Sunday, April 23, 2017

look in my purse

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

the clocks

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

who lives here?

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

the march for science

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

a circle of friends

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

yo

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

we can help you

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

no such luck

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

the next life

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

stay home

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

the white

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

the sale

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



ashes

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

hide your peanuts

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

a day or two, at most a week

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

really old, town

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

rose colored

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

the promise

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

in the end

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

homeward bound

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

no room for more

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

taking measure

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

sunday cookout

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

an oak tree

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

i don't know you

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

spring ocean

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

the empty tomb

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

crying

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

boiled eggs

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

day one

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

becoming green

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

family weapons

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

making it

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

the front stoop

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

what's next

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

special blue

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

what's in there

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

the operation

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

pick me up at 8

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

kung pao fire

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

these joes

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

Sunday, April 9, 2017

any direction

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

where it itches

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

the calm sea

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

uncertainty

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

good neighbors

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

the gallows

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

crab fest

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

in the mood

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

puddles

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


Friday, April 7, 2017

old friends

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

wrong number

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

concerto

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

the think tank

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

yard sale

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

a good exit

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

the italian sports car

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

today is good

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

what needs to be done

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

we've changed

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

between the lines at coffee

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

jiffy hell

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

lola

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

at home

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

pennies

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

his last garden

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

getting young again

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

the fan

the woman behind you,
where you
sit at the concert
sings every song
as loud as she can. she's a fan.
she's a little drunk,
a little
woozy, but she knows
all the words.
she's dancing too, having
a good time
as the band plays in front,
on stage.
you wish that someone
would throw
a net on her an drag
her out.
but no.
she's a paid customer,
she's having fun,
and she's a loyal forever
fan.
she knows all the words.
she whistles with two
fingers in her mouth
when the music stops
and yells out the singer's
name. she says I love
you Jimmy. I love you.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

tuesdays puzzle

you wet your fingers
to turn the page.
then another.
you squint at the words,
moving on
from one boring story
to the next.
who won, who lost
means less and less with
each new year.
you yawn.
has nothing changed?
is there anything good
to report?
the sun may come out,
it may rain.
the Tuesday puzzle is
less hard than
tomorrows. you go there.

the after life

the boat is less
full
as some go over and under.
the salt
is on your tongue.
in your
tears.
the sway of the ocean,
the pull
of the moon,
the oars,
the loved and unloved,
both drift
towards some distant
shore.
will we gather there
in time, after this is
all done,
and recall the life
we shared?
I hope so.

Monday, April 3, 2017

the hot water

don't use all the hot
water
we'd tell our sisters,
all three
as they beat us to the bathroom,
with towels
and soaps,
photoplay magazines.
they had to wash their
hair,
to soak,
to primp and brush,
to get ready
for the boys they'd hope
to win.
we'd see
the steam rise out from
under the white door,
into the cool hall where
our bare feet stood,
we'd shake our heads
and moan,
too late.

the cold earth

there isn't much left
at the end
to divide,
a birdcage, empty,
lined still with newsprint
from nineteen eighty-five.
glasses, books,
photographs.
who wants his shoes?
the dirty magazines
under the bed?
the staples loose
between each thigh.
the money is just enough
to put him under,
a polite ceremony,
discounted for service
rendered
in the navy. flag
draped,
a spot saved not far
from
the eternal flame.
who comes, at this late
stage, to hear the volley
of gunshot,
those who never called,
or gave visit?
children with children
who never
knew him, and yet hold
the same name.
who stands near, besides
me, to watch him slip
into this cold dug grave.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

the cake

people nibble at my
cake, the cake I spent
nearly thirty five minutes
making. not counting
the icing.
someone asks
who made this, to which I
shrug and say,
I don't know but
it's great isn't it?
I think i'll have another piece.
it's too sweet,
someone says, putting her
plate down,
and it needed to bake
another ten minutes.
it's soft in the middle.
I hate box cake mixes
the woman sitting next
to me says.
so lazy.
look how it sits in the pan,
unbalanced,
the icing is uneven
a man says with a pinky
in the air.
a monkey could make
this cake.
I think about making
monkey noises, but don't,
instead whisper, so
true. so true as I lick
the icing off my fork.

be careful

I have a fever
and a sore throat,
so it's best we don't kiss.
I wouldn't want you to catch
anything and be
careful of your step
going down,
she says,
a few bricks are loose.
hang on to the rail.
I can't get anyone to come
and fix them.
too small of a job.
and the rail
is shaky,
splintered with old
paint,
rotted wood, watch
your hand.
and be careful on
the sidewalk, the leaves
are slippery
I haven't had time
to rake. be careful,
she says waving,
once you get away
from me, you'll be
safe.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

marriage

I tell my friend jimmy
that i'm engaged to be married
in june.
she's the love of my
life, I tell him excitedly.
my soul mate, my one
and only,
the person I want to
ride off into the sunset
with. i take out my phone and show
him her picture.
I want you to be
my best man.
jimmy says, whoa.
whoa. yeah, she's gorgeous,
but just a minute pal.
are you sure about this?
yes I tell him.
yes. we both love one
another deeply.
we get along on so many levels.
we actually have real conversations,
like what we do.
he shakes his head
and taps the bar to have
the bartender bring us another
round of drinks. doubles, he
yells to pete behind the bar.
what's your favorite food,
jimmy asks me.
chicken, pasta...lobster
maybe? indian food?
ummm, ribeye, I tell him,
on the grille. I like
an angus ribeye steak, medium
rare, caramelized onions,
with garlic mashed
potatoes, corn on the cob,
maybe a small garden salad,
and a slice of blueberry
pie with a scoop of French
vanilla ice cream for
dessert.
wow, okay, okay, he says.
that's wonderful. that sounds
delicious.
the drinks come and we
clink our glasses together.
now, he says, sipping his
scotch, squinting as he's prone
to do when having an inebriated epiphany.
now imagine that you
have that same meal every
single night for the rest of
your life. forever, he says
waving his hand into the air
to indicate forever.
you love that dish, the gravy,
the meat and potatoes,
the grilled corn. imagine
that every night you have to
eat that same meal. just how
long can you go on before it
gets old and you stop
loving it and want something else?
how long?
hmmm, I say. I see what you mean.
so you're saying marriage is
like that? a steak dinner every night.
yup, he says. it's exactly like that.
but you're married. you've been
married for twenty years.
true, he says. true,
but we both eat out a lot.

he loved her cooking

my mother
could sling a dish from
one side of the room
to the other.
the plate full or empty
made no difference,
although it was more
dramatic with red
sauce and meatballs,
penne pasta.
it usually involved
my father, who continued
eating,
head bent over
his food, buttering
his garlic bread,
while she questioned him about
where he was the night
before, and with who.
he loved her cooking.

those were the days

i have little patience
for names
being dropped,
places you've been,
or stayed
when you were on top.
who cares
who you know, or knew,
or whose lives
you have
barely touched through
six degrees of
separation.
it says little about
you,
or maybe it says a lot.
my butter does
not melt
for those were the days.

the bath

she slips into
something more comfortable,
her skin,
a tub
of hot water
with steam rising.
there are bubbles,
a froth
of vanilla, or is
it lavender, maybe
both.
two candles burn
at each end.
a glass of wine in
wet hand.
music plays from the other
room.
it's an event.
in a few hours she'll
be done.

from your window

silver
moon, your coin
brilliance
sitting
in the black pocket
of sky.
I see neither
head or tails,
nor edge.
just a moon.
a light
we both would see
together.
I wonder if
you see it now from
where you are,
this many years apart,
from where your
bare trees rise outside
cold windows.

free fall

you had little fear
of heights
until you fell from roof
to ground,
yet survived.
it wasn't your time
to die, maybe an angel
steered you
down, lowered your
body to a safe soft bed
of grass, a soiled
mound.
as with love
and marriage, there was
no fear there as
well. but such heights are
left alone now,
your feet planted
firmly on the ground.

april first

because it's april first,
she calls
and says,
are you sitting down,
I have some news.
what I say.
what is it?
she sounds panicked,
her voice trembling.
what? I say again,
but louder, what is it?
i'm pregnant, she says.
we're going to have
a baby. isn't that exciting.
but we're too old, i say,
as i fall onto the floor,
and begin to weep,
looking around the room
to where a crib might go.

dessert

the dessert
is you.
the length of you.
the porcelain
curve of hip
and shoulder.
there is a sweetness
in each kiss.
a meringue
of soul
in your gentle
spirit.
my heart swells
with each new bite.

he taps his hat

a man on the path,
stares at me and taps his hat.
taps it again
and again,
shaking his head
as I slowly roll by.
where's your helmet he says.
he's hardly older than I am.
stern, with a purposeful
stride.
a glazed stick from home
is in one hand.
he has gone most of his life
feeling the need
to tell others how to live,
what to do.
and even now, on this blue
skied day,
with me, drifting along
the wooded path, hardly pedaling,
to take it all in,
he tells me
to wear a helmet, to be
a better man, like he is.

slow to walk

slow to walk, I slow
my pace
to let him catch up.
he breathes, wipes his
brow, takes his hat off.
it's not far from
here to there.
some of us arrive,
others die early and
never know what it is
to be old,
to have others wait
on you, and hold
the door.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

maybe i'll come around

why did I buy
this shirt.
it's not me. it was
me though
when I was in the store
holding against
my chest, looking
into the mirror.
but the color is all
wrong.
the style, the look.
what was I thinking.
i'll leave the tags
on and hang
it in the closet,
maybe i'll come around
and think
differently about it,
like i do with a lot
of things,
and people,
maybe not.

the pint bottle

to hide
the pint bottle of
thunderbird,
he keeps it in the paper
bag,
and sips
cautiously
as he sits on the steps
near the fountain.
who needs
work
when you have this.
blue
skies.
a pocket of change.
the whole
day ahead to do nothing
but drink,
laugh
and stumble back
home again.

the reunion

we're sorry that you missed
the last thirty two
high school reunions
the card reads, we have two
a year now, but we're hoping
that you make it this year.
we're joining up with
three other graduating
classes because so many
people have died, or can't
make it due to imprisonment
or disinterest.
some people are so rude, they
just don't write back.
it's bring your own drinks
and food this time.
we are meeting at a picnic
table near the river
where we can see the cherry
blossoms. it's wheel chair
accessible. condiments
and paper plates will be
provided. sally and jimmy,
you remember them, don't
you? yes they are still together
after all these years,
the king and queen of
the senior prom 1973.
jimmy though is now Jenny,
so try to remember that.
they will be giving
an amway presentation,
so bring something to write
on, as well as your own
business cards, if you're
not retired yet.
by the way we are no longer
The Braves, but are now
The Wolverines
to be nice to our native
americans, whom we love
dearly. it's a shame we
stole their country.
our colors
though are still the same,
blue and gold with garnet trim.
we hope
to see you this year. signed,
muffy, captain of the pom
pom squad and home ec advisor,
11, 12.
oh, and we hope you like
the new braille invitation,
so many classmates
have vision issues now, and
have complained in the past
about not being able to read
the invite, so this new card
should help. see you soon.
go braves. oops,
I mean wolverines.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

from russia with love

I wanted to send my
girlfriend in Nigeria,
my future mail order bride,
some money
but we've
lost contact.
she needed nine hundred and seventy
nine dollars
to be exact.
travel and miscellaneous
expenses, I suspect.
she was originally
from Russia, the Ukraine
but more recently lived in Dubai.
Natasha was her name,
but I called her Nat
or sugarplum for short.
she had hair like corn silk,
eyes as blue
as the Aegean Sea.
lithe and long,
teeth
like chicklets.
I blew up her bikini photo
that she took while
on vacation in the Ural mountains
and taped it to my wall,
I miss our sporadic
communication, her long in
depth e mails
in adorable broken english
that rambled on and on about
how wonderful she is
and how much she loves me.
I needed no more convincing.
I miss her and wonder
if she'll ever contact me again.
her check awaits
as does my undying love.

the dishwasher

our first fight
was over the dishwasher.
she didn't like my style
of loading
forks and spoons
plates and knives onto
the rack.
she was more organized
than I.
the cups set all in rows.
the dishes rinsed
before going in,
pans tilted just so.
in time though she gave
up on that
and moved on to more
trivial things.

borrowing

we rent.
lease,
borrow for a while.
even these
clothes we wear
won't go with us.
everything left
behind.
there is no pyramid
to stick them in.
no tomb
to hold our dearest
possessions.
we leave it all
to others,
no longer yours,
no longer mine
no matter how rich
or poor
we think we are.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

she waits for me

ungloved,
pulling rope. tying
down
the ships
that glide into
harbor.
I blow on the sores,
the rubbed
callouses of work.
the wind is aalted
blue.
long knives that carve
against my skin.
a ship
leaves, another
appears on the horizon.
work is love.
love is work,
at home she waits
for me.
she disagrees.

we have bacon

you must come out to my farm
sometime
she says.
it's on the eastern shore.
you could meet my family,
see all of
my animals.
we have goats and cows.
chickens.
pigs.
maybe you could help
dust the crop
or harvest
the corn. we could pick
berries.
you like bacon, don't
you, she
says.
how can I say no
to that.

blood suckers

cold
and mechanical
the vampires
in hospital green smocks,
say
put out your arm.
they swab
a vein
stick a needle in.
there is no
small talk, no
how are you today.
this won't hurt a bit.
relax.
nothing is said.
it's the needle,
the arm.
the wrap to knot
it down.
next. another arm
waits
behind you.
your vial goes away
to be spun
and labeled.
no cookie, no nothing.
just go
turn right.

she used to know

i could tell my mother
that today is Christmas day
and she wouldn't
know the difference.
there was a time though
when she could go through
my dirty jeans
before washing them,
emptying the pockets
and put together everything.
where I've been,
who i was with and what
i was doing.
she'd look me in the eyes
and say, so!
is there something you want
to tell me?
but today she doesn't know
if it's Christmas.

take a number

i take a number
and sit.
there are rows of chairs,
nearly
all filled.
people are holding purses
and wallets.
papers.
looking up, then back
down to their laps
where
they write things down,
stare into
their phones.
the white plate of hours
hardly moves
above the counter.
the hands seem stuck.
so do i.

away from home

we're here now.
are you happy?
we're away from home.
our feet
in the sand.
home is a thousand
miles away.
are you happy?
we're eating.
drinking.
we're making love.
we're doing nothing
but lying in the sun.
are you happy?
hand me your phone
for a minute,
I need to touch base,
catch up.

Monday, March 27, 2017

the note on the counter

one by one
each light goes out
until there's only one.
i'll write a note
to myself
for tomorrow, stick
it on the counter,
then up the stairs
i'll go, the door locked,
the dog behind me.
i'll read for awhile
then make it dark
for sleep.
i'll lie there
and think about
what's on the note.
the promises
that I've made,
the one I need to keep.

how are you?

I can't talk today,
she says.
or tomorrow. i'm dying.
radiation
is making my bones glow
with
heat.
i'm weak and weary.
it's been a good life.
how are you?

the reviews

slowly he goes through
the mail.
the reviews of his latest
book
of poetry are in.
thin, one says.
the same, another states.
boring, almost
as if he mailed
it in
a woman in Toledo writes.
the poet nods, he sips.
his coffee.
rubs the sleep
out of his eyes.
he's happy
with all of this.
it stirs him to rise
and put his fingers onto
the keyboard once
again.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

with snow on the ground

the man decides to pay
you only half
of what is owed.
calmly he explains that it
is the worst
job he's ever seen
and that you are lucky
to be getting half.
you knew this was coming
from day one.
the first day you met
him and shook his
clammy hand, looked into
his narrow eyes.
you knew it, but went on
anyway with the work, hoping
against hope that
your instincts, for once,
were wrong.
it was winter and snow
was on the ground.

second acts

sometimes the dead
are more alive when you dream
about them.
they have cleaned up their
acts
for the most part.
you like each other more
in the dream.
there is a feeling
of joy
to see them once again,
once death is out of the way
and they're truly gone.

two weeks of work

the building smelled
of wet
concrete, the steel beams
just settling
deep into the earth.
it rose twenty stories
in crystal city.
the elevators didn't work
so we climbed
with our buckets
and brushes
starting at the top.
work was slow.
the economy was on empty
as gas
lines with alternating
plates
wrapped around the exxon
stations.
old men, young, unskilled,
anyone with a paper
who had read the ad
came
and tried to do the work.
women with muscles,
skinny with addictions.
retired men with lunch pails.
who couldn't paint?
attrition was swift.
two units a day.
doors, sills, baseboards,
kitchens and baths
all needing the new shine
of oil paint.
you were young then, fast,
strong.
you won the job and lasted
until it was done,
all twenty floors, two weeks
of work.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

blue peeps

it's hard shopping for one.
one onion.
one quart
of milk,
six eggs, a half
a loaf
of bread.
even then most of this
gets thrown away.
lettuce
might see a few leaves
pulled off,
the rest going brown
and soft.
the milk goes sour
and the eggs become
a science project.
one tomato.
one can of beans.
an eight pack of plastic
wrapped
American cheese. one
package of easter
peeps,
the blue kind,
marshmallowy sweet,
all for me.
they go quickly.

limbo

a fly caught
between screen and window
buzzes
and fusses
trying to get back out,
or in.
this limbo
that he's in
is wearing him out.
you wonder if it's
a metaphor for your own
life,
your own existence,
day to day.
you hope not, as you pull
the window up
and watch him
fly away.

in the next life

in the next life
things
will be different. we won't
have to stand in
line
for our coffee or
wait at the dmv
to get
things renewed.
people will hold doors
for one another
and say, no,
please, you go first.
after you.
in the next life,
the hear after,
there won't be any rap
music, or people playing banjos,
or commercials in between
shows.
every seat will be in
in middle
half way up and the popcorn
will be warm
with butter and salt.
we won't get fat
in the next life.
you'll be able to eat
candy all day
and cake
for dinner.
in the next life you'll
have great teeth,
no need for dentists anymore.
you'll be able
to sing too, not just in
the shower, but
anywhere, and no one will
make fun of you.
in the next life, women
will look at you and wink,
and give you
their phone numbers
without you having to jump
through a lot of hoops.
they won't yell at you if
you don't call the next day either.
they'll understand
and give you room.
you'll have lots of room
in the next life
to do or not do all the things
you care about.

Friday, March 24, 2017

bye bye

polite
but short. a closed smile.
her lips
lined red,
her eyes
narrowed.
there is nothing left
to be said.
the flight is over.
the engine doused.
polite, but short.
she hands
you your walking
papers,
points to the door,
to the ramp
down,
gently nods
her head and says
bye bye.

what a day it is

what a day it is
to the happy man.
he even has room
in his heart
for strangers
on such a sunny day.
every hair in place,
every step
a step of joy,
a bounce of going
somewhere,
to someplace where she
is.
where love begins
and ends.
even the flowers,
are bold
with color and hope,
not a wilted petal
to behold.
his heart is full
of words he's been
dying to say
and will before
the day is through.
what a day
it is.

i have a horse

i have a horse,
she tells me, i ride
it on sundays
if the weather's good.
it's a Morgan.
she's in her
boots.
knee high, greyed
with dried mud.
her riding pants
are tight.
she slaps the crop in her
hand against her thigh,
adjusts her black
rimmed cap.
she smells of oats
and hay,
of a barn
full of cats
and other horses.
i have a horse,
she says, waiting for
me to say,
that's great, what
a wonderful thing.
she's still waiting.

the right words

this room needs more light.
the walls
need
white, not this grey.
this seal blue.
that picture needs to come
down.
the lamp
could use a new shade.
if I turned the desk
towards the window,
maybe then,
just maybe then
i'll find
the right words to write
to you, and send.

the perfect couple

we were a perfect couple,
the widow
says, buttering her toast,
sipping
her bloody mary.
she moves the yellow
froth of scrambled eggs
around her plate.
we never had an argument,
not once
was a cross word said.
we finished each
other's sentences,
never left or arrived
without a kiss.
we were the envy of the neighborhood,
what with all the divorces,
the cheating and lying.
the mistresses and affairs.
she looks out
the window at the high grass,
a rusted mower in the weeds,
and sighs.
have you ever had a perfect
love, she asks,
with tears
in her eyes. no, I tell
her, not believing a single
word she says. can't say
that I have.
I open another bottle
of vodka and top off
her drink. she says thank
you.

still life

it's a painting
of a pear.
an apple.
life like, catching
the light
from
a window.
a bowl of fruit.
I nod.
nice.
perfect. but it would
be more perfect
if there was a fly
in the painting.
if there was
a soft brown
spot on the pear,
if the grapes
were soured
and flat
off the vine.

calling for pick up

we're calling
to see if you have anything
for pick up,
the elderly woman says over the phone.
no.
I say. you just called two
hours ago.
although I am tired
of this t shirt
I've ben wearing, and my
shoes have thinned
at the sole.
you're welcome to those
if you'd like
to send a truck over tonight.
we'll send one
right away, she says.
talk again tomorrow.

shrimp night

it's all you
can eat shrimp night at Kilroy's.
the floor is slippery.
the air is filled
with the scent of old
bay and vinegar,
plastic buckets full of shells,
beer on tap.
mechanics are there from work,
hands full of grease
in their striped shirts.
secretaries gather like geese
in cheap dresses
sipping on cocktails,
staring into their phones.
no less than twenty
televisions
line the walls, each one
turned to
a different sport.
loudly.
tables and chairs
are neck to neck.
not a clean alley to walk
through. god
forbid if the place
catches fire. outside the sun
still shines.
the sky is blue.
there is fresh air and hope,
but not in here.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

friendly lighting

the light
no long flatters us, so
we find
candles to burn,
we dim the bulbs above,
shade
the small lamp
on the table.
draw in the curtain.
block the sun.
we sit
in the far corner
and become
more becoming to one
another
with each drink
sipped
until gone.
daylight is for the young.
we're over
that.

out of water

the fish
out of water, only
wants back
in.
it's the only thing
that concerns
him
when held
in hand,
everything about
him
is trying to get out
from under
this air.
the scales,
the wet slippery
skin,
the arrowed shaped,
all pointing
downward to where
the sea awaits,
to where his life
begins
and ends.

seeing the light

i can see
the light from the upper
window.
a small yellow shaft
divided by bars,
wallows
in and stays
against the high wall.
if i wasn't chained
and shackled
i could reach up
and feel that square
of warmth. let it fold
across my hand,
my face, my
heart,
but for now i'll
just have to imagine
what that might
be like.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

a perfectly good romance

I take it
you're no longer
interested, I say,
forlorn,
holding in my hand
a ring I was about
to give her.
not true, she says.
but why ruin
a perfectly good romance
by trying
to make it last
forever.

it's winter

it's winter,
so we nuild a fire,
sit before it
and play chess.
we drink tea.
we listen
to simon and Garfunkel.
yes. we're that old.
eventually we'll get to it.
to it being
sex.
but for now, we'll talk
quietly
about the past,
about the weather, about
rain
falling
and how children go
to their own lives
leaving us behind.
it's no longer about winning
or losing
one of us will say,
pushing a pawn forward.
it's winter, so we play
chess.

vincent

what's your name,
she asks,
holding the empty
coffee cup up in the air,
a torch to be filled.
she has a sharpie
pen to scribble my name
across the
white curve of the thick
paper cup. (recycled)
jimmy.
I tell her, then say no,
joe.
let's go with joe today.
I feel like
just an ordinary joe.
I can see my reflection
in the toaster over
across the counter,
my plaid shirt buttoned
nearly to the top.
she crosses out jimmy
and writes joe. are you
sure? she says.
wait, I tell her, let
me think for a second.
how about Vincent.
I put a napkin up to my
ear
and hold it there.
I purposely look forlorn
and heartbroken.
but she doesn't get it.
okay, Vincent, she says,
pushing a blue strand of hair
away from her eyes.
she writes Vincent
on the cup
and takes my money.

panning for gold

panning for gold
on my knees along the bank
of the slow
moving stream.
my hands are cold.
red
and raw
from dipping the pan
into the clear
blue water.
I shake free the sand,
the pebbles,
I bite into anything shiny,
holding it up
to the harsh sun.
I've lived without love
before,
I can do it again.

it's her birthday, i think

it's her birthday
again.
I think.
maybe.
I wrote it down somewhere.
flowers?
wine?
a big chunk of jewelry?
a pound
of chocolate?
where is that
note
I wrote telling me
when?
it's her birthday
again,
I think.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

kill me a chicken

if I had to kill
a chicken
or a cow, or even
a rabbit,
I probably wouldn't eat meat.
I'd be
munching on a carrot
or
lettuce,
maybe an apple or two
instead.
i'd be thinner then
perhaps, healthier,
although a little dizzy at times,
but thank god,
that's not how it is,
I say out loud
as I throw in a pack
of rib eyes,
some turkey breasts,
thighs,
and legs.

these days

we share
the same thoughts.
the same
bed, the same cups
and dishes. my fork is yours.
that knife
we cut together.
the air
we breathe comes out
of you,
into me.
and yet, we go our
separate ways.
so hard to tell what
works,
what doesn't
these days.

showers

showers are likely.
just look at the sky.
see
the grey, the thickness,
the low white cottom.
but let's walk anyway
and talk.
we have words to say,
best said
outside.
under this low sky,
on this day.
when showers are likely.

Monday, March 20, 2017

old jeans

the button gone,
the zipper
won't zip. a rip
in the seam,
the pant leg
frayed at the cuff.
thread bare and thin.
it's time
to give in, to
surrender these
comfortable
old jeans.
how they've aged,
like us,
nicely from
the stiff blue
of where they began.

she is the sun

her gravity
is too strong to escape.
she is the sun.
she pulls
me in,
keeps me in her orbit.
just close
enough, just far
enough away.
I can barely move
with this
unseen weight.

going back to bed

a coin flipped
in the air,
a star
wished upon,
a penny thrown
into the well,
the rub
of a rabbit's foot.
the rosary,
bead after bead
with eyes closed,
a chant of some
ancient spell,
what else can
you do to change
the way this day
is going.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

the right words

the wrong wrench
won't turn a bolt,
or nut,
the screw won't budge
without
the right driver,
even wood needs
the right saw to cut
cleanly across the grain.
so are the words you use
with others,
useless,
until you speak
the right ones.

the muddled middle

the world
is not specific
in telling you things.
there is a vagueness
about
history,
tomorrows are fogged.
any clarity found
is a false notion of what
you want to
believe, what
you need to believe
to sleep at night,
to pretend all is well
and live
the role of a normal
life.
pain and joy
have become your touchstones,
the rest is a muddled
middle
of slow quick years.

from where she is

from where she is now,
I wonder if my mother's hand
misses
the curl
of her spatula,
the stiffness of a spoon
to stir,
the feel of an iron
running across
clean clothes. does she
dream
of stews, the sound
of a lid
settling on the pot,
of birthday
cakes, pressing candles
into the icing.
writing each name in script.
is she tucking
us into bed at night,
reading to us still,
folding our
hands together to show
us prayer, turning off
the light.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

a clean room

so much
depends upon
the broom.
what's left behind.
the dust,
the settling of words,
lost love,
good intentions
gone sour.
how quickly I need
to sweep
that room.

what we become

the soft clay of me,
and you,
unkilned,
unpainted or varnished
to a high
gloss.
we are barely spun
on the wheel,
crudely formed
under thick hands,
left to fend for ourselves
to see what
we become.
an image of God,
seems unlikely.

getting around

under stripes
of whitened hair
his eyes are thinly webbed
in a film
of blue.
he smells his way around,
from door edge
to wall, to where the stairs
do down.
nudging paw,
to shoulder.
he doesn't come when called.
parents
and dogs,
we are all heading
in the same direction.

we were younger then

the wobble
of table, a tilted drink,
watered down.
the broken
chair.
the slow service.
we've been here before
eating
cold fried food
and listening to
the loud
music
of a garage band.
but we were younger
then,
much younger,
not a single white
strand of wisdom
in our hair.

the light going out

when the light bulb
behind
you in the pole lamp
explodes for no apparent
reason, throwing
thin shards
of glass everywhere,
you stop reading.
the room is darker
than it was.
out the window a thin
ray of late
light sifts through
the bare trees.
you should pray more
you think,
for things you don't
understand,
for things that happen
for unknown reasons,
not just for the things
you think you need.

without them

how they disappear
into the fog. boarding
these ships, once
bright lights
now fading.
you can almost hear
their voices
behind the splash
and plow of water
against wood
and steel.
the wind in their
sails, catching,
taking them away
from you.
you wave to the blank
white page
of who they were.
stamp your feet on
the cold dock,
fold your hands into
your pockets and go
back to your own life
without them.

slow sand

it's hard to tell anyone
that this will pass.
that this moment of anguish,
this period of pain
will dissolve
and be almost forgotten.
it's hard
to say anything of comfort
when
they're in it.
knee deep in darkness,
sadness,
the pulling slow sand
of their life.

a stone to throw

I could spoil the day
by doing something other than
reading,
sleeping, eating,
writing.
i could go out there
into the damp cold
and remember things
as i walk
alone
through the woods
along the stream.
remembering comes easy
on days like
this, when walking, when
picking up a stick,
a stone to throw.

part of the reason

she takes
her shoes, her blouse, folds
it,
places
them into a small
suitcase.
a tag from united airlines
hangs old
on the handle.
she neatly sets her
jeans inside.
her
toothbrush,
her make up.
her jewelry, most of which
was given to
her by other men
than me.
and that's just part
of the reason
she needs
to leave.

Friday, March 17, 2017

waiting for morning

from nearby rooms you
hear
the sound
of others making love.
the hotel
walls
are thin, each
room
set the same with television,
chair
and bed.
the same shades are drawn,
the same picture
of a snow capped mountain
adorns one wall.
you lie there
and listen, and think
of places you
have been.
the places you want to go
to escape you.
in time the love making
stops,
as it will,
so you close your eyes
and wait for
morning.


missing

they are dragging
the lake,
the small lagoon, man
made,
for someone.
someone is missing.
we stand around with our
coffee,
smoking,
chattering in whispers
behind the yellow tape,
awaiting
a body,
cold and whitened
in shallow pool.
the men in their boats
stab
gently at the bottom,
pull heavy nets from side
to side,
over and over
again as the water turns
from morning black
to sunny blue.
they find nothing,
not a single hat, or glove,
or purse,
so we go our ways.
some of us have things
to do.

a world of plenty

neither full
or half full, or even
empty.
cupless is a whole
other thing to reason
with.
to be happy
without
is more than anyone
can ask for
in a world of plenty.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

sword fight

it was not exactly a
battle of
wits.
she seemed to be
completely unarmed,
which wasn't fair,
or fun.
so I said
nothing after the first
flurry
of barbs
and jabs. it's hard
to watch
someone bleed,
then make it worse,
by saying more
and doing more harm.

the chicken soup cure

every winter
you hear it. chicken noodle soup.
get yourself
some chicken
soup with noodles. hot
chicken soup.
that's the cure,
that will knock the cold
right out of you.
get an iv
and hook it up to a
chicken.
a hot boiled chicken
with carrots
and celery.
drink tea,
get some sleep.
stay home and rest.
a hot bath.
a cold compress.
but it's all about the chicken
soup.
I can see my mother now
carrying a bowl
to me
on the bottom bunk.
crackers on the side.
thermometer in hand.
open wide
she says
and let me put it under
your tongue.
yup.
you have a fever. eat
this chicken soup.

take a bite

it's a grocery
store
of love,
or like, or something
resembling
both, or neither, hard
to tell
in these flickering
fluorescent lights
what's real,
what's
fake,
what's soft and ripe.
take these tomatoes
for example,
or these peppers.
who's to know how
hot or juicy
they really are,
until a bite is taken.

running late

there is somewhere
that I need
to be.
a place where someone
waits.
where they look
at a clock
and out the window,
watching
for my arrival.
it's nice
to wanted and waited
for.
it hasn't always been
that way,
or will be
in the future,
but for now.
i'm on my way, just
running late,
as usual.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

her cheating heart

she cheats at cards,
at dice.
if you blink, she'll rob
you blind.
her hands are fast
and slight,
her mind
a supple whip of deception.
it's hard to know
what's bluff,
what's true.
by the end
of the night she'll
have all
the chips,
then me, then you.

going south

I see a bird
with a small over night bag
under his
wing.
hat on,
sunglasses.
sandals.
where to I ask him.
florida he says.
I can't take it anymore.
I nearly broke
my beak
on a worm the other
day.

the lining

spring
will come
and we will be done
with this.
the world
will melt
and the sun
will rise yellow
and bright.
but until then,
come closer
and
kiss me.
keep me warm,
as I will do you.
it's not all a
bad thing,
this winter
storm.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

restless leg

her leg
shakes in her sleep,
all night,
stirs
up the blanket,
the sheets.
if her
foot was in a tub
of milk
we'd have
butter by morning.

to their own world

these are different children.
one
off alone,
picking flowers.
others on the wheel,
three on swings,
the seesaw holding two.
how quickly that sun
goes down.
the sky
flowered in pink,
violet,
blue.
these are different
children now.
ours have grown,
have
gone to where they need
to be without me,
without you.

black and white

the wall, unsquared,
is dry
and old,
a single nail
holds a photo in place,
framed
in black.
it's me and you,
from years ago.
it's my favorite photo
of my favorite
year
with my favorite love
of my
life, it's time I
told you
before you're gone
for good.

Monday, March 13, 2017

repent

all morning
i listen to the radio station.
the religious
station,
where one after another,
all day,
a different preacher
comes on
to make me feel bad
about my life.
there is a sermon about
marriage,
about consumption,
about lust,
about materialism.
by four o'clock
i realize how much of a
sinner i am,
and how i need to repent,
be kinder.
to care about everyone,
not just the people
i'm unfortunately
related to, but also
to the annoying strangers
i meet on the street,
or who drive behind me
tailgating
in their cars.

will spray ink if broken

i left the store
with the thief protector
still
in tact, stuck
firmly on my pant leg
by some insidious
unseen way.
no bells rang,
no clerk chased me to my
car.
no security guard
tackled me
in the parking lot
with his snarling dog.
i raise a hammer
to the plastic disc,
but stop,
seeing the ink well
that will burst if
i break it in two.
i don't even remember
what store i bought
these pants at, or
where to bring them to,
to have
this thing removed.
maybe i'll just wear them
as is,
start a trend.
be cool.

the grey coat

this zipper
will not pull, neither up
nor down.
it's stuck
in place
around three inches
from my neck.
I will wear this coat
forever it seems.
warm in the winter,
sweating all
summer.
I will sleep in it.
wear it to the beach.
I will be known as
the man
in the coat.
the grey coat
with the stuck zipper.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

back to nature

three eggs are cracked
of the brown
dozen.
the lettuce is already
brown,
just ten minutes
from found to car,
to here.
the bread too, is stale.
hard
as toast.
I turn the apple
to the unwormed side
and bite
down.
I look out at my small
square of yard
and imagine
alfalfa, a chicken,
a tree with fruit,
a cow.

postcard from here

i'm pushed
into this corner.
a single chair.
a small window where a circle
of blue appears.
the black stripe of bird.
the silhouette of
a leaf.
I can see the seasons
change
from here,
as another year
passes,
pushed into a corner,
going nowhere,
that much is clear.

starvation

a loaf
of bread will keep
you alive
for awhile.
water.
a piece of fruit.
but
without love,
the light
will go
off and a cold wind
will
circle your
soul
for years
to come until you
fade
from where you lie,
skin and bones.

unsaved

it's
just one duck,
one feathered, billed
small
beast
in the woods
now stuck
by weeds.
he struggles to free
himself
in the cold
water.
the tangle holding
firm
as he pulls and pulls,
trying to
fly away.
his wings flap hard,
but he
goes nowhere.
he makes no sound
other than the splash
of him
trying to free
himself.
he's too far out
for you to go in.
there is no stick
long enough,
there is no saving him
or everyone, for
that matter.
you walk on
with some degree
of sadness,
confirmed by what you've
always known.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

let's go on a hike

let's go on a hike
today, she says, as I hide
behind
yesterdays news,
holding a newspaper
in front of my face.
let's climb a mountain,
it'll be fun.
the fresh air.
it's such a nice sunny
day,
brisk. a good day
for a hike up a mountain.
we haven't done something
like that in ages.
I rattle the paper.
did you see this story about
the rabid fox
who bit a lady on
the leg
and arm the other day.
she's having those shots
now.
a three week series
of long needles stuck in
her stomach.
where did it happen?
right along the path
in the woods leading up
the mountain.
oh, she says,
but not discouraged.
maybe we can wear thick
clothes and boots,
leather gloves.
we can get a pointy stick
to shoo them off if we're
attacked.
come on. we can stop and get
coffee on the way.

getting my attention

carelessly
I touch the burner
of the stove.
a blister rises
on two fingers.
I run cold water onto
them.
I wave them in the air
and say a few
words about
God.
it's strange how he knows
how to get
my attention.

the approaching fog

she forgot to turn
off the stove.
left her keys in the door.
misbuttoned her
blouse.
she was slipping slowly
into
a grey fog.
she asked
the same questions ten
minutes after
hearing the answers.
she asked
about the weather.
is it snowing there?
three miles away,
distancing herself
from this world
and you,
a little more each day.

vodka tonics

these birds outside the window.
busy
with their world.
chattering
amongst themselves.
they care little that I lie
inside
still in bed,
the cotton
of vodka
still in my mouth.
I feel the drum of my
heart
going up the vines
of me.
water, aspirin, a hot
shower
and a vow
to never again, drink more
than one
or two
strong drinks, upon
my lips.

get to it

splash
your paint upon the canvas,
do it not
for them, but for
you,
don't listen to applause,
or voices of
complaint,
spin
the yarn
and weave,
take a pen
to ink the words
within you.
chisel that block of
stone
into what you
believe is true.
sing, or dance, make
music,
make love.
leave nothing
behind, or left
inside.

Friday, March 10, 2017

if i go now

if I go now
I can beat the traffic.
i'm going
against traffic
anyways, but you never
know.
one flat tire, one
fender bender
one eager cop
with a radar gun
and it's a two hour
drive
not one.
if I get out of bed
and go
now, I can make it,
beat the traffic,
be on top
of things.
that would surprise
everyone.

the end is near

our islands
are shrinking. the places
we go to
to get away
are smaller each day.
ice bergs are half the size
they once were
as they break free
and float away.
the palm trees
are brown,
the fruit has fallen,
the sea washes up
whales that have
given up.
it's hard to find a book
to read
that you don't throw
across the room.
you click and click
the channels
finding little to ease
this feeling
of impending doom.

waiting on you

we are an impatient lot.
wanting
the line
to speed up.
the light to change,
for that man
pushing a stroller
to get across the road.
we
want love
on a platter,
quick service, money
too.
we want to know
the answers
now, without
reading, or thinking
things through.
we are an impatient lot,
I say out loud to no one,
as I sit in the car,
with the engine running,
waiting once
more for you.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

let's worry

tomorrow comes.
it goes. it becomes a memory.
so much worry
was put into it,
and for what?
it's already done
and gone.
let's concentrate now
on the next day, the next
tomorrow.
let's toss and turn,
pull our hair out over
that,
see where it gets us.

the pounds

it's an inch
here, a pound there.
a walk
around the block,
a five k run
that keeps you from being
who you want to be.
one more sit up,
one more pull up,
one more day without
bread
or milk,
or meat.
perhaps then i'll
be liked
and loved
and will live happily ever
after, be free
of what's become of me.

i'm sorry

stale
bread, milk gone
sour.
a line
of ants marching
from the sugar bowl.
things
have fallen apart
since she
departed.
she even took her
cook book
and crock pot,
not to mention,
the cork screw
and directions to
turning on
the oven.
I should call her
and say
i'm sorry.

the green holiday

a drunk
in a green hat
with what looks like the fillings
of loaded
potato skins splashed
on his shirt
is sleeping on the steps
of your porch.
he's lost.
his hand
is stamped with a shamrock
from
wherever he was
last night.
there is green drizzle
on his lips,
and chin.
he opens his eyes as you
spray him
with the garden hose.
this awakens him.
he opens his mouth
to accept the spray of cold
water,
then sings some irish
song
as he gathers himself
to stand up,
and stagger off.

the container

it's a hard lid
to get off.
factory sealed with a tough
thin ridge
of plastic
that won't spin
or bend or
break.
you try to open
it with your bare
hands at first,
spinning left
then right,
but you don't have that
kind of inhuman strength.
you get a knife.
a pair of pliers.
a wrench out of your car.
you run
hot water over it,
then cold,
you bang it against
the counter.
tap a hammer along
the circumference.
it doesn't budge.
you call your mother, who
comes over
and peels a thin
strip off
along the side of the container,
she opens it
with her dainty fingers.
there, she says.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

twitter

i'm worried about you, she says.
watching
me as I scramble an egg
into a bowl.
why?
I say, dropping a pad
of irish butter into
the black
frying pan.
why are you worried about
me?
because you don't worry
enough.
you don't even follow twitter.
did you even see
what he tweeted today?
nope, what?
you stand here making eggs
in your socks
while
the world is crumbling
out side.
I look out the window.
is today trash day, by the way?

the inbetween

we are born into
this world against our will,
and will
mostly like
leave
in the same way.
the in between seems to be
up to us,
but even that is unsure
when you throw in fate,
and prayer,
luck.

love

not everything is for keeps.
not this
coat,
or hat,
this car outside my door.
the book I just put down.
not even the tree
bending in the wind
in the yard.
there is no keeps.
except for one,
which goes
beyond this life into
the next.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

the mother and child

the mother,
spoon feeds her child.
what is that.
carrot mush?
squash?
she can't take her eyes
of this new
baby,
fresh out of the oven.
she brushes the baby's
thin hair.
pushes a blanket in
around her.
the baby can't
take her eyes of
the mother.
they are as blue as the earth
is when
standing on
the moon.
it begins,
and goes on like this
forever.

the check up

my doctor,
my lover, takes my pulse
after
kissing me.
she says, I see no increase
in
heart beat,
no rapid breathing.
are you losing interest,
she says.
telling me to stick
out my tongue.
she raps my knee with
a wine
glass, making my leg
lurch forward.
your reflexes are fine,
she says.
i'm just worried about
your heart.

driving in pg county

by law
in Maryland, there is a stretch
of highway
between
the Wilson bridge
and college park
where you are not allowed
to stay in
one lane for more than
thirty seconds.
you are obligated to switch
lanes continuously
until you reach your exit
or crash. by state law,
you are not permitted to use
a turn signal once.
tail gaiting
is mandatory too, as is
doing seventy five
or beyond
in the fifty five zone.
suv's with blackened windows
are allowed to flash
their lights
and bully
everyone smaller to the side,
coming to within inches
of hitting
the bumper of the cars
in front of them.
please drive accordingly
once
in p.g. county.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

my well patients

when I became a doctor,
I didn't know what I was getting into
with all of these
sick and whining people.
calling me night and day
for a prescription.
they sit in the waiting room,
nervously drinking coffee,
itching at their arms
or the sides of their neck.
some are limping,
some are worried about getting
a shot,
or having to be probed
for a lump
somewhere.
my daddy had a lump just like
that, they say.
I like my well patients.
the happy ones, with nothing
wrong. with good jobs,
and good insurance. I like
how they come in
and bring me donuts
and we chat about a vacation
as I check their perfect
blood pressure
once again.