Sunday, September 25, 2016

three days two nights

on the flat wall
of the cheap motel,
below the vacancy sign,
white with blue trim,
red doors,
white in the sun, a harsh
squared glare,
the faces
then bodies come out
to lean
and stare down at the boardwalk,
to the ocean
with all its
blueness.
you see them yawn, red
faced
from drink and sun,
sleepy,
half dressed, some smoking,
some with instant
coffee in their hands.
the gulls chirp,
diving into the water,
the littered rolls
of warming
sand.

your own sign

you want those that are crazy
to stop
being crazy.
those on the street begging,
stop
you want to yell.
get a job,
get a life,
anything would be better
than this.
it only makes sense
when it's you on your hands
and knees
cutting out the side
of a cardboard
box to make your own
sign,
then finding a busy
corner
to stand on.

no, go this way

do you need others
to tell you what's wrong,
rarely,
but sometimes
you do.
you need the nudge,
the kind
hint,
a hand to push or
pull you back
onto the straight line.
sometimes
you are in a fog,
going oddly
in the wrong direction.
you need
the snap of smelling
salts
beneath your nose,
a voice whispering,
no, go this way.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

then decide

I don't cast
my lot in easily.
I get close
to the fire to warm
my hands,
stamp my cold feet
beside its circle,
but steer
clear
of handling the wood
that burns, not touching
those coals,
red as desire, going white,
thick with flame,
a throaty roar.
I wait
for it to slow, then
decide.

the tumble of sleep

it's less slipping
and more
of a stumble into sleep.
so much
on your mind.
the room crowded
with decisions to be
made.
the knick knacks
of your day
teetering
stone cold and quiet
on some shelf.
a rattle of pipe,
or is it wind
wanting,
or answering
outside the window.
the bed is a flat table
of white sheets
that you lie
upon
and roll, never quite
getting to where
you need to go, shuffling
the papers,
reading between
the lines, unsleeping
with eyes
closed.

book review

half way through the book,
i stop reading
and ask myself,
why am i reading this book.
i hate this stupid
book.
it's boring beyond words
and yet goes on and on
grasping at some story.
the characters have names
i can't pronounce and i don't
care if they live
die, or reproduce monkeys
from mars.
the flashbacks are killing me.
i feel bad for the trees
needed to print this tomb.
i hold the closed book
up to the light,
it's four inches thick
weighs five pounds, at least.
i wonder how far
i can throw it without
wrenching my arm.
so go into the yard
to do so, heaving it towards
the creek,
scattering the wildlife,
the trees
applauding.

off the list

i am bad luck
at weddings, every one that i've
attended, including
all five of mine has ended in
failure for the bride
and groom.
i try to tell people this.
please don't invite
me.
the ship will sink.
i am the iceberg hidden
in the blue
gloom of the atlantic
about to scratch
a whole
into your pretty new ship.
save the invitation,
i'll send you a toaster
oven
or set of Tupperware,
something,
but please, for your own sake,
for your own potential
marital bliss,
don't put my name
on the list.

leaderless

the leaders are no longer
leading
the country
instead they are leading normal
lives
behind
the curtains,
safe
in the shadows.
the dumbing down of
America
has reached its
Walmart
zenith.
we are transfixed
on the simple
and meaningless
the throw away celebrities,
the gossip,
the calorie laden
junk
food of social media.
it's time once
again for another great
flood,
the clowns
are in charge,
blowing their brassy
horns.

Friday, September 23, 2016

the red bird

a lace
of stars not unlike
the cloth
upon
your grandmother's table
at
the holidays.
a saucer,
a plate,
a tea pot.
how small you were, reaching
up
to stare
at her clock,
the one with the bird,
painted red
and the pine
cone weights.
how she moved the hands
with a stick
making it appear
on a small tray,
and coo.
somehow these stars
remind you
of that.

points a b and c

the line is not straight
getting from point
a to point b.
it's a dotted line
with curves and loops,
stops,
starts.
so how did you get here,
arrive so quickly
with no path
to follow, taking it
one day,
one inch
at a time. you look
around at the others,
at those who have arrived
with you at point b.
they don't know either,
but together you
look out the window
and stare
pensively at point c
just beyond
the breaking waves.

the sales pitch

frantic with foam running down his mouth,
my inventor salesman
calls with the good news. your invention
has been approved for patenting. he yells
into the phone.
utility and design, as well as a one
year provisional patent.
isn't that great, he says, rambling
in his used car salesman way.
I can almost see him snapping his red
suspenders over his coffee stained
white shirt.
we are ready to take the next step.
now, here's the fees, here's what
you need to pay, to get this ball
rolling, to get your idea to
our engineers then to the manufacturer
then to the market.
i start to speak, but he cuts
me off and says, hear me out.
here's what you need. one check,
one single check for twenty thousand
dollars. you can use a credit card,
or a cashiers check, or personal check.
but that's it and you my friend
will be a rich man. we are talking
generational money here. your children
your children's children will
benefit from the decision you are
about to make. I let him finally stop
and catch his breath. I can almost
hear his heart beating like a rabbit
through the phone.
that sounds like a lot, I tell him.
no, he says. look at the big picture.
with the money you are making you will
never have to work again. this invention
of yours is a gold mine.
I imagine him at his desk, a finger
playing with the hole in his worn
brown shoe. tapping a pen against
the ball of his foot.
when can I get your check, he says,
with an audible swallow.
we are ready to work with you and
make you a millionaire, this will
surely happen. there's a pause.
let me sleep on it,
I tell him. okay, okay. okay. he
says. I understand, but please remember
we are up against a deadline.
keep that in mind.
borrow the money if you have to.
steal it, cash in your retirement.
sell your car, your blood, donate
a kidney,
do whatever you have to do to get us
that check.
we want this invention to succeed.
think of the people you can help
with this money.
think of those children on tv
with big eyes and bloated bellies,
or those mangy dogs in cages
in north korea.
don't let them down. you could keep
those animals from becoming a sandwich.
for God's sake don't cheat
other's our of what you can do for them.
okay, that's all i'm going to say.
i'll wait for your check, I have to
go now, I have another call coming in.

the indian ocean

she says, wouldn't it be nice
to go the ocean,
sit out on a wide porch
and watch the waves roll in.
which ocean, I ask her.
the indian ocean she says
sarcastically.
you mean native American ocean
I say, volleying back.
it goes on like this
for awhile until
she tells me she's tired
and has to go back to work.
it's hard being you, she
says. isn't it?
you have no idea, I tell her.
no idea.

my editor

my editor and former
lover
in ohio
writes to me and says
why can't you get that apostrophe
right?
time after time
I keep telling you how it
works, and yet
you forget.
she mentions spelling
too, and
the constant tag line
that I always seem to leave
on the end of a poem
trying to make sure
everyone gets it.
leave that line off she
screams,
using all caps in her text.
would it be too hard to actually
reread what you write,
she says.
I miss her.
I think she misses me.

call for the understudy

you call for your understudy
to step in
for tonights performance, you
can't go on.
your stage fright has finally
caught up with you
you are nervous,
sweating, your throat
is constricted
with phobic fear. what
were you thinking in
taking this role on.
the commitment, the energy,
the pretending
night after night repeating
your lines
which seem false and unsure.
surely the audience must know
as they sit there staring
at you,
row after filled row.
perhaps tomorrow, a matinee,
you'll change your mind.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

here, drink this

your doctor throws up her hands,
exasperated,
and pulls
out a flask
of whiskey
she's kept hidden
in the deep white pocket
of her smock.
she turns the bottle up
and drinks,
squinting
into the fluorescent lighting
of her office.
here, she says,
wiping her mouth with
her sleeve, want some?
you too take the bottle
and drink,
coughing at the whiskeys
harshness
as it rips against
your throat.
you move around on the examination
table,
your bare
legs dangling two feet
from the floor, the paper
gown
you have on wrinkling
and making noises as you
try to unstick yourself
from the vinyl surface
you sit on.
I don't know what the answer
is, the doctor says.
I can't solve this problem
you have. I don't know
what to tell you,
but here, have some more.
you drink up,
she drinks.
you notice her legs.
you're starting to feel
better about being sick with
these allergies.

just one word

say the word blue
and
she says bird, sky.
how she feels
in the morning when Monday
has arrived.
she'll tell you about the ocean,
a robin's egg.
a dress she wore
once
to the senior prom.
just one word,
such as the word
blue,
and she's off to the races
as you sit
and listen
near the phone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

henry and noel

as you slept in the front
seat
of your 1970 chevy nova,
parked on the side of an ocean
road,
henry and noel
made love
in the back
under the coarse hair
of an army
blanket.
you pretended not hear,
not to listen
to the grunts
and groans, the unsexy
grinding
of bodies
against the vinyl seats.
feet pressing
against the back
of where you sat.
the wind rose from the ocean
blew in,
the salt, the sand. the sun
partly covered
by clouds, was a bland
yellow melt,
struggling to be the sun.
the car
needed gas
to get home,
you were hungry.
soon they'd finish
and things would be different.
in a year
noel would die with a needle
in her arm. henry
would be seen pushing
a shopping cart
up the road
with things he had stolen,
drinking cough syrup.

bully boy

the bully boy,
his life set in stone.
his fierce
blue eyes.
knuckles worn
on the skulls of the weak.
his red ears, the tombstone
teeth
which seem to be gnawing
at a leather
strap
which binds him.
his world
is the sand pit now, soon
he will venture farther
into the world
and pretend he isn't who
he is
but always will be.

the restless heart

she takes her dress
off
and lets it fall to the floor,
it tumbles
softly,
like
so many petals of a flower
unhinged.
she turns the light
off
and slips into bed.
where are we
she says. I can hear
her breathing,
the small tap
of her restless heart.
we're here, I tell her.
right now,
we're here.

did you get my text

his ex-wife
calls. he takes the call
while I wait.
I sit
on the porch
and listen. he says
to her, Jeannie,
we're not married anymore.
what you do with your life
is not my
problem.
he looks at me and gives
me the thumbs up.
I return the gesture.
he lights a cigarette
and says,
blowing out a cloud of blue smoke,
yes. I did get
your text. did you get mine?
we'll read it.
I can't see you anymore
while
that man is living in your house.
stop crying.
why are you crying?
why are you telling me all this.
call the police.
there's nothing
I can do about it, and no
i'm not driving to culpepper
tonight.
we'll I have to go.
stop crying.
call me later. okay. okay.
bye.

beware

beware of enthusiasm,
it will lead you into dangerous
situations.
beware of
champagne love,
the bubbles evaporate
so quickly,
the bottle
once cold goes warm
and stale
by mornings light.
beware of those who know
so much
and need to tell others
what they know.
beware
of early risers,
courageous men,
men wearing medals,
flirtatious women.
women with more than three
cats.
those who love
the spotlight,
those who don't.
beware of good people.
no one is truly
good.
beware of the mirror.
it's not the truth.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

calling it a day

she settles
under the sound of a clock
ticking,
the shade of a cool tent
called age.
the sun is
swift against
the pale blue sky.
she throws out
the white flag and says okay.
i'm done,
this, this man
here, is good enough.
i'll anchor
upon this love,
if it is love
and call it a day.

at rest

his broken fingers tell
you something,
the gnarled
dirt still
there, tells you
something about work. his face.
a cliff
of life,
smoked
and drunk into the shape
it's taken.
love won or lost may
be part of it too. the plowed
skin,
of sun
and sea upon his brow,
his cheeks,
but it's his hands,
his fingers
that lie
folded upon his
buttoned
suit, old with shine,
is what you see,
telling you
something about him,
about what a man does,
must do
from sunrise
until sunset
until sleep becomes his
life.

pigeons

these pigeons,
what do they know?
what point
of view do they hold.
busy
with what?
their day full of pecking
at crumbs
we leave
behind.
grey winged,
black dolloped,
stone bead eyes.
hardly eyes at
all. what do they see?
how quick they dart
and fly.
their oiled feathers
tight
as jackets upon
their breasted bones.
how unlike
and like
we are, nothing
being what it seems.

dear anne

her poetry,
which I like, is raw
and bloody,
though aged over
40 odd years,
me me me.
the imprint
of forks
and knives still
in the meat. but
i read in her bio,
how she
poured over
dictionaries
a thesaurus,
mythology,
to find just the right
word,
or metaphor,
just the right phrase
and
length of line
to finish it.
to make it whole
or unwhole
on the printed page.
I say cut, cut deep and go.
let it bleed,
let it lay where
it falls
to the floor
and be.

Monday, September 19, 2016

your stripes

your stripes
define you. people stand
away.
murmur be careful
of the wild
tiger.
don't put your hands
inside
the cage.
how little they know
you.
the true you.
how
kind you are, how
merciful.
they only see the blood
in your teeth,
the flesh
in your claws,
the hunger that is
your life.

not a kiss given

it's not that one
day
becomes another, or
that nothing of great
consequence
occurs,
nothing new learned.
not a kiss
given, or received.
it's not about that.
it's more.
it's something
untouched within, that
worries you.
where does it
all go, how does
it all end.

die trying

be beautiful
we tell our children,
be wise
and smart.
don't embarrass
yourself,
or us. live a life
between
the lines.
be something more,
be nothing
less
than me, or die
trying.

the cold outside

these ideas,
these few
etchings
of words,
call them what you will,
are stars shining.
blips
of light
unimaginable distances
away, somehow
now here. how they flirt
with
your mind, your tired
soul. find
room to be told,
give you
enough juice to go on.
these ideas.
embers, warm and burning,
keeping
the cold
outside.

this is why we drink

is there anything else
I can help you with today,
the woman
on the phone says to me
after being on
hold for thirty seven minutes.
the third
call today after being
transferred,
then disconnected.
I have my nineteen digit
account number
in front of me, almost
memorized.
wait, I say.
you haven't helped me yet.
you've done nothing.
what's your name,
she says.
your social, your address?
if English is one of your
languages, press one,
if not, press two.
then tap in your account number.
what is your mother's maiden
name, the name
of your first pet?
I just gave you all of that
information,
can I put you on hold, she
says? your call is very
important to us.
no.
please, I just need to talk
to someone about...
enjoy the music, she says.
all lines are busy
please wait.

upside down elvis

the boardwalk,
along with other
assorted
homespun acts,
had
an elvis impersonator,
but
with a twist. he stood
on his head
in his satin
white
rhinestone embedded
jump suit
and strummed
his guitar.
it made no sense,
bow could you not drop
a coin into
his hat.
and laugh as he
mumbled
thank you very much.

the window facing the woods

it's a perfect window.
on the second floor.
framed, and set
in 1968,
facing the woods,
just the woods and a narrow
stream
that snakes
and changes its curves
each season
by wind, by rain.
it's hard to raise at times,
the sashes
wood, the screen
in place.
what thoughts were
had
that year, leaning out
of the new house,
as the world
went slightly
mad,
in 1968.

choices

it's hard to choose
sometimes
what you want.
sparkling water,
tap water,
water from a hose
on ice.
we have too many choices,
granite,
stone,
laminated or wood.
what color should my
hair
be this week,
which wine under fifteen
dollars will suffice?
no wonder we're
so confused, so distracted,
feeling
buyer's remorse,
unable to sleep
at night.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

the waffle iron

the first marriage
was a sham,
two children
walking down the aisle.
peach fuzz
and baby fat,
me in a white
disco suit, her in a
fluffy white dress
as if she was an angel
falling from heaven
or a three tiered cake
made by an aunt for Pittsburgh.
there was chicken on
every plate, asparagus,
and a limited two
drink open bar.
a local band
of long haired old men
played proud mary
and the hokey pokey.
a week later,
after a one night stay
in ocean city
at the Carousel Hotel,
she was carrying her new
toaster
oven across the street
to where her mother lived
and waited with open arms
and tears in her eyes.
in the other hand was
the wedding album
tucked into her blue
carryon on suitcase.
the lawyers and a local
bishop quickly
washed the whole thing
down the drain.
a relief for both of us.
I still have the waffle iron.

the fast begins

I decide to go on a fast
having read so much about
the benefits it provides,
but only
after this
last chocolate
covered donut
and glass of milk.
I shouldn't have eaten
three, but
people in some third world
country
or in oxon hill where I
grew up,
are hungry, not necessarily
starving,
but a tad hungry.
after I finish this
glazed donut though,
that's it.
a one week cleansing
of my body
and soul.
only water, no bread, no meat,
not pasta,
or pizza,
but then I notice
that I just opened
a bag
of waffle chips last night,
and what about that ice
cream in the freezer.
it might go bad.
not to mention
that left over rib roast
cover in foil
on the fridge shelf.
after I've taken care
of all of that, then
i'll fast.
i'll find my inner soul,
put on an orange
robe
and levitate.

another wind

forget the second wind,
you are on
your third or fourth by now,
getting up,
and going at it.
work
and love,
play
and sweat.
sucking it up, tying
on a new
pair of shoes,
putting the shine on.
how many more
winds
exist in these lungs,
who's to know.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

house calls

you tire of your day
job
and decide to go to an online
med school.
it's an intense six week program.
one hour a night.
but you only want healthy
patients,
young patients with
money.
you'll only do house calls
to keep the overhead
down.
all you need is a black
bag with a cross on
the side,
and a stethoscope, thermometer
and a blood pressure
gizmo.
you'll learn the name of that
later.
maybe a portable scale
and an eye chart.
you could put a siren on
your Honda civic too,
just for a fun effect.
cash only.
you begin to memorize
and practice saying
the standard doctor phrases.
say ahhh. tell me where it
hurts.
stop smoking.
stop eating at kfc,
and take two of these
and call me in the morning.
you're almost ready.

the dig

unearthed,
the spoon, silver,
bent nearly in two
stops
the construction of a
nine story
hotel
at the edge of town.
the yellow tape goes around.
the newspapers come,
television,
men from china
holding
cameras squat at the spot
where the spoon
was unearthed
and snap photos
at every angle
as it sits dull in
the morning sun.
what else could be in
there, in that
mound of dirt
being dug.
a broken cup, perhaps,
a shard
of plate,
a toothpick?

Friday, September 16, 2016

the dog

the woman in the pink sweat pants
opens her window
and yells out.
I can see her yellow hair,
her short
arms
as she leans
towards the yard below.
shut up
she says to the pit bull.
his striped back
furled,
his teeth bared as a stroller
goes by
being pushed
by a young mother.
shut up, the woman yells again.
shut the hell up.
quit barking.
he puts his paws
against the chain link
fence, where the gate
wobbles
and barks more fiercely.
she flicks
a lit cigarette at him.
yells again.
he keeps
barking.

where are you?

I yawn.
I stretch. i'm a cat
on the sill.
fat
and happy,
a pocket full of money,
stomach full
of food.
a drink
about to be sipped.
cold
with ice
and vodka,
a slice of lime.
I have three books
in front of me.
I yawn.
I stretch. i'm a
cat on the sill,
where are you?

did you say something?

it's a misunderstanding.
what isn't
these days.
who can converse, hold
a conversation,
talk face
to face anymore without
a phone in
their hand.
what did you say?
nothing.
oh, nothing.
sorry, I was looking
at my phone.
not listening.
my battery is low.
do you have
your phone with you.
i need to google
something. I have
no idea
of the color of her
eyes,
having not seen them.

go and sin no more

frustrated with my allergies,
the sniffling, the sneezing,
the constant runny nose, and
wheezing air out of my
constricted lungs
as if I was a human
bag pipe I go to my local church
for prayer.
come in my son, the priest says,
putting out his robed arms.
do I know you?
are you a parishioner here at
our parish?
no, I tell him, but I live
right next door, a communion wafer
throw away from
the altar. I need help
desperately with my allergies.
honest to God,
I've tried everything.
I feel guilty every time I drive
by on sunday to go get coffee,
I tell him. if that makes any difference.
no, it doesn't, he says. but
you look familiar.
I sneeze again after dabbing
a finger full of holy water
onto my forehead then along the sides
of my red nose.
can I drink some of this water,
do you have any cups around?
my mouth is dry from all the pills
I've been taking.
no. he says, don't drink
from the Holy water basin.
he moves in between me and the Holy
water.
but where do I know you from?
he arches his dark eyebrows,
puts a hand on his chin, tapping.
well, about ten years ago I was
in here with my ex wife,
she was having a tough time
going through menopause and we
tried to get her an exorcism.
oh, yes, I do remember that.
it was an awful time. we had
to replace the carpet and a few
stained glass windows.
it didn't work, did it?
nah.
so, how is she?
fine, she lives in Texas now,
remarried to a guy named Jimmy Bob.
that's too bad,
he says pulling on his collar
with one finger.
Texas, he says out loud,
shaking his head. Look, he says.
i'll put you in the Sunday bulletin
asking the congregation to pray
for you, but only if you promise
to start coming to church.
we need someone to help us
make pancakes at seven a.m.
on Saturday morning before bible study.
after that we have
the farmers market and car wash.
you can help us out there as well.
I let out a loud sneeze, then
another, ending with one more
that echoes around the church,
making the candles waver.
God bless you he says. Thank
you, I tell him. i'll get back
to you.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

without mercy

without mercy,
or blinking,
or tears shed,
the world goes on.
the pulse
of traffic,
the sirens, the smoke
of the factories,
the grind
of wheels.
without stopping,
it spins,
this earth, this home.
in time
others will stand
where you
stand,
sleep where you sleep,
without mercy,
life
moves on.

but we came so far

the red flags are up
as the bronzed boys
stand high
in their chairs
blowing whistles,
waving hands,
and yet
so many test
the ocean, its rip
of white
and fisted churn,
the bruised knuckles
of waves
pulling them
out beyond reach,
beyond saving. they swim
with a drunken
thrill, having driven
so far
to be denied the ocean,
and now being carried
by the heave of an
impossible power,
soon to dragged
to shore,
unbreathing,
blue as the sky,
with a crowd gathered
around
their still, swimless
body.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

tricks

the woman
was proud and happy
to show you how
her dog
knew so many tricks.
she carried
a pocketful of treats in her
baggy pants.
stand, she said.
sit, beg. roll over,
bang,
play dead,
and the dog did.
it saddened you
for some reason.

ironing

shirt after shirt
your mother
stood
at the ironing board,
the full basket beside her,
pressing
the iron, her strong
hands
pulling, smoothing,
pushing
as it hissed
and steamed down sleeves
around collars, exhaled.
she was one
with this work.
lost easily
in a world of creases.
spray starch.
hangers waiting
along
the pipe for clothes.
go to bed she'd yell
up the steps,
hearing our bare feet
tap down the hall.
it's late.
you have school tomorrow,
pressing harder,
as the clocked
moved, and him,
your wayward father,
not home.

hotel sheets

I felt her
teeth on my neck,
razor sharp
and white.
she was sucking the blood
out of an
open vein. having a good old time.
what are you doing, I asked
her.
that hurts.
nothing, she murmured,
just making
you one of us, like me.
free to live
forever,
but always hungry
for more, perpetually
young and
thirsty. whatever, I said.
but please be careful,
these are new
sheets, hotel sheets,
six fifty count. I just
bought them.

still smiling

her suicide note
was short.
i'm leaving.
beside it she drew a happy
face,
then another, one
more for
bad luck.
when the truck arrived,
spinning
a cherry red light
she was
awake
watching television
drinking.
the empty bottle
beside her.
the faces she made
with
the few remaining pills
still smiling.

off course

off course
by miles, you sail on.
you have no knowledge of the stars.
no way
of knowing
east from west,
no lights ashore,
or moon above.
what difference does it make,
being lost.
that is how everything
unexpected
is found.

who knew

your sister,
as your mother lies
dying
in a fog, immersed
in the blood of a broken
vein,
claims a man
touched her,
did things, unspeakable
things
to her.
she was young,
in her room, tucked cleanly
away
for safe
keeping until morning
when he came
in, a shadow against shadows,
sat down beside her.
where were we?
mother, father.
anyone with a club to take
him out.
but now,
as your mother sleeps
in some
in between world without memory,
she speaks.
she speaks of the horrors
of her childhood.
who knew,
but her finger clearly
pointing
at blame.

street view

street view, of you,
of me
curbside, unglued.
set apart
from the crowd, different
by genetics
or
where we were left
alone.
from here
we see eye to eye.
cheek
to cheek.
grim bone to grim bone.
this is where we live,
where,
we shall, unless
risen
by some unseen hand,
die.

the dark fin

unsure
of what lies below
you walk gingerly along
the unseen
sand.
hopping from foot to foot.
occasionally a cold
wand
of a silver fish
will bump
up against your leg,
the hard shell
of a crab underfoot.
the food chain is different
out here,
you being
one of them, as a dark
fin
circles near.

home

the second you
drive away from home, you see
how small
your world is.
your circle of travel.
what's safe
is what you know, the roads
well
worn by your
own shoes.
your eyes open
as you go further and further
into the unknown.
even the clouds
look different,
your pulse quickens,
but over time,
travel weary,
you want nothing more,
or newer than the comforts
of home.

blue seas

where isn't there sand?
which crevice
of your body,
which ear,
which cuff or sleeve,
sock or
shoe is not
stuck with white
brown specks of infinitely
small
stones of
sand or salt.
you have become one
with the ocean.
your legs
and body
still move to the rhythm
of the sea,
you are growing fins and gills
with which to navigate
beyond
the cascade of waves.
even at night
the tide moves you.
the moon
holding you hostage
inside a watery dream.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

shoe world

it's hard to imagine
having
more shoes than
the ones I have. but there
is no need
to imagine,
there's a store right around
the corner
and I have a coupon.
does it bother me that out
of the twenty aisles,
only two
display men's shoes, yes.
it does
bother me.
but I don't talk about it
in public.
brown or black again
is the question, or maybe
a nice
pair of sandals before
the summer ends.

ten minutes

I open up
a stand on the corner.
ten dollars
for ten minutes.
tell me your problems,
your issues.
tell me about your job,
your children.
your car,
your boss, your knees.
your ex love,
your current love.
bring it all
to the table,
cry if you must,
but you have just ten minutes.
that's all
I can take,
and listen too.
I have no advice, no
words of wisdom
to share,
to solve the problems
of your life,
but i'll listen,
i'll look deeply into your soul,
for ten minutes.
ten dollars for ten minutes,
then you have to go,
the line is long, but
the price
is fair.

the dance

she talks
of dancing, how the men
all
want to take her hand
and dance
with her.
mostly her.
she feels as if a queen,
the only
girl there,
the only one,
as she twists and turns,
letting her
dress fly
about her long legs.
she goes alone
leaves alone,
leaving them tired,
sweating,
wanting more, never
getting more.
you've never liked
women
like that.
and it's hard to listen
to.

half moon

just a half
moon
decides to unveil
its white
stone face.
just a partial viewing
this night.
and you,
you too, half in,
half out.
undecided
whether to shine full
or retreat
behind
the clouds,
or shadow of the earth.

the open sea

to see something so wide
and empty.
without a soul, or ship
in sight.
to see the enormous
stretch of sea.
a blue
green sheen of water
breaking
white upon the sand.
to see
such a thing awakens
you
to other things
that
consume your life,
putting them in order,
somehow.
giving you, if just
for a moment
clarity, light.

a woman

a woman
carrying groceries,
two small bags,
getting into her car,
is crying.
she sees you,
you see her.
her eyes are full of tears,
her mouth open,
trembling
as she sobs.
you look away.
there is nothing you
can do or say,
she's a stranger,
in her own
world, grieving
deeply.
but still it breaks
your heart
and makes you realize
how powerless
we are
when sorrow
overtakes another.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

what are your intentions

when I was twenty one I met
a nice Italian
girl who was nineteen.
after a few weeks of dating,
which involved me
beeping the horn of my Camaro
for her to come out
and get in, her father, Chuck, came
out and said.
son, let's talk. come on in.
so we did, me and him. we sat
on his plaid couch, next to
the fireplace.
so, what are your intentions
with my daughter, he asked
lighting a cigar
and leaning forward in his
white t-shirt
and green gabardine pants.
he rubbed his hands together
like a strangler
might do before committing
murder.
I immediately averted my
eyes, and rubbed my forehead.
well, I said. my intentions?
we were going out to see
a movie tonight and then maybe
grab a pizza.
no, he said. I mean over all
what are your intentions. in
the long run.
she's my girl, my baby, my sweet
potato. I don't want any harm
to come her way.
his nose was bent to one side,
and he had small cauliflower
ears, which I imagined he got
from his days boxing while
in the navy
well, my intentions are good, I said.
trying not think about the
twenty times we had already
had sex in the car and other
assorted places.
my intentions are solid, sir.
he rubbed his mustache, then put
his vise like hand out to shake
mine. okay, he said. standing
up, let's keep it that way.
home by 12? why not eleven, I said.
let's say, home by eleven.

doing time

when you get out of prison
she says
to me through the small
round hole in the
glass window,
things will be different.
how so, I ask her.
looking over at the guard
who taps his
baton in his large hand.
i'll be married then.
i'm having joe's baby.
what about us, I thought
you loved me.
I just can't wait anymore
she says.
I'm still young and have
a life to lead.
but I've only been in here
for a week.
yeah. I know. I was going
to tell you about joe,
but you had this time
to serve hanging over your
head. things happen,
i'm sorry. maybe if you hadn't
of stole that car, robbed
that bank things might have
been different.
yeah, i know. i had a bad
week. well I have to
go now, joe's waiting outside
we're going to target
to buy a crib and other
baby stuff. by the way
you look good. that orange
jumpsuit brings the color
out in your face.
oh, those are bruises.
I got beat up in the shower.
this morning.
oh well. you still
look good.
thanks.

needy people

the carpenter needs
a nail
to hammer, a stretch of wood.
the painter
a brush, a gallon
of paint, a wall.
the cook
needs meat, a stove
an onion,
salt
pepper, a knife,
a hat.
the lawyer needs
an accident,
a divorce,
the doctor a patient,
sick
and hoarse.
we are needy people.
it's what keeps the world
going round,
and the money
being passed
from hand to hand.

on stage

who isn't acting,
isn't on
a stage,
in costume,
constantly rehearsing
in his head
what to say
or not say, where to stand,
or sit.
who isn't
taking a bow,
or listening to the boos
and hisses
from the crowd?
each day
a play, each year
a new script
written and acted out
on the run.

one last fling

you point
the car into the direction
of the ocean
after loading
the trunk with summer clothes
in a bag,
a beach chair.
an umbrella, books.
you douse your three
small plants
with water one last time,
tell them good
luck
then go.
you get in line behind
a hundred thousand
other cars,
also going in that direction,
almost at a stop.
you exhale.
put the beach boys on.
don't worry baby they sing.
winter is coming.

a new house

they disagree
on everything in couple's
therapy.
there is no
middle, no way to solve
this
failing love affair.
the house has
already burned
to the ground.
this is hosing down the ashes,
plowing
the debris away
before the rebuild
with someone new.

the narrow ledge

on the balance
beam
she tip toes
across,
arms in front of her
juggling
balls,
head straight,
trying hard not
to fall
or to drop anything.
all day
she walks the narrow
ledge
keeping
her life in order,
keeping
the ground
at a distance,
her fragile world in
the air.

work to do

there's work
to do
before the sun falls.
fields
to plow
and harvest.
animals to be fed
and cared
for.
there are fences to be
fixed
to keep the world
in
the world out.
in time,
there will be no time
for other
things.
but this is the life
you've chosen.

Friday, September 9, 2016

running

you see a bunch
of dangerous men coming towards
you on the dark
street
so you cross over
to avoid them,
but then you see your ex
wife and her
lawyer, coming up the other
sidewalk, so you
move to the middle
of the street.
they all see you,
and yell out for you to
stop, moving towards you
with menacing eyes.
you throw your wallet
into the air,
and run.

falling asleep

you whisper into her
ear, honey,
my arm hurts.
I think it
fell asleep.
what, she says,
not now, maybe later,
i'm
watching tv.
my arm, it hurts,
it's gone
numb, I tell her, trying
to pull it out
from under her
back.
you're lying on top
of it.
I've lost
all feeling in my
hand,
my arm.
shhhh, she says,
this is the good part.

cold pizza

it's stale and cold,
late
in arriving,
hardly
any cheese on it's round
flat
surface.
too thin,
skimpy on the olives
and mushrooms.
even the box
is flimsy,
half opened.
the driver doesn't seem
to care,
as you reach
for your money
to pay him,
his mind else where,
not knowing
how much
you wanted pizza
and now don't.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

keep going

she talks longingly
of the peace corps
of digging trenches
handing out care packages
in the mud
to bone thin tribesmen.
she talks about
Africa, the heat,
the animals,
bugs.
how she fell in love
with a woman.
her first woman,
then a man.
and how all three found
each other.
she talks about hunger
and thirst,
and how she still can't find
that thing,
that place
that person, to quench
this endless
journey she stays on.

a cold war

when the wall goes up,
the barbed
wired
set in stone,
the dogs chained
along the border,
with armed guards
in the tower, I know
that the marital bliss
has ended.
those wedding photos
under the coffee
table
have hardly faded,
and yet.
the air is cold
as you sleep
in the same bed,
dreaming of a way
to escape,
to tunnel out,
back into
the free world.

waffles

I like my waffles
with a large pad of butter
that melts in the center
of a steamy square,
and a dollop or two
of maple syrup, its thick
amber liquid
poured slowly from
a squat clear bottle.
I like them to be sweet
and easy
to chew, and swallow,
making me want more
on the end of my fork.
I want people to be like
waffles, warm
and different, fluffy,
but edgy too,
filling,
with bacon on the side.

sort of like you

they spend so much
time
on Stonehenge, trying so
hard to figure
out why
these slabs of rocks
are stacked
upon one another
in a semi-circle. was it
worship, or sacrifice
to the gods.
a clock.
a warning, or something
to mark
the earth and
be seen from the sky
by aliens.
maybe they were bored
and had time
on their hands
to do something crazy.
it's a mystery unsolved.
sort of like
you.

this one you can drop in water

I need a new phone.
my screen is cracked, the battery
won't hold a charge
and it keeps
sending a photo
of a cake I made
over and over again
to all my contacts
without stopping.
I go to three stores, go
online,
i call the number
that was left on my voice
mail.
they all work for the same
brand,
and they all have a different
plan on
how to get me into a new
phone today.
it's that car salesman feel.
if you buy it,
you feel suckered.
will it transfer
contacts, will it transfer
pictures, will I lose
anything I ask the young
man with a safety
pin in his eyebrow
and a checker in his ear lobe.
they all laugh, don't worry
grandpa,
they say. we got you
covered, step over here to
the counter
and let's talk.
how many games do you play
on your phone?
to which you say, what?
what games.

the commitment

after a few drinks
i nod
to my friend at the bar
jake the snake
and say. I think i'm going to
pop the question
tonight.
to which he says, huh?
wiping the beer foam out of
his beard.
whatever, he says.
but maybe you've had too
much to drink and should think
this over in the light of day.
maybe, I say.
but you know. I think it's time
I left
a pair of shoes
or a toothbrush at her house
when I spend the night there
once a month,
let her know
i'm serious about
this thing we're in.
he looks at me, and shrugs,
that's a big step
brother.
be careful.

getting it out

in the old days
women would stand out in the back
yard
with their large circular throw rugs
over the fence and beat the dirt
and dust out of them
with brooms.
I would look out my
bedroom window
and see clouds of grey
rising
as the women
many in bathrooms and slippers
pounding away
with bats and brooms.
violently swatting
at the rugs.
it almost seemed like there
was more going on
than just that.

being smart

you wonder what it's like
to be really smart.
physicist smart,
Stephen hawkings smart.
Einstein smart.
to be able to understand
the world on a molecular level.
would there be room in your head
for other things.
the mindless things
that roll around your brain
all day,
pleasurable things.
what would you have to give
up to be that smart?
almost everything
you imagine.

how old are you

it's easier to just tell
people
that you're eighty-five years
old
these days and be done with it.
they look at you
surprised,
saying, oh my god, you don't
look that old.
you barely
look sixty, to which you
lift a bar bell
into the sky
while eating a glazed donut
and say it's my diet
and
work out regime
that keeps me so young
and fit. you leave out your
joke
about only being as young
as the women
you feel, because it bothers
some women.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

who are these people

you feel out of touch these days.
having no clue
as to who
these people are on the news.
constantly, everyday.
it seems important,
that we care about
them,
their divorces,
a beating, a lie,
the train wreck of their lives,
some sort of scandal
that makes them duck
and wear dark sunglasses,
trying to hide. they're
in and out of rehab, bankrupt,
and homeless, then
back on top again, with
new husbands,
new wives, children on the way,
the troubled ones
left behind.
do they make music,
what music.
do they act, do they do anything
you've ever seen
or heard?
each with a book on the way
about how,
despite everything, they
survived.

dog food

your dog
would eat other people's clothes.
he could
snap a button
off in a blink,
bite a bra in half.
chew through a pair of hundred
dollar jeans
in ten seconds.
there was nothing he didn't
like to bite
or chew on. shoes, purses.
brushes.
anything once on,
then removed.
you'd see him later,
asleep on the couch,
content and full,
a tag
from Victoria secrets
hanging limply
from his mouth.

saying goodbye

it's hard to say goodbye.
to stand
at the curb
and wave, and wave.
and wave.
you use your other arm
as she sits
at a stop sign
then a red light.
she keeps waving too.
the both of you
waving.
her looking back,
you smiling, but losing
the smile.
finally she turns the corner
and is out of sight.
you wait for a second,
thinking she might
turn around and come
back, then
you put your arm
down.
it's hard saying
goodbye.

invention

your invention
stalls
on the patent process.
seems
other people have thought
of similar ideas.
they want a more detailed
sketch,
a stripe of uniqueness
varying
from the rest.
what makes yours
different, they ask.
they being bottled glasses
lawyers
sitting in dark
rooms eating
white bread sandwiches
with the crust cut off.
so you tweak and bend,
twist
what you have into something
more using
the black magic marker,
the ruler. you draw
your crude sketch
and write block printed words
above and below.
bold arrows point to your
weak changes.
then you send it in.
it's not like you're
inventing the wheel, or
fire,
or even a pet rock or a stick
of gum. it's just this thing.
this thing.




Tuesday, September 6, 2016

the date

half his age
you suspect that she might
be his daughter,
but then you
see her stiletto heels
and tight
short dress,
her puckered lips glossed
red
and you realize that at some
point money
might be exchanged.
his hair is dark as oil
spilled
off the Alaskan coast.
his glasses thick
and steamed as he bends
down
to fork and spoon his pasta
into his mouth.
he can hardly wait
to finish
and get home, the young
woman trailing
behind him
as he heads for the door.

when the bombs fall

as a child
they'd make you practice running
home
with the sirens
wailing
above the elementary school.
it was during the cold war,
the Cuban
missile crisis,
when the end was a red button
away.
we'd practice ducking
under our desks
to keep the radiation from
turning us into
small x-ray like
skeletons
and then we'd gather our
books and lunch boxes
to run home as quickly as
possible to
die with the rest of our
family. it was fun,
in a strange sort of way.
gleeful to get out of class.

ink stain

the ink smudge
on your white shirt won't come
out.
it's a small
thing, but
it's ruined.
the buttons work, the collar
clean,
the shirt as white
as snow.
but the one stain keeps
it from
being worn again.
how like us,
when things go wrong.

the day ahead

how nice to wile
away the day. under the sun.
reading.
napping.
making no effort
to get things done.
leaving the work for the others.
the driving,
the traffic,
the phone.
how nice to linger
in bed.
watching the clouds
roll
by.
the day ahead,
unknown.

Monday, September 5, 2016

finding the words

it's mostly
about her daughter, her poems.
how she died.
how her love for her was
mixed with
grief and frustration.
she writes the same poem
over and over again, trying to
get it right.
something I completely understand.
her chapbook
is all about her.
from birth until the time
she died. died early
and painfully
at the hands of a stranger.
how do you solve that sorrow.
she doesn't know.
but she tries. she writes
another poem, reads
it to herself, then in front
of others
at the small library in
delray.

scavengers

while lying
on the beach a man,
an older man with a sun
visor
wakes you up as you lie
there on your towel.
he's holding his metal
detector over you.
the long wand of it inches
from your chest.
do you mind moving over
he says.
I think you're lying
on something
metallic,
maybe a set of keys or
a watch.
the machine beeps quickly
and loud.
those are mine,
I tell him. to which he
replies. how do I know
that. do you have proof
of ownership?
I look up at him, squinting
in the sun.
his belly is providing
some shade, but not enough.
go away. I tell him,
staring at the six watches
on his one arm.
and a belly bag of jingling
rings and keys.
i'll be back, he says.
no need to get huffy.

otis

for most of his life
he found a way to not work, if
he did find
work, he wouldn't work
hard or long.
what happened before and after
those hours
were more important.
drinking.
food.
women.
in no particular order.
he was Otis in the andy Griffith
show.
king of the road
in the ray stevens
song.
likeable, even loveable.
not a worry or care
about tomorrow.
sometimes I see him down
at the fountain
in old town, holding court
with his close
disheveled
friends.
laughing in the sunlight.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

embellishment

when I read to my
son before he went to sleep.
it was always
cat in the hat,
or Horton hears a who,
or a variety of other common
kid's books.
after a while,
he became bored with the same old
stories,
so I had to change it up.
one day
I began to make up lines,
the cat in the hat
gets caught
by the animal rescue team
and we have
to break him out before
they put him to sleep.
the purple dinosaur Barney
having to go to rehab
after drinking too much moonshine.
he liked those stories so much
better.
santa getting stuck in a chimney
because of all the pie
he'd been eating
all night.
sometimes batman couldn't leave
the house in time
once seeing the bat sign
in the sky because
he had a digestive
issue after eating some bad
Mexican food.
he loved these stories.
I hope he forgives me.

the chardonnay IV

when I met her
she had an IV line coming
from a chardonnay bottle
into her arm.
the bottle was in a bucket of ice,
but on a pole
so that she could roll
it around
as she went about her house.
I made
us dinner, she said.
it's in the oven.
I had it last night, but
the second day it's even better.
you like salmon,
don't you?
it's atlantic salmon,
wild.
never frozen, except by
me for a week or so.
can I pour you a glass
of wine,
this bottle i'm working on
is just about done.
she taps the side of the bottle,
tipping it to get the last
drop into her arm.
I have a crate
in the cellar from total wine
that was on sale
the other day.
do you mind getting another
bottle for me?
i'll check on the fish,
and start
to boil the spinach.

peaches

do you know
where the water tower is,
the man
in a straw hat
and smoking a pipe says
while bending over
to lean into my
car window
to give me directions.
no,
I tell him.
I can smell whiskey on his
breath
pipe tobacco.
his wife
or daughter is on the side
of the road
selling tomatoes and peaches
under the overhang
of a wooden
shack.
how about
the bull farm, he says,
scratching the grey stubble
on his long
chin. do you know where that
is, because if you do,
it's just a left a right
and another left
and you're back on the interstate
heading north.
you seem like you might
be heading north.
I am, I tell him.
how much are the peaches?
hon, bring me over basket
of them peaches.
she does that. coming out of
the shadow into the hot sun.
there's a tattoo on her arm
that says earl,
it looks like it's covering
another tattoo.
take one he says. on me.
so I do. be careful, these peaches
are juicy she says,
winking, don't want to get
any on your shirt.
good luck with the driving,
the man says.
thanks earl I tell him
and pull off looking for
the bull farm.

curb pick up

once a week
they call asking me
if i have anything to set out
on the curb for pick up.
i think yes, but
say no.
i could put my dog in a cage
and set him
out there.
but i don't. he'd find
his way back,
then bite me.
i do have a pair of shoe.
a pale brown color
that look like women's shoes.
so i offer that.
and some old neck ties
from the eighties.
the skinny hipster ones
with bold colors.
i set them out too.

the vacant apartment

i swirl the numbers
on the lockbox
trying to snap it open
to get the key
to get into a vacant apartment.
it won't budge.
there are five other
lock boxes
hanging on the metal
rail, all of them look
the same.
i try them all.
still no key.
i call the owner,
the agent.
i yell to an open window.
no one looks out.
finally, i try
the door,
it's open. i go in.
i go up the ancient steps.
the place
smells
of animals.
the apartment looks like
a place
where unhappiness lived,
where maybe a murder
took place.
nothing good can come from
living in a dump
like this.
i'll paint it bright white
and see what
gives.

approaching storm

the hurricane
of her,
the blue wind of her life
blowing
in.
rattling my
doors
and shutters.
how she brings the rain,
the lightning,
makes the lights
blink.
she's a warm front
moving in,
a churning sea
on my radar, a typhoon
about to land
and take
me with her.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

do you know a carpenter?

it's hard
to find a carpenter.
someone who actually knows
what they're doing.
who can pull
a board, replace a board
and not complain
about the board,
the nails
the weather.
please, just go to work
and do
the job.
sometimes they come out,
sometimes
they don't.
they might call, they might
text.
but all in good time.
what's the rush.
some are licensed, some aren't.
some have
big trucks,
some work out of the back of
their dodge dart swinger.
some want the money
before the first nail is hammered
then never
come back.

a change in the weather

the storm
never comes. but you have lots
of milk and bread
and toilet
paper now.
a pound bag of salted
nuts.
some people in the parking
lot
even turned their
cars around,
backing in, just in case
the water
turned to snow
somehow.
they have their wipers
extended too.
these are the people you don't
usually talk
to.

someone's birthday

I think about sending
her a birthday card.
seeing a nice one on the rack
at trader joe's.
flowers, birds, a blue horse,
but then think, why.
she ghosted me.
why should I send her
butt a
birthday card.
she didn't even have the decency
to have a final
blow out fight
to end things.
she just did the poof thing.
gone.
no text, no phone call,
no email, snail mail,
no letter written
in the sky
when she rides by on her
smoky broom.
I by the card anyway.
it must be someone's
birthday that I know.

the new yorker, perfect

the new Yorker magazine
arrives,
again,
they come so fast. they block
the sunlight
from my bedroom window.
the stack rising.
how do they do it?
I flip through, back to front,
skimming
as I am want to do.
stopping only
to read the cartoons
to see if any of them actually
make me laugh.
one does.
two dogs on a chair,
paws on a desk
typing onto a computer. one
dog looks at the other
and says,
they don't even know
we're dogs.
I cut this one out and tape
it to
the refrigerator.
from there I look at the music
and movies.
the music is hopeless.
who are these people.
what ever happened
to elvis Costello?
one movie looks good, the other
is a review of an animated
movie using celebrity
voices.
just shoot me now.
poetry.
it's just plain perplexing.
I read two, three lines
and shudder.
what the hell are they talking about
and who do you have
to pay or sleep with to get a poem
published in this magazine.
the fiction makes me miss Raymond carver.
then the deep stuff. there
is an expose about mental hospitals,
I dog ear that page,
then an article about a man
who has a continual itch
under his skull that he
can never quite get to.
he ends up scratching a hole
in his head.
that sounds like a fun bath tub
read for later.
then it's to shouts and murmurs.
hit or miss.
the theme this week is the over use
of phrases like
it is what it is.
or how everyone says perfect
for anything you say to them.
let's meet in a bar later,
get drunk and then jump off the
George Washington bridge, perfect.
7 ish? perfect.
finally it's to the editorial
section, boring.
then the letters from readers
whining about last weeks
issue.
all of them smarty pants.


Friday, September 2, 2016

living next door to a pie store

somehow these pants
got tight,
almost overnight.
I can hardly button them,
and get the belt
around me.
this shirt too, it's
like a sausage casing
around my barrel
chest.
I look in the mirror,
kicking an empty
pie pan
across the floor, wiping
blueberries
from my mouth.
I see my dog in the corner
breathing
heavily.
his collar tight
around his neck.

a new topic

my therapist
tells me it's time to stop
talking
about my mother.
she' not the cause of everything
that's gone wrong
in your life.
she says, she's sick of hearing
about her.
just stop.
talk about something else
for once
in a session.
so I bring up
my father.
good, she says. finally,
a new topic.

holding on

it was easy
to make light of her horse.
it was old.
thirty three years old.
sway backed,
broken teeth,
flies
consuming her flesh
as she stood in the barn
on dark cracked hooves.
let her go, you'd say,
put her down.
relieve her from living
this way.
she can no longer
run,
or be saddled,
she can hardly see you
as you give
her a carrot
and brush her matted
coat.
is that what you want,
she'd say.
when it's your turn?

not looking back

I can see how things
will go
before they go
anywhere. I see the middle
and the end.
the beginning has already
happened.
I see the absence of her
already.
the strange distance
that life provides
to keep us from going insane.
I see tomorrow
and the next day, and leave
the past behind,
not looking back.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

make a left on lawrence

you have
hand written directions
to her house
on a slip of paper.
the house she lived in
with her parents,
her sister
and three brothers.
it's the house you threw
pebbles at the window
to make her come
out. beeped the horn
when you pulled up
to go out.
she drew a map,
naming each road,
with arrows pointing
where to go,
pressing down
to write her number
with a pen she borrowed
from a bartender.
it was
thirty five years ago
and it's still in your wallet
for some strange
reason. it's folded neatly
into a square.
when you see her now,
out and about with her
grown children,
her most recent husband,
everyone older,
we wave, we say hello,
but that's the end
of it.

first day of retirement

unable to sleep past six o'clock
in the morning,
you reluctantly get up
to start your day.
you get the paper
off the porch, make coffee.
stare at the dog,
who stares back. you let him
out into the yard
to do his thing.
he barks for awhile,
then you let him back in.
you turn
the radio on, log on
to your computer,
the tv, muted.
you throw a few eggs into
a pan.
some toast in the toaster.
you look out the window
and see your neighbor,
watering
her flowers. she waves
and smiles,
you wave. she's in her bathrobe
and slippers.
she reminds you of your mother
before she went into
a home.
it's pretty much the end
at this point.

a side of beef

someone in the neighborhood
is grilling
a side of beef.
you can see all the men
leaning out
their windows,
searching the yards,
sniffing the air
longingly
while their wives
are downstairs
making a salad with kale
and kidney beans,
celery
and hummus.

making vacation plans

you need a vacation.
you stare longingly at
an island on the cover
of a magazine
as you sit
at the dentist's office,
browsing
national geographic
and bon appetit..
how nice to get away,
to pack a bag
and go
with a pocket full of money,
no phone.
maybe you'll never come
back, find a nice island
girl who
doesn't mind listening
to you, who can make you a cold
drink, rub the tension
out of your neck.
no need to tell anyone,
just lock the door,
catch a cab and be gone.
but first this cleaning,
this x-ray,
and spitting into a Dixie
cup.

shoeless

her shoes were
too tight, new,
and pinching her toes,
so she took them off
and walked
on the sidewalk,
holding them in her hand.
carefully she avoided
glass and cigarettes, trash,
broken
bottles, twisted
cans.
her long dress dangled
along the hot
pavement. she didn't care.
it didn't seem to bother
her, even when it began
to rain,
and the theater was still
six blocks away.
it told you something about
her, something
you still don't quite
understand.

cold call

the hot water
sits, going cold.
you can't get in because
you're on the phone
with
someone you don't know,
someone who
wants to sell you something
you don't need.
they are persistent,
cunning,
weary, neither young
or old,
asking all the wrong questions,
someone sitting in a warehouse
across the ocean,
unraveling a spiel
while your water gets cold.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

in the clouds

in the car
we'd play the cloud game
with my brothers and sisters
as our father drove us
to the eastern shore
where we would sleep in a canvas
tent staked into
sand, a mile from the beach.
I see a buffalo,
my brother would say, pointing
at his find. look, see it.
I see cotton candy, my sister
would say, then
tap my father on the shoulder
saying, can we get
cotton candy at the beach.
he'd flick his cigarette out
the window and say, maybe.
we'll see.
i see the bottom of a beautiful
woman, i'd shout out.
my head leaning out the window.
see the curves, see how
she bends over picking
up a beach ball
to which my father would,
put the sun visor up and say,
where?

a resting place

all the dry
white bones in the grave yard,
says nothing
to you.
puts no fear into you.
in fact
it fascinates you.
all the stones with names
and dates
carved in above
their resting place
gives you no chill,
no reason
to change the pattern
of your life.
did it for them?

you're fired

he puts his
feet up on his desk. lights
a cigar
and says, boy,
I hate to do this to you,
but you're fired.
to which you reply.
thank you.
thank you dear God.
he shakes his head
and says,
putting that slice of pizza
in my desk last night
was the last straw.
do you even know what you're
doing in this office.
to which you shrug
and say no, not really.
I thought a white collar
job might be interesting.
i have to say, the free
coffee is good,
and volley ball on Wednesdays,
the Christmas party,
has been fun.
truthfully the only
thing I've looked forward
to in coming to work
was meeting the new
secretaries and going
to happy hour.
i'll get my things and go,
which is a slice of cake
i haven't eaten yet
from todays birthday party.

don't tell anyone

all day
you carry a secret
in your mouth. it rolls
around like
a smooth pebble
chattering against
your teeth, waiting
to be spit
out.
how long can your resist
telling
it to someone, anyone,
even a stranger
will do. that bird
eating bread
from your hand.
you curse the moment
you vowed
to never tell a soul.

the end of summer party

bring meat and side dishes
to the party,
she says in her phone invite.
oh, and whatever you're drinking.
what about plates,
silverware and ice, I ask,
sarcastically, to which
she says. yes. of course.
oh and charcoal, if you don't mind.
and bug spray,
the yard is full of mosquitoes.
oh, and if you would be a dear,
pick up a few pounds
of cooked shrimp, peeled
and deveined, not frozen,
in a bowl.
look forward to seeing you there.

finding your religion

you have found
your religion, quite often,
usually in bad times.
a break up,
a lack of work, some sort of flu
that has you bent
over and groaning
in the bathroom.
your prayers are sincere
at these moments,
but then, in good times you
lose track of God for awhile.
the drinks are cold,
the kisses warm,
the hay is in the barn.
it's usually not longer after
this that
you find your religion again.

buy and sell

when my stock broker churns me
for another commission,
telling me to buy Harley and sell coke,
or saying in her soft voice,
maybe it's time
to dump Microsoft and buy apple,
you say nothing, at first.
what do you know?
your at the mercy of her now.
asking her just to keep you out
of a box behind the liquor store
when it's time to cash in
and fish.

the thin tv

and yet,
despite
not having to get up anymore
to change
the channel,
walk across the room
and adjust the rabbit
ears, the horizontal,
giving the side
a flat handed whack.
you aren't happy
with what's on tv.
and now
where will the spider
plant go,
the framed photo of your
son,
the cat?

three sisters

the three sisters,
once in a room side by side.
are no longer speaking.
each different
and alike.
each with the same
young
shared life, now at odds.
none which can
explain why, or how they
got to where they
are, unspeaking, some
grudge, a pebble in their
shoe that for the life
of them, and in spite
of all the love they share,
they can't remove.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

call me at 5 30

your father
asks you to wake him up at five a.m. .
call me,
he says.
I need to get up
and put eye drops in my
eyes
before cataract surgery.
I can't see the alarm to set it.
so you say, sure, okay.
you try to set your alarm
but can't quite
figure it out,
being a Swedish clock
with no English directions.
so you call your friend
betty
to call you
at five twenty five
to wake you up, so that you
can call your father
to wake him up.
she calls you
and says good morning.
you call your father, but
he's up already
having coffee on the patio
and squinting at
a newspaper.

the one in the air

she can't tell you
enough times how she used to be
a ballerina.
her eyes drift off
as she speaks softly
of being on stage, the music,
the applause,
how young she was,
how light on her feet,
on her toes.
her arms out like petals
on a rose.
I need to write a book about
my life she says,
as if it's over
at the age of fifty, as if
nothing else could come close
to those few years.
you should have seen me then,
she says, taking a picture
from her purse.
that's me, the one in the air.

old friends

they fall
through the cracks, quietly
slipping away,
disappearing without a sound,
a farewell
or goodbye.
they are ghosts, leaving
you,
your life, behind.
you turn around,
and they're gone, before
you know it.
but you keep walking,
holding on
to a new hand,
a new friend to walk with
stride for stride.

the other side

each day
you take a spoon and dig.
you grind
at the dirt,
gouge the rocks
and stones
out. tunneling
a spoonful at a time.
you are past the half way
point, nearing
the place
you want to be,
beyond the wall,
the barbed fence,
the guards
in their towers.
you have never been in a
rush to get there,
but time is short,
and for once you'd
like see what it is
on the other side
of this life.

Monday, August 29, 2016

drowning

drunk again,
he calls from a pay phone
at the beach.
a large
orange
shirt draped below
his waist, shoeless.
hopping
from foot to foot
from the heat,
his eyes red
with booze
and cocaine. it's where
the money goes.
where tomorrow goes.
where all his
yesterdays
have gone.
but in the sunlight,
against the pale
blue sky, the young girls
walking by,
he could be anyone,
anyone about to surf
a breaking wave upon
the ocean, taking
a long sweet ride.

the cat

the cat
warming herself
on the hood of a car,
opens
her eyes
when you come home,
she lets out a shallow
meow.
she is languid and lean,
an outdoors cat.
her tail stiffens
and flutters
while
her glass green eyes
catch sunlight.
she stays where she is,
just turning her
head enough
to look at you
going in, then coming
out with a saucer
of cold milk, placing it
on the stoop.
it's mutual, this distant
love affair.

a baby crying

there is a baby crying
next door.
through
the wall that separates you
from them.
it cries
for a long time.
you lie in your bed and listen.
you imagine
the mother coming up
the stairs,
the father leaning
into the door.
soon the baby stops,
it's a sweet sound,
the sound
of crying, then not.

in midair

your foot
slips on the wet spot
of the floor
for an instant
you air borne,
no longer a part of
the earth
but
aloft without wings.
the ceiling
is above,
the floor below,
and everything
of this world,
lying in between.
it's just a second,
a small
glimpse
of what tomorrow,
of what an afterlife
might bring.

paper bins

I start another bin
for papers.
bills,
notes, old receipts
and bank
statements. business
contracts,
summaries
of what's saved, what's
spent. cards received.
the basement closet
is full of these bins.
never to be opened,
sorted through
again.
decades old, i toss
another Christmas card
in after opening
it to see who had sent
it. signed love.
I miss you. hope
to see you again.
oh, yeah. I remember her.



one lost shoe

where's my
other shoe, not here,
not under
the bed,
not in the corner being
chewed
by the evil one,
my dog moe.
how could I lose one
shoe.
I look out the window,
not there,
not on the sidewalk,
or in a bush,
not in the bathroom,
not on
the steps,
or in the kitchen.
I make a few calls
asking
if anyone has seen my shoe.
it's black,
with laces.
size ten. scuff marks
on the toe.
my favorite shoe.
no one has seen it.

the singles meet up

they meet
at a meet up for lonely
singles.
each with a sticky name tag
stuck to their blouse
or shirt.
it's early afternoon
on a sunday.
there is drinking,
bar food,
the light chatter
of people being
introduced,
then moving on to
mingle. everyone is
over fifty,
approaching sixty
and beyond.
it is a cruise ship
sailing
without water, or a
destination.
heads turn, as a new person
walks in
from the hot sun
broiling the parking lot,
adjusting his eyes
to the dark bar.
there is no love in the air,
no particular like,
or lust even.
just a day in the life,
of searching
from someone right.
nice to meet you she says,
I have to go now,
my dog is in the car.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

so close, so far away

some days
you remember too much.
too much
detail,
words said.
you listen too hard,
watch
too closely the movements
of others.
you take
the temperature
of every room
you walk into. it's how
you are.
nothing has changed
with the years.
you observe, collect
absorb, you are removed
from so much,
but near.

you write a letter

you write a letter
to your older self.
you tell him
not to worry, i'm coming.
things will fine.
we'll be on the water.
you'll be happy
there.
you'll be in love,
with your last love.
she'll be beside you
when you die.
she'll hold your hand
and smile,
and say,
you can go now, it
was fun, a good ride.
out the window, you'll
hear the gulls,
the water,
all the things that you
loved as a child.
the sky will be blue.
blue
being the color you
adored
and painted throughout
your life,
but you won't be.
you won't be blue, you'll
be ready having written
the last
word you could write.

cash only

if you buy
three of these
you get the fourth one free,
today only.
closing, going out
of business,
everything must go.
no questions asked, you
make the call,
fifty per cent off.
no returns,
no trade in will be
denied.
a lifetime guarantee.
no middle man, no salesman
will call.
sign here,
on the dotted line.
it removes unsightly stains.
walks the dog,
takes the kids
to school.
it will change your life.
give you courage,
put hair on your head,
take hair off
your wife's chest.
you'll never need another.
batteries not
included.
if not satisfied in thirty
days,
too bad.
it's a once in a life
time deal.
sign here.
read the small print.
read the back,
cash only.
cash only.
no returns, we're out
to lunch,
we'll be right back.

what are you doing

in her flip flops,
holding
a cold beer in one hand,
down to her running
shorts and t-shirt,
the nozzle
of the power washer in the other hand,
she blasts
the mildew and debris
from her sun soaked
deck, watching it go
from grey, to wood again.
she lights a cigarette,
and cups
her phone between her
shoulder
and ear, as it rings,
takes a sip
of beer.
i'm power washing the deck,
she says
into the phone,
what are you doing.
she sees a bee and chases
it with the spray.

post card from Bali

your son
sends you a postcard
from Bali.
he has traveled
there with
his friend
and has already returned.
you stare
at the Indonesian
stamp
and markings,
the crimped edges,
his hand writing
that looks
the same as when
he was in the seventh
grade.
half script, half print,
not unlike
yours.
on the front is an island
sitting
in blue water,
a high cliff
covered in thick green
foliage.
he has returned, safely,
he thought of
you and sent
this card.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

tomorrow

the guilt.
catholic guilt.
is daily.
having not visited
my mother
in the senior home for nearly
two months now.
I see the bridge,
but do I cross the bridge,
no,
I don't. I think
about traffic.
I think about the time,
I think
that I need dinner, or something.
then I think
about
the endless hours
she cooked and cleaned,
sent us off to school,
read to us
before bed. I see her now
in the chair,
in front of a tv
in a strange house.
grey boned,
and weak, smiling with
my name still
on her lips. asking
where have I been.
tomorrow, perhaps.
tomorrow.

oh really now

I express my love
and lust for the little black
Italian
sports car.
convertible no less.
new and shiny
like an ornament to hang
on my
bare tree.
but she says, don't do that,
it's a gay car, to
which I laugh
and say,
I don't care,
makes no difference
to me.
i then shake my head
and button up my purple
shirt
with long silky
sleeves.

i saw you

I saw you
in the park, there was
someone who
looked like me holding your
hand.
you kissed him.
the same way
you kiss me when you're
happy.
there was little I could say
or do,
as I too
was being kissed
by someone who looked
almost like
you.

cheerful

a boy named
cricke, a gorilla
on the football team,
once put a broken mountain dew
bottle
under your back tire,
hoping
to flatten it.
he was in love
with Vivian,
who you were visiting,
captain of the cheerleaders.
you were in the way,
bringing her
a dozen fresh cut
flowers
from the grocery store.
years later
you heard that cricket
jumped off
a bridge.
perhaps from the lack
of love he received.
and Vivian, you saw her
once in a
bar downtown, she hardly
remembered you,
or the broken bottle, or
cricket, but she was
still very cheerful
as she sipped her chardonnay.

the open gate

the open gate
makes you push your eyes
to either side
of the yard.
who has come and gone
in the night, leaving
no trace.
without a sound,
not a clink of the metal
lock
or hinge, or squeak
of door.
was it just wind?
or someone
wanting in,
wanting more
of what they might not have
enough of.

blankets

so much of what
you believe to be true
is untrue.
this blanket
that was woven for you,
that covers
your young body
at night
slowly unravels.
each thread pulled
by you, or others.
soon you will
make your own version
of what is or isn't
true,
and bring it to your
son, to keep
him warm
and unknowing through
his early
life.

chipped

why you keep
the chipped cup is not known.
you turn
it around
so as not to cut
your lip
as you sip coffee
in the morning.
if you threw away
everything
and everyone
that was slightly
defective,
you'd have no friends
at all, or
cups to drink from.

real school

as kids,
in the seventh grade,
we'd skip school,
pretending to go to the bus
stop, but then
continue walking
across the d.c. line
on southern avenue.
we'd take
the A-9 Archives
bus to ninth street
in north west
d.c., the only white boys
on the bus,
each with a pocket
full of change and one
dollar bills.
enough to play pin ball
machines all day,
and eat
at a drug store counter.
a grilled cheese,
fries,
a coke.
at some point we'd stop
by the Blue Mirror restaurant,
a classy joint
on tenth street
where business men would
have lunch and watch
scantily clad women
jiggle on small
pedestal stages.
we'd linger near the door
as it opened and closed,
trying to catch
a glimpse of a leg, or
something.
if we did we'd yell
out, I saw her, I saw
them, then run down the street
as the doorman
chased us away.

the test kit

reluctant
to send in the testing kit
for colon cancer,
you respond
to your physician's
standardized
nag,
with a short e mail,
okay, okay. i'll do it.
quit nagging me,
i'll get to it. I've
been busy.
good lord, don't you ever
let up.
maybe later.

no more room

I put the styro-foam
container
of left overs,
a chicken salad,
with figs
into the fridge.
I squeeze it between
the Chinese boxes,
full of kung pao chicken,
and rice, and a large
pizza box
holding one slice
of pepperoni with
extra cheese. there is a black
box holding a third
of a cold
rib eye steak
from last Thursday.
a dollop of mashed potatoes
nestled
against the darkened
meat.
I don't want to open it
and look
to see how it's doing.
the lasagna
that I on ate on sunday is
wrapped in clear
plastic and sits on top
of that.
i'm nearly out of room,
to put more,
I need to stay home tonight.

on the bright side

on the bright, she says,
you have
your health.
you look at her and sneeze.
blow
your nose.
well, sort of,
she says. but life
is not all that bad
for you.
you have your wits
about you. you can't put
a price on that.
she stares at your
black socks
as you tighten
the terry cloth robe
about you.
there is shaving
cream in your ear.
well, let's look
on the bright side,
she says again,
playing with her hair.
it's a nice
day outside.

Friday, August 26, 2016

each to his own island

each man to own
island, his own place
of rest
and quiet.
each to his own silence,
leaving
what the day brought
behind. some islands
are liquid, some
in pill form,
some in books, or film,
or sleep,
some in the curve of a woman
who lingers
in the moonlight
upon his bed. each man,
to his own
island.

tomorrow they will come

she's impatient
waiting
for the ill to come through
the door.
so she paints a table,
using
a short brush,
with long strokes of white.
watching it
glisten, then dry
in the light. she
arranges books, her desk,
puts a vase
of flowers on the sill.
she brushes her hair
in a mirror, then
looks out
the window
as the sky fades from
blue
into darkness.
tomorrow they will come.

whispers in the leaves

there are no
rumors
in the animal kingdom,
no whispered
gossip
between the trees,
amongst the bramble,
beneath
fallen leaves.
the fish pay
no never mind
to what has happened
or what may
occur, by who, or when.
it's good
to not know, to not
care,
carelessly
about what is or is
not to be.

ice cream

ice cream
is your friend.
how you can lick and lick
at a cone
and be content.
just you alone
on the park bench
watching
the joggers, watching
you,
jealous as they run,
having none.

the charted course

for grief
for sorrow, you have no words.
you keep
your sighs to yourself,
you write in response,
small, clich├ęd
sentiments.
you want to throw rose petals.
you want
to shower
them in love.
touch their hand,
put your cheek
against theirs
and whisper something
that will help.
but the world doesn't work
that way.
in death,
the days ahead are charted
out, grim times,
and hard.

the hollows

as another friend
moves
away or
dies, a slight wind,
not dark,
but cool
blows against you.
the chill
makes you button up
and stick
your hands
deep into your pockets.
these hollow
spaces
will be filled again,
but not
the same,
each loss unique,
each
day ahead, unknown.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

the wheel and fire

they talk about the stone
age,
when fire
and the wheel suddenly
occurred
to someone
hunting animals
with a wooden spear.
then
the industrial age.
machines. factories.
the digital
age, where I don't know
what's going on
with all these
electronic gizmos.
i'm still in the pen
and paper
age.
keeping notes
with ink
on a loose leaf notebook.
but I do make
use
of the wheel
and fire.

in another life

hardly ever
do you hear, I was an
Egyptian slave
in another life,
pushing blocks of stone
onto one
another making
pyramids.
working all day
in the grueling sun,
being whipped
by the boss man.
instead you hear,
I was queen, or a king,
or prince,
deciding the future
of a country,
benevolent and kind.
you never hear
I was or a toll booth
operator,
collecting change.
sometimes I can feel
and hear the money being
thrown into the basket
before the light turns
green.

he has a farm

I don't like him,
she says, he's hard
to be around,
but he has a farm
out in the country.
it's very peaceful
out there. he has
pigs, goats, horses,
that sort of thing.
in the morning
the rooster crows
and we get eggs
from the barn for
breakfast.
but I don't really
like him, it's just
something to do.
ya know?

binge watching

you binge
on a show, staying up late
clicking
through the season
one episode
after another, it's
one a.m.,
yet still
you sit and watch,
they own you,
you are one of them.
it's so sad
when the season
ends.
the cliff hanger
teasing you.
what now to do
with your late
night hours, waiting
for the weekend.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

the maids are coming

you are giddy
over the maids coming
to clean your house.
but you have
to clean first. it would
be embarrassing to
leave it the way
it is
and let them see the dust
and clutter
that you live
in. you tell them,
Friday, that should
give you plenty
of time to vacuum
and change the sheets,
fold laundry,
and scrub those bathrooms.
you only have
48 hours
before they come,
better get busy
hiding the check books
and cash,
important papers,
and putting the key
under the mat.

street cat

the street cat,
fat
and slow,
cries when he sees
you. he
comes over
and weaves his thick
body
between your legs.
you get him a saucer
of milk. setting it on the porch.
he cries some more,
then takes a few licks.
he's trying to tell
you something,
so you listen
for awhile, but soon
go.
you have to go to work.
when you get
home,
you see the cat
under a car, sleeping,
he cries, but
lies there in the warm
shadow.
you yell out, hey,
lazy bum,
which makes his tail
swing around
like a black soft wand.


is it over

I can't get over
how painless
the shingles shot is
when injected
into my arm
by the Kaiser provider.
she's a german woman,
with harsh blue
eyes,
knotted hair,
I think of a cafeteria
worker
when I look at
her hands.
long and boney.
I can see her ladling a
spoonful of stewed tomatoes
into a Dixie cup.
I tell her, I didn't
even feel
that. is it over.
she laughs, rubbing
a cotton ball
against the point
where the needle went
in.
don't leave the building
for fifteen
minutes, she says
in her german
accent. okay, I tell.
putting my shirt on.

at the drive in

the year is vague.
somewhere in the late sixties,
when my father,
with his turquoise
chevrolet impala packed his seven
children in
to take them to the drive in.
I remember the movie. mutiny on the bounty.
with marlon brando.
we lay on the roof of the car,
on the hood, sprawled
out under the stars,
not caring about the movie,
the static filled metal
speaker hanging in the window.
the swings and playground
at the front
held more interest as did
the oversized shrimp
rolls from the concession
stand. deep fried and greasy.
popcorn and sodas.
together my brothers and I would
go to the bathroom,
astounded by the bathtub
like trough that we had to stand
over and pee in.
with other men and boys no
less. quickly we zipped up
and ran out of there.
my mother may have been
in the car,
bit I have no recollection
of her in the front seat.
I just remember my father,
snoring, sound asleep
as we left the car
and roamed the graveled
hills of the lot, our shadows
flickering under the bright
wide screen.