Tuesday, October 25, 2016

in reverse

is hard. looking into
the mirror,
over your shoulder,
pressing gently
on the pedal.
going backwards
is not a thing we easily
on a narrow road,
a curve, a steep
we believe in forward.
moving past
the mistakes
we've made,
going straight ahead
to what comes

the hat boxes

three hatboxes.
now, left behind on the high
shelf from
stores that have
come and gone.
the names
in script on the side,
a black box.
a gold box, a striped
white and green
round box.
what became of the hats
all those years.
the heads
the lives lived under.
there must have been rain,
and wind. they must
have been tilted
to shade the eyes from
the sun.
into the bag they go now.
to the garage
to the can,
pushed to the curb
for Monday.

in a meeting

you call your brother
but he's in a meeting.
a meeting means,
or dinner, or something
a gathering of talkers
they do a lot of pot
luck dinners at
the non-denominational
church he
over sees.
old women
young women bring him
and pies, freshly baked
oatmeal cookies.
there is lots of kissing
going on.
cheek to cheek, nothing
that would raise
anyone's eyes.
it's a good life if you
can get it,
white bread and butter.
a happy
way to go, praise God,
but he's so busy, too
busy to take your call.

the white coat

my doctor means
well with her pill prescriptions
and flu shots.
her blood pressure
and german nurse.
she wants me healthy.
measuring my weight and height,
peering into my
ears and throat.
she means well
in her well lit office,
in her white coat.
she wants me to feel better.
to get back
on my feet again.
to rest
and take fluids.
she tells me everything
i already know
and tell myself and others.
she means well,
she has the white coat.
I don't

the gold tooth

the jersey girl
liked her scotch.
she was skinny,
her green dress would
hang on her
straight down
like drapery.
it matched her eyes.
after a few drinks,
she'd tell you
about the bad husband
the bad boyfriend,
the bad breaks
that wouldn't stop coming.
then she'd open
her mouth wide
and show you a molar
in the back of her mouth that
that was made of gold.
did I ever show you
that she'd say.
to which i'd say no.

after all that

the early years
are lean
and fun
wanting, driving.
optimism is found
in a rising sun,
a rain cloud,
a new lover, an old
dying out.
the middle years
put a smile
on your face
and content with your
son, dog and cat.
so much to do is done,
now this.
what is this
after all of that.

Monday, October 24, 2016

yard sale

hunting is not your thing.
never would you
stop at a flea
market, a yard sale,
a parking lot
where others are sitting
out with the junk
they no longer want,
prices pinned
to sleeves, and dresses,
shoes, and old cd's.
you have enough junk of
your own.
enough tvs
you never watch, a pool
table where you
stack the folded
you don't need another
poorly painted
or weed wacker with
a broken string,
or half empty cans
of paint.
old toaster ovens with
crumbs still in them.
rakes and brooms, floppy hats.
all day they sit.
the gabby women and squirrely men,
eating donuts drinking coffee.
seeing you
pass by in the morning,
coming home
that afternoon, hoping
that you'll stop
and have three dollars
to spend.

early morning

her sunday cry
is more of a misting, a peering
out her kitchen
with the cat.
green tea might be involved.
some early morning
deep breathing.
but the tears come down.
she takes out an old
scrap book
to break the clouds open.
when she's finally
had enough.
she takes a walk to the park.
hands in
her pockets,
hat on.
the fall wind
swirling down her
open jacket, her sleeves,
giving her
a chill as she crosses
the empty street.


so much of the house
needs work.
gutters swing,
shutters bang, doors
squeak, with broken keys
still in the lock
as the furnace
hums cold.
the yard is a patch
of weeds
and dirt.
the fence leans, the gate
won't close.
someone lives
here who doesn't care
it's not about
the money, but something
else. something
you've known about
but would rather not
hear anymore.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

off the chain

the stray dog
worries you as he crosses
the highway,
out of breath,
the cars dodge him.
horns blare.
he makes it to
the other side
of the road,
goes into the woods.
his ribs show.
his eyes
are dull.
he's lost, having wandered
too far
from home.
a path you've known
quite well.

the quiet

the quiet neighbors
are up early, raking leaves.
spider webs
upon their shrubbery,
setting out the carved
pumpkin, the green witch
that wobbles in the autumn
they say nothing to you.
they look down,
look away.
you've given up on hellos,
of saying
good day.
you go inside,
they try the string of lights,
they glow
orange and blink
beneath your shades.

on another day

she sits
in the sun. the park is empty.
the trees
scattered shots of grey
wander about
on clawed feet.
she sits and wonders which
way to go.
what words to say,
how to end it all,
or stay.
she sits in the sun,
the sun
upon her face.
she knows the answers, she
what must be done,
but doesn't.
maybe another season,
on another day.

passing by

each train
coming slowly into the station.
we wait.
we stand together,
then sit and watch
as the curve
of the earth
some have a day left
to live,
years, a lifetime.
the train keeps coming,
we board.
we sit and watch at the curve
of the earth
passing by.

Friday, October 21, 2016

the mystery

As a small child
I remember seeing my
mother's lingerie hanging
on the shower curtain bar
while I sat
in the only quiet room
in the house
reading dc comic books
on the toilet,
my legs going to sleep
from being there so long.
the days of the week
in scroll were embroidered
across each pair
of underwear she owned.
didn't she have a calendar?
was there a rule
to this clothing?
what if she wore fridays
pale blue number
on Tuesday, would she
forget we had school the next
day thinking
it was Saturday?
and those strange sheer
stockings, like fishnets,
they would hardly keep a leg
warm in winter.
what was going on
here? a mystery for a very
long time, until
it wasn't.


the near end
of the world, might save
the world.
it can't go on like this
spinning backwards.
it needs to stop,
to pause,
to erase and flood
wipe clean
the noise, the wrongs.
it will be a deep sleep
for the blue
planet, but it
will come back.
slowly, hopefully
better for what has

down to the sea

in Barcelona, the tall
man with a black beret,
the housekeeper,
would collect
the new born kittens
in a burlap bag
then take them down
to the sea
to drown them.
you watched from the window
as he lifted
each kitten, from the wooden
crying, lying beside
the mother,
you were just a child.
your face pressed
against the wired screen.
you imagined
the green water
of the Mediterranean,
so soft and calm
their new lungs. you
wondered was life
that easy to take.
all life?

off to war

she was about to go to war,
or at least
that's what she said
when I met her.
a final date then
off to some dark
hell of a place where death
is an everyday event.
she was hungry.
so I fed her.
bought her wine, bread
and salad.
she slurped from her bowl
of clams and pasta,
every last drop down the hatch.
was she thinking
about war, as she chewed
and swallowed,
was she pondering
guns and bullets,
and jets, as she licked
the tiramisu from her fork,
or was she just
hungry and didn't have to
pay, being with a stranger
she'd never see again.

the big store

so much
in the stores, on the shelves
hanging on
the racks.
untouched or worn,
pushed into
stacks, into the caverns
of seconds,
off to where?
some other country
some other store
that prefers
or plaid, bold striped
with photographs,
the roof can hardly
hold the changing
of seasons,
the cheaply made sweaters
that unravel
with a single wash,
next to summer shorts,
the thread bare
and pants, shoes
with soles about to
come off.
clothes for masses, cheap
and plentiful.
hot off the press,
from the sewing
of a factory that runs
all night.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

five bags

might not be enough candy.
how many children are there
in this neighborhood.
they are being born
by the barrel,
the crate,
falling off conveyor
the parents must be tired
making all these children.
now they come
in droves, sweating beneath
their costumes
and masks,
ballerinas and ghosts,
and knights.
their little hands are
out as their mouths
trick or treat,
their sagging pillow cases
dragged behind
them in the cool
October night.

moon flowers

the water holds the moon.
it flowers
and silver
on the wash of black.
it's hard to match
such beauty.
and pure
without intention,
but we can try.
we can come close.
and that's good enough

dorchester street

this small street
a snippet
of concrete and scrub
squared houses with
flat roofs,
duplexes of brick,
chipped curbs
and oiled poles,
the wires sagging
with the old voices
of past and present
it holds so little.
it holds so much.
the hours
and years spent running
from side to side.
the sleds on ice
and snow.
the rain storms,
the chase
and tag of young love,
nothing could keep
you inside,
from being out
in the street.

a cool place

a quiet black snake
eases its way
across the bike path.
you stop
to watch him slither
the sun puts a dull shine
upon his long body.
there is no looking up
at you, no hurry in him,
no hissing, no baring
of fangs.
he's tired
of this summer heat
and wants to find a cool
to curl into. a place
to sleep
for winter.
you too.

shades of blue

the prince and princess
of Chantilly
want it cheap.
want it perfect, want it
to be like the palace
they have
in their delusional minds.
but they have
no money, so they negotiate
down and down.
the rugs come in, the chandeliers
get hung,
the oil paintings
are centered onto walls.
she's in a range rover,
he in his
black Mercedes.
we have no money, they tell you.
we can't pay you
what you want.
please, help us, we like you.
we like your work.
she spoons caviar into his
open mouth.
he lights incense to get
the paint smell out.
a servant appears in silk, bows,
and announces that their bath
is ready.
please, they say. one more
coat on everything to make it
but we have no money.
please let yourself out when
you're done. we'll call you
later to let you know what other
things we need
painted again.
this blue is a shade too dark.
do you know the color periwinkle?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

cure for a cold

a masked man with a gun
sticks the barrel into my ribs
as i take a detour down
a dark alley, he asks me
for directions.
where's the nearest bank, he says.
around the corner i tell him,
they have a drive through atm too,
i put my hands in the air.
it used to be a Boston Market, but
it's a bank now.
east or west, he asks.
that way, i tell him, pointing.
maybe north, or northwest.
he sneezes.
god bless you, i say to him.
he nods and wipes his nose
with his arm.
what's the best way to cure
a cold, he asks coughing into his sleeve
what? answer me, he says,
pushing the gun harder
into my belly.
i don't have all day,
banks close at twelve on Saturdays.
what's the best way to cure a cold.
answer me!
I've had this nagging cough for weeks,
how do i get rid of it?
umm, rest, liquids, juice, sleep,
i tell him. but i'm not a doctor.
i go on WebMD all the time though.
try some cough syrup.
what kind? over the counter?
i have a prescription, but it's
no better than the stuff you can
get at the drugstore. some of them
make you drowsy, so you might have
to be careful when you're loading your gun.
also, chicken soup. hot chicken soup.
you trying to get funny with me?
i hate soup, do i look like someone
who eats soup?
i look at him, there's a scar down
middle of his forehead
and a tattoo of an electric chair
on his neck.
no, i say. no, but really, soup
is good for you when you have a cold.
hmmm. he says, lowering the gun.
he sneezes again and begins to cough,
bending over, trying to catch
his breath. i feel feverish too, he says.
where can i get some soup?
try whole foods, or wegmans, but
they'll be packed today.
you can get it freshly made
in those hot bins. okay, okay.
he says. i'll get some soup.
here, i tell him, handing
him my handkerchief. it's clean.
you can have it.
okay, thanks, he says. don't follow
me or tell anyone about this.
i won't i tell him.
chicken soup, i yell out as he
pulls the mask off and darts
out of the alley.

let's eat out tonight

talking to yourself, you say,
let's eat out tonight.
you open the fridge door, close
it, open it again.
close it. you go to
the cupboards, doors open,
doors closed.
once more to the fridge.
open close.
the top freezer section,
ice and a blue
bag frozen, for you knee.
let's eat out tonight you say again,
to no one, looking
out the window.
it's still light out.
but casual. let's go casual
you say, looking down
at your underwear and socks.
okay not that casual.

the audition

the actor,
staring into the phone.
practicing her lines, his lines.
the understudy's
it's raining.
the bus is late.
when will they call.
Shakespeare's been dead a long
but his words
keep ringing and ringing
each actor's head.
just a break away.
one lucky turn.
the right place at the right
the bus is late.
it's raining. there must
be a better
way to make a living.

let's talk

i listen, sometimes.
other times, i'm waiting for the other
person to stop
talking so that i can say something
more interesting
or to summarize what they just said,
to clarify the mumbo jumbo
that just came out
of their mouth, or to disagree with them.
sometimes they go on so long, that i
have no choice but to interrupt
them, putting my hand up
in the air, giving the whoa sign.
tapping my watch.
sometimes i don't talk to anyone
the whole day, those are good days.
very relaxing.

the blue line

as you sit
in the pharmacy waiting room,
along with the others,
each wrapped
up in their own sweaty misery,
you wait for your
name to be called.
the lines are long. a red line,
a blue line.
it's ellis island. grand central
it's rush hour
for prescription meds.
calmly you sit, staring
at your folded hands.
trying not to touch anything,
or breathe.
finally you hear your name,
it's close enough,
so you rise and find
your place
in the blue line. blue
being your favorite color.

she's in rome

she's in rome now.
she sends me
a postcard
with the smudge of her
lipsticked lips
pressed upon
the stiff card.
on the front is
the ancient coliseum,
quiet now
and full of feral cats.
wish you were
here, the card reads,
forgetting about the lion
she once was
with me in the center ring.

Monday, October 17, 2016

some girls

some girls,
were like safes.
almost impossible to find
the right
set of numbers
to open the iron door.
how you clicked the dials
in the back seat
of your father's car
on dark roads,
under moonless nights.
some were like fort knoxx.
impervious to your
your teenaged charms.
there were
armed guards at the gate.
left the doors
and windows unlocked
and put out
a welcome mat. left
a light on to help you
find your way.

the work

I used to do all the work
the owner of the house says.
he's holding a cup
of coffee, squinting
at the rising sun as he
he shows me
his garage full
of tools, neatly hung
where he wants them to be.
half empty gallons of paint
tapped shut.
stacked against a wall.
paint brushes too.
yard tools.
mowers and clippers,
a straight line of screwdrivers.
I used to do all the work
myself he says,
pointing at his work
bench, hands on hips,
wearing his overalls,
neatly pressed,
with suspenders.
but I don't now.
I can't anymore.
I have ladders too, he says.
they're around
back, let me show you.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

don't find me

some distant relatives
are not distant enough.
they find you.
ancient friends
buried in memory, now
with their vague memories,
and you with yours.
everyone finds everyone these days.
it's not good.
they say heaven
is like this, or hell perhaps,
where everyone you know
or have
known is suddenly in the same
at the same time.
it's not good.
I need my space and time


I take water
for granted. I expect it
to come out
of the faucet.
i'm not surprised
when the shower works
and rains down,
or the tub rises.
when i'm thirsty I hold
a glass
under the cold stream
and let it fill.
I can't imagine
life any other way.
and that's where
you come in.
you pour yourself
when I need you.

we love to work

we love to work.
we tell people how hard
we're working, the hours we've
put it in.
we say that we haven't had a real
vacation in years.
excuse me while I take this call.
okay. where were we?
we talk about how
early we get up in the morning.
how late we arrive home.
even the weekends keep us busy,
keep us going.
work is with us every hour
of the day and night.
on our phones our screens.
hold on while I answer this text.
we who shake our heads at how
hard a farmer works,
bent over in a field,
coal miners and factory workers,
how we flinched at their lives
while we do nothing but plow,
seed and harvest, forever more.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

it's your life, sort of

you love your
new sports car. did you need
another car.
set of wheels to ride around
in? no,
of course not.
but somehow it makes
you feel better about how
hard you work,
the reward
of grinding out the days
it will hold you for awhile.
its leather
and new smell, the sleek
hope that it offers
as you shift
along a curve.
it's a mirage,
but who cares.
it's your money. your life.
sort of.

awake at night

it's easier to remember
the failed
the fumble, the missed ball
hard at.
the love
not conquered, or
not given.
it's easier to dwell
on failure
than it is on success,
one keeping
you awake,
the other,
already dismissed
and forgotten.

a longer night

the morning
as yellow and white
as any
can be
through a blue
of sky,
slips through
the shade
into my still
asleep eyes.
how quickly night
and morning
a longer
night is needed.

ready for work

you couldn't wait to shave
when you were
a child.
covering your cheeks and chin
with your
shaving cream,
then taking
a razor to slowly
take the creamy
white clouds away.
not even peach fuzz was
to cut.
but you made like there
your sisters banged at the locked
bathroom door.
what are you doing in there?
then his old spice
splashed on
with your small cupped hands,
your hair combed,
parted on the side
with the help
of brylcreme.
brushing past
your angry sisters,
you were ready for work,
grabbing your
lunch box
and running so as not
to miss the bus.

for sale

he mistakes
the woman two stools down
at the quiet hotel bar
for someone who is interested
in him
they talk. they flirt.
she moves closer to him,
touching his arm
then knee when they talk.
she laughs
at everything he says.
then yawns, tapping her mouth,
up to leave,
she slides a matchbook cover
him with her room
number on it.
he watches her walk out.
the tight skirt,
the hair
around her shoulders,
the curves of her.
he goes to his room
to freshen up, calls his
wife to say
good night, stares at
himself in the mirror.
amazed that he still has it.
he dabs on
some cologne, buttons
up a fresh
then call her room number.
are you a cop,
she says.
to which he says no,
i'm a salesman in town for
the convention.
well, good, she says, perhaps
you should come
up for a drink,
but first let me give you
my prices.

the next song

the aged rebel
is still at it, undefined,
how they want to rein
him in,
make him one of them,
at last,
by giving
him a medal.
he's quiet on it all.
in the last light
of day,
adorned by those he railed
for decades.
blue eyed and bent,
he stares into the crowd,
his guitar
making the next song.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


they clubbed
you like a baby seal at
saint Thomas More,
the nuns
in black,
holding their weapons
of rosaries and crosses.
every pleasure
a sin
to be avoided. you
were born bad.
hell lingered nearby
even in infancy.
on boney knees
you inhaled the perfumes
of mass,
and beat three times
your chest.
how you trembled
in line at the confessional,
in front
and behind were
your sinning peers.
penance hardly seemed
to cleanse you,
but you took it gladly.
you could hide
from your parents,
your teachers,
the adults in your life,
but not
God, there he was, there
he was,
all day. all night.
still your faith
has not wavered.


the worries
of tomorrow don't come.
may be postponed
or delayed
by traffic or rain,
they don't arrive
as expected.
you sigh
and wipe your brow,
look out
the window
and wave
to the mailman
as he whistles
passing by.

blue tequila

I can see
the light. it's a bright
white light.
there are angels.
white winged angels
with long hair
and blue eyes.
they seem happy to see
me. how nice.
together we fly off
into the clouds.
is a strange
and wonderful thing.

happiness can be bought

they say that money cannot
buy happiness,
but I am here today to refute
that myth.
in my hand is a cheap
bamboo stick, $7.95 retail,
with a claw like monkey hand
end, made somewhere i'll
never visit. an island off the coast
of a country I can't pronounce
or find on a map.
with it I can reach any
portion of my dry back
that has an itch.
the joy and blessed
happiness that I get each
day from this
ingenious, potentially
nobel prize winning
back scratcher has put
a smile on my face,
a smile
not unlike the one I get
from loving you,
or a slice of deep dark
chocolate cake
washed down with a cold
glass of milk.

the open space

you see
the big tree gone when you
get home from work.
and tall, now carved
and cut
into small stumps.
the courtyard looks strange
without it.
someone deemed it dead,
and turned
the saws on
while no one was around
to protest
or mourn. which is often
how we all go,
leaving an open space
to ponder.

blood relatives

what is wrong with
these people,
these strange people you often
thought of your family
when growing
up with them
in the same house.
why do they behave
this way,
how different you are from
adoption comes to mind,
found in a basket
perhaps on the door step, left
by some passing stranger
with one too many
children to care for.
it's a wonderment,
the differences, even
now as we each turn grey.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

holiday cookies

when your ex wife
went on a diet, there was
no shortage
of summer squash,
white fish, carob
and low fat
lots of raisons
were in the house,
unsalted nuts. dry
her plates of desserts
lasted and lasted
the holidays,
and as the tree went
the lights turned off,
not even the dog would tip
a plate
and indulge.

the tease

the tease
of life,
the sugar
the salt,
a kiss a wink,
the slight
of hand.
a whispered
a moon aglow
the sweet
black night.


the bee, making his choice
to land
and sting
is neither foolish
or wise.
it's what
he does for others
to live on,
to survive.
a practical decision,
so rare
do we think like
and die.

the nights

you marry
an Italian woman
who throws things
when she's angry.
she screams
and curses
in her native language,
her long arms
in the air,
she is fury
when you've crossed
or been misunderstood.
it's long day
with this woman,
a very long day,
but oh,
the nights.

how she goes

the poet
plans her life's
by exhaust. the 67
let to run in
the enclosed garage.
the pill excursions
were nothing.
she leaves
no note.
no last call.
no farewell.
just the radio on
and the chug of blue smoke
as she sinks
into an odd sleep,
the next world
at last.

fear and fun

i have no desire
to climb
mount Everest.
jump out of a plane,
or deep sea
dive. not a bone in my
body wants
to bungee jump
over a bridge,
or to wrestle a wild
save your balloon fights
for someone else.
getting up
and going to work
is enough
fear and fun for
one day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

you may feel a pinch

this won't hurt a bit,
the doctor says, holding a light,
a needle,
a gun
in his hand.
why the gun, i ask.
trembling at the sight
of the pointed
steel syringe.
don't worry it's not
but sometimes
patients don't pay,
this helps.
stay still, you may
feel a pinch.

sorry that i asked

i'm sorry I asked.
excuse me for nodding off in the middle
of your answer
to my question.
I had no idea you had
so much to say.
no clue that you had prepared
a long statement
to which I am captive
to listen to.
please pardon me if I slip
if I close my eyes
or sing, or hum, or gaze
up into the clouds.
i'm both here and hear.
go on. tell me what you need
to tell me,
and i'll try to hide
the fact
that i'm sorry that I asked.


this blood
is nothing. a dribble across
the floor.
a leak
in the system
that is you.
just a small wound
that will close
in time.
unlike the larger cuts,
pressed deep,
of heart,
of mind.

the wrong wrench

the wrong wrench won't
the nut.
too tight.
no grease will loosen
it, no
no steel fingers
will turn it to the left
or right.
it's frozen.
who hasn't
been there, unable
to change,
to be loose
and free once more,
like when you
were young,

cat burglar

she is a thief,
a robber,
a cat burglar
in black,
slipping inside your heart,
ear to
the ticking chest,
turning the dials
to get
what's in you.
all of you,
then go off into
the night,
to another unlatched

in between

we are in between
so much,
lifes edges.
the clock, the calendar,
each with its own
to live in.
we strike a stance
and like
try to hold back
the hours
that swarm by,
the columns that hold
up the day,
the night.
what is it that this world
wants from

Sunday, October 9, 2016

blue ink

a blue inked sky, unsure
of itself.
or maybe
it's just me
thinking that.
the clouds undecided whether
to stay
or blow away.
my shoes are wet
from the rain, the deep
there is so much to do,
and yet
I look into the sky
trying to give it meaning.

your turn will come

an old man
pokes me with his cane,
telling me
to move up in line, get off
your phone
he says.
it's your turn,
you look at him, at his cane,
his hat.
his face
a road map
of life lived.
he's tired of waiting,
he wants
his coffee now.
you tell him
to go ahead of you,
which he does.
your turn
will come.

snow bird

next year
you'll go south for the winter.
a snow bird.
you'll take nothing but
a small bag
of shorts
and shirts. no shoes.
you'll lie
on the beach in the land
of oranges
and coconuts.
you'll learn
to play a mandolin
and sit
by the shore with
your hat turned up for
you think all of this as you
in line
with a snow shovel,
and a twenty pound
of road salt.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

her long blonde hair

lying down,
asleep, you snuggle close
to your loved one.
she's warm
in the sunlight.
her breathing is soft
as she moves
in her dream.
gently you put your
arm around her,
brushing her long blonde
and whisper,
it stopped
raining, do you want to go
for a walk.
get your leash.
here we go.

we know

about the baby, still
inside his wife,
he tells everyone,
at her belly. my wife,
is about to have
a baby.
she says nothing.
she already knows.
but the husband, young
and suddenly new to the idea
as the day approaches,
is nervous.
my wife, he says again,
is about to have
our baby.

their turn

they go away,
these young children,
nieces and nephews.
off to their own
lives. grown,
the photos stopped.
remembering what, if
holiday gatherings, the screaming
happy and unhappy,
a chorus
of shrill voices,
the television on, dogs barking.
the dining room table
cluttered with food.
they're gone now,
the children,
those days.
the parents unglued from
the aunts and uncles
now grey, taking over,
it's their turn.

orange clock work

you come up for air,
being on
the phone all day. hoarse.
weary. rising cautiously
from the sick couch,
beaten by your own
you stumble
against a box of tax
papers onto
the orange chair,
warm tea.
landing on the rug.
you lie back
and stare at a blank spot
on the blue wall
and think
what lovely place
for a George nelson
ball clock, orange.
you can almost hear it
as you wonder how much time
you have.

breakfast love

the smell of breakfast,
a real breakfast,
eggs, bacon, toast,
hash browns
reminds me
of childhood,
with my father at the stove.
butter and jam.
orange juice.
him in his apron
and sailor whites,
cooking for seven kids,
all sitting at the table.
the plates
were full. he'd slice
up quarters of melon
too, setting
the orange and green slices
on each plate.
he had no advice,
no fatherly
tender moments, no giving
of direction
for any of our lives,
but he could cook
us breakfast, those rare
times when he was home,
and for then, and
even now, that was
good enough.

child proof caps

I want
to open this bottle of pills,
but I can't
get the top
I can see the pills
dancing around behind
the amber
plastic casing,
I take a steak knife
and cut
a hole in the bottom,
shake it
to get a tiny dot of a pill
I find
the duct tape
to close the new
I pour a glass of water,
wash the pill down,
then take
a seat,
still shaking.

your fears

let's talk about love,
my therapist says to me while
filing her nails
and doing her bills,
her long leg is dangling
a pink heel at the end
of it.
could you stop that, I tell
it's distracting.
oh, she says, and why do
you find it distracting?
because it's near my head
and I can't concentrate
on your questions
when I think that shoe
might hit me in
the eye.
okay, okay, she says,
flipping the heel off.
what else are you afraid
tell me about your deepest
are they connected
with being in love? i'm
worried about
you billing me extra if
we run over in this session.
so i'll keep it short.
no is my answer.
I fear real things,
like a painful death,
or bee stings.

the dream

you dream of a day
when you wake up not coughing.
bent over,
your bones rattling
with something
deep inside
your lungs, you dream of that
the way you used to dream
about a girl,
or a car,
or something
wonderful like a day at
the beach
with a loved one.
not now.
now, you dream of a day
when you wake
up and stop coughing.

their next meal

the celebrity divorce
is in the news,
it's everywhere, who's fault
is it,
what happened,
who lied, who cheated, who
didn't hold up
their end
of the marriage,
who loved
the children more?
the gossiped dirt eeks out
of the pipes.
who cares?
just the lawyers, gathering
like dark
birds in the sky,
their next meal.


unnamed, why name
them, what point is that,
are those
who can't get out of their own way.
every day
a three act play,
a drama,
a soap opera, full of mistakes,
roads taken,
regret, missteps.
they are twisters tossing
the debris of
their life around,
wanting you to listen,
to sympathize, to help
them fix
things, help them get
their feet
back on the ground. you
can only indulge
so much
before you too are
caught up
in the wind.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

still life

her still life
of pears
in a bowl on a clean
white table,
does nothing for you.
a bite from one,
let a fly land
on another, show
the meat
gone brown,
the rot, the stem
twisted off,
the skin
gone soft,
do that, and then
you have me.
i'll drive a nail
to hang it on
my wall.

small dogs

the small dog
all day
at everything and everyone
that passes by.
his hair bristles,
his teeth
are bared,
it's a loud bark,
a vicious bark,
until you bend
over to his
then he licks
your hand.

a new winkle

you just noticed
a new wrinkle in
the mirror,
the wet leaves
on the steps
a parent, who
what she used to know.
you just noticed
how the paint
has faded
on the shed,
how the fence leans,
how long
it takes to
rise, to unstiffen,
to get
out of bed.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

invasion from mars

had a flair
for drama.
seeing a green meteor falling
from the sky
as we played stick ball out in street
ran into the house
and phoned
the white house to tell
them about
how we were being invaded
by creatures
from mars.
we gathered around the phone
as he talked
about the green light
that flashed across
the sky,
heading north over
Washington d.c. .
they could all be dead now,
we thought,
this could be the end of
the human race,
our hearts raced.
one girl, cried,
while another boy ran home
to be with his parents
when death came.
they said they were going
to look into, ernie told
us as he hung
up the phone,
then we went back outside
to finish the game.

the negotiator

my younger brother once
called me at a party and said
you have
to come home quickly,
Theresa is chasing me
with a knife.
how did you know I was here,
I asked him.
he was out of breath
and I could hear
the furniture
being tossed around.
why is she trying to stab you.
I called her a name,
he said. a bad name.
what name?
I can't say it, she'll throw
the knife
at me.
where is she now.
she's here, i'm holding
her goldfish bowl
so that she doesn't
lunge at me with the knife.
where's mom?
I don't know.
well, okay. i'll be home
in a little while.
tell your sister you're sorry and
that you'll never call her
that name again.
go ahead.
I sip my beer and listen
as he tells her he's sorry.
okay, he says.
she says, she'll put
the knife down. good
good, now hand her the goldfish
I am. are we good now?
yes, yes.
okay. we'll go watch tv,
or do your homework or something.
i'll be home soon.
hide the knives outside
near the rose bush.

giddy up

be a cowboy
and buy me a steak,
the girl
said on our first date,
sitting on the bar
in her white
and sequined
be a cowboy and rustle
me up a porter house steak
or a nice
juicy rib eye,
with all the trimmings.
no thanks,
I told her.
let's just have a drink,
if that's okay.
and see if
we like each other.
so, you're not a cowboy,
she says,
shaking her
permed hair, a foot
high on her small
empty head.
nope, I said,
i'm guess i'm not,
but giddy up.
got to go.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

dark grass

your bare feet are cold
in the deep
wet grass. it's night.
there is no moon.
your feet
sink into the dark soil,
the water seeps between
your toes,
the pebbles stick
to your soles.
you won't walk far like
half across the yard
on a moonless night.
you just had to remember
had to know
what it felt like once
more in your life.

we need to talk

we need to talk,
she says
firmly, sitting at
the kitchen table
with hands folded.
I need to ask you a few
math questions, I respond.
I hope not.
or anything to do
with diagramming a sentence,
no geography either,
I can only name a few
of the seven
seas. i'm not good
at chemistry either,
I tell her, tap dancing,
my coat, my hat,
my keys.
what are you good at,
she says, trying
to find my eyes.
this, I tell her, making
light of
something serious.
something gone
terribly wrong,
this is what i'm good at.

your book

it's difficult to comprehend
the years.
the passing of others.
the collected memories
that are vivid
hard to gather it all
together and come to some
it's a book with lots of pages,
chapters, getting
you write it, you read
it, you go back sometimes
to make it
better than what it was.
who's to say no?
it's your book.
you can do whatever you want
with it.

the low branch

poetry is a tree
with many branches.
peaches, apples, oranges,
pristine rare
fruit at the top.
my branch swings
low, low enough
that anyone with a stick
can knock one
down and take a bite,
or else spit it out,
and heave it towards
the sea.

everyone knows

everyone knows
what the truth is.
what can't be said.
what must left on the table.
everyone knows
what's coming,
what's come and gone,
what tomorrow will
bring, but no one
wants to admit it,
or say it out loud.
everyone knows pretty
much everything
there is know
to get by on,
the rest stays hidden.

be happy

be positive.
be mr. sunshine for once.
stop being so dark
and blue,
cynical about the world
and the people
you know or don't know.
not everyone's a fool,
not everyone is perfect
like you.
put on your happy face
and skip down
that sidewalk of life
with a bright
red balloon.

Monday, October 3, 2016

you leave

once, not once upon a time, but once,
I stayed overnight
in a flea bag hotel on Richmond
my soon to be ex wife demanded
that we take
a break from one another, just
for a few days, she said.
it might help.
so I agreed. I was an agreeable
and compromising person
at the time.
the bed was stiff and limp,
thin, but not as thin as the walls.
a shared vent
brought in the voices and smoke
from the rooms next door.
the arguing and coughing.
I listened to a couple make love.
but it didn't sound like
love, it sounded more like
anger and sadness.
I turned the television on
to drown out the voices, watching
nothing of memory.
I lay there with my clothes still on,
my small bag unpacked,
then finally at three in the
morning, went home and told her,
if you're unhappy, you leave.

be careful

the man who lived there,
in this now empty house,
asks me if I can help him carry out
his mattress to a van
waiting out on the curb.
a small boy is inside,
eating from a bag. he doesn't
look up.
the man tells me that he had
to sell the house
because his wife became ill
and died.
you are quiet, then look into
his eyes and say. i'm sorry,
he says, what can you do.
I have to move. my son is in
they car, he says as he lifts
up one end of the mattress,
and I lift the other.
be careful, he says.
the steps.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

please advise

I communicate with my doctor
through e mails now, which to me
is interesting, but to her, amusing.
or worse, annoying.
the phlegm is yellow, I write.
wet ribbons of yellow, the dull
sunset yellow of late winter.
they arise from deep within
the cave of my chest. forced out
with a wearying strength.
I feel warm, not a love heat or
even the warmth of infatuation,
but the low burn of a furnace
inside of me,
the coal of ill health being
shoveled into the wide
mouth of my life. my nose
is stuffed up too. please advise.

to work

the photograph is of boys,
three rows of young men,
tightly bound shoulder
to small shoulder,
Italian, irish, polish,
each with cropped
hair, the smudge and wind of
the steel factory engrained
upon their faces. cold embers
and ash. they are old
men already. behind them is mill.
the long cannon stacks with plumes
of black swirling in the cold
grey sky. most likely they are all
dead now, long buried somewhere
in the hills of Monrovia.
each story untold. the burden
of their lives buried with them,
so much they, or even we won't
ever know.

this illness

this illness, its claws,
its hooves,
its bite
devours you.
steals the breath from your
squeezes your head
a vise.
you hardly know where to turn,
as you sit at the edge
of the bed.
you can think of nothing
but air,
of breathing.
of being free
from what your body has

wonder bread

two pieces of bread,
wonder bread from
the colored balloon bag,
a slice
of meat, bologna
from the roll, cut
fat and thick
with a butter knife by
your slender arms, a swipe
of mustard.
you stand on the chair,
then grip
the counter
to rise up and find
a cup, a dish in the cupboard.
you see your father's
liquor bottle hidden
on the top shelf,
amber whiskey,
you twist off the cap,
and sniff.
closing your eyes
in scared wonder.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

he was a good man

why don't you hate your father,
my therapist
asks me, stopping me in mid sentence
as I tell her again
about the time my mother forgot
my birthday.
my father, what does he have
to do with anything, I blurt out,
turning my head
to look at her as I lie
prone on the velvet couch.
think about it, she says,
staring at her cell phone,
and texting.
well, I tell her. sure, he drank
a little, womanized,
occasionally beat
my mother and pulled her hair,
and yes he left seven kids in
the lurch when he ran off with
my mother's best friend,
the avon lady,
but for the most part
he worked hard
and had a great sense of humor.
go on she says, clucking her
tongue, go on, tell me more
about daddy.
look, I don't like where this
session is going, and you're
not really paying attention to me
anyway with that damn phone.
okay, okay, i'm sorry, she says,
snapping the phone shut.
i'm done, I was just texting my
friend Marsha, we were talking
about our patients and how
crazy they are. but i'm done.
go on now.
you were talking about your
daddy. he was a good man?

the easter ham

it was a mistake getting this tattoo.
it seemed like
a good idea at the time,
after four or five
Moscow mules,
driving to some foreign
part of town.
who is she? Esmeralda?
this name now etched upon
my arm.
hearing the door slam,
I look out the window,
maybe that's her,
leaving in her leopard
print coat,
getting into her yellow
ford pinto,
and carrying what looks
an easter ham.
my ham that I bought
just yesterday.

so much alike

i never had a dog
that listened or obeyed.
one who
fetched the paper,
or sat,
rolled over, played
i never had a dog
a word i said, or if
he did ignored
walking him
was like walking a fish,
every way but
lost in his world
with me tethered to
the string
he was always trying
to break.
so much alike
we were. so much alike.

a different shade of blue

i know i'm crazy, she says,
near broken glass,
and blood,
her wrists strapped
white. i know me,
she echoes,
her finger
twirling the dark strands
of her hair, the blue
in her eyes
wet and turning
a different shade of blue,
a muddled
pond of blue.
treatment can educate me,
but it can't cure,
i know these things,
i them in my heart,
so why can't you.

Friday, September 30, 2016

cold tea

in her pointed
shoes, toes squeezed
tight, reddened
with cold, she
picked up boxes of strange
tea in the yellowed store,
of warm light,
in February, no less,
on a day I was born.
a hard
wind up from the river
against us,
not enough buttons to go
her black hair pulled tight,
a permanent
fixture, as I would
find out,
pinned atop her head.
she seemed impervious to weather,
or affection.
but it was more
the tea that day,
that first meeting, those exotic
blends stacked
in boxes
on glass shelves
that held her interest,
orange and pear,
the porcelain cups
and saucers
from china, from Russia,
not me.

they come and go

how swift the maids are.
coming and going unseen.
the key left on the counter.
the money gone.
the smell of pine trees
on the floor.
the dust no longer where
your finger found
how strange to have strangers
move about your house,
touching books,
and shoes.
making a bed that
you lie on.
what thoughts do they
possess wondering about
your life, the stacks of
books and clothes,
the way you let things go,
then gone,
on to the next.

enough noise

the sigh
of sighs, the exhale
of a day
gone by, the room aglow
last light.
the glare
of a still tv.
hardly a sound is heard.
the neighbors
not a dog barking.
not one bird
in the sky.
what noise do you need
right now?
no answer
given, enough noise
in just the sigh.

the pearl within

these hard shells,
tight lipped and black, the brine
of sea
to their curved skulls.
what lies within,
a pearl, perhaps, or the soft
of a jelled body,
now ripe, awaiting what's next,
who isn't?

heart beats

the twist
of sky, a plume of violet
becoming blue
or is it grey, how the sun naps
a thickened wall,
perhaps never
to appear again, and me
and you,
whispering to one another
as if the absence
of clothes
demands us to do so.
the window holds our attention,
for now,
the love lust sweat
upon us, drying,
our hearts
still tapping like feet,
like fingers and finally
like the water
in fat tears against
the chrome drain

Thursday, September 29, 2016

i could do that

I could do that, I tell
my friend Francis, as
we visit the art gallery.
I could make
that painting.
it's just splashing a gallon
of paint on a canvas while
it sits on the floor.
I could make about ten of those
in an hour.
well, then why don't you?
i'm busy.
busy doing what?
stuff, I've got a lot going
on these days.
oh really now, like what.
you don't want to know.
i'm working on things, things
that will be amazing
when they come to fruition.
so you can't tell me?
nope. it's a secret.
i'd need you to sign a
statement of confidentiality.
you exhaust me sometimes,
she says.

hit the button and pray

i'm setting the bar low
she tells me as she fills out
her profile
for e harmony.
i'm not in search of my
next soul mate,
or cell mate, she types,
I just want a date,
how does that sound?
perfect, I tell her,
and maybe add in,
have a human head
and a ten tattoo limit.
that sounds mean, she says.
okay, okay, don't,
but i'm warning you,
ever since the prison
system handed out
laptops to felony
offenders in the can
you're going to get a lot
of strange men writing to you.
oh, and if I was
you, I wouldn't put that bikini
picture on of you
in the hot tub,
or the one where you're
peeling a banana.
but, it's just a banana.
whatever, I tell her.
and take out the part about
you're a professional woman,
what are the options,
amateur status?
okay, she says. got it.
and no pictures of kids,
or plants, or cakes, or fish.
but men like to fish.
yeah, I know, but just don't.
and take out the pictures
of your best friends.
they're all too pretty and sexy.
it will reduce your chances.
okay, she says, staring at me
as she gulps from a bottle
of red wine.
anything else?
nah, that should do it.
hit the button and pray.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

for you, for me

it's a relief when the dog
half blind,
his teeth awash in
it's a selfish thought,
the end
of walks, of carrying
him out to a bush
or tree
in the rain.
it's a terrible thing
to love and resent
a living thing,
but so it is
at the end of any
long life,
perhaps how it will
for you,
for me.

do that and then

be quiet,
come fast,
someone will know
and rat us out she says,
my hand and leading us behind
the shed,
along the peat moss, the soft earth
which takes
our footprints.
we have to be quiet,
don't say a word, she says,
her hand pulling
me closer, the heat
of her making me forget
how wet my
shoes are, how warm the air
is, how dark
the branches fold upon
our clinging shadows.
promise me first
that you love me, she says,
straightening me
to find my eyes,
do that and then.

wanting more

there's no harm
in asking for more, is there?
for one last
kiss, or mad
session between the rumpled
hardly cooled
from the night they were
slept on.
or drink, or spoon full of
what makes us
fat. there's no harm
in asking
for more. see how the birds
open their beaks,
how the leaves curl
and cup upwards
for rain.
why not live, and have more,
but more
leads to more
which isn't good, or is it?

the devil's black box

if this call has been recorded, well
then, please forgive me. I don't often use
language like this, except when
driving, or in line at the grocery
store behind someone with coupons,
talking on their cell phone. i'm sorry,
but my old cable box, installed by
grandma moses does not have an HDMI slot,
so my new television that sits on top
of my dresser cannot be used until
this is fixed. the box hasn't worked
in six months, but because it's raining
and I had a day off, I thought
i'd take care of this small, but
important issue. I'm tired of covering
the blinking lights with a sock.
I like to watch tv in bed
and eat snacks with my dog,
or current love interest, excuse me for living.
so, after an hour or more of screaming
into the phone, after you've cleverly
hidden your customer service number
for anyone over the age of 50, and yelling
my last name, the first three
letters of my name, my phone number,
and the word agent, agent, agent,
over and over again until I start coughing,
finally I have you on the phone.
I know it's very late or early over there
in India or Singapore, or wherever you are,
but please,
you have to help me. for the love of God,
or Allah, or a sacred cow,
send me a new box. that's all i'm asking.
a new cable box built in this decade.
is that too much to ask?

for sale

closed doors,
closed windows, the lights off.
the water
too. sign in the yard.
you press your face
to the window.
no one lives here anymore.
not her,
not you.
there was a time though,
a time
the heat was on, when
a dog
when a child
sat looking out waiting
for you to come home.

note in a bottle

stranded on dry land
you toss a bottle with a note
out the window,
into the street to someone
passing by.
they look up and throw
it back,
yelling at you to be careful,
you're going to kill
someone throwing
bottles out the window.
you throw it onto the lawn
the next time
and watch it roll
to a stop.
you've written help, on
the note, your name
and address.
you tell them to send help soon.
to rescue you.
you've rolled the note up
and tucked it through the top
of the empty bottle.
you go and fix a drink,
then come back to the window
to wait, watching, hoping.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

of her kind

long and languid, stretched
out in her chair,
a cigarette between her fingers,
a bottle of beer
nearby, she reads her poetry,
blue eyed, black
haired, a smart wild look
about her.
she reads to the camera, plays
with the eye
that watches her,
seductive and hoarse, whispering
her words, impressed with
her own genius. how can
you not a love a poet
such as this, one of her

the small plate

I count two
scallops on the small plate,
covered in deep
thin strands of what?
rusted colored
tumble weeds.
the menu said scallops,
where are they?
small white flecks of
something are in the sauce,
like pigeon
droppings. they might
be related to scallops,
but i'm not sure.
it's all fishy.
I search with my fork,
I know they're in there
somewhere. I am on a mission
to find
something on this
small happy hour plate
to eat.

i want that

if had this,
that would be a good thing.
that house that looks like
a swiss chalet.
i'd be happy then,
or her,
that girl,
yes, the one over there,
in the dress,
leaning over
to pick something up,
I want her,
then, then i'd be in
or that car,
no the red one with the top
or the boat,
the sleek white boat
on the water. see it.
they look so happy out there
in the sun,
waving to us.
I want that.
I want to be them.
they have no problems,
like we do.
why are we walking, we
should be on
a boat like they are,
our boat.

the little white pills

she takes a pill to wake up,
to counter
the ones she took
to fall asleep,
then there's other pills too.
all neatly aligned
in the medicine cabinet.
prescribed and dated.
one for this,
another for that.
things you don't want to know
it's an all day thing,
the brown bottle,
the child proof cap,
drinking water
to wash them down.

tied up

the rope keeps the boat
from floating away,
tied to the pier
in knots.
and you, what
keeps you
how many ropes are
you from sailing away,
discovering places
you've never
seen or been.

Monday, September 26, 2016

betting on us

God does not roll
with the universe,
Einstein said, or something
to that effect.
but maybe there's a roulette
up there,
a black jack table,
a horse track.
maybe he's pulling the arm
of an old vegas
slot machine,
hoping for four cherries
to roll up.

the rain

the rain
surprises you
as you brush
onto a board.
you look up
into the sky, unaware
of the clouds,
or the lifting of leaves
turned gold.
how can the season
so swiftly,
overnight it seems,
not unlike how
love comes,
love goes, unseen.

what's next

the anchor,
leave no note,
from port untethered
by what's left behind,
into the outstretched
of blue
an open sea of no
promises. raise
the sails.
keep a light
hand on the wheel,
let the wind
push towards what's
let's see
where this goes.

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
you see them yawn, red
from drink and sun,
half dressed, some smoking,
some with instant
coffee in their hands.
the gulls chirp,
diving into the water,
the littered rolls
of warming

your own sign

you want those that are crazy
to stop
being crazy.
those on the street begging,
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
then finding a busy
to stand on.

no, go this way

do you need others
to tell you what's wrong,
but sometimes
you do.
you need the nudge,
the kind
a hand to push or
pull you back
onto the straight line.
you are in a fog,
going oddly
in the wrong direction.
you need
the snap of smelling
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
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

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
the knick knacks
of your day
stone cold and quiet
on some shelf.
a rattle of pipe,
or is it wind
or answering
outside the window.
the bed is a flat table
of white sheets
that you lie
and roll, never quite
getting to where
you need to go, shuffling
the papers,
reading between
the lines, unsleeping
with eyes

book review

half way through the book,
i stop reading
and ask myself,
why am i reading this book.
i hate this stupid
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

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
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
or set of Tupperware,
but please, for your own sake,
for your own potential
marital bliss,
don't put my name
on the list.


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

Friday, September 23, 2016

the red bird

a lace
of stars not unlike
the cloth
your grandmother's table
the holidays.
a saucer,
a plate,
a tea pot.
how small you were, reaching
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,
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
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
in ohio
writes to me and says
why can't you get that apostrophe
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
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,
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,
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
as it rips against
your throat.
you move around on the examination
your bare
legs dangling two feet
from the floor, the paper
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
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
to the senior prom.
just one word,
such as the word
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
of your 1970 chevy nova,
parked on the side of an ocean
henry and noel
made love
in the back
under the coarse hair
of an army
you pretended not hear,
not to listen
to the grunts
and groans, the unsexy
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
which seem to be gnawing
at a leather
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
and lets it fall to the floor,
it tumbles
so many petals of a flower
she turns the light
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
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
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
we'll I have to go.
stop crying.
call me later. okay. okay.


beware of enthusiasm,
it will lead you into dangerous
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.
of early risers,
courageous men,
men wearing medals,
flirtatious women.
women with more than three
those who love
the spotlight,
those who don't.
beware of good people.
no one is truly
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
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,
and drunk into the shape
it's taken.
love won or lost may
be part of it too. the plowed
of sun
and sea upon his brow,
his cheeks,
but it's his hands,
his fingers
that lie
folded upon his
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


these pigeons,
what do they know?
what point
of view do they hold.
with what?
their day full of pecking
at crumbs
we leave
grey winged,
black dolloped,
stone bead eyes.
hardly eyes at
all. what do they see?
how quick they dart
and fly.
their oiled feathers
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
a thesaurus,
to find just the right
or metaphor,
just the right phrase
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
murmur be careful
of the wild
don't put your hands
the cage.
how little they know
the true you.
kind you are, how
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
becomes another, or
that nothing of great
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
or us. live a life
the lines.
be something more,
be nothing
than me, or die

the cold outside

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

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
then disconnected.
I have my nineteen digit
account number
in front of me, almost
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
can I put you on hold, she
says? your call is very
important to us.
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
homespun acts,
an elvis impersonator,
with a twist. he stood
on his head
in his satin
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
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
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
that year, leaning out
of the new house,
as the world
went slightly
in 1968.


it's hard to choose
what you want.
sparkling water,
tap water,
water from a hose
on ice.
we have too many choices,
laminated or wood.
what color should my
be this week,
which wine under fifteen
dollars will suffice?
no wonder we're
so confused, so distracted,
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
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
or in oxon hill where I
grew up,
are hungry, not necessarily
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
and levitate.

another wind

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

Saturday, September 17, 2016

house calls

you tire of your day
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
young patients with
you'll only do house calls
to keep the overhead
all you need is a black
bag with a cross on
the side,
and a stethoscope, thermometer
and a blood pressure
you'll learn the name of that
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
stop smoking.
stop eating at kfc,
and take two of these
and call me in the morning.
you're almost ready.

the dig

the spoon, silver,
bent nearly in two
the construction of a
nine story
at the edge of town.
the yellow tape goes around.
the newspapers come,
men from china
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
as she leans
towards the yard below.
shut up
she says to the pit bull.
his striped back
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
and barks more fiercely.
she flicks
a lit cigarette at him.
yells again.
he keeps

where are you?

I yawn.
I stretch. i'm a cat
on the sill.
and happy,
a pocket full of money,
stomach full
of food.
a drink
about to be sipped.
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?
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
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
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?
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
sleep where you sleep,
without mercy,
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,
blue as the sky,
with a crowd gathered
their still, swimless

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


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,
play dead,
and the dog did.
it saddened you
for some reason.


shirt after shirt
your mother
at the ironing board,
the full basket beside her,
the iron, her strong
pulling, smoothing,
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
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
that hurts.
nothing, she murmured,
just making
you one of us, like me.
free to live
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
then another, one
more for
bad luck.
when the truck arrived,
a cherry red light
she was
watching television
the empty bottle
beside her.
the faces she made
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
is found.

who knew

your sister,
as your mother lies
in a fog, immersed
in the blood of a broken
claims a man
touched her,
did things, unspeakable
to her.
she was young,
in her room, tucked cleanly
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
at blame.

street view

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