Monday, August 31, 2009

Ava

She waits patiently for her
husband to arrive home from work.
You can see her in the cellar window,

in the kitchen baking cookies.
A pot roast simmers in the oven
with onions and potatoes, carrots,

so hard to find with a war going on.
But soon he will be home, she'll hear
his boots upon the floor, and she will

put on some blush, his favorite dress,
some lipstick and perfume.
She will pour the wine brought home

from Paris, so many crates to choose
from. And together with a group
of dear friends they will eat and toast,

celebrate another day alive. But her
husband will be tired. Ending the world
and the extermination of millions

is exhausting. There are only so many
hours in a day. But they will sing
and laugh loudly together, trying hard

not to be drowned out by the bombs
that shake the bunker and drop
dust into their plates.

Worry

Clean windows,
the smell of vinegar
on the bright wipe of glass.

A ten o'clock sun
swims in. You drink
your coffee, take a bite

of your lemon scone. You
listen to a plane in flight.
The bills are paid.

The phone doesn't ring.
A white plate of hours,
ticks, hangs on the wall

like a year of holidays.
You stretch like a cat,
yawn and blink your eyes.

You begin to worry.

Tap Dancing

She had three dogs
and seven cats
and lived on an island
across an ocean of land.
In the morning
she would rise
and put on her shiny shoes,
then tap dance for an
hour in front of the mirror.
The dogs and cats
would gather around
and watch her feet,
following each motion
of the clicking heels,
back and forth,
listening anxiously for
the noise to stop,
because then it was time
to eat.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Snow

The morning is pale,
full of January
and thin light, like
linen on a line
to dry, that won't.
These sheets too,
where you lie
asleep, they shine
like new snow upon
the unplowed roads
of a new year,
where we as one
are yet to go,
and most likely won't.
But it's fine for now.
We can stay inside
for this moment,
linger in the silence
of what love was,
and call it forever.

Babies

These pink babies keep coming,
One after another, it never ends,

which is a good thing. Despite
all the bad news of each

and every day, death, disease
and despair, nothing stops the birth

of more children. For things will change,
the wars will end, hunger will be a myth,

the blind will see. These babies,
these precious pink infants,

they assure us of tomorrow,
that the world will right itself.

Yes, let there be more babies.
Let them sail like untethered

balloons into the air, while we point
at them, aloft in the bright blue sky

of tomorrow, embracing the hope
of them, the radiance they give off

with no thoughts of their own.
The babies will save us.

What She Says

A man takes his work seriously
as he attends to the task

of making money. He believes
it is the right thing to do. To feed

his family, to keep thing going.
And what about love, she says

as he comes home from work
with the dust of the day

settled in his hair, the ache
of tomorrow already in his shoulders.

What about love? But he doesn't
answer, instead he unfolds

his calloused hands, bruised and cut,
to show her what he thinks love is.

The Cleaning Lady

I suspect that my cleaning lady, Inga,
stole fifty dollars from me last thursday.
I know for a fact that it was fifty.
I remember counting the money.
Two twenties and a ten, folded neatly
beneath a self help book I bought the other
night. Ten Love Positions for
the Inflexible. I remember putting
the money right there. At first I thought
that maybe I'd spent it, or that
she thought it was her pay, or a tip
despite the check I left on the kitchen
table. Maybe one of her friends, the nanny
across the street helped herself to the cash.
She shook her head no though when
I asked her about it. No she said sweetly,
I don't know anything about the money.
She was sipping some green tea that she
likes to drink and adjusting the buttons
on her new white blouse. I almost believed her.
She's from Norway and has long blonde
hair with pale blue eyes like ice.
I've never heard of a crime being committed
over there. It's not alot really, the money
amounts to a dinner out, a few beers,
a taxi ride to the aiport, plus tip.
And besides that, the house is always clean.
It's spotless when she leaves, very clean.
Even the plants are watered.
I don't want to lose her.

Sparrows

Close birds,
twitching brown
puffs of beaked life,
they inch forward
on nervous yellow claws.
The urgency in their
bean black eyes is real.
They want the bread,
the crumbs, the contents
of the paper bag from
which I eat.
They have wordlessly
spread the word
and many of them come,
flying in on wings
that flicker madly
in the sun.
Is there anything
in this life I want
as much
as these birds do?

Sunday Chat

I listened on the phone
while my mother wandered
through the conversation
like an axe murderer out on
a sunday stroll. The axe swinging
at her side, dripping from the blood
of previous calls. The heavy
lifting was done earlier
by my sisters. I was there for
the final chat of the day. She
had a lot on her mind. The lack
of affection and generosity
of her husband, children
who didn't visit enough, me,
animals, specifically the mangy dogs
that barked all night long
next door People not of her ilk.
There seemed to be alot
bothering her at this stage of life,
at this age of eighty. I listened.
I got up and made popcorn, fixed
a ginger ale with ice, I sat down and
listened some more. It was early.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Writer's Block

I break ice joyfully with a sledge
hammer, borrowed from my neighbor
who watches in his red pajamas
from his front door across the street.
The ice, the result of sleet and snow
and minus zero temperatures
is thick like concrete. The hammer
bounces against the hardened surface
and nearly kills me in the rebound.
I see the neighbor laugh and call
his wife over to watch this crazy
man, this fool with a sledgehammer bang
against the ice trying to clear the way.
But I don't let them bother me.
I find pleasure in the swing, the strike,
the tiny spray of broken ice sparkling
in the heatless sun. The progress
I am making is small, I admit that,
but I have all day. All winter
to see what I can do about this ice.

Gone

If I fall and begin to roll,
like a wheel or a ball
down the hard street,
don't fear, or fret, it's me
doing what I do best
when things don't turn
out the way I planned.
I'll be a glimmer of light
on the horizon,
going, going, gone.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Love Poem

My friend Carmel asks me
to write a love poem, not about
her, but about love in general.
You don't write any love
poems, she says, you skirt
around the issue. So I try.
I write a few lines, sit back
and read them, reread them,
then ball up the paper and toss it
across the room towards
the trash can, I try again
with the same result.
The paper striking the can
wakes up my dog who is curled
on three pillows near my chair.
He lifts his head, blinks at me,
then closes his eyes again. I love
that dog despite myself, despite him.
But the subject of love
is tough, maybe it can't be done
without sounding like every greeting
card catching dust in the drugstore.
I think about all the women
that I've professed love to, not that
many, really, and they in return to me,
even less, and I wonder if it was the real
thing. Maybe it was lust, infatuation,
the curve of her when she bent
over to water the plants, or the way she
put on lipstick before going out that night
to get dinner and to see a movie.
I'd like to think that at this age
I've got a handle on what love is,
or is supposed to be, but no.
I think though, that it might
have something to do with the
cold fear of losing someone.
Maybe. That might be it.
But one thing is certain, I don't stop
wanting it, or looking for it, or
accepting it when it appears amazingly
on my doorstep. I don't know,
I'll try again later with this love poem
idea. Maybe I need a cocktail to get
it started in the right direction,
I'm sorry Carmel, but this
will have to do for now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

1968

End over end they flew in the cool
plum darkness of early morning.
Tightly knit batons of yesterday' s
news, vietnam, the body count, politics,
whichever way the wind was blowing.
My raw hands were stained with the soft
black ink of the Washington Post and of a war
I cared little about, only that it would be
over before it was my turn. Just the
Yankees mattered, Mantle's hits. It was
before Bobby Kennedy walked into that
hotel kitchen, before King stepped onto
the baclony, before the Chicago Seven,
before the riots burned red throughout
the city laying a cold black ash upon it all.
It was before the moon landing, woodstock,
before my father left my mother and seven
kids with a single suitcase in his hand.
Each morning I carried the diminished weight
of my route in the rain in snow, down
the unplowed streets and alleys, around
the chain link fences that separated dirt
yards of my neighborhood. Throughout
it all my voice still echoed in song those
cold quiet mornings, high pitched, wavering,
singing the temptations, marvin gaye,
little anthony and the imperials. james brown.
I howled at the moon, still untouched,
a world still possibly mine.

Shadows

There are shadows
on my face. My hair
announces my years,
my arrival into this new
place. My voice the folding
of an aged tongue
pushes out sound
from lungs that sigh
instead of sing. I admit,
like an answer hard
to swallow, that I have
less of me now, less
than I had last year, or
the year before. Each step
confirms my new world,
which isn't new at all, but full
of footstep from those
that went before me. My hands
keep reaching back,
not for balance, but to hold
onto the me that slips away,
that still remembers the shine
of your smile, the curve
of your breast, the blood
of your hand held up to light,
my light, when we were new.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Age

I buy too many clothes,
she said, and sipped her
drink, finding a variation
of her face
in the reflection of the cold
pond of vodka and ice.
Too many shoes. I love shoes.
I kiss too many men.
I don't sleep with them,
mind you, but kiss, just kiss.
Men love the promise
of a good kiss.
She smiled at me and let
the bartender lean over
and light her cigarette.
She crossed her legs
letting her skirt fall
slightly open and around
her thighs. I'm into yoga
now, she said and smiled
while exhaling a cloud
of smoke towards the ceiling
so as not to be rude.
I've added leafy greens
to my diet, more fiber too.
Yes, I feel good, connected
when I do yoga. She pointed
to where she thought her heart
might be. She nodded.
Sometimes I light a candle,
vanilla scented, and sit
in a lotus postion. I empty
my mind and stare at the candle
for minutes on end. She sighed.
I don't feel my age anymore.
Look at me, do I look my age?
How old do you think I am?
She put on more lipstick, then
looked at her watch.
There was still time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Doctor's Wife

The doctor's wife is in white.
She works in the office. She is
the office. Her lips glow with
red, her cheeks blossom. She
smells new. Her abs are tight,
and her smile could kill a baby
seal She signs the checks, she
hires the help. She demands
perfection and keeps her head
up, her wits about her. No one
gets in without her approval.
The receptionist and assistants
are weary, and older, heavy,
and uninterested in everything
but going home and lunch.
The wife has selected them
with a keen eye. Her world
is safe. Her world is good.
She bounces around the office
like a happy song, like cotton
candy, like the Disney girl she was.
The doctor will be with you
in a moment. Please have a seat.

I'm Busy

Cutting coupons at the kitchen
table, eating cheese and crackers.
A fat cigar churns smoke into
the overhead light, more yellow,
less white. I hear the fridge
cranking hard, breathing, inching
out ice. It's stingy with that ice.
I could use a drink, but it's only tuesday.
I take tuesdays off. It's a rule,
one of the few rules I have.
Well, there is the rule
about never getting married again,
and about never saying 'I love you'
to someone I'm sleeping with.
The other rules are posted on
the white magnetic board
in the kitchen, but it's too far
away for me to read. My eyes
are shot from doing these crossword
puzzles. The phone keeps ringing.
It doesn't pay to answer
the phone anymore, so I let it ring.
It's someone trying to sell you
something that you already have, or
dont' want. No one interesting
seems to call, they all want to e-mail
or text now, anyway. What the hell.
My phone is magical though, it takes
pictures. When my keys bump
up against it I take pictures of the
inside of my pants pocket.
It also takes videos, it's a typewriter
and a computer, and it tells me
when it's time to take my meds.
It's beeping this very second.

Hope

I love
the crescent
moon
at midnight,
and the sun,
impossibly
bright
against a new
sky
in the morning.
They both
give me
a hope
that I don't
quite
understand,
but welcome.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Date

I don't know any Chinese people,
I hear her say as she cuts into her
Peking duck, layering it onto
a pancake with spring onions
and plum sauce. I don't know
one single Chinese person, not one,
she says again, shaking her head,
and there are so many of them.
Her cheeks are full of duck
as she works with chopsticks
against her plate. I drink deeply
from my Mai Tai avoiding
the umbrella and the extra long
toothpick holding an assortment
of cut fruit. I try not
to put my eye out.
I don't know what to say about
her admission, and feel that it's
in my best interest to stay quiet.
She smiles and takes another bite.
She's enjoying the duck, the rice,
the pu pu platter. I tell her
that she has plum sauce, like blood,
running down her chin.
Politely, she dabs at it with her
linen napkin and winks at me.
It's going to be a long night.

In Times of Need

You imagine money,
enormous bundles of green,
more than you will ever need.
Suddenly it's in every drawer,

in every pocket.
There is money in the toilet,
in the oven, in the ice-box.
It is piled up in the yard

like leaves. You take your wife
and hold her in your arms.
You squeeze her with joy
and money comes out of her mouth.

Neighbors press their faces
against your windows.
The phone gets hot in your hand.
The doorbell plays on.

Lost relatives parachute in
from nowhere. They drop
from the sky with smiles
on their faces, fruitcakes clutched

in their trembling hands.
The sick rise and come forward.
Even the mailman winks and grins
as he delivers word from afar.

You imagine burning money.

The Seasons Left

Without leaves,
the trees seem out of sort.
Not aged, but concerned,
very concerned.
I think this way
about my father.
How most of his leaves
have fallen and they won't
be coming back.
There are no more springs
within him. Just winter
and autumn to reckon with
and stay warm.

Two A.M.

Sleep is what I crave now.
Not food, or drink, or fame,

not a new car, or a new suit,
or a woman who loves me. No,

give me sleep. Eight solid
hours beneath the sheets

and blanket. My head upon
the feather pillow. If it's raining,

or even snowing, all the better.
Toss in some wind and lightning

and I'm asleep like a hound dog
after the hunt. The job is a memory

the ex wife, the kids, the lawn
that needs mowing.

All of it and them can wait.
I'm in my zone. Sweet sleep

take me into your arms
and let the curtain fall.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Farewell

Last words, a final sigh,
the closing of a book,

the kiss that precedes
waving, the bright

cloud of dust in sunlight,
and exhaust as the car

pulls over hill,
and hill. The red flare

of tail lights fading
into darkness, to a place

where we believe
in error that love will grow

stronger with distance,
and not diminish.

In Snow

Edging north in snow,
knee deep. I see
the ragged line of bare
trees on the horizon.
The sun melts before me,
turning the unbroken
sheet of white into pinks
over blue. The sky is quiet.
Even the blackbirds are still.
The woods seem to listen
to each step, the crunch,
the deep push of boot
into hardening snow.
I want love to be the reason
why I come, but it's not.
You'd laugh at that notion.
I bend in your direction
like the wind bends the empty
branches. I see the faint
smoke from your chimney,
white against a closing sky.
I'm out of breath, exhausted
with my thoughts ,but there
is still a long way to go.
I feel the cold getting in
where i'm warm, the warm
leaking out. I press on,
another step towards you.
It's not over.

New Mail

The sealed envelope lies
on the table. A coffee cup

rests on the thin white paper.
Long and neat, crisp

for the most part, excluding
the brown ringed stains,

but almost the way it was
when it came through the slot,

dropping to the floor
with other mail, making

the dog bark.
I see your handwriting

on the front, how hard
you wrote. I see the stamp

you pressed to the right hand
corner with your thumb.

It looks so official,
although i can almost smell

your perfume on the paper, or
so I imagine. I don't open it.

I like to keep things the way
they are. Waiting for more mail

from you. Anticipating
good things. I like to be

optimistic about love
despite the cold hard truth.

Down Goes Fluffy

She comes to me
in tears,
wearing a pink
nightgown.
I notice the night
gown first,
the tears second.
I want her to stop
crying.
Those tears
might ruin everything,
or at least
everything my eyes
are telling me
could happen.
But she's crying,
sobbing, weeping.
This seems to be
a beginning
with no foreseeable end.
She is lost in grief.
It's a storm
sweeping onto shore.
What? I ask.
What's happened?
She tells me
that her mother's cat
has died.
Fluffy has passed away
at the age
of twenty-one.
Christ, I whisper.
What?
She wipes her eyes
with her pale thin hands,
then rubs
the heel of each
into her eye sockets.
I put my hand on her thigh.
To comfort her.
Her skin is like silk.
I can smell a sweet cloud
of perfume rising
from the curves
of her body.
She was up to something
until her mother called
with this news
about the cat.
I notice the heels,
the nylons that compliment
the pink negligee.
Fluffy, she sobs,
and trembles.
Fluffy is gone.
I shake my head.
Where will you possibly
get another cat,
I want to say, but don't.
It might ruin things
for a very long time.
Instead, I tell her
to lean her head
against my shoulder.
Like that,
right there.
Shhh, shhh.
It's going to be okay.
I tell her.
Everything will be just fine.
Poor Buffy.
No, she says. Fluffy.
Right, I say.
Fluffy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Orbit

It's the moon's problem,
her jealousy of stars, her flat

and immobile self stuck
to pull the oceans to and fro.

So much more out there and yet
she has to circle, she has to be

white on one side and dark
on the other. It's the way it is.

All those twinkling fires,
like grown children,

seemingly at arm's reach,
but light years away.

Around and around,
like a worn marriage,

unable to pack a box,
or buy a train ticket,

or dye her hair red, or blonde
and leave with bag in hand,

to fly off like a comet
streaking anywhere, but here.

The School Yard at St. Thomas More's

If we have not
passed on by then,
we will suddenly

be old
on the same day,
but in separate rooms,

with unknown miles
between us.
All that will happen

in our lives
will have transpired
apart, except

for the moment
when our lips touched
briefly.

The low fire
of time
will then at last

lift our souls
into the air like ash
on summer wind,

forever strangers,
but with our hands
still laced

in the remembrance
of a schoolyard kiss
beneath

the desperate blueness
of an open
sky.

Nature

She doesn't like the beach,
or the sun, or a long stroll
along the boardwalk.
Nature, she says
dismissively with a roll
of her beautiful brown eyes,
fuck it, then puts on her
sunglasses. The ocean is filthy,
she informs me.
She points out the window,
her blood red nails
catching sunlight.
We're on the tenth floor
of the Sheraton.
Look at it. I walk over
and take a look.
It looks like mud,
a thin green soup
with white arms and legs
thrashing madly about.
The tops of shoulders
and bald heads are crimson.
In the distance
there is the grey sail of a boat
plowing through even darker water.
It seems to be going nowhere.
How do they go in there,
she says. And what's lurking
on the bottom?
Nothing good I tell you.
Not one fucking thing good.
I'm not going out there.
Her hands go back to her hips.
They all look burned and sad,
why do they take off their clothes
and lie there like that?
I shrug and ask her
if she'd like another cocktail.
I'm making a fresh batch
of very dry martinis.
I pop a fat green olive
into my mouth, then shake
the cold silver canister.
The ice rattles within.
Sure, she says, why not,
then repeats,
I'm not going out there.
I pour the drinks into two
chilled glasses.
I chew the olive.
Nature, she says, pffft.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wrong Number

The phone rings at three a.m. .
I let it go five, six, seven times,
then pick it up on eight.

It's the wrong number, again.
Someone wants Sylvia,
they want her to come to the phone

right now.
Every night it's the same thing.
I tell them she's in the shower,

she's on the toilet,
she's taking a goddamn cake
out of the oven,

she's crocheting me a sweater.
I yell out her name
in the hollow darkness

of my apartment, Sylvia, O Sylvia.
But she's always busy
when they call,

I make sure of that.
She's making a good home here
for the both of us.

I want them to know that.
It seems important,
takes the edge off.

In a Cool Room

Here I lie, twisted in my bed,
surgically cut from here to there,
belly up in the lather of shaved ice,
behind the slant of clean glass,

cheek limp where the hook went in,
jelled eyes, a stiffened spine,
I can still remember the ocean,
the wind of water in my fins,

the easy bend of body
through warm, then cold shadows,
a turquoise wash of light
upon my luminous scales.

I was perfect in form and color,
in purpose, and now as they come
in white schools to point at me,
to check their lists, I imagine

a black numbered sign
staked near my head,
marking me up or down
dollar per precious pound.

Shelf Life

My mother, God bless her soul,
lives across the bridge, unmoved.

There is nowhere else she wants
to be. There is the sofa, the phone,

the television. A simple garden.
She has never seen the pyramids,

the eiffel tower, or the empire state
building, although she once

had a friend who knew a woman
who leaped to her death

from that great height.
She has never flown on an airplane,

or sailed on an ocean liner.
She has never taken a vacation

in the moutains, or driven
to the eastern shore, but ask her

where the canned tomatoes are
at the safeway, or the black olives

large and pitted, and she will close
her eyes and tell you the row,

the aisle, the position on the shelf
where they rest in shiny wonder.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Chair

You enter the room
and find a chair.
It is not the one you

would have chosen
had the room been empty.
It may not even be

the most comfortable chair,
but it is the closest one,
the one available,

and so you sit.
The chair becomes yours
before the day is over.

It is the one you pick
when you return again,
then again.

As time goes on
it is where others
expect to find you.

It is the place
that will be empty
when you die.

Fixing Things

She says let's talk,
then clears the kitchen table
of unopened mail, coffee cups,
newspapers, a vase
of dead flowers.

She pulls out a chair
and sits. I prefer to stand,
take my medicine that way,
hang in the door with a cigarette,

and a good morning Bloody Mary.
I know what's coming,
yet still feel my pulse increase,
the pressure rise.

Sweat grows beneath my arms.
I suddenly see that the stove
needs cleaning, pots have spilled
over, the floor needs a wash,

a wax. Strips of wallpaper
have come loose at the edges
and need paste. The ceiling
needs a fresh coat of paint,

yellowed and chipped
from nicotine, bacon grease
and age. I can see myself
fixing all of this some Saturday,

not this one, but one real soon.
She becomes polite
when she's angry.
The nicest person I've ever met.

Her words are even, quiet,
full of firm resolution.
She's measuring each word
to tell me something of great

importance,
something that will affect the both
of us for a very long time.
I wait my turn,

sipping my drink.
I have the patience of Job.
I see water
from the kitchen spigot

drip in great slow drops
into the chrome drain
full of dishes. I know if given
the time, just half a chance,

that I can fix that too.

Visiting Day

And the old ones
weary, near blind,
sit still
within their bones
for the sad dance
of visitors
in bright faces
and happy shoes,
They lean sideways
listening to the high
pitched voices
of the young
whose wings beat
furiously,
like small birds
within a well,
desperate for flight.
After eighty odd years
it has come to this,
kisses without passion,
bladders without
function, whispers
folded over into secrets,
like notes passed
hand to hand.
The strange familiar
faces that smile hello
and yet beg farewell.

Trees

I tell you that
I know nothing
about trees,
and have no desire
to learn anymore
than what I see,
from green to gold,
to bare, then back again,
and because of this,
our love won't last
a season.