Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Wrong Turn

Mistakes were made
along the way,
I'll give you that.
There should have
been more love given,
more time spent,
quality time as they
like to say. But I was
empty, dry, going
through my own
personal desert in
the sun. I couldn't
carry the both of us
and hold the map. It's
easy to see now,
just as the skeletons
are easy to see on
the side of the road,
the bleached bones,
full of hot dusty light,
the empty canteens
beside them. Cactus
and lizards on the left.
on the right. One wrong
turn can do this.

Into the Wild

I remember the first six
years of college, community
college, with hair down my
back, rail thin, tight jeans
and flannel shirts. Not a care,
no ride, not one idea
of what to do next, where
to begin, or go, or how to
make a living. Asleep at
the wheel, inhaling
silly smoke on a regular
basis, drinking red
wine out of bottles, dissecting
Bob Dylan and the beauty
down the street, Melissa,
and her sister, Eve.
Nobody had a tatoo unless
they'd been in jail or in the
navy, no one was pierced
with metal through their
nose or tongue or eyebrows.
We were adrift on a sea
of apathy. The war was
ending, Nixon was waving
farewell from the white house
lawn. We were all treading
water, waiting for wind
to catch our sails, take us
somewhere, anywhere,
but our own backyards. If I'd
ever heard one word of advice
from either parent, I don't
remember. Their silence,
and absence is haunting still.
We were alone, raised by
wolves, set loose into the wild.

New Car

I feel so good in my new car.
It's german or maybe japanese.
I don't know, I don't even care,
but I love the smell of it,
the bright clean whiff of vinyl
and plastic, the thin sheets
of metal wrapped so tight
and sexy around the frame,
those thick black tires grabbing
the road like tiger's claws.
It's so slick. Like me. So shiny
and fast, so cutting edge.
I've got six on the floor, a V six
under the hood. I could drive
around all day in a car like this,
the top up, the top down,
maybe a cigarette in my hand,
but I don't smoke, so maybe
a pen in case I need to jot down
a new poem, or an important
note. I could have a friend ride
with me, a big buxom blonde
perhaps, or a skinny brunette
with big dark sunglasses and
a kerchief on her head like a
movie star. I've got an eight
changer cd, with nine speakers,
I've got navigation, GPS,
leather seats that warm my
rear end at the touch of a button.
I've got a no hands phone. I've
got control of the AC, front
and back at my fingertips. I'm an
astronaut in this car. This car is
making me woozy, making me
happy, making the people who
see it happy. I think I'll put my
coffee cup into the cup holder.
Oh yeah. That's what I'm talking
about. Be jealous, go ahead.
Maybe I'll take you for a ride,
if you're lucky. Wipe your feet
before you get in. Buckle up, and
hold on, the light's about to change.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Things I've Lost

Several watches, gifts,
keys, luggage on the plane,
books lent and never
returned, lost time, mail.
Lost sleep, lost loves, some
disguised as lovers.
I've misplaced a ring, I lost
my swim trunks in
the ocean once, my phone,
I've left coffee on top of
the car, my dog in the woods.
I've lost money, hundred
dollar bills right out of my
pocket. Change down
a sewer, phone numbers,
names on napkins, matchbooks.
I've lost my mind on several
occasions, my memory. My
virginity a few times too. I lost
twenty pounds over a heart-
break, thirty over a death. I've
lost my hair, a few teeth, a toe
nail or two, cartilage in my
knees. I've lost the ability
to shake and shimmy while
doing the twist, the swim, or
the mashed potato, but that
could come back. I've lost
my patience, my sense of
direction, my temper, my
voice. A friend or two along
the way, but through it all,
at least so far, I haven't lost
you, or have I.

Jesus

Your Jesus might be different
than mine. Mine does not
have a guitar or drums, or sing
loudly in the church with a
microphone, or rants and raves
and dances with frenetic limbs
flying about. He isn't wearing
a hat or a robe lined in gold,
or a shiny suit, or driving a
Cadillac. He doesn't have his
own television show with station
breaks and a tote board counting
the dough. He isn't promising
blessings with one more offering
from the deepest realms
of your pocket. He isn't telling
you that your farm will have more
crops if you would just send in
that check. He isn't shouting
fear from the pulpit, or wriggling
on the floor, out of control, with
his eyes rolled into the back
of his head. He isn't making you
kneel, then sit, then stand, then
kneel again over and over.
He doesn't believe you evolved
from a monkey or a pool
of embryonic goo struck
by lightning. He isn't dope
slapping anyone on the forehead,
or calling them out, or condemming
the sinner. He isn't saying the same
prayer day after day, year after year
without a thought. You won't find
a sacred image of him in the clouds
or in your morning pancakes, yes,
your Jesus might be different than
mine, but that's okay, there's room
for all of us, or so I hope.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Eclipse

Suddenly
the moon
takes away
the sun
and brings
darkness
to the afternoon,
it sends birds
into the trees
and sets
the unknowing
running
to the caves,
but within
moments,
the world is safe
again, and there
is light,
and you realize
that what you
thought of
as doom,
as some tragic
end
is just a passing
dark moment
in your life.

Celestial Heavens

The black sky is raining
with meteors. At the age
of twelve we lie upon

the picnic table and point
them out, we name
the heavens, the stars,

the figures from mythology,
the lights that might be planets.
We know enough to think

we know, but there is so
much more. The night
is fathomless, as deep

and mysterious as we think
the love we have for one
another is. We want this to be

now and forever more,
unchanged. But our mothers
will call us in, the air will grow

cold, the wet grass will touch
our feet and we will move on,
and away. We haven't learned

that childhood is not a safe place
for love, nor perhaps is any age.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's Not About You

It's three a.m.
and I can't sleep.
But it's not about you.
I find another pillow,
readjust my postion,
flip it over to the cool
side. I open a window,
turn on the light.
I pick up my half read
book on the history
of the New York City
subway system. I read
three more pages,
then get up and go
downstairs, turning on
lights as I go. The dog
wakes up too and follows
me down, yawning,
stretching, wagging
his tail. I check all
the doors in the house
to make sure they are
locked, then turn the light
on in the kitchen. I open
up the trash can to see
what the smell is. I
open the fridge, take
a bite of yesterday's
pizza and grab a beer.
I give the dog some crust,
then got to the couch,
locate the remote and find
a movie on tv. North by
Northwest. I flip around
the channels, steak knives
being sharpened, plasma
tv's on sale, how to be
a truck driver or a chef
in thirty days. John Wayne
killing Indians. I go back
to the Hitchcock movie
and think bad thoughts
about Eva Marie Saint.
The beer makes me sleepy
so we go back upstairs, me
and the dog. I climb
back into bed, the dog
puts his head on my chest.
He's staring at me, wanting
the light off, but I'm still
wide awake. I see a lot
of dust on the fan blades
as they slowly spin at
the ceiling, so I turn off
the light. It's four fifteen.
I think about calling you, or
e-mailing you, or texting you,
to tell you that I love you,
but I don't. I still can't sleep,
but really, it's not about you.

in passing

in the night
she falls
away,
disappears
as if
she was never
here,
but there
are small
clues left behind,
a broken heel,
a ring,
shampoo,
a scribbled note,
that says
no more,
and a trail
of brown eyed
tears.

Salmon

Let me tell you about salmon.
They all want to cook you salmon.

It's easy, it's cheap, it's a way out.
When what I really want is steak.

Or a roasted chicken for God's sake.
Or even pasta with a meat sauce.

I need some onions, potatoes,
a salad and bread. It's that easy.

A bottle of wine. Skip the dessert.
I feel like a bear straddling a stream

grabbing a fat, thrashing pink
fleshed salmon with my extended

claws. Atlantic salmon, farm raised
and colored, Cherry salmon, sockeye,

chinook, smoked salmon, Alaskan,
poached, grilled, wild and free salmon,

these fish are everywhere.
One after another with no end in sight.

Swimming crazily upstream. Enough
with the salmon. Please. Throw on some

red meat, singe the air with the smell
of steak. I'm growing gills, fins, the scales

are falling off in handfuls. Or how about
pizza, that'll work too.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Breakup

I bought a pound
of ground beef on sale
the other day, angus
mind you, eighty per
cent lean.
It was slashed half off.
I just might die from it.
Despite the seasoning,
the hot peppers, the sauce,
the lettuce and tomato,
the white onion,
the slice of sharp cheddar
cheese, melted, and grilling
the hell out of it. It was bad.
Tainted. But I ate it
just the same. I chewed
it. I swallowed it. I let
it all go down. Every bite.
And now I'm sick and on
the couch with a pink
bottle of pepto gripped
in my trembling hand. I'm
sweating. And this brings
me to you. I can't see you
anymore. This relationship
is just not working out.
I'm sorry, but it's over.

Catch and Release

Another one slips
into the dark sea.

Down she goes.
Her golden scales

aglow against a
a blue moon.

Right out of my
hands with hardly

a splash. It wasn't
love, but affection

dulled by a hundred
others caught

on a silver hook.
This water, these fish,

numb me to the bone.
My arms and heart

are weary
from the catch.

I have to row
to shore, and away,

seek dry and high
land to gather

my senses,
to be made whole

and sane again
towards love and what

the ocean in mystery
holds.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The New Vampires

The new vampires
are everywhere
you turn, you see them
on cable tv, in movies,
magazines, a slew of books,
and they seem so civilized
and normal, not like
the dracula of old with his
silly accent and cape,
a cheap tuxedo, his powdered
face and false fangs.
The new vampires, the men
and women, are so well
groomed, beautiful and sexy,
apparently the new breed
watches their weight
and work out, not an ounce
of fat on any of them, they're
not just like us, but better,
and except for the blood
sucking thing, and being
dead and having to stay
all day in a dirt coffin until
the sun sets, they seem
like reasonable creatures,
even conversational.
behaved and intelligent,
well read, with a set
of moral codes not unlike
our own. I envy the strength
they have, the ability to fly
and turn into bats, or wolves.
their hypnotic powers that
can make you do things that
you wouldn't ordinarily do.
I think if given half a chance
that I could fall in love with
one of these new vampires.

Modern Life

Don't leave me here
in the desert without
water and a horse.
I've got no survival
skills to speak of. I eat
out almost every night,
or microwave something
frozen. I buy wine
in a box, water in a bottle.
I've got two phones,
three computers, four
t.v's, five watches and a
camera I've never used.
The directions are in too
small of print. I buy
everything on credit. I
owe alimony, custody,
two mortgages and I have
a three year lease on a BMW.
My cat is in intensive care
from eating bugs, or
fig newtons that I left
on the radiator. Surgery
should solve the riddle.
The kids need braces.
I've got an ulcer the size
of a burrito burning a hole
through the lining of my
stomach. My girlfriend
has been throwing up
every morning, and she's
taken up knitting. I smoke
two packs a day. My
therapist wants me to
come in twice a week,
not once and he wants
my mother to come in too.
She's the key, he says
as I write him another check.
At the end of the month,
after it's all said and done,
I've got nothing, nothing.
On second thought, leave
me here. Maybe the desert
isn't so bad after all. Just
let me walk for awhile, okay.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

white shirt

The white shirt you wore,
in the early evening,
so crisp and clean,
is on the chair with
the dull imprint of food
and red wine, your shoes
are below, the laces still
tied, change scattered,
on the floor, your keys,
I don't know. Your phone
is beeping some
where in the house,
maybe it's tomorrow night's
date, I can't keep track
of you, but you're alseep
after making love,
or rather, having sex
with me, someone you
you hardly know,
and the same goes for me.
It's the age we are
in. Staggering, the time
that has passed.
Marriages and kids,
the sudden moves, from
house to house, the tornado
that is divorce. So strange
to be dating strangers,
and hoping for love, or like,
or something that resembles
normalcy at this stage.
But you're asleep. You are
kind and sweet, and the stories
you have told me, are funny,
tragically true, it seems.
I know so little about you,
or you about me, but let's see.
Lets sleep and see what
the morning brings.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Christmas Card

Hey sis, it's me, Rita, I love you
and miss you so much.
I've got some wonderful news.
I'm thinking that we might make
the drive down this year for a holiday
visit. It's so much fun seeing you
and the family. We'll bring the kids,
they're getting so big now, and
the dog. Maybe John's mother
would like to come too. She's
not feeling all that well and has
this terrible cough and a horrible
rash that covers her entire body,
but once she takes her pills
in the evening she's out like a light.
Sometimes she coughs so hard
that I think her eyeballs are going
to pop right out of her head.
Don't worry though she won't eat
much, I bring her those little jars
of baby food. And the kids, they
love those video games so they'll
be out of the way most of the time.
The oldest, James, has this new
girlfriend. She's in a band and has
a metal toothpick sticking out of one
eyebrow, the infection has pretty
much gone away, but she's really sweet.
There's a tatoo of a scorpion on
her lower back. The little ones think
it looks like a lobster, but you can
hardly see it unless she's wearing
those low cut jeans they like to wear
now. She wants to come too, she just
loves Christmas. Her and James
spend hours together in his bedroom
writing songs. Crazy kids. I'm making
those delicious turkey kabobs
that everyone seems to like,
including your dog Rex. I
remember the year he knocked
the entire tray over in the kitchen.
I'm so sorry that he got sick beneath
the tree. You always have such
a beautiful tree with those lights
and all, and that angel on the top.
Whenever I see a Christmas angel
on top of a tree I think of you, sis.
And please don't bother with gifts
this year. John lost his job down
at the tire plant and I haven't been
selling much herbal life these days.
So we can't bring anything, but
if you do decide to do gifts I'll
send you a list later as to what
we all want. Oh, and one more
thing. John's brother Ray, is out
of prison and has been living with
us. He's doing much better and
is seeing his psychiatrist on a
regular basis. He's tested
drug free for months now.
The murder charges
have all been dropped.
We are so happy for him. He
might just tag along. Well,
I guess that's it for now. I hope
this card finds you well
and that once again we can share
this joyous Xmas together
as one big happy familly. By
the way, what is your e mail
address? All the messages keep
bouncing back. Hmmm, I don't
know what's up with that. Anyway,
I love you baby girl and we hope
to see you soon, your sister, Rita.

Pisces

The stars hold no future
plans for you or me.

They are just stars.
Planets in orbit, moons

without gravity or life,
maybe some very nice

rocks, but that's about it.
There is no slip of paper

tucked inside a stale
chinese cookie that will

show you the way, present
a clue to the next love,

or husband or wife. No
divining rod will lead

you to water, to success.
The gypsy woman,

forget about it.
Soothsayers and fortune

tellers, prophets,
all but a few, have nothing

to be told. They can't see
anything but the minute

they are in, and even then
they are at a loss, they hold

no cards, no crystal ball,
no magic wand or vision you

can rely upon. And the
weatherman, please, don't

get me started there, just
flip a coin and be done with it.

Gardening

Noon slips by,
as does the two
o'clock hour and not
much has been done.
It's that kind of day.
The stream outside
my window has moved
an ocean of water
past me, the leaves
are floating lazily
to the lawn,
but I sit here,
typing, pondering my
next move, my own
new season
where I'll prune
the unruly branches,
clear the brush, cut
those weeds and vines,
turn the soil to plant
at least one good seed.

A New Flame

New stars evolve
everyday, so why can't
we start something new,
how hard can that be?
If all the power
and energy of the skies
can shine a new light
for a million light years,
then surely our hearts
can simply warm
towards one another
and make a new flame.

Spam

Don't bother me
with your new
religion, your politics
and certanties, your
whole earth catalogue,
your gardening tips,
your fat reducers.
Leave me alone
with your new products.
Stain removers,
teeth whiteners, breath
fresheners. Save me
from life insurance,
extra mileage additives,
and foreign language
tapes that promise
Italian in an hour.
Don't knock at my
door smiling with
pamphlets and books,
coupons, samples
of soap, samples of
salvation, redemption
and hope.
Don't tell me how
to extend my sex life,
enlarge me, how to
prolong the moment.
Please don't tell me what
I need to know, or who
to know, or where to go
on my next vacation, or
what pill to swallow
to clear my skin, or make
me sleep, or wake me up
or regrow my hair.
Save your jokes, your
news, your daily devotional
blessings, your funny
moments and pet photos,
the cute kids
for someone else.
Please don't press that
button and forward me
anything. I beg of you.

Monday, September 21, 2009

milk

there can be
nothing to eat
in the house,
but i'm never
without milk,
or so it seems.
i've gone from
whole to two
per cent, but
truthfully I
don't care,
pour me
anything but
skim. I
love the cold
white wash
of milk with
so many things.
it's childhood
in hand. it's
clean and cold.
from the cradle
until death,
give me a glass
of milk.
i remember
it delivered
by truck
in the early
morning, yes
i'm that old,
and set upon
the stoop,
and reaching
out to grab
the chilled glass
bottle,
eggs too.
but from what
i recall
there was
always milk,
and nothing
much else.

untitled

in the woods across the field,
where a ragged fence juts brown
against golden brush, I remember
our kiss, our hands together
and the sun about to fall, the moon
about to rise. Everything still
and unchangeable for a moment
in time. But it's gone now.
And the memory makes me ache
for you, for me, for what we had
for such a brief sweet day of life.

Spare Change

The loose change
sits everywhere.
Fallen from pockets,
dropped out of hand,
displaced coins that
rattle to the ground,
caught between
cushions and seats, stuck
sideway in the car, too
tight to rescue.
The dull shine of nickels
quarters, dimes and not
a single green slice
of papered cash to be
found. They spin
noisily in the dryer,
metal against metal
with no way out.
They lie on the floor,
or sidewalk, the streets.
Vagrants don't even bother.
No one bends over to pick
them up, disregarding
good fortune, ignoring
the slightest chance
at luck. I see the same
sad group of Lincoln
faced pennies everyday.
In a heap, the hat, the silly
beard, the weak copper
sheen that says, leave me
alone. If they could somehow
group themselves
together into a Kennedy
half dollar I'd be happy.
They'd be happy.
But they have no
leadership, no collective
skills to speak of, and so
they sit with no where
to go, no place to really be.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sara Leigh

This death, and the next one,
and the third, as they so often

do, comes in threes, surprises her.
The level of grief feels light at first,

but it sinks in with morning,
it moves like heavy water

throughout the house,
and her legs don't move well

across the floor, too deep to walk,
too shallow to swim out of.

it doesn't fill the room, but stills
the day and night and everything

in it. she is half under and quiet.
there is so much to be done.

there is nothing to be done.
sorrow is holy ground,

but she's a long ways from dry
land at this point. she misses

her father who brushed
her hair, who held her hand.

it's that simple.

Pot Roast

While climbing the barbed wire
fence that surrounds the yard,
after sprinting across the
grass perimeter and dodging
a peppery spray of bullets
from trigger happy prison guards,
and zig zagging on fleet foot
and crawling through a maze
of searchlights swung
in my direction, before the
hounds were set loose, and
the sirens wailed, and my pals
in orange jumpsuits inside
banged their spoons and tin cups
agains the bars. I thought about
you, on the beach in your red
bikini and a tall umbrella glass
with a slice of pineapple wedged
inside, your red lips on the straw.
I wondered if you had received
my postcard and knew that I was
on my way, had the table set,
the bed sheets, fresh and new,
flowers on the table. Your kids
over at your mothers. A pot roast
in the oven.

On Second Thought

I'll have dessert.
I'll take the trip to someplace
new, a place I've never been,
I'll sleep in, I'll have
another cup of coffee
and linger in the morning
sun before work, I'll go
another ten miles on the bike
and let darkness chase me home.
On second thought I won't read
the book, or buy the music
that I thought I had to have.
I'll let the phone ring,
I'll let mail sit for just another
day. I'll write another poem
that has no meaning, but feels
good at the tip of my fingers.
On second thought
I'll let things remain as they are
and call you in the morning
or the next, but not today.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Human Resources

The shirt is new, fresh, dry-
cleaned, as is the suit, the shoes
are polished to a high shine.
A bold blue tie is strung around
your neck, but not too bold,
fitting in is what the tie says.
And the resume speaks clearly
of ambition and promise,
education, early success.
The papers are crisp and perfect
in the interviewer's hands.
You articulate your desire
to work for the firm, to learn
to grow, to be a part of the team.
The man likes to hear the word
team and makes a note of it.
You tell him that you value
family as well and this too
warrants a note on his pad.
Then he says I want to ask you
an important question. He puts
his hands beneath his chin
and leans towards you. Close
your eyes and tell me where you
would like to be in five years
with this company. He nods
and smiles at you. Close your eyes,
he repeats. And so you do
as he says. You close your eyes
and lean back, you exhale and fold
your hands into your lap. You
feel the tie tugging at your neck.
Yes, the man says. Where would
you like to be in five years. Just
say the first thing to come to your
mind. Tell me. And so you tell him.
Anywhere, but here is what
you say, anywhere but listening
to you and answering such
a question. I'd like to be on a silky
white beach with someone who
looks like your receptionist. Amy,
I think her name was. I'd like
to have five million dollars
in the bank, an ice cold drink
in my hand while I gently sway
in a hammock overlooking
the bluest ocean on the planet.
I'd like to make a small bonfire
of these clothes, put them all
into a pile, the shoes, the tie,
that resume you're holding,
everything and be free from
the slavery of work and blind
obedience that cuts a piece
of your soul out with each
tick of the clock. That's my five
year plan. Your eyes are still
closed, but you hear a chair
slide against the floor, and the man
getting up. You hear his shoes
walking across the room and then
the door open and close. You realize
at this point that the interview
is probably over and that you
didn't get the job. You open up
your eyes and find yourself alone
in the room. It's a start.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vanity

we hold on despite
the fading light
at the end of day.
the sweet drop
of sun into cool
twilight, as we do
in time the same,
fading gently
towards an end
we neither know,
or understand.
the natural
movement of time
should not
be a struggle,
but it is, we want
more, even
in the dark,
we want more.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

between the pages

Between
the pages
of an old book,
I find a photo
with a note
on the back.
The picture
is of you,
sent to me.
You are standing
next to a lake
in a blue dress.
you are slender
and your hair
is long.
You are smiling
and the sun
is almost down
behind you.
I'm not there.
and I don't know
who has taken
the picture.
The words
on the back
are kind, sweet,
full of the youthful
promises
that new
lovers give.
You write
how much you
miss me and how
we would never be
apart again. Ever.
You underline
I love you.
I slide the photo
back into the book,
between the pages,
and quietly place it
on the shelf
where I found it.
Then I return
to the dark
bedroom
where you've
been asleep
for hours.

Salesmen

They come when least expected.
The doorbell rings. They come with

goods you might need, or sevices
you may have forgotten. New windows,

painting, perhaps your house needs
cleaning, or maybe you need an extra

large chocolate bar, or a long lasting
light bulb. The knocks come when

you are in the shower, busy with
laundry,making love, or boiling

potatoes on the stove. It's never
a good time, and if you have any clothes

on it's the bare minimum of sweats,
or a robe, perhaps just socks,

or flip flops and a g-string.
They are persistent. They will wait

you out. They will bang again
and again, and listen with the ears

of a doberman. They will survey
the movement of curtains in each

and every window until satisfied
that you are either dead, not at home ,

or hopelessly deaf, or lame of foot
and can't make it to the door.

Thirst

The well water is cold,
the bucket heavy,

the earth above
is encased in blue.

I find the wish of you
in each drink,

in each cold swallow
of spring water

fresh from the hollows
of the ground.

I imagine that this
is what love will taste

like on a summer's day.
How it may finally

quench my heart,
make still my life.

Sleep

i find the pillow
and sleep easily
on nights like these.
alone in the cool
shadow of bedroom
with the red numbered
clock on the dresser,
and the crickets in
concert in the woods.
but sleep and dreams
come quickly when the
world appears to be
right, even if it isn't.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Apples

I've got a thing for apples
right now. Gala, Red Delicious,
Fuji, Granny Smith, all of them.
I buy them three at a time. I
like the number three. Snug
and compact in their bag. I take
them home and carve them up
with a sharp knife. I never bite
into one. I take my time.
Sometimes I slide on a thin coat
of peanut butter, but most of
the time I go it alone. The crisp
crunch, the cold bite. I cut them
up into quarters, sometimes
just in half and go at it that way.
It all depends on how I feel
that day, that night when I want
my snack. I've never shared
an apple with anyone, but it
doesn't bother me, not one bit.
Let them get their own apples.
I can't do everything.

What to Wear

The new war
won't take long.
Let's call it
the last war,
because there
won't
be much left.
I'll see you
in the tunnels,
the shelters,
the bunkers where
we will stay
until the crackers
and canned meats
run out.
What we wear
to the war,
or after,
will depend upon
the season.
May I suggest
leaden overcoats,
in army green,
a hat, wool, or mesh,
leather gloves,
perhaps one
of those nice
gas masks
that are all the rage.
Anything air tight.
And definitely
nice thick boots,
preferably black.
But relax, slow down,
no more work,
no rush,
no more shopping,
or changing the oil
in your car,
or being annoyed
by television,
especially Oprah.
No more recycling
your plastic
and cans, no more
pesky telemarketers,
or collectors
for the march of dimes.
Some things will
be better
that's for sure,
but bundle up,
stay warm,
it's going to be a
long long cold
winter.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Music Teacher

My clothes are wet from the fast rain.
The shoes soaked through. I can feel

the chill in my bones. I can't find
the keys to the door, the light is burned

out, the dog is inside barking, barking.
I see my neighbor, the school teacher,

look out her window. I catch just
a glimpse of her. She quickly turns off

her porch light to make it even darker.
The other day she borrowed a cup

of olive oil from me, an exact cup,
and today a lightbulb, but now she goes

to her piano to play before she sleeps.
Sometimes she'll play for hours. It's sad

music, church music, music that would
encourage one to leap from a bridge.

There is no singing, no joy in the striking
of keys, but a resounding sting of notes

raining through our shared wall.
She once thought that we would fall in

love, but like a new season, eased away
from that notion. She isn't angry,

but accepting of our distance. Or so
I thought. She knows that I can't get

into my house, that it's raining and it's
dark, with no lights. I listen to the piano

play on and on as the rain keeps coming
down and the dog keeps howling.

No Exit

I'm stuck
in traffic
on a Friday,
the weekend
preceeding
Labor Day.
Everyone
is heading
home early,
heading
out of town
in all directions,
luggage on
their rooftops,
bikes strapped
to the backs
of their cars,
kids pressing
their round faces
against foggy
windows.
I can see
their freckles
melt
against the glass.
It's raining
in sheets.
The roads
are full
of detours,
orange cones,
line both sides
of the road,
there are flares
ablaze,
punched into
the pavement
and the blue
lights of cop cars
swirl brightly
in the haze,
accidents
are everywhere,
but people
are still speeding,
they want to get
home,
like rats
in a maze, they
can smell
the cheese.
They are
focused dead
ahead,
white knuckles
gripping
the wheel.
No one
is giving
an inch.
There's not
a Christian
soul
in the lot of them.
All I want
to do is cross
these six
lanes of highway
and exit, to get
the hell off
and find
a pancake house
where
I can lather
up a stack
with syrup
and butter,
have a cup
of coffee
and wait it out.
I've had my
signal on
for over an hour,
sweet Jesus,
won't someone
please let
me in.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Politics

The new man swings
into town, gallops, pulls up

his reins in the center
of the dust blown street.

Two ivory handled guns
are on his hips. A sliver star

ablaze upon his chest. His horse
is golden, the saddle made

of spanish leather, shining in
the western sun. His eyes

are cobalt blue, like Nevada
lakes, they glisten with sweat,

with bravado. He doesn't
see the blackened bullet

already on it's way, in the air,
before the sound even finds

his ears. But for one more
split second he sits tall in the

saddle, surveys the town that he
assured them he could save.

At Night

I swim towards you,
the boat has sunk, it lies

on the bottom of a shallow
lake. So I swim, one arm after

the other through dark
water. You stand on the shore,

with a white towel, your feet,
bare, embedded in sand.

You wave softly in the twilight.
I can see the green of your

eyes, the blonde of your hair
catching the last of sunlight.

Your shoulders are set in my
direction. I move slowly,

but with persistence. I know
it is only the ghost of you.

The fading memory of who
I think you were, but it keeps

me afloat, gets me to shore
and through the restless night.

The Exhale

Despite everything,
and by everything I mean
the betrayals and lies, the
deception and deceit, I hold
forgiveness in my hand,
an offering of love and kindness.
It's not for you that I do
this, but for me. I see who
you are, who you have been
and will remain to be until
the sun goes down, but it's okay.
I can't change a day, an hour,
a minute of what has happened.
I've let it go. This is for me.
Yes, selfish until the end, I am.

In Love Again

It never looks
that far,
from one shore
to the other.
It never seems
that deep
or turbulent.
And yet each year
they pull them
out of the water,
sometimes days
later
when they've
come back
to the top
downstream,
away from the
roughage of waves.
They have slipped
from rocks,
out of the hands
of true loved ones,
fallen from boats,
or maybe they
just dove in
to cool off
from the summer
heat. The blue
of water
too tempting
to ignore.
And the brave
ones that try
to save
the drowning,
die too.
It's never good,
this love thing.

In the Rye

Tomorrow morning, before
the sun comes up, I am
moving south to a house
close to the beach, where my
feet will rest on warm white
sand, and feel the cold pull
of ocean. A place where no one
can find me except those I
wish to tell in cryptic messages
sent by the slowest possible
mail. There might be a dog,
or a cat or two involved.
Shelves of books, every one
I've ever read, or am about
to read will be resting at arms
length to be read again.
The printer will be full of ink,
white paper stacked awaiting
words, awaiting rhyme, mischief
and confession. Awaiting life
as I perceive it to be, not as
it really is. I will be Salinger
in red swim trunks, untouched
by phone or knocks upon
the door. I"ll be right there,
straight ahead, through the rye.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Don't Get Old

Some stars have fallen
from the sky of late.
Their names are
in the paper,
not the real paper,
but the rag at the front
of the grocery line.
Whether it's from greed
or lust, drugs or drink,
they have fallen
just like you and me,
but they have fallen
further and harder
than we ever could.
For they had it all.
Or so we'd like to believe.
The caviar, the cashmere,
the yachts, the Bentley
and the champagne,
the glory of fame.
But look at them now.
In nursing homes,
old and frail
with surgeries gone bad,
skin pulled back tight
like rhesus monkeys
swinging from chinaberry
trees. In rehab
and on tv, talking to oprah
and dr. phil, spilling
their guts. The mug shots,
blocking the cameras
with their hands clutching
confessional books.
There they are
in slow motion
in the back of a squad car.
But it's not over,
there is always a second act,
another chance.
It's America.
Television will scrub
them clean, wash them up,
make them whole again,
put them back together
for our viewing pleasure.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Future Stinks

My neighbor from across the street,
the gypsy woman from Florida,
is at the door. She's using her skull
and crossbone's ring to bang against
the wooden screen. At night I can
see her red neon Palm Reading
sign pulsating in the dark. I hold the dog
back who is going crazy and foaming
at the mouth when he gets a whiff
of her. "I need to talk, Jimmy," she
says through the screen. I put the dog
out back and let her in. "What's up,
Linda?" "It's Miranda now", she says,
not Linda." "Sorry." I pull out a chair
at the table. She'd heard about
my winning the scratch off lottery
for a thousand dollars and then picking
the longshot winner at the track
for twenty thousand, before taxes.
She's curious about my sudden lucky
streak. Maybe it just isn't luck.
"What can you tell me about my life?"
she asks, unbuttoning the top button
of her dress, revealing another black
dress beneath that one. She loosens
up the kerchief knotted under her chin.
I ask her if she'd like a tuna sandwich.
I was in the middle of making lunch
when she knocked. "Sure," she says,
"but no mayo, please. A little olive oil,
capers? Do you have capers?" I shake
my head no. I tell her that I think
her life is in for a big change, then put
the sandwiches on the table. "A big
change? What do you mean?" I take
a bite of my sandwich and wipe mayo
from the corner of my mouth. She takes
a bite too and motions for something
to drink. "Do you have any Sprite?"
she asks. "Fresca, okay?" I grab two
from the fridge. She shrugs, "Chips?"
I get the bag from the kitchen.
"What do you mean by a big change
in my life?" she asks. I show her
the newspaper, the metro section
and the plans for an office building
to go right where her house
and the 7-11 now stands. It's all going
to be wiped out, I tell her. "Jesus, Mary
and Joseph," she says and takes
the paper to stare at the aerial view
of the land. "I should buy the paper
more often," she says. "I would know
more. My crystal ball is really nothing
but a shiny glass ball that you can
see through." I nod. "Yeah. I figured
as much," I say. She takes a large bite
of her sandwich. "I have very few
customers right now Jimmy," she says
with her mouth full of food. "And the ones
that I do have only want to know
if their boyfriends are cheating on them,
or if they are pregnant or not.
It's the economy. No one is interested
in knowing the future anymore.
The future stinks." She's got potato
chip crumbs all over the front of her
black dress. "An office building?" she says
and shakes her head. "Yup. Twenty stories."
"What else do you know," she asks.
"That's all," I tell her, "I got lucky
with the lottery and the same with the track.
Luck, plain and simple. I've got no fortune
telling skills, at least not like you have."
"I don't know, you have something.
Maybe a gift. It's more than luck."
She gets up and takes a final swallow
of her Fresca. "Thanks," she says
and lets out a little burp. "I have to go now,
but promise me that if you hear
of anything ,or get any feelings about
things to happen, you'll let me know.
Okay?" "It's a deal Miranda. I promise.
you'll be the first to know. "I need
a homerun here, Jimmy, something big."
"Okay," I tell her and let her out the front
door. "Be careful crossing that street,
it's like a goddamn freeway out there."
She nods in agreement as she looks
both ways down the street before
crossing, dodging a bread trucks as
he beeps his horn at her.

Online

She tells me in no uncertain
terms, that this time it's really over.
She's already packed her bags,
her cat is in a travel cage, licking
water from a small bowl.
I've just come home from work
and she's holding a stack of papers
in her hand, printouts, e-mails,
from Sheila, the woman i've been
having an affair with for over a year.
I tell her that it's over, we're done,
Sheila and I are ancient history.
She points to an e-mail and then
another, each one dated yesterday.
The time is even on them.
Fucking computers.
Okay, I say. Okay. You win. You win.
I have an addiction, I tell her, I need
help, counseling, maybe I need to
check myself into one of those thirty
day clinics and straighten myself out.
One of those twelve step programs
might be good for me. This is when
she swings her suitcase and hits
me in the head, it glances
across my chin causing a gash. The
blood is suddenly everywhere.
Jesus, I tell her. Look at me. Do you
have any idea what this shirt cost?
There's blood all over it. She swings
it again, but I duck. Maybe Sheila
can buy you another one. That bitch.
She throws the stack of e-mails at me
and picks up her cat in the cage. I'm
leaving. My lawyer will be in touch.
Don't worry, I have copies. I have
every key stroke you ever typed.
This is just the beginning, you bastard.
You're going down. The door slams
and I find a towel to wipe up the mess.
I grab some ice for my chin and a cold
beer from the fridge, then I go to
the computer to log on, to see what Shelia's
up to. I can see that she is online, but
who the hell is she talking to?

Polar Bears

I open the morning paper,
turning it from one page
to the next and settle on a story
that says that there is more
and more evidence that
the earth is heating up.
There's a picture of a scientist
wearing a white coat and pointing
at a map of the north pole.
He's smoking a cigarette.
It's getting hot out there,
the ice caps are melting.
The polar bears are hungry,
some are starving, swimming
with no ice to rest upon.
It occurs to me that I've never
seen a polar bear, not even
at the zoo. But I've seen penguins.
I get up from the table,
put the paper down and find
the vodka and tomato juice.
I grab some ice from the fridge .
crushed ice, not the cubes,
and make a blood mary. I stick
a very green stalk of celery into
the glass, but it's strictly for effect.
I spice it up a little more with black
pepper and a shot of tabasco. I stir
it all up with the celery, take
a healthy sip, then go over to the
window. I stare out across the East
River, looking north. I try to see
where these polar bears might be,
but I can't see that far. However
in the street below I see a mob
of children screaming with joy,
some with their shirts off
in the blazing sun. A fire hydrant
is open, spraying a beautiful rainbow
into the summer sky.

A Talk

We sit in the sun
the two of us.
There are no shadows,
no shade from trees.
The lawn is lush
and green, wide
and bright with white
stones in rows.
We share the view,
the peace of it. No
disagreement mars
the hour, no dark
birds fly overhead
like black omens.
She is my mother,
below the earth now,
her body,
her soul, still within
me. I taste the milk
of her, the blood of her,
the sting of her tongue,
the fragile kindness
of who she wanted to be.
Her madness made
whole by a marriage
gone bad from day one.
But now we sit
in the sun and have
the talk we never had.
The sun is warm,
the grass is green.

The Girl Scout

I answer the door and see
this junior mint of a girl standing

there bright and smart, full of delight
in her green dress. Give me four

boxes of thin mints I tell her
and she politely tells me how much

and who to write the check to.
I glance at her in her sash and ribbons,

her hair just right, her eyes shining
with tomorrow, happy with the day

she is in. I want to keep her like that,
forever young and beautiful,

untouched by trouble and life, but
I know I can't. No one can. I savor

the moment though and inhale
the beauty that can exist in a world

gone mad. She takes the cookies from
the parent who walks with her

and hands them to me. Thank you,
she says and they go down the steps

to the next house. I take the cookies
inside and pour a cold glass of milk.

A small happiness is a good thing.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Marco Polo

In Venice, once, I made the
mistake of asking an old man
in a red bow tie behind
the counter for a large coffee
to go. I was obviously an American,
a rube, or as he put it, stupido
americano, or something to
that effect. How would I know.
I just thought that having a grande
cup of coffee to stroll the streets
with, and glide along the septic
waters in a gondola would be nice.
Enjoyable. He poured my coffee,
equaling three sips, into a dentist's
spit cup and off I went as they laughed
and laughed and laughed behind me.
I walked until my new friend,
Francesca, pointed out to me
Marco Polo's window, the great explorer,
a very big whoop. Then it was time
to stand there with my arms out,
holding my little cup of coffee,
and allow a hundred pigeons
to land on me in St. Mark's Square
while someone took my picture.

At Seventeen

At night you can hear them
in the woods, the rustling
within the shrubbery
and trees, splashing through
the stream that ambles
slowly beneath a yellow moon.
Playing their own music.
They screech sometimes, a howl,
a cry, doing what they must do
in order to survive within this small
piece of land between homes,
and buildings, roads and highways,
concrete barriers, barbed wire fences.
The world is getting smaller
and there's no where left to go
to be themselves and let nature
take it's course, to hide what
they don't want seen at seventeen.

It's Just a Cold

This new cold
has found it's way
inside my lungs.
It might be the flu,
or worse.
I imagine my bones
chalk white and weary,
with future use
in doubt. This sickness
has led me to my
knees. Sweating
throughout the night
I find my faith
stored up in the attic.
Tucked away
for occasions such
as these. It's in
the corner, dusty,
behind the cracked
mirror, the shelf,
the trunk of photographs
in black and white.
Quickly, I pray for health.
then get out my list.
I pray for money.
I pray for better weather.
I even pray for others.

The Middle

We come in
as children
and leave
as children.
It's the middle
part that's so
confusing.

Seeds

She kneels
in her garden
digging all
alone.
The children
have all
left
for gardens
of their own.

Saturday Night

When kissing
you, embracing
you, finding
the latches and keys
to unlock the sighs
in you, I fumble,
trip on the light,
half mast and tilted,
I'm a tumbleweed
without wind
in your presence,
it might be love, or
maybe just saturday
night.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thirty Year Fixed

From above looking down,
say from a hot air balloon

sailing gracefully through
the April air, above the power

lines that sway from tower
to tower, you can see a parcel

of land, a square amongst
all the other squares,

a simple house stuck at an end,
a car or two on the black stripe

of driveway, perhaps a dog
in the yard, a blue narrow pool

set between the green. Clothes
on the line, suits hung

out to dry, and towels.
Tomato plants struggling

in dirt. A lifetime of saving,
making due in a tidy neat

package of land. It's there
for the next person, as it was

for you and the previous soul
who laid his or her head

upon a bed pushed against
the far wall so as to see

the window, to feel the morning
light, a breeze when it pushes

through the screen, past sheers
that hang just short of the sill.

Italian Shoes

These new
shoes
pinch my toes,
too narrow for
my foot,
they bother me
when I walk.
They cost way
too much,
but they're
Italian,
and the leather
is black
like polished stone.
The soles
are thick
and hard,
the laces thin,
difficult to tie.
Oh, but the sides
are buttery soft.
I have to be
careful
where I walk.
It's easy to slip,
and fall ,
to step into
puddles
and mud
along the way.
They won't be new
for long.
But I felt that
I needed
them.
You see
there's this girl
I met
and she might
like me
a little bit more
with shoes
like these.

On Seeing Edward Hopper

There is the starkness of light
and line, the broad plain beauty
of an empty office, or house near
an ocean, a window, or the curvature
of a woman sexless in her nude
pose, not lingering in the yellow
gloam, but more in between breaths,
neither taking one or exhaling.
Just still as if the camera is about
to click. And that repeating face,
his wife, his wife again in almost
every piece. There is the cloud
of control over much of what we
see. The paintings march towards
you, but hardly let you in, they gently
stun you with question, with simplicity
and beauty, and a strange desire
to keep looking for an answer.

The World is a Bar of Soap

In an effort to save the world,
she planted her own garden
in a small patch of land behind
her apartment. It was hopeless
though. everything died,
the ground was too hard, full
of worms and bugs, rabbits,
but she didn't give up.
She recycled her wine bottles,
her cans, the newspapers
were wrapped with string,
anything plastic was put out
on the street in the bright yellow
bin, she used the same nylon bag
time after time to carrry home
groceries on her bike. She stopped
wearing make up, buying clothes
that weren't on sale, she turned
off her television, her computer,
the air conditioning, the hot water.
She stopped eating meat and dairy
products, she took in cats, a dog,
a bird whose wings were clipped
and couldn't fly away, he'd
have to walk. She read to the blind,
baked bread for the breadless.
Saving the world had become
a full time job and everyone knew
just how hard she was trying,
just how green she had become.
Strangers would call her up at all
hours to ask her how to throw away
old paint, how to make a compost pile,
or bake macro biotic cupcakes laced
with carob juice. She was a saint among
the eco saints. In her weakend state
life was harder now, but at least it was
as green as green can be. And as she lay
in bed at night alone, listening to world
outside her window, she believed that
if she was just in love, maybe she could
stop this madness and be saved herself.

I Follow

I follow the dog down
the steep steps
of my apartment.
He's weary, and shakes.
He's hungry again.
I watch his thin shadow
in the streetlight on snow
that lies along the park.
There are other dogs,
but he doesn't mind them
anymore. His bark
is scratchy. I think about
the time I nearly gave
him away. The time
he chewed my new brown
shoes, my umbrella,
my hat and gloves. How
I yelled his name,
and cursed him,
chased him with a broom.
Now I watch him sit
and look at me with watery
eyes, his tail wagging
gently with something
like happiness
in the cold autumn air.
It's less about me now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Dalai Lama

The other morning
I asked my barrista,
jimmy, what he thought
about the economy,
the plight of the working
man. He winced and shook
his head as a cloud of steam
rose from the machine
he was pressing behind
the other machine. He
seemed to be wise beyond
his years and station
in life. His arms were
covered in a random mix
of celestial tatoos, blue stars,
a red moon, an orange sun.
He was always giving
sage advice, offering good-
will and cheer as he mixed
the endless variations
of lattes and frappacinos,
coffee and tea. Hot or cold.
Have a nice day, he'd say,
be careful out there in the
snow. It's slippery. Hey,
watch out, that coffee's hot.
He was easy going,
and bright, each drink
made to perfection,
or he'd apologize profusely,
hand you a gift card
and remake the drink
you ordered no matter
how long the line snaked
out the door. Sometimes
he'd stroke his thin goatee
while pondering the world
between customers.
His head kept swaying,
keeping a beat that only
he could hear. He was
the new dali lama, but with
a job and a green apron.

Dear Pope

In the morning when the Pope arises
from his sleep, he rings a little gold bell
and a man dressed in Shakespearean garb
brings him tea and the Vatican times.
I'm making some of this up, so play along.
But then the Pope uses the bathroom,
brushes his teeth, takes a quick shower,
for the day is long, full of requests and
appearances. He says his morning prayers
at the foot of his bed, and then turns
on the television for background noise.
He loves Dr. Phil and how he keeps saying
at some point in every episode,
"You people have got to stop hurtin
one another." And then the Pope
goes to his computer to check his e-mails.
He rings the bell again, and asks for
a muffin with butter and honey, which
comes before the computer boots up.
He has dial up, which takes forever.
The e-mails are in the hundreds,
not to mention the spam. He googled
women's Italian boots once and has lived
to regret it. But most of the e-mails
are from good church going parishoners
of all faiths who want answers to the tough
questions in life. Why is there pain, why
do we die, why is there poverty and sickness?
What's wrong with my cat? But one e-mail
stands out this morning from a Theresa
in Richmond, Virginia. She wants to know
why her on again, off again boyfriend
won't commit to the relationship, or even
give her a good French kiss to get the ball
rollling. He just wants to cuddle, she writes,
hold hands, and that's it. He's very religious
and attends church weekly, but he has no
libido. Zip. I know we aren't married
and shouldn't go there, but geez marie,
he's got to give me something.
The pope pushes his chair back and takes
a bite of his still warm muffin,
being careful not to get crumbs upon
his shiny new robe he got for Christmas.
Hmm, he says, and removes his hat
to scratch his head. Then he looks over
at the latest stack of books on his desk.
One stands out above all the others.
A ray of light from the window illuminates
the title of the book. So he answers Theresa
from Richmond. Dear Theresa, he writes.
Move on honey, give up on this guy, this loser,
HE'S JUST NOT INTO YOU!
Happy with that answer he moves on to the
next e-mail from Stephen, also in Virginia.
Stephen asks, I want to be good, but I'm having
a difficult time. I lose my focus sometimes
and get carried away, especially after a couple
of apple martinis? The Pope shakes his head
It's not an easy question. How to be good all the time.
It's hard, the age old question that haunted St. Paul,
maybe impossible. But he can't tell him that.
He finishes his muffin and sips his tea, then
clicks off the computer. He'll have to get back
to this one. He looks out the window, the sill is
covered with a legion of pigeons. He stamps his feet
on the marble floor, but they don't budge.
He's still in his night slippers and they can't hear him.