his back pack
and sandals.
he's eating a bowl
of sprouts.
i'm going green.
no more combustion
engines for me. i'm
trying not to leave
a carbon track on our
sacred green earth.
but I may need a regular
ride to work, so if
you don't mind
picking me up,
swing by my house
at 8, i'll be on the porch
meditating.

kung pao fire

while trying
to eat with
chopsticks the other night
in a Chinese restaurant
I accidently set my
kung pao chicken on fire.
the whole bowl
went up in
flames from rubbing the sticks
so hard together
to get a morsel of rice
and chicken into
my open mouth.
the waiter threw himself
onto our table
to put the fire
out, but then we had
to leave, never getting
our stale
cookie with the lame
fortune inside.
I wonder what it said.

these joes

some says,
remember joe, what happened
to joe.
he used to come here
all the time.
he was a regular.
funny guy.
someone else says
joe who,
the guy with the dog
and the two
kids?
no not that joe,
the other joe,
tall and lanky,
he had a beard
and used to ride his
bike to work.
I don't know.
I vaguely remember him,
but I have no
idea
where he went.
who knows.
they come and go,
these joes.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

any direction

we move
at glacier speed sometimes
with love
and other things,
deciding what
to do,
where to go, what
to eat
or wear,
anything, or anyone
at times,
will do.
any direction seems
fair.

where it itches

let's scratch
where it itches.
let's
go further with this
thing
we have.
take it up a notch.
let's say things like,
I love you,
or I can't imagine
my life without you,
or not.
it's kind of good
the way it is,
why ruin a perfectly
good romance.

the calm sea

i'll find you on
the sea.
the Saragossa sea.
on the plateau
of glass stillness,
where the water stays
unruffled.
i'll find you there.
floating peacefully.
it's a place
I can be
with you.
I need that
kind of quiet, you'll
see a different
me.

uncertainty

the fog rises.
the fog buys us time,
keeps us
hidden behind the soft
grey air
that surrounds us,
protects us from who
we are in the sunlight.
we run towards the fog,
we breathe it in.
we bathe in the subtle
wave of it's
hand
as it seeps up from the bog,
the stream,
the wet thick land.
we hope that it stays
a little longer,
keeping
everything uncertain.

good neighbors

my new neighbor
knocks at the door
in her bathrobe.
she wants
to borrow a cup of sugar.
a half a stick
of butter,
a cup of oil
and flour, a baking
pan
and my oven for an hour.
oh, and a mixer
too, with a big bowl
and a spatula.
she hands me the list
and smiles.
sure, I tell her. why not.
what are neighbors for,
if not
to bake together.

the gallows

these days
everyone likes
a good hanging.
there is no turning the other cheek.
forgive
and forget.
let's help this poor
confused soul,
put him on the right track,
his mother didn't love
him, his father
beat him with a rubber hose.
it's a genetic thing,
he was dropped on his
head when a baby. let's help
him.
no, the cry is,
hang him. let him swing
in the courtyard
where everyone can see.
what's the point,
he'll just do it again
when he gets out.
he's in the yard now,
lifting weights,
sharpening knives,
finding God to get out early.
he's conspiring with others
on how do it better the
next time and not
get caught.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

crab fest

crabs bore me.
their hard salted shells.
the blue cooked out of them,
now red.
the piles with sharp pointed
claws and ridged backs,
stacked on old news
copy.
the mallets
and pliers. the assortment
of dental
tools to dig and scrape
out tiny morsels
of white meat. so little
for so much work.
the beer mugs
and vinegar spill
tubs of melted butter too,
they drip and rain
on the bellies, the bearded
chins, the doubled chins,
the pointed chins
sucking corn from a cob,
yes, we need vegetables too.
everything ends up
into laps
now unbuckled, loosened,
unsnapped.
they should be free,
these strange creatures,
these scavengers
found at the bottom
of the inlet, the bay
and sea. crawling forever
in sand.
three hours later, with
bleeding hands,
you're still hungry.

in the mood

the arch and yawn
of the cat
on the warm sill
is pleasant to watch,
how she stretches and makes
herself longer,
the sun
in the sparkled glass
of her green eyes.
she reminds me
so much of you.
even those nails that
reach out
from soft paws
to scratch my arm,
hin at affection,
telling me that you're
in the mood.

puddles

it's a small puddle,
but the shoe
finds it
and the cold set rain
holding
a grey sky
comes in, overflows.
the sock
is wet, the heel,
the toes.
puddles are everywhere
these days.


Friday, April 7, 2017

old friends

the shine is off
the wood.
it's aged. the scars
of time
and hand
line the rail
and knob.
it's dull.
the sides are weak,
the screws
loose.
shelves have slipped
from their pegs.
the drawers won't pull,
but it stays.
as all
good friends must do.

wrong number

it's the wrong number.
again.
someone wants to talk to rita.
I tell them she's not
here, but they call
back. all day they want
to speak to rita.
finally I tell them
that she's out shopping,
she's ironing my clothes
in the basement.
she's taking a cake
out of the oven
and can't come to the phone.
rita is a busy woman,
they tell me okay, tell her
to give us a call.
I do, I yell down
the steps and tell her.

concerto

her violin plays
all night,
what's done is done,
what isn't right
makes no difference
to her.
the strings
sing to the drag
and strike of her
bow.
she plays
her sad song as
the moon
bleeds white outside
the window.
I listen, for what else
is there to do.
love listens.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

the think tank

I get the call to join
a think tank.
to be a part of an elite corps
of brainiacs
who want to save the world.
i'm suspicious right
away and feel that they've
confused me with someone
else of the same name.
I don't know how they got my
resume,
since I don't have one.
yes, it's true
I do think
about a lot of things.
I ponder them quite often,
but not about very important
issues
like pollution,
or education, nuclear war,
or waste or how to cure cancer,
I rarely think about
how to get to mars on a
shoe string budget,
or how to feed the hungry.
i'm hungry too.
my mind strays towards
simpler things, like
women's legs for example,
coffee. what's for dinner
tonight. lasagna?
I wonder where a comma should go,
maybe here, maybe not.
I think about how to get the lids
off of olive jars more easily.
I think best after a good nap,
or after two martinis
and my shoes are off.
i'm more talkative and thoughtful
though
after making love,
my ideas seem to flow,
but only for a short while, then
i'm sleepy. very sleepy.
and my thinking hours are over.

yard sale

on a clear day
I set out things for the sale.
a toaster.
an enormous t.v.,
chipped plates.
a set of matching tea cups
and saucers,
never used.
a seascape, poorly painted,
but suitable
for hanging in a cheap
motel perhaps.
this flower vase.
red for some reason, as
if flowers weren't enough
to fill it.
a dress left behind,
heels, one broken,
and a purse with nothing
in it but chap stick
and a stick of gum.
some things are
unexplainable.

a good exit

she painted mostly pears
in bowls.
still life.
apples,
and the dead
from photographs
of obituaries
in the paper.
portraits
shadowed
in bright colors,
dappled
in sunlight.
you weren't in love
with her,
nor her
with you, but you saw
the first
new strokes
of her work before
leaving,
and she yours.

the italian sports car

after a few days
of not shaving and wearing
the same work
clothes,
paint stained and torn,
the shoes
covered
in months of debris
and mud,
recovering from a cold,
coughing into your sleeve,
people will hand you
money,
trying to stick dollars
into your near
empty coffee cup.
you say God bless
to them,
and move on,
thinking about that
little Italian
convertible you might
buy in the spring,
white with a black top.
maybe
with an Italian girl
too, riding beside you.

today is good

these owls
with long wings and heads
on swivels.
yellowed
bold eyes.
they screech and holler
through out the early
morning.
hungry for a mouse or
two,
praying that it doesn't
rain.
the rain soaks through
and makes them
heavy,
wet and sad.
rain is death of them.
but today is good.

what needs to be done

it's a day of fixing things.
the knob
that's loose on the door,
the batteries
chirping,
the gate with the loose
hinge,
the belt
on the vacuum.
there's a cobweb
in the corner,
glass that needs to
be sprayed
and wiped.
that squeak in the floor.
the sheets changed,
the bed made.
laundry put away.
but even after all of that,
I can't fix what
really needs
to be fixed, that will
have to wait
and wait and wait.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

we've changed

let's go hunting
she says, pulling on her
boots and
green camouflage
jumpsuit. I feel like
killing some
pheasant or ducks today.
maybe slap some plum
sauce on a slab of
greasy dark meat.
she blows the little
duck whistle
loudly into my ear.
do you have to do that??
I know a nice little
blind
where we can hide,
and drink jack daniels,
she says,
make out
until we scare
the birds into the air
who are you, I ask her,
clipping my nails
at the end of the bed.
you're not the same girl
I married.
you've changed.
we need to pick up some
shells
and some war paint,
she hollers,
grabbing her gun bag,
come on,
those duck are a waiting.
do we have any clear
polish, I yell, as she
heads down the stairs.

between the lines at coffee

it is what is.
(I have no idea what to say)
perfect.
(which means maybe)
excellent.
(a stronger maybe)
have you lost weight.
(I hate you)
we should get
together more often.
(but every six months is fine too)
we might go sailing this weekend
at the cape.
I hope it doesn't rain.
(boats are stupid)
you really look good
in that color.
(who wears purple anymore, clowns?)
your kids are so smart
getting into that school.
(they must be cheating)
when you tell me these things
about your life
I feel so bad for you
(thank god it's not me)
i'm glad that my husband has
a good job and I don't have
to work.
(too bad for you)
well, bye for now,
don't be a stranger.
(whatever)

jiffy hell

what you need are new shocks,
buddy,
look at the way
she bounces when I push down
on the front end.
but I just bought this car.
I only have a few thousand
miles on it,
church going miles, at that.
yeah, they don't make
em like they used to.
plus the engine, hear that
rattle.
you are about ready to throw
a rod.
once that happens,
you'll need a new engine.
you don't want to be stuck
out on the highway with a broken
down car, do you?
I mean you love your family, right?
it's just your luck though,
we've got a new deal
on engines today.
the sale ends in two hours.
if I was you, i'd go for it.
I don't know.
can you just change the oil?
that's all I really came in for.
I have a coupon.
okay. okay. I guess you don't
want clean filters either, right?
it's your car, your life.
have a seat in there, there's
two week old
coffee and greasy ten year
old magazines. we've got the tv
on as loud as it will go too,
so enjoy.

lola

some men are unhappy
being men.
they want it gone.
yes, that it.
I cringe at the thought.
they want to wear
dresses
and have a parade for
their confusion.
wear lipstick
and stockings.
they want a handbag
to match their shoes.
to each his own,
or her own. who is anyone
to judge.
don't pick up any stones
to throw,
we all got something,
baby.
it's hard to change horses
in midstream,
but go for it,
giddyup.

at home

is it bad luck,
karma,
a black cloud upon
you,
or have you always been
in dire
straights.
in trouble with the law,
or someone
that you're related
to by marriage.
penniless and broke,
again.
it seems as if it's always
been your turn
to suffer,
you jump the line,
unable to get out
of your own way.
perhaps
you like it there?
chaos feels like home.

pennies

it matters not
what milk cost anymore.
you need milk,
you put it in the cart
and buy.
stamps too,
what's the price of a
single stamp?
I have no idea.
gas, fill her up and go.
what's the point
in driving to the next pump
for two cents
less.
those worries, those penny
worries
have left me
for some reason, not
that riches have been
bestowed,
or inheritance left
in my hands,
i'm just more concerned
with pounds now,
not pennies.

his last garden

his hands curled
in the dirt, means spring.
he pounds
a stake
to hold up the fence
to keep
the rabbits out.
it's a small square
of ground,
just enough room
around the air
conditioner to grow
peppers
and tomatoes.
most of which he'll
never eat, or barely see.
it's not about that.
it's something
else.
it's the seed, the rain,
the green
growing of something
new. something
he's always done
since a boy in Halifax.

getting young again

the doctor shows you a diagram
of your body.
and indicates with a pencil
where the problem is,
he draws a light line
across the areas where he
needs to cut and trim.
under your arms, your belly.
the triple chin, those bags
under your eyes.
we can smooth out those laugh
lines and that furrow
in your brow.
you'll look years younger,
he tells you. but I have
to say, it's going to hurt
and will take a long
time to heal.
people may not recognize you.
the other options are exercise,
diet and to cut back on
your drinking. so what do
you think?
can you do it today, you
ask him while eating
some candy that you have
in your pocket.