Sunday, February 28, 2010

dust

unattended,
the dust rises
as if by magic,
as if sprinkled
down in dry clouds
while you sleep.
in a thin layer
it lies upon
the sills, the tops
of dressers,
tables and vases.
you drag a finger
through the fine
silt and realize
that this is just
one of many things
that you are
letting go without
attending to.

the lost shoe

it's a worn shoe
i find in the alley,
just one, brown,
the polish dulled
and the tongue ripped out,
a thin layered hole is
at the point of contact
of foot and pavement,
but there is only one
shoe, not the other,
the left and not the
right, i look around
and see nothing, only
this single tattered
wing tip and so i take
it with me, under my arm
as i start the day, going
about my business,
but on the lookout for
the person with only
one shoe on, and not
the other. it has become
as much my problem
as it is his, or was.

the calm

there are no maps
to get you there, no
road signs along
the way, no traffic
cop, or guru in a gown,
standing front and
center with a golden
staff to lean over
into the window and
say, stop, you are
there. it's not
easy, the trip, and
most don't arrive,
or even begin to
start, but those that
do will know when
they have made it to
a place where nothing
can disturb the calm
that resides within.

don't look back

despite the years
of being together,
things find their
way into boxes,
books, shirts, shoes,
an album of photos,
all of it packed
to be taken to
another point of
view, and it suprises
you that the sun
still comes up on
cue and the seasons
pay no mind to the
movement of your life,
and suddenly there is
another address
to remember, another
phone number, and so
you position the couch,
the bed, the table
without compromise
this time and choose
a color for the wall,
most likely another
shade of blue and it's
not for her, but for you.

light

don't turn off
the light
just yet,
leave it on,
let me see
what i need
to see,
the parts of you
that are hard
to show,
the inside out
of you,
uncovered,
bare in the pale
bloom of yellow
light from
the lamp upon
the table.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

the other side

the lanquid sea rises
above my knees as i walk
out into white lazy waves
with arms of green, it's
colder as it gets deeper,
and the sun is warmer
as it lives and jumps off
the flat sweet ocean.
it seems perfectly within
reason to dive down, and
swim, to hold one's breath
in the dark depths, until
reaching the other side
of whatever might lie
beyond the sea, beyond me.

Friday, February 26, 2010

the price you pay

i got hit by an arrow
on valentine's day, it
zipped right through
the heart. it partially
splintered and went
through a lung,
collapsing it and sending
me into shock. it nearly
severed an important
artery. i was told later,
although to me they all
seem important. when they
finally brought me back
into consciousness,
the arrow was still protruding
through my chest, the point
glistened with my own blood,
a love note was still attached.
i asked the doctor what
the deal was, why couldn't
he remove it, he said no,
it has to stay this way, this
is the price you pay for love,
i'm sorry, there's no other way.

april 15th

i hear a dog barking
outside the window, and
there's someone knocking
at my door with a registered
letter from my mother, that's
how we communicate now, but
i can't be bothered.
i'm shuffling papers,
taking notes, getting organized
for what's coming. tax time.
i've got the calculator out
and i'm all set to pound
the keys to see what i made,
what i spent, what i need to
give the kid, the ex, and an
assorted short list of tax
deductible charity organizations.
money arrives in glass fulls
and swims out like a stream
bursting over the levees
and sending me to high ground.
but it comes down this, a bed,
a roof, food, a good book,
a blank sheet of paper to do
this on, and i'm good. vodka
helps too and someone with a
name like marla, but i'm getting
distracted, i've got work to do.
where's my pencil sharpener?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

faith

i keep sending in money, my
ten per cent and more
to the guy on tv, jimmy
the evangelist who wears a slick
black suit with white stripes,
and has hair to match,
his eyes bulge and his voice
screams and pleads from the pulpit.
i can tell that he's speaking
directly to me, he's a wild eyed
man who promises me blessings
if i'm faithful and keep the money
coming, but nothing happens.
i still have that goiter on my
neck and when i i look out onto
the driveway there sits my old dodge
dart that still won't start. i write
another check and send it off,
but my kids still hate me, my son
has a circle of me tattoed on his
arm with a line through it,
and my wife is still asleep
in the bedroom with a box of
oreos beside her and two cats
sleeping on her back. i buy
the bible, i get the beads,
the hat, the sweatshirt, the video,
i get the gold cross, the piece
of wood sworn and blessed to be
the real thing, but nothing changes,
my job at the cigarette factory
makes my skin itch and my boss wants
to fire me, my dog bites me
on a daily basis, and the IRS
won't leave me alone for back taxes,
so i send in another offering, a
check, a larger check and i go
kneel by the television, adjusting
the rabbit ears, and i squint
my eyes tightly together and
pray the prayer pastor jimmy
is telling me to pray,
i even say it in that same deep
southern accent that he uses, i
muster up all the sincerity
i can find within me, oh sweet
geeeeeesus hear my prayer, my eyes
well up with tears, but still
nothing, i don't know how much
longer i can keep this up with
no results. maybe this is God's
test for me, maybe it's God's will
that my life remain a total
shambles with no way out, yeah,
that might be it, so with that
in mind i send in another check,
i don't even put in a number, let
jimmy decide that for me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

no horse to ride out on

it's a dry spell
here, the land
is coarse and brown,
my boots throw up dust,
and the slight wind
is soft. like a warm
whisper holding the sun's
breath. there is nothing
green as far as the eye
can see, no blue either,
but a white quilted sky
of long tired clouds.
the memory of water
sits like sand pebbles on
my parched tongue. nothing
is coming up the road,
or on the rails. this is
the way things end, slowly,
without rain, without
hope, with no horse
to ride out on.

tonight

i don't expect
heartbreak when i
see you standing
there in a crowd,
dark and beautiful
as the day i met
you. but it's there,
and i linger,
i mingle, i feel
stranded. i am
reminded of what
love is, the absence
of you hurts. and
i want to stay,
i want to gather
you in my arms,
and make it right
again, but it's
raining, it's cold,
i am intruding
on the life you lead
without me. and so
i leave so that
you can't see
the tears that burn.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

water dreams

i dream best,
most vibrantly
when alone, when
it's cold, and the night
is long, and the wind
scratches the earth
with the long nails
of trees, and scattered
cans, the lost dogs
who howl and move
through the woods
on broken legs.
i dream of death
and dying, of love
and leaving, and being
left behind, of things
i can't get my hands
on, no resolutions.
it's a dark world,
a world of water,
deep and bruised,
blue and endless,
where the waves cup me
in thick arms and toss
me from side to side
before i find the shore,
and morning arrives
just in time.

the artist

my paintings
are everywhere,
they have become
my friends,
my companions,
they line the walls
of my house,
stacked one against
the other,
in the kitchen,
they even crowd
the bathroom.
i can almost hear
their chatter
in the night,
bickering about how
cramped it's becoming.
i've run out of space
for them, but i
can't stop myself,
my hands each day find
a new color, a fresh
white canvas and a face
to bring alive with
my strokes of gold
and blue, titian red,
raw umber, lamp black,
i am on a subway
of faces that
never change,
i'm hanging onto
the strap as this
life i lead rolls on.

red wine

there is that fog
of feeling, the gauze
of wine when it hits,
and things soften to
an easy glow, and your
lips are present too,
that makes so much
of the hard day
disappear. of course
there is always tomorrow
to deal with what's
about to happen,
but that seems so
far away, so distant,
and unimportant
as you pour another
glass, and move like
a cat with nails
unhinged towards me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

patience

i'm waiting here
without you,
with the engine
idling, my hands
on the wheel,
sitting patiently
in the car
at the light,
watching for red
to be green.
i'm on the bus,
the train, making
stops along
the way, waiting
for others to
get on, to get off,
i'm waiting for water
to boil, toast
to pop, the tub
to fill, the phone
to ring, the check
to arrive in
the mail, i'm waiting
for spring, for
the rain to stop,
or start, for
flowers to bloom,
for paint to dry,
for the check
to clear, waiting
in line for
food, for stamps,
for a flu shot,
waiting for the end
of things, the
beginning, i'm waiting
like a cat on a
warm window sill
for love to stick
and be done with it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

with ease

i lift the moon
with my hands
and hold it up
into the cold
night air. it's
a silver bowl of
stars that i've
come to know and
possess with a sweet
sad wonder on these
nights i live alone.
i haven't
conquered much,
but this i have,
this moon, this
pen and blank sheet
of paper on which
to write.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

moon man

during my years as an astronaut,
landing on the moon, walking in
space, there was nothing but
the joy of weightlessness,
and purpose. who needed love.
but things have changed and
i've come to my senses, nothing
compares to how i feel about
you, here on earth. the moon
holds nothing when held up to you,
it's dust, the silky powder
that my boots stirred up,
the rocks i carried
back to the ship, a billion years
old, worth nothing, no value,
no gems to be found, but back
here on this planet, feet firmly
on the ground is you, and pretty
much that's why i came back
and didn't stay. come see me
when you're not busy, i think
we can work things out. i am
no longer weightless, but ready.

the struggle

between the steak house
and the chinese restaurant
where the fumes of broiled
beef and fried rice fill
the air, there is a gym,
a workout center full of tread
mills and weights, you can see
the patrons soaked in their
own sweat, breathing
heavy. further down
the road, between the churches,
the synagogue is the strip
club where the lean and
curved women gyrate like snakes
on a vine for your dollars,
one at a time. around the block,
further up the street there
is a health store and a
jesus book store, next to
them and inbetween is the
porn shop with movies and
magazines, and the liquor
store with a shiny window
displaying vodka by the case.
above them, in a separate
space there is a yoga class,
i see the women, some men
going up the stairs carrying
their plastic mats and candles.
i sense a struggle going on.

sadness

the fog seeps in,
a layer of grey
white mist that has
no start or finish,
and rises and falls
within itself,
no lights exist
within it's thick
cloak, it's wavering
mystery of shadow,
and doubt. a place
you can't quite
get out of, but
when you come to
a clearing, even
the grass is more
green and lush than
you ever imagined
it to be.

the measuring stick

so, what are you reading now,
what's on your nightstand, which
books do you favor, or need
to get before the year is done,
and where have you traveled,
what countries, what cities
have you slept in and bathed
in their water, immersed your
self in their food and culture,
oh, and do you have a new car,
which one, is it black with
all the trimmings, and that
house, that neighborhood you
moved to, how are the schools,
how is the community, the leaders,
the fences, are they high
and thick to keep out the riff
raff. tell me about your beach
house, or the diet you are on,
your doctor, your lawyer,
what is that watch you're wearing,
is that rolex? are you green,
are you ladling soup down at
the shelter, are you picking
up trash on the street you
sponser? did your daughter
get into the right school? what
kind of dog is that, i've
never seen a dog like that
before around here. oh my.
so how will you spend your six
weeks off this year? paris,
rome, greece, perhaps barcelona,
no? who's your decorator and
where can i get a painting
like that. is the artist dead
yet. it'll be worth so much more.

true love

when i was in the eighth
grade i had this girlfriend
named molly. she had bright
blonde hair, straight like
a dolls, and eyes as blue
and bright as was the april
sky outside those school windows.
i'd wait for her in the hallway,
to walk her to lunch. my
hands would be sweating,
my heart pumping, standing
there with my books, my
hair combed quickly back,
slick with that morning's
dab of brylcreem, my buttons
checked for proper
alignment and then the bell
would ring, and the class
would file out, and there
was molly, i'd take her
books, wipe my hand on my
pants and grip hers,
she was a head taller than
me, but i didn't care.
i loved her and imagined
our lives going on forever
and ever, until the end of
time. I'd walk her all
the way to the cafeteria
where i would sit beside her
at a long table and sip milk
from a straw and eat a bad
tuna sandwich my mother had
stuffed into a paper bag
with an apple. and molly
would sit there beside me,
eating carrots from a plastic
bag, and white bread with
the crust carefully cut off,
sitting perfectly still,
her back straight, smiling,
as if she knew something
i didn't know, as if she was
waiting for the world to
find her. this lasted about
two weeks before she found
jerry, who was tall and lean,
freckled and always had a cast
on his arm or hand from punching
kids like me on the playground.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

folding laundry

folding laundry in
the basement, the floor cool,
the dryer holding another
load, spinnng with the
click of coins and buttons
i failed to remove from
pockets, there is no one
here but me, i listen to the
wind through the small
crease of window, like a
sigh, a whistle. it's a
simple task, this folding,
and one that can wait, but
i let that thought go by
and quietly fold, and stack,
there is no metaphor
to find in this, no twist
or turn to ponder in the
act. it's life, doing what
has to be done, never to be
known or talked of, like
so much of what we do.

trees

like trees they bend
in the wind, they live
through the seasons
of frost and cold, and
sometimes the worst
happens, and lightning
strikes, bringing them
to their knees, or rot
seeps in from under,
life's undertow taking
out the roots from below
causing a riff between
you, but friends are not
easily found, even
the strong ones, they
need tending, they need
their branches pulled,
their leaves raked
and listened to. don't let
these precious trees go
down, prune them, climb
them, love them in all
seasons of your life and
theirs, let their shade
cool you when it's hot,
and warm you when you
need a fire, do it now,
for this is brief.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

cell phones

i counted my dead
cell phones the other
day, so far eleven,
not counting the one
that still works.
i truly loved them
all when they were new.
sassy and bright, full
of life. they would
light up with a simple
twist of my hand.
i keep the spent ones
in a drawer now
in the kitchen, next
to the matches, the
rubber bands, a phillips
head screwdriver,
white out, and other
assorted junk, all
of them still sleek, plum
colored, red as cherries,
black like the ice
on a winter's night.
stone blue, of course
none of them work
anymore, shorted out
from water, dropped
on the street, batteries
gone south. i threw
one into a lake once
after a bad conversation
with someone i'd rather
not say, okay, linda,
and another i dropped
into a vodka tonic, icy
cold with a lime wedge
floating on top, accident,
that one, mostly though,
all of their failures were
my fault, if i had been
more careful and caring,
more attentive and gentle
with them, if i had
properly plugged them all
in when they needed it,
well, mabye they'd still
be working, but no, and
it really doesn't matter,
they were not meant to last
and the new ones are always
so much more fun anyway.

paper route

when i was a kid
i delivered newspapers.
i had maybe a hundred
houses, maybe more,
less on sundays, and
i'd walk with my dog,
and sometimes the cat
would follow too, but
a half a block behind,
too special to be with us.
i had a wagon or a shopping
cart i'd borrow from a
grocery store, but i'd
be up by five thirty
in the morning, the
winter months were
the hardest, the ice
the snow, the wind, but
i'd trudge on, sometimes
it was so cold, the dog
wouldn't leave the
house, nor the cat, but
i would, i'd do my route
in the dark, always dark
or just enough sun to
turn the morning pink
and pale blue by the
time i got home, my hands
black with ink. in the
summer months i'd run
the entire route, pushing
myself, trying to beat
a time, but mostly i'd
walk, just me, in the
quiet. the world smelled
different then at that
hour, there was a serenity
that i've never felt before
or since then. but i was
of the age when i delivered
the war news, vietnam,
kennedy and king murdered,
woodstock, and i remember
standing there over my
stack of papers, reading
the headlines, sometimes
sitting in light of a
street lamp trying to absorb
it all, before tossing
the rolled papers onto
the porches of my neighborhood.

a fresh start

i was thinking that
in the next life i'd
be a divorce lawyer
or a therapist, or
perhaps a funeral
director, i'd choose
something to do that
was unaffected by the
economy, or by natural
disaster, war, or a stroke
of bad luck, no,
these calamities, in fact,
increase business.
there are no down times
with these jobs.
strangely they all have
something in common,
something to do with
the end of things,
and also strangely, but
in a different way, they
offer new beginnings.
a clean fresh start.

Monday, February 15, 2010

pearl

pearl lives above me,
right up the steps,
she's in three o one,
i'm in two o one,
she used to have a boy
friend, sam, who would spend
the night, and they'd
play records and dance,
and then i'd hear them
in bed, above me, the
symphony of springs,
she was a screamer
and sometimes i'd wake
up in a sweat startled
by her yelling out, like
a wounded animal, i'd hear
the headboard clanging
against our shared walls.
my ceiling is her floor.
sam left at some point,
they borke up, and she's
alone now. she broke her leg
in the snow two weeks
ago, shoveling, slipped,
on the ice and went
down, i remember looking
out the window and seeing
her lying next to her
pale green prius with
a pair of dice hanging
from the mirror. the dice
sam gave her when things
were good, now when she
walks around, i can hear her
crutches on the hardwood
floor, sometimes she puts
on an old elvis record
and i'll hear her trying
to dance, by herself,
the banging of the crutches
and her cast rattling
my lights, and then she'll
go to bed and i'll listen
to her crying, softly
through the vents, until
one of us falls asleep.

behind the school

it isn't true,
it's a lie, a
fabrication of sorts
about me and you,
our love affair,
our secret
rendezvous behind
the school, when
the lights go
down, the sun
subsides, the animals
come out and watch
with bright
wet eyes. but
no, it isn't true
at all
although, i wish
that weren't so.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

valentine's day

there are days
when you just start
cleaning, you don't
know why, or what makes
you go at it like
you do, but off you
go, with bucket
and mop, vacuum
buzzing on every rug,
all of those cleaning
liquids and sprays,
come out from under
the kitchen sink,
you've got the rags,
the broom, the polish,
dirt has no chance,
you even clean the oven,
pull everything
out of the fridge, those
hot sauce bottles
sealed shut with
their own goo, you toss
the meat wrapped
in foil that you'd
never eat anyway, bruised
fruit, brown lettuce,
bread like concrete
on the counter.
you break it up and toss
it into the woods for
the birds and squirrels,
and then the bathrooms,
the tub, you are on
your knees for an hour
in each bathroom,
you give the tiles, the
toilet, the sinks
the whatfor, it's like
in church when you were
a kid, getting the sin
out, the dirt and grime
off, it makes your knees
hurt, you make the beds
toss the sheets down
the steps, you do a load
of whites, smelling
the bleach, a load of
coloreds, you dry
everything, you fold
everything and carrry
the baskets up the stairs
to be put away, not
tomorrow, but now,
and finally you're
finished and you gaze
out the bright shiny
window that you just wiped,
you stare at the melting
february snow, and she
still hasn't called to wish
you happy valentine's day.

being late

the snow,
the rain,
traffic, my
daughter called,
work phoned,
flat tire,
my ex blocked
me in the drive
way demanding
remorse,
a gust of wind
blew a trashcan
under my car,
i ran a hole
in my stocking,
a powerline
went down across
the highway,
code orange,
i left the iron
on and had
to go back,
i forgot to let
the dog out
and the cat in,
i forgot my
purse, my phone,
whoops, my
breath mints.
i needed gas,
i got lost.
i lost your number,
forgot your name,
i went to the
wrong address.
i'm sorry
i'm so late.
again, are you
still there. no?
raincheck?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

surrender

eventually you come around
to thinking that there is no
point in worrying, agonizing
over life's little things,
although anyone that i've
ever known that has owned
the book don't sweat the small
stuff is usually sweating
profusely over the small stuff,
they are helplessly locked
into a perpetual state of worry,
but you do reach a point of
exhaustion with many things,
like cars, and kids, and work,
and pets, and the house,
parents and the food you eat
or don't eat, and you sort
of let it all go, you toss
it out the window and take
a break from the madness of
trying to control your life,
the world. it's impossible.
you surrender, and in that
brief and wonderful moment,
you feel like you've finally
reached an understanding
of the world and life and
you wish you could hang onto
that instant forever and ever,
or at least until the phone rings.

the last word

my ex wife told me, she
said, i gave you the best
years of my life, and i
laughed. she said why
are you laughing and i
said because you're only
thirty four, give
yourself a chance, you
might just be peaking.
that didn't help matters
at all, and she picked
up a bottle of spring
water like she might
throw it at me, but took a
sip instead and said,
i would have done it all
differently if i hadn't
married you, and i said,
what, what would you have
done, gone to college,
got a degree, perhaps
then a job? she said no,
i would have married
a doctor, or a lawyer,
that's what i would
have done. oh, really,
i said, and then there's
quiet as happens in
every pointless arguement,
you are in the eye
of the hurricane,
it's that point in time
where you have to walk
away, there's no sense trying
to get the last word in,
it's done, it's over, it's
like driving a nail through
concrete using your head.
so you say something completely
useless like, well,
good luck with that. ten
years later i see her
driving down the street in
her husband's, dr. jimmy's
black mercedes, she beeps
at me, rolls down
the window and yells
as i'm walking alone down
the sidewalk pushing a
shopping cart holding
everything i own hey,
she says, good luck with that!

Friday, February 12, 2010

downstream

when she
died
i used to
go down
to the stream,
find a rock
to sit on
and watch
the water
for hours
roll blue,
roll
green
towards
the ocean,
where all
water goes
given time.

monkeys

i was lost the other night,
i got turned around leaving
Marla's house at three in
the morning. she lives
in an apartment complex
off Georgia Avenue, but
in leaving, i forgot how
we came in, and missed
the exit. i ended up
down by the zoo, off
of Rock Creek Parkway.
There are no street lights
down there, it's pitch
black and the place
is loaded with deer
and fox running wild,
and the roads
wind through the trees
and gullies, one false
turn and your in a ditch
or the water, and a tow
truck needs to come
in the morning to drag
you out. it's never good
when that happens. so
i pulled over onto the grass
to get my bearings. i
thought about calling
Marla, but i knew she'd
be fast asleep and i didn't
want her to know how stupid
i was getting lost
like this. it might affect
the next date, so i rolled
down the window to get
some air and turned the car
off, listened to the woods.
i was close enough to the zoo
that i could hear the animals,
especially the monkeys,
still going at it, so
early in the morning.
chattering up a storm in
their cages, happy as clams
swinging around those bars,
getting three square meals
a day, plenty of social
activity and free medical care,
that's the life, i thought.
no driving around at three
in the morning, trying to
get home in the dark, jesus,
now that's living.

flourish or perish

i believe that given
time, the seed you
buried in your
yard will find
a way to surface,
of course
providing enough
water, tending
to the weeds
and bugs,
and whatever else
might keep it from
growing and finding
sunlight, will have
to be done.
but a day will come,
a morning when you
stand at the door,
you may be old,
or you may still
be young, but
you will be looking
at the yard
and you will see
the hope and dream
within you fulfilled.

kitty kitty

she's like a cat
in the alley, purring,
the way she comes
and goes, stealthy
in her lace covered
paws, her dark eyes
flashing in the bits
of light that my heart
gives her. with ease
she slides into my door,
finds the bowl of
milk i set out,
then goes up the stairs
and finds the keys
to me, and what i
adore about her
and her feline ways.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

small things

there are small
pleasures, like putting
your hands near a fire
when you are cold,
or getting a sweet kiss
on the lips from someone
you care about, the taste
of a well cooked meal,
ice water on a summer day,
clean sheets, cool
and crisp on a bed with
the window open,
perhaps a hand written
note from a friend,
or the sound of someone's
voice that you miss.
these are the things
that keep you afloat,
keep you going in the
night, through winter.

putting things off

i have a client, a woman,
who lives alone, no pets,
no husband, no one that can
be visibly seen living with
her, who calls me every two
months or so to give her
another estimate
to paint her walls, patch,
repair, caulk, strip the
paper, and i walk through
the condo with her, patiently,
taking notes as she tells
me about what she wants done
and needs done, the sooner
the better. i've done this
four times now,the last time
i didn't even open my book
or pull out a pen while gave
me the run down on what had
to be done. the sooner
the better, and that she'll
give me a call in a few days.
it's a very small, cramped
place, full of old furniture,
boxes still unpacked from when
she moved in five years ago.
in some ways, it's so dirty
that it looks like no one
could possibly live there,
and yet, there could be
ten people making this
mess. she asks me if i have
any plastic, and drop cloths
to cover things up, and i nod,
i tell her, of course. good,
she says, i'll call you soon.
i'm ready this time, and i
tell her okay, fine, i look
forward to your call, but
i know i'll never do this job.

natasha

she called herself natasha
but her real name was gladys,
natasha was her internet name.
she said she was forty-nine,
but i'd bet my eyes and ears
that she was at least fifty-six,
mininum. her profile said average
weight, perhaps this was true,
but you couldn't tell because
of the black raincoat she was
wearing that matched her black
lipstick. things didn't go well
at first, but we ate, and drank,
and told each other enough tall
tales from dating that we
actually liked each other by
the third drink. maybe it was
the martinis. i don't know.
so in the end i walked her to
her car and she tried to pull
me in for a hug and a goodnight
kiss, but i held my ground and
stiffened which made her slip
in the light snow that had begun
to fall. she snapped off one
of her heels and went down
like a wounded animal,
hitting her head on the side
of her jeep wrangler making
a bloody gash, jesus, i said,
natasha, are you okay? you're
bleeding. it's gladys,
she said, i'm really gladys.
you don't listen, do you?
i was carrying the doggy bag
of pork chops that she had half
eaten, and put the bag gently
against her head to stop
the bleeding, then helped her
up and into her car. i feel
dizzy, she said. go straight
home, i told her, and if
you feel like you're going
to pass out pull over, okay?
she shut the door and drove
off, holding the bag of chops
to her head, gladys, not natasha.

betting on the horses

my friend jimmy
called me up the other
day and asked me
for money. i told
him that work was
slow, times were tough
between the weather,
the economy, business
wasn't what it used
to be, plus i had
alimony and child
support to the first
wife and a cat
with a liver condition
who needed a special
diet of rice and lamb
and a bevy of pills
to keep him alive,
the cat was killing me,
i told him, but maybe
i could spot you
something, so i asked
him how much
he needed. a thousand
dollars, he said. i knew
that he liked to bet
the horses, and that
a big race was coming
up soon, so i was
certain that that's where
the money was going. How
will you pay me back,
jimmy, i asked him.
i'm good for it, i'll
give it back to you next
week. so i lent him
the money. why not. we
both had bet on so many
things in life, and lost,
lost big and often.
his way was the track,
while i took a different
route all together.

while she lay dying

i noticed that
there is a distant
port that the dying
sail towards, without
them knowing, but the
boat is in the water,
it's in their
speech, the movement
of their bodies,
an instinct to flee
the world that they
can no longer
particpate in,
and the feeling
is strangely mutual,
though unadmitted,
for the two cannot
coexist, the living,
the healthy must press
on, while the soon
to die, must raise
the white sail and
shove off towards
unknown shores. it's
not sad, or wrong
in any way, it's nature
separating what must
leave, what must stay.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

seaglass

she wants to say
that there is so
much seaglass among
us, not just dark
and clear shards
of broken bottles,
or windows, or plates,
but the rare colored
glass that you find
along the shore
when the moon and sun
align on the same
side of earth,
and the tides recede
or rise at their
greatest levels,
but she believes
that the sparkle
of amber, of cobalt
blue and torquoise,
the rare red glass,
are on our own dry
shores, waiting,
to be discovered,
and held to the light.

lisa's cars

my friend lisa begins
almost every conversation
with a story about her
car, or her son's car,
or truck, or jeep, or
the car that her ex is
lending her until her
car gets out of the shop,
or because it drives
better in the snow, better
than her small, older
car with the peace sticker
on the back window.
i've known lisa for years
and have never seen her
in the same car, and
each story involves
a tricky situation with
the garage, a tow truck,
an expired sticker, or
a blown engine that is
or isn't covered under
warranty, and she has
to get on the phone to
talk to an insurance agent
or mechanic by two o'clock,
before friday when her
son has to go to ohio, but
pittsburgh first,
and her husband has to
fly back to Iraq, but not
before he returns his
rental car to Hertz. so
she met me for breakfast,
but walked, because
the car she has been
using throughout the week
is buried under three
feet of snow, and the
shovel is in the trunk
of her son's car who may
or may not be on the road
back to school in his
girlfriend's car, because
his car has a flat and
the jack is in Lisa's car,
the one with the peace
sticker on the back window
parked in front of her house,
buried under snow.

Monday, February 8, 2010

i think that

having less as a child
does not guarantee
virtue or wisdom, but
it gives you a head
start. feeling
the pavement
through the hole in
your shoe, or shivering
from the cold that blows
through a thin pane
of glass as you try
to sleep beneath a
thread bare blanket
does not discourage
goodness within you,
and that hunger,
that rolling ache
in your belly from
lack of food
won't pave the path
towards righteousness,
or enlightenment,
but sometimes i think
it has helped.

bliss

with glee, she says,
we're getting married,
while shoveling snow,
her man beside her
in his red wool hat,
to match hers, and his
shovel going strong,
his face perspiring
from carving out
her car, her sidewalk,
her driveway,she says
again, and points
with her thumb, as if
hitching a ride, we're
getting married. he
doesn't look over
at me, but nods
his head. he keeps
digging, keeps at it,
the dense snow
getting heavier
with each deep push
and lift of the blade.
she moves out
of the way so
that he can shovel
where she stands,
the sun on her face
showing relief
in the unmelted snow
that is no longer
just hers. she tells
him where to put
the salt and the sand
when he's done digging,
and folds her arms,
and smiles, unable
to contain her joy.

within these walls

i can get out
if i wanted to.
these walls can't
hold me, i'm an
innocent man, i'm
not guilty of the
crimes they say
i committed, i
can dig, i can leap
the wall, the barbed
wire, defeat these
guards, the dogs,
the siren, the
searchlights won't
find me in the
shadows, i'm too
quick, too innocent,
too right to be
held down and out
for long. i'm
biding my time,
you'll see, you'll
hear about it, read
about in the paper,
my great escape.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

public service announcement

i was reading in
the paper,
sunday morning
about how over
six hundred thousand
men and women die
each year
in this country
alone because of
cigarettes. but wait,
i'm not preaching,
i'm not telling
anyone to stop,
but in one year
alone more people
will die from
inhaling tobacco
than all the soldiers
and sailors, airmen,
and marines died
in world war two.
oh, please, i'm
not telling you
or anyone what to
do. i understand it's
an addiction, one
i've never flirted
with, and it must
be hard to stop,
otherwise, the price
the stains, the
yellowed teeth and
wrinkles before their
time and horrid breath
would be enough for you
to do that. and the young
people, i think about
those young pink lungs,
absorbing tar, setting
off the flames of
god knows what inside
their precious bodies.
okay, okay, it really
does sound like
i'm preaching, but no.
i'm just saying
what if terrorists
killed over six hundred
thousand people a year,
every year, hmmm,
perhaps someone might
try to stop them. but
i'm just saying.

sunshine

when it's cold,
and ice cakes
the ground and
the wind is frenzied,
you won't find me
there, or here,
i'm on the road
to an undisclosed
destination, a place
warm, where the sun
cradles my face with
the long soft hands
of a lover who
promises to never
leave, to never stray,
to stay loyal no matter
how long the night,
how short the day.

bread and butter

sitting at her table,
she'd put out a tray
of cups, and saucers,
tea in a porcelain pot,
hard butter and blueberry
jam as black and blue
as midnight without
moon and with deliberate
strokes, i watched the
roped veins, long
and bruised beneath
her skin, down her arms
and hands, she'd butter
a slice of thick bread,
all the while thinking,
her lips pursed, forming
a thought about what
she had read, there was
a slowness to it all that
made my feet tap, i had
faster things to say,
young thoughts, but i
couldn't lead, i had
to follow, and listen
to what she thought of the
poem i had given her to read.
and in this way we'd
spend the morning, her
house still needing to
be painted, the drop cloths
covering her furniture,
all of which could wait.

shoveling home

it is a very slender thread
this life, these days
where we tread on fallen
snow and scattered ice
that gleams in a small sun.
we find winter hard, and
the spring less so. the
latter years being nets
for those memories, however
vague or brilliant in each
mind's eye. it's important
to bundle up, to wear
a cap, thick gloves and
boots to keep the wet
out, the warm in when
removing what's left
of this ice cap world, one
shovel at a time.

barcelona

my father, at eighty-two,
on the phone, coughs and clears
his throat before telling me
again the story of when we
were in barcelona in nineteen
fifty nine and a horse
and wagon were hit by a car,
and how the man, bleeding
from his crushing wounds
was loaded into the back
seat of his torquoise chevy
impala brought in all the way
from philadelphia. the wonder
in his voice always amazes
me, the clear vision of that
dying man in the back seat,
speaking in spanish, groaning
as we rushed him to the hospital.
i can see the blood, see his
dark brown eyes staring into
mine as he approached death,
our lives impossibly crossing
paths, and me just six years
old. but my father goes on
with the story even though
my mind is way ahead of him.
and as i let him tell me the tale
again over the phone i wonder
what he's trying to say really,
what message this story might have
if one at all. but he never
remembers turning my head away
when the policeman comes over with
a gun to put the crippled horse
down as she lies on the side
of the road. i remember hearing
the shot, and feeling my fathers
large hand gently holding my head,
trying to keep me from the brutality
of the world for just a short
while longer, but it was too late.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

parenthood

slowly, delicately,
after turning up the music,
she leans over the table,
sits down, and takes
out a small bag of an
illegal substance, weed,
grass, pot, whatever,
and without so much as
a glance to the door,
the window, or me, she
proceeds to roll herself
a fat joint, sprinkling
the dirt brown weed,
vaguely green onto the
thin piece of paper.
expertly, she licks the
ends and twists, before
lighting up and taking a
long hard toke, holding
the sweet, acrid smoke
inside her lungs until
she turns pink, then
exhales it towards my face,
here, she says, and i
shake my head no, suit
yourself, more for me,
she taps her chest, and
coughs, then takes another
deep hit, sliding back
into her chair and closing
her eyes. finally exhaling,
she looks at me and says,
i don't know what's wrong with
my kids, they don't listen
to me, they seem to be out
of it half the time,
they're doing badly in school,
they hang around with
the worst crowd, i think
they both have tatoos
and shelly came home with
a stick pin in her eyebrow
last night. i found an empty
pint of southern comfort
in jimmy's closet. jesus,
the car has more dents in it
than i can count, i try
to be a good mom, i really
do, she takes another
long drag from the now small
joint, then picks up a pair
of tweezers on the table
to relight the small butt,
inhaling it from under her
nose. i need to go talk to
the counselor at the school
tomorrow. these kids are wild
these days, they don't listen.
i actually have to hide my
stash now, because i know
they'll be in it.
can you believe that? it
just seems like yesterday
i was pushing them around
in strollers.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

the swing

there was a time
when my son would sit
on the swing for hours,
and i would push him,
higher, then higher,
feeling the small weight
of his back in the tips
of my fingers,
his small pink hands
curled tight around
the chains, he would
laugh as the sun fell
off behind the rows
and rows of so many
houses and very little
trees, there seemed to
be so much time, so many
days more just like that
in the warm summer,
hearing his voice calling
me to push, to push him
even harder before
darkness fell and a
chill set upon the air.

five a.m.

in the morning
when he wakes up,
he shakes the dream
of her out of his head.
he finds the bathroom,
shuffles to coffee,
lifts a cold paper
from the stoop
while it's still dark
out. the dog is asleep,
he's got time. and
then the hot shower
and he dresses, he
finds his watch, his
wallet, his phone
and keys, lets the dog
out back, then back
in to a handful of food,
some water, pats him
on the head and locks
the door behind him.
and while he drives
the almost empty
road, hot coffee in his
hand, he goes back to
the dream of her, and
how it might have been.

you can leave your hat on

i see you've come around
to my way of thinking, i
like the tilt of your
pill box hat, the sway
of your hips in that
summer dress,
the color of your lips.
you've got a glint of
mischief in your eyes,
don't deny it, i can
hear it in the snap of
those heels coming across
the hardwood floor. just
give me a moment to cross
myself and ask for
forgiveness in advance.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

is there anything else i can do for you

they ask politely
before you hang up,
before the final
thanks and goodbye is
said, they ask you
if there is anything
else they can do for you.
and it always surprises
me for a second.
i think about what else
can the bank do for me,
the credit card woman,
the phone company,
or the cable guy, or
the girl ringing up
my groceries.
yes, i found everything
okay, what do you mean?
what are they talking about?
what can they possibly
do for you once they've
done what they have been
paid to do?
you just changed the oil
in my car, i think that's it.
that's all you can do,
or that i expect you to do
for me right now.
of course later, i often
think of things that i could
have said, please
come over here, and clean
my house, rub my shoulders
and make me a drink,
walk my dog, wash
my car, buy me that
winning lottery ticket.
yes, in time i can think
of plenty of other things
that they might want to
do for me since they sound
so helpful and sincere.
oh, and on a side note,
it's okay if they stop
saying hello to me nineteen
times wile walking through
the store. this friendliness
is really having the opposite
effect on my buying habits.

trouble in a dress

i've shaken free
of keeping in my
life those that weigh
me down. it was a hard
place to get to, but
i've arrived. and
the silence is sweet,
like fresh mango
pulled and cut, and
bitten. and yet,
they still come,
sometimes they are
at the window, on
the phone, flying
overhead on broom
sticks, shouting out
their discontent,
laying out their case
against me, but it's
too late, i've already
moved on, i don't
need trouble in a
dress, and i'm coming
around to understanding
this whole monk thing.