Tuesday, July 31, 2012

from this point forward

a woman
lies in the street
on the center line.
she's wearing
nice shoes, pink,
and a hat
to match
her handbag.
cars stop,
or go  around
her, but no one
gets out
to help her up.
they yell at
her to get out
of the way,
but she doesn't
budge.
her hands
are folded
on her chest,
her eyes are
open. she has
reached a stage
in life
where everything
from this point
forward will
be different.

train coming

your ear
to the rails
you hear
a train coming.
the hum
and rattle
of the wheels.
the gravel
shakes,
the trees
tremble.
you see a bird
fly off
into the blue
as you
rise and move
to the other
side.

the mountain

the mountain
comes to you
sometimes.
cold and dark.
frightening
in its size
and weight.
you wake up
to it, in its
shadow, not
seeing beyond
the peak,
only locked
inside the crevices,
holding on
with a rope
between your
chattering teeth.

making friends

you can see through
the peep hole
that it's a salesman
knocking,
but you open
the door anyway.
you've been a little
lonely lately since
your bird died
in his cage from cooking
with pots and pans
from china. the fumes.
you just read an article
in newsweek about it too.
yes, you say to the young
man. what are you
selling, you ask him.
nothing, he says. i
just wanted to say that
i backed into your car
when i was leaving
and i was going to leave
a note, but didn't
have a pen. so i thought
i'd tell you. you look
out into the parking
lot. which car, you ask.
that one, he says, pointing,
at a blue prius. you
shake your head, not
mine, that's tina's, next
door. but hey, stop for
stopping by.
nice to meet you.

you want more

you want more
than what is given.
whether
it's in the burrito line
as they spoon
your allotment
of chicken out,
or the unemployment
line, you want
more. one kiss
is not enough,
one night of making
love leaves
you wanting. you want
more. more money
for the work
you do,
more love from
those you love.
you want more
from the music you
hear, the books you read,
the movies
you see.
you want what's
missing. it's always
that way, and at
the end it would be
nice to have another
hour, another
second to gaze out
the window,
another day. you
want more.

cold feet

your white feet
on the cold stones
in the stream
behind your
house
are in a different
place
than you are.
the rest of you
is wet with heat,
burdened
with tomorrow
but not your
feet. they are on
vacation.

the juicer

your sister sends you
a postcard
from hawaii. she's
on her honeymoon
after getting married
for the second time.
you didn't know,
this is all news
to you, but
you feel like
you should send her
a gift, so you go onto
amazon and order
her up a juicer. she
lives in florida, so you
figure she has access
to lots of fresh fruit
and vegetables.
you order one for
yourself too. she's given
you some ideas, not
about the marrying
thing, god no, but about
moving south
to finish off the final
string of years.

bobcat

you over hear
the woman in front
of you,
talking to the wide
eyed clerk,
telling her story of being
attacked by a bobcat
while jogging
in the woods
in fredericksburg
virginia. out of
nowhere, she said,
excitedly, this
bobcat leaped
and knocked me
down, taking a
small bite
out of my leg.
i was on my phone
at the time, but luckily
he didn't get that too.
she pointed at
the bandage wrapped
around her skinny
leg. too skinny,
i thought,
hardly enough to
make a meal.

what's ahead

looks like rain
you say
staring up into
the sky
at the blue
knuckles
of clouds
gathering
overhead.
there is nothing
to be done about
it, but you feel
better
now knowing
what's up ahead.

licking envelopes

you find paying
bills tedious
as you sit on
the living room
floor, with pen
and stamps, and
two check books
with which to decide
how to pay
for this and that.
but you don't trust
online banking.
you'd rather sort
through the pile
than lose everthing
in the careless click
of a number on a
keyboard, so
you write out
the amount and place
of destination.
which stub goes
into which
envelope.
the long one, or
the short one.
the window needing
to match. the lick
of the envelope
and the return
address, now
stamped. onto
the table.
into the slot they'll
stick out
waiting for the  mail
man. his
leather pouch.

the lava lamp

i'm getting
too old for this
she says
rattling
the handcuffs
against
the bedposts.
nonsense
you say
turning off
the lights,
clicking on
the purple lava
lamp.

Monday, July 30, 2012

my life coach

your life coach
calls you on the phone,
she's drunk
and crying.
you can tell she's in
a bar from the noise,
the music and
clinking of bottles.
i'm not going to
charge you for this
session, she says.
but i thought you
seemed depressed
the last time we met.
you mean when you
came over to help
me organize my sock
drawers, yes, she
says, beginning to
hiccup. i think you
should have a separate
drawer for the tan
colored socks, they
should have their
own space. why are
you crying, you ask
her. i'm not sure she
says. someone called
me bossy the other day.
but i have to go
now. see you next week.
we're doing shirts.
so do some laundry.
hiccup. ouch, someone
just stepped on my
foot. bye.

kenny

he wore
a yellow sweater.
button down.
tan slacks,
and brown loafers.
his hair was cut
neat and short
once a week.
a pack of cigarettes
and a stainless
steel lighter
was always within
reach .a whiskey
sour too. a tumbler
brown and cold
on ice. he was
different, he was
like so many others
of that world war
two generation.
most are gone, or on
the train leaving,
and the things they
knew.

her footprints

she leaves the imprint
of her lipstick
on the mirror.
on a note
on a pad by the door.
one shoe
under the bed.
a slip, a stocking,
a brush
for rouge. an
earring lying
on the floor. foot
prints are
everywhere,
even in the fridge
where she carved
out with a fork
just a dollop of
of cheesecake,
no more.

but i wasn't ready

she says, let's arm wrestle
and puts her hand up.
i want to see how
strong you are. see
if you're man enough
for a woman like me.
she spits into the palm
of her hand then slides
war and peace
beneath her elbow
to make it even.
she grips your hand,
her palm disappearing
into yours. go she
says loudly and slams
your hand down
against a plate of
linguini. winner, she
shouts, winner. i'm
stronger than you.
your turn will come.

the yellow duck

my feet hurt
from standing,
from
walking
and running.
from climbing
on ladders
then inching along
a hot pitched
roof.
fifty odd years
with the same
feet. but
i'm not complaining
just whining
a little
as i let the hot
water fill
the tub
and i  slide
the yellow duck
into the steam
who never makes
a peep.

the queen of spades

you flip
the card over
two on an eight.
hit me you
say. another card
comes. a red
three, a heart.
hit me again,
you say.
the next is
a four. one more
you say, squinting
knowing that this
could hurt.
another four,
the spade
card arrives.
you need a three,
so throw caution
to the wind, and
say again.
hit me.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

talking with god

the tequila
didn't set well
with the chinese
noodles dripping
in sweet sauce.
and that hot pepper
that you accidentally
ate mistaking
it for beef
is still glowing
someplace deep
inside you. it was
a  mistake trying
to douse that flame
with three mai tai's.
it will be a
day of reckoning,
a day of examining
the tiles
of your bathroom floor
and asking
god for forgiveness,
and of making vows
that you can't
possibly keep.

pants on the floor

let's not
fight today
you tell
your friend
lilly mae
as she shakes
her head
at you. but
you see that
it's too late
as she kicks
your pants
that lie
on the floor
across the room.

seeing eye dog

the opthamologist
can't see.
he confuses
you with another
patient.
calls you back
in for a second
examination
as you sit there
waiting to pay
for the first one.
did i examine
you, he says.
you look familiar.
ten minutes ago
you tell him. i
read the chart and
you blew air
into my eyes.
okay, how about you?
he squints and
says to the dog
sitting beside me.
the dog barks
and goes in.

simplicity

she likes
the garlic press.
the blender,
the juicer
and the food
processor.
everything
in sight is from
williams
and sonoma.
while i prefer
to keep it
simple
with a spoon
and a bowl,
a cutting board,
a knife.

Friday, July 27, 2012

being read to

you loved
as child when
someone would read
to you. your mother,
a teacher. to put
your head down
and let the words
pour into your ears
and form an image
in the soft sweet
memory of your mind.
how those stories
lingered and warmed
you, kept you still
where you were, calm
and listening, wanting
only more words,
more stories, for
the night to stretch
into morning.

photo of a girl

the photo
is one of her standing
by a gravestone.
a white cross.
there is no smile
or frown
upon her face.
the sky behind her
is blue
without a cloud.
there is a tree to
her right.a scrub pine.
she is wearing
a red sweater.
it might be early
spring, the grass
is a thick cold green.
her hands are at
her side, her hair
cut short, but around
her ears finds
and blocks her
eyes. you can't see
her eyes. the story
lies there.

the wall paper

the wallpaper
like scales of ancient
fish, too weak to
swim fast or far,
comes down slowly.
the ripples
of pale brown
skin peeling
uneasily
in the soft sunlight
eeking in
from the alley way.
what year it went
up, you aren't sure.
but up it is and good.
stuck with clay
paste and smoothed
down tight
by hands that
are probably gone
by now, but
the paper is
unbudging through
the decades.

magic

slight of hand
the rabbit comes
out of the hat
but he's not a happy
rabbit. he's
tired and ruffled
from beng stuffed
so deep into
the fabric of this
silly hat.
magic, he thinks,
and shakes his
white furry head.
magic my sweet
bunny tail.

brown eyes

on the far side
of fifty,
your sister
has new eyes.
they took the old
lenses off
and replaced
them with
new ones.
no more coke
bottle glasses.
no more four
eyes, or kids
like me saying
horrible things
about boys
making passes.
but they are still
brown
like tea, dark
tea with a glimmer
of sweetness
in the twinkle.

pfffft, men!

so how did your week
go, your therapist
asks as you lie
on the couch
staring up
at her diplomas
and dried
bunches of flowers
arranged and held
together with
small strips of
blue ribbon.
not good, you tell
her. everyone
is mad at me.
everyone she says?
yes, everyone.
i hear her take
out a ball of yarn
from somewhere
and start clinking
her knitting needles
together. do tell,
she says. well, you
say, it just seems that
i keep saying the
wrong things at the
wrong time and they
get upset. what do you
mean by they. the women,
the women in my
life. so you have a thing
against women, is that
what i'm hearing.
i hear the needles
clinking harder and
faster together and her
feet  bang against
the floor.. no, i like women,
i really like  most of
them. them, she says,
do you see how you
objectify women, you
treat them horribly and
expect love in return. no
wonder they all hate you.
i didn't say hate, i said
that they are mad and angry
at me. you know what,
she says, i think we're done
here. i've heard enough of
your women talk. don't
call me for two weeks.
now get up and leave.
put the check on the desk
on your way out. pffft,
men, she says.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

old phones

the closet
is full of wires
old phones
and computers.
dust bins.
firewood that
won't burn.
your words
and ears
captured somewhere
within, not
to get out
again. batteries
burned
out. hard drives
driven too
fast and far.
screens no longer
in view, but
black and blue
and gone.

the sea at rest

tired
with itself
the sea
stops
for a while.
no waves
rushing
towards
the shore
or away.
disregarding
the white
pull of
the moon.
leaving
it all for
once, to chance.
letting go
of it's salt
and weeds
and mythology
of who
it thinks
it is. take heart
to what
the sea does.

mirage

she feeds
you grapes, fans
you in the heat
while wearing
next to nothing.
she's your
cleopatra, your
queen, your
delilah.
she wants only
for you to be
happy
and loved.
it's not when,
but how often.
she leans down
to kiss you on
the lips
delivering
a red cherry
from hers,
slightly bitten
and dripping
red,
but then the phone
rings, waking
you up. it's your
ex asking where
her check is.

the red ball

you drop
a ball
and give
chase. it rolls
out of your
hand
onto the
floor, down
the steps
through
the livingroom
and out the door.
you go after
it. watching
it's red
spin along
the road.
you sweat,
and make no
gain on it.
it's rolling
and rolling away
so you stop.
you think to
yourself, why
am i doing this.
there are other
red balls.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

music

you turn
and turn the dial.
searching
for one song
that holds your interest.
one tune,
one melody you
can hum
and remember
and want to hear
again
and again, until
you buy it.
is it your age
finally catching up
to you, or has
the music really
died.

springfield

each fall there
is a parade
in town
that involves
apples.
apple sauce,
apple pies.
apple butter.
the homecoming
queen is
atop
a white convertible
waving numbly,
a red delicious
in hand.
there are dogs.
kids pulling
wagons. old
soldiers from
the legion post
wearing boots
laced high.
the mayor
comes out and says
something
about how wonderful
it all is.
and to pick up
your trash before
you leave.
you wait in
your car for it all
to pass by. you
think about how
the leaves have
turned, fallen,
how the streams
now run cold.

kenny picasso

out of the blue
the woman
checking your
groceries says that
you look like an older
kenny chesney.
i'm sorry, you say,
but who's he?
a cowboy singer,
she says, smiling,
showing her teeth.
you take it
for a compliment
dip your hat
and say, why thank
you ma'am.
then you get home
set the bags
onto the kitchen
table, and your wife
takes a long look
at you and tells
you that more
and more
each day you look
like pablo picasso
near the end of
his life. it hasn't
been a good day.

baby bones

there are over
three hundred
bones in a baby.
i read that today
on a sheet of
fun news and trivia
while waiting for
my car to be fixed.
i may never forget
that useless
information.
it will stick with
me until the day
i die, while the car
finds a dump to
rust in, the tires
flatten. the seats
spring holes. i'll
always have those
tiny, bleached white
baby bones
to ponder.

i never knew

at the end
of each life
someone finds
the box
that tells more
than you want
or need to know.
it's never out
in the open,
or under the bed
or in the closet,
deep. it's
in a darker place.
the far corner
of the attic,
the wet cellar.
nearly forgotten
but almost always
found and opened
with a gasp
and the words,
oh my,
i never knew.

the skier

do you ski, she asks
with a toothy smile
her hair pulled back
against the awful
blue sky.
she is an olympian.
her face flush with
sunlight, her bones
strong, holding her
in solid stance with
a pole dug in,
skis sunk into the ice
and snow. no, you
tell, much too my
sorrow, i'm more
of a sledder, then
watch her in a blow
of white wind, go
down the hill
without you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

back in her arms

fresh
as fresh can
be. you
spring out
of bed
with a happy
dream
that involved
sex
and food.
ice cream.
you can't
wait to
get tired
and home
again
to slip  back
into her arms
for more.

the dust

you don't like dust
but apparently
it likes you.
no matter how
many times you
vacuum and wipe
it away, it returns
as if you never
said farewell.
it makes you
strangely happy
to have something
or someone that
feels so strongly
about you, no
matter how crazy
that thought
might be.

the apple

you see them in the grocery
store, stopping their carts
to study apples.to
hold a tomato in their
hands as if shopping
not for food, but for art
to be placed somewhere
in their home where
everyone can see.
they tap on the melons,
turning them to the side
almost waiting for
a cough. and the corn,
how they shred the stalk
and peer into the hidden
layers to see if there
is gold, or subtle signs
of rot. how they
smell the basil, the parsley,
closing their eyes
being transported to a
place you want to go.
the grapes and cherries
lifted into the light.
such scrunity. and you
wonder if their life
is like this all the time.
as you take the first apple
from the pile
and  take a bite.

Monday, July 23, 2012

fashionista

you've lost
your fashion
way. no longer
sure what to
wear at this
late stage,
this age.
still in shorts
and t shirts
as you were at
twenty
then thirty.
your life is
done with coats
and ties.
pleated gabardines
and italian knits.
hard polished
shoes that catch
the sunlight. those
are reserved for
more somber
moments now,
the weddings
and funerals
of others. hung
deep into the far
closet. you'll
say no to both,
pulling down
your  ball cap as you
ride your bike,
pedaling quickly
to pass them by.

pepper mill

the waiters
glide through
the room
with their pepper
mills, two feet
long and wooden.
pepper, they say,
politely pausing
at your table.
yes, okay then,
just tell me when
to stop. they seem
very pleased
about grinding
black pepper
onto your plate.
it's as if they
are sprinkling
happiness into your
life with each
twist of the mill.

two for one burial plots


while sititng in the doctor's
office waiting to have
a suspicious mole removed
you see a two for one
ad in a magazine for burial
plots and cut it out with
a pair of scissors you borrow
from the receptionist. you fight
off the thought that you
have become your mother
and read the small print
with a magnifying glass.
it's not a bad deal. the grounds
look lovely. rose bushes
dot the land, oak trees
shade the rows and rows
of very nice white and
grey headstones. there's
some sort of thick green
hedge that hides the surrounding
chain link fence. you could
see being buried there until
someone puts a condo up. not
a bad deal this two for one.
but what would you do
with the extra grave?
you could call your ex wife
but then she'd think you
were up to something
devious,so that's out. you
could give it to someone
for their birthday or
christmas, but it might seem
odd and tasteless. and then
you think, why not
use both for yourself.
have a little extra room,
stretch out, like you do in
bed. maybe diagonally
arms over your head,
legs akimbo.

bug bites

you are running out
of things to say
aren't you, she says,
smirking in that way
that makes you shake
your head and let
out a  growl.
your fingers rest
upon the keyboard
awaiting any new
idea that might arise.
but nothing comes to mind.
what's the matter she says.
i don't hear any clicking.
oh it's not over, you tell her,
was it over when the titantic
hit an iceberg, yes,
she says. it was over.
well. that's not the right
analogy then is it.
are we having a little
spat, she says while rubbing
ointment onto a line
of mosquito bites
along her leg. maybe i'll write
something about
bug bites, you tell her, staring
at the red bumps. yeah,
she says, who wouldn't
want to read about that.

the barking dog

i used to ask
my dog
how can you bark
all day
sitting on
the bed, looking
out the window.
a cat, the mailman,
the neighbor
washing his car.
the woman
across the court
with curlers in her hair.
you bark and growl
at everyone.
what good is
it for you to bark
and bark
like you do. people
are complaining.
but he shrugs
his little shoulders
and smiles.
everything i've
learned, he says,
i've learned
from you.

someone like you

your skin
is tough
hardened with
love gone wrong.
rising and setting
suns. winter
days that rattle
your bones.
but every now
and then a soft
spot is found
and someone,
like you, gets in.

the survey

a man you see
nearly every day is on
the corner with his
sign and red plastic
bucket. he's bearded
and disheveled.
but today he's wearing
a bright red tie
on his plaid shirt
argyled with various
stains from assorted
meals. you say hey.
drop a dollar into
the green salad of bills
and rattling coins.
but today he hands
you a card before
you can walk away
and says, please go
to my website and fill
out this survey, let me
know how i'm doing.
thanks, have a nice day.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

jars

you make
a living opening
stuck jars.
you've found
a true skill
that you can
market.
olive jars,
pickle jars.
small white
onions under
thick glass.
you go from
door to door.
opening jars.
your life
has meaning.

sleep

sleep sleep
sleep. soft pillows
under head.
a prayer
whispered
half spoken
hanging in
the air.
hands and arms
uncurled
no longer holding
the day
or thoughts
that chased you.
sleep sleep
sleep. life's
sweet elixir.

mustard

she's in love
with mustard.
on her potatoes
fried
her eggs
and tomatoes.
brown mustard
spicy and wild,
yellow
and bright.
give her mustard
and she's happy
with delight.
throw in a pickle
and she's yours
for the  night.

Friday, July 20, 2012

a romantic night

you have a romantic
evening alone at home.
you position yourself
in front of the tv
with a plate of scrambled
eggs and bacon
on the coffee table. you've
added cheddar cheese because
after all it's friday night.
you have orange juice
too. the kind with pulp.
you like pulp.
a baseball game is on,
but you have it on mute.
the announcers
annoy you. instead you
have al green on the stereo.
that's right. the stereo. no
no lousy new age gizmo
for me. i'm tired of being
alone al sings in that
sweet soulful wail. you
turn off the lights and
put a couple of candles
out, but you can still see
the pile of laundry in
the middle of the floor
that you might fold.
you take a bite of toast
then get up and dance
to the kitchen. maybe
you need just a shot of
vodka in that oj.

diving for pearls

diving for pearls
you leap
off the edge
of the cliff
into clear
deep water
your body cuts
through the surface
as you hold air
tightly in your warm
lungs. the bottom
is full of oysters
scattered like stones
in the ancient sand.
each one holding
some form of hope.
it takes a day,
a week, a month,
sometimes even a
lifetime to find
just one.

lost and found

this drawer full
of ticking watches
and things left
and lost, rings
and bracelets,
combs and brushes.
dead phones
and batteries.
a number on a
note. a pair of
black shoelaces.
scissors and screws.
a ball of string.
none of it abandoned
but just waiting
as we all are
to be found again.

go slow

go slow with
this boat
row easy
let it float
and carry us
to the other
shore. there's
no hurry,
no struggle
in the pull
of arms and oar.
go slow,
we'll get there
when we
get there.

rhymes with hell

i hate using this computer
but i have to use it.
it's the only one
i have because the last one
made by a company that rhymes
with hell died again. i could
go use the desk tops down
at the local library, but
then i'd have to stand in
line with a bunch of six
graders who don't have
computers at home and are
trying to write a paper
on huckleberry finn,
or george washington.
every four or five years like
clockwork, the screen flickers
and goes black then blue with
a system dump of nonsense
shimmering on the failed screen.
it's fried like the eggs
i had this morning. i remember
a time when twelve hundred
dollars bought you a week
at the ocean in a swank hotel
with breakfast every morning
and dinner every night
and someone to secure an
umbrella in the sand for
you as you sat drinking
pina coladas until the sun
went down. times have
changed i realize as i  sit
here on hold with someone
one from hell.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

communication

i need a man
that can communicate
with me, tell
me his deepest thoughts
and understand
mine, someone who
loves me for who i
am despite my many
faults. someone who
will listen to me when
i come home from a long
hard day at word
and comfort me
with kind words of
compassion
and understanding.
do you hear what i'm
saying honey, are
you listening to me?
hold on, they're going
to show this play in slow
motion again, take a
look, tell me if this is
not a fumble.
it should be our ball,
but no, i can't believe
the refs blew this one.
geeeze marie. okay.
i'm sorry, let me
mute this, what did
you say? you want
to call in a pizza or
something? i'm starving.

a good day

you brush up
against a good day,
a day of no
sorrow, or sadness.
it has it's fill
of things gone
wrong, but they
don't bother you as
they once did at
thirty or even
forty. you see
the long shadow
of your life, and
accept the cold
and warmth
with an equal
embrace.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

the blue miles

the sudden beauty
of a bird
as it suddenly
appears as if
from nowhere
keeps me in
wonder. it's
as magical
as you are across
the blue miles.

meade's liquor store

there's a drive-thru
liquor store
in oxon hill maryland
across from eastover
shopping  center
that's been there
since i was in the fourth
grade, a thousand
years ago. we'd
stand waiting for
the bus and watch
the line of men and
women in their cars
pass through at eight
a.m., taking hold of
the bottles and cans
in paper bags as they
came through the window.
teachers and lawyers,
construction workers,
men and women with
nothing to do, nowhere
to go. most of what was there
in the neighborhood
as a kids is gone,
the bowling alley
the drugstore, the motel,
all boarded up.
barbed wire wrapped
around the premises.
the ball field
is a parking lot full
of broken glass, but
the liquor store
is gold, still thriving.
still passing the bags
through the window
to the human souls
unchanging.

green eyed

a very tall man moves
into the neighborhood,
his name is willis.
some call him handsome,
but i don't quite get that.
he's very popular
with the single women
and married ones as
well. please, willis, help me
get my cat out of the
tree they say, or can
you come over, i can't
reach that bag of sugar
on the top shelf.
annoyed by him,
i kick a ball
onto the roof,
and he comes over,
trying to be nice, and
says, i can get that for
you shorty.

the lethal bug

you read where
mosquitoes
have killed off
half of humanity
down through
the ages, malaria
yellow fever
and countless
other transported
diseases
by wing and blood
but you guessed
religion, or
love and
were wrong
although relieved.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

lovers in their cars

the deer
are large and fat
this summer.
the herd was
thinned over
the warm
winter months.
but now
they are back.
standing near
the path
in the parking lot
as darkness
settles in,
watching you
watching them.
you want to yell
out, keep
the population
down, but they'd
turn a deaf
ear to that,
as would the lovers
in their cars under
the shady trees.

the baby

when the nurse
hands you a baby,
your baby.
it stuns you.
where are
the directions,
the manual,
who are they to
trust you with
another life,
one so small
and fragile.
but you make due.
you gate
the steps,
plug the sockets.
keep the dog
at bay and sweep
the floor for
pennies. it gets
harder from
there.

seeing red

like lady
macbeth entering
the room where
blood
has spilled
in murder, you
too say
to the tipped
bucket of red
paint, a little
water clears us
of this deed,
and how wrong
you both are.

birthday boy

small finger prints
on the glass
the smudges
two feet up
along the stairs,
the toys
still unwinding
with music.
another ball
lost beneath
the sofa, a plastic
bat on the table.
crayons spilled
like a broken
rainbow
on the floor.
how quickly
twenty three years
go by.

sugar free candies

you dread
the dentist,
the needle
the drill
the scraping
and probing.
those brilliant lights
overhead,
the smell,
those instruments
on the tray
gleaming.
the flossing
inquisition.
oh, and then
the bill
as you stand
there numb
and drooling.
but you like
the little
blue sugar free
candies
they give you
in the end.
they'll hold you
until you get
the real stuff.

Monday, July 16, 2012

just saying

you trip over
the tray of words
carried by
your loose tongue.
sometimes
your mind
has a mind of
it's own.
words, like
delinquents out
late, looking
for trouble
skip out into
the world, causing
damage, mostly
of the misdemeanor
kind, but there
is always
an apology
forthcoming,
explaining to be
done when
you reel them
in and stop.

a must win

she brings me tea,
an orange
and sits beside me
on the rug.
let's not talk, she
says. let's close
our eyes and listen
to our hearts,
listen to our
breathing,  feel
the wind of life
in our bodies. okay,
you tell her,
but there's a game
on at one, will we
be done by then.
skins and cowboys,
it's a must win.

don't leave a light on

don't leave
a light on
i'm gone for good.
don't wait up
by the window,
this time i won't
be coming back.
take everything i've
left and throw it
in the lake,
don't leave
the light on,
for until
the next time,
i've made my
last mistake.

things you learn along the way

eat italian food
in an italian restaurant.
greek in a greek.
don't date women
with handguns
in their purse, or
women with husbands
still living
in the basement.
don't tell your
mother any secrets
that you don't want
the world to know.
never ask how old
someone is, or how
much they weigh
especially around
the holidays.
no, sometimes, really
means no. say nothing
when you know
nothing. avoid
eye contact with
strangers who approach
you on the street
with a clipboard.
don't sky dive,
bungee jump, or
pick up a snake.

raking the lawn

raking
the yard
on the end
of a summers
day
reminds you
of when you
were thirteen
and cut
lawns with
a push mower
that weighed
more than you
did. the blades
dull and thick
near rust,
pressing
the long grass
down, with
very little cut.
hours later,
towards dark
the man would
come out
after watching
you in the window
and hand you
five dollars.
you can rake it
tomorrow, he'd
say, go home,
it's getting late.

the wrong answer

sometimes you
ask a question you
don't want the answer
to, but you need
to ask, it's an itch
that must be scratched.
so you do, then
you sleep on it
for a few nights
in the unsettled waters
of your sleep
and ask yourself why.
you promise
to stitch your mouth
closed tomorrow.

the clouds

don't the clouds
look religious today
the woman says to her
child as they ride
along the highway.
but he's busy with
his ice cream
licking and gnawing
at the bottom of the cone
where it drips out
in dark drops. he's
strapped into the back
seat. his nose
sticky and full of
chocolate. look at those
clouds, she says
again to him, finding
his eyes in the rear
view mirror. you can
almost see the angels
up there, can't you?
that's the difference
between me and your
father, she says. i
appreciate beauty. i see
how wonderful things are
when you take time
to notice. look at those
clouds, she says.
her hands red and tight
around the wheel.
oh my. oh my.

fast food

i don't understand
you, you yell towards
the metal box
painted a high
gloss yellow. what?
you say again,
and what comes back
crackled and high
pitched.
the sound is like
that of a gemini
space capsule,
garbled and full
of static, yet
the person speaking
to you is
is nine feet away
at the window.
you can see her
with her headphones
and wires, scratching
a bump on her head
in the rounded
mirror that reveals
what's just around
the corner of this
luge like drive thru.
spicy, you articulate,
crispy too.
rice, not beans,
fries. no slaw.
dark meat. you
want a number
four then, the voice
says. but it's too late
you've moved past
the colorful photo
totem pole of food.
sure, you say. why
not. something
else is said, but now
you are on the far side
of the moon at the money
window. you pay,
then go to the next
window where they
give you napkins
and a straw and make
one more pitch
to sell you a batch
of home made
cookies, then you
drive another two
feet and a bag
is handed to you.
your drink too.
as you drive away.
and eat your filet of
fish that you didn't
order, you sigh
and vow to make
your own lunch
tomorrow.

the ballet

on her tip toes
around
the room
in her pink
dress
she bends
and moves
like a flower
about
to bloom,
and you, well
you are
the bee
in waiting.

the door

the door
is stuck,
where once
it swung freely
to open and close
and lock
behind you as
need be, is now
tight and sealed.
the wood has
warped along
the frame,
the heat and cold,
the snow and rain,
the change
that comes with
time,
have all taken
their toll. there
is no way
back to the other
side.

the big store

walking through
the big store
that has everything
you could ever
need for your house
you get depressed
and sad. you want
a new kitchen, a
red kitchen with
shiny marble counters
and drawers
that close on their
own. a stove
with all the buttons
smiling at you.
deep and wide
that you could fit
a pizza box into.
that rug over
there would look
good in the hall.
that chair, though useless,
would brighten up
the livingroom.
lamps are everywhere
illuminating your
pain and woe.
how wonderful your
life could be
if you had those boxes
over there, and those
black and white
oversized photos
of bees. but you buy
nothing, only
a candle on the way
out, vanilla scented
and then some
swedish meatballs
at the store cafeteria.

the days of wine and creamed filled donuts

addicted
to cake
you find yourself
in an alley
one morning,
lying along
a curb
with icing on
your face.
empty boxes
of pastries
beside you.
a dog
is licking your
chin and
several cats
are eyeing
you from
afar. you pull
yourself togther
and stand up,
wobbly,
and weak,
trembling from
low blood sugar.
you brush
the crumbs from
your shirt
and go forward,
one step, one
day at a time.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

folding sheets

folding white
sheets at midnight
in the pale light
of a soft moon.
no music.
no tv. no noise.
just the stirring
of memories
and the sound
of your hands
moving
old linen to
be carried up
and put away.

page one

on the last page
the last line
of the notebook.
six months
in the making
of numbers
and names, of
places to be and
go. times
and dates.
coffee stained,
with drips
of paint. smudges
of ink.
unreadable at
times, caught
in the rain. dropped
in snow.
you turn it over
and mark the year
in bold numbers.
then open a new one,
page one.

the last mussel

go ahead,
she said.
you take it.
have the last
one, the last mussel
on the plate.
so with a squirt
of lemon, you
suck it clean from
the cold grey shell
and down it goes
slipping into
your own gulf stream.
an hour later, you
are on your knees
asking god to deliver
you, or to take you
home, sweet
jesus, please.

on capitol hill

strollers,
the one man
says.
hands on his
hips.
women pushing
strollers.
can you imagine.
he puts his
arm out to show
a long scar.
mugging in
71 he says.
across the street
in the park.
his partner lifts his
pant leg to show
another scar
from a dog's
bite.
pit bull, he says.
in 87. they had
a ring, and fights
on friday night,
down where
the yogurt shop is.
they smile
at one another,
then take each
other's hand.
we were here
first. they say together,
but strollers now,
can you imagine.

the lost shirt

you take out
the wash and see
that your favorite
shirt is torn.
shredded in
the tumble of
spin and suds,
the collision
of pants and socks.
it's over for
this shirt. it's no
small tragedy,
losing this shirt.
the memories
that it holds.
thank god you
have five more
exactly like it.

sleepless

bothered
by the light.
you throw a shirt
over the clock,
you pull
the blinds tight
and slide
the curtains over.
you close the door,
put a pillow
over your head.
finally it's pitch
black, but
still you can't
sleep. you know
now, that it
has nothing to
do with the light.

relationships

you try hard
to swim, having gone
out beyond
the break of
waves, to where
the cold water
embraces your feet,
you look
towards shore
and it feels as if
you haven't moved
at all, arm over
arm, kicking,
your head down
in the green salty
water. you laugh.
then let go, and
lie on your back,
staying afloat,
you let the ocean
carry you, take
you where you
need, or not need
to go.

bending

having eaten
too much
the night before,
you take one
hand and stretch
reaching down
to find your toes,
the floor, then
the other, you
repeat this over
and over until
the backs of your
legs are loose
and limber. you
do this for a few
minutes, then
stare out window
at the trees that
bend so easily
in the wind.
tomorrow you
will do more,
but for now
it's enough.

Friday, July 13, 2012

up on a roof

you find your way
to the roof,
forty feet up
and climb aboard.
the pitch is steep,
bends your ankles
against the black
shingles. the heat
seeps through your
shoes, shoots into
your angled knees.
you find a chimney
to hold on to,
a vent, a board
to balance yourself
as you move slowly
along the incline,
a brush in one
hand, a bucket
in the other.
it's a circus move,
a tightrope walk
along the peak.
your life is fragile,
you believe, as
a bird swings by
with a worm.

hear me roar

she slapped
me when i opened
the door for her.
i'm not weak,
she said.
i can open my
own door.
i have a job,
a life, i don't
need a man
to keep me,
i have a phd.
but when the check
came, she had
to go powder
her nose. some
instincts never
fade.

rainbow

the lanes
of rainbows
go from one
point to another.
it's a fast
lane, a thin
lane full
of color.
pick one
and i'll meet
you there
at the other
side, when
the rain
stops and
the sun
slips
out of sight.

the office

with a hammer
you decide to build
something.
anything constructive.
tired of pushing
papers on
a desk, of typing
on a keyboard
a numbing
flow of words
and figures,
you'd actually like
to pound a nail
into a board at some
point and make
some difference
in the world.

bliss

worn shoes
following the same
path.
down the same
steps.
into the same
day.
hearing the same
voice.
you've made
it this way,
bliss becoming
boredom,
but tomorrow
you'll use
a window,
climb out the back
and escape,
or so you like
to say.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

she's blue

blue is her color.
the way she dresses.
the ribbon
in her hair.
her nails and shoes.
all blue.
she paints
her bedroom blue.
the color
of eggshells.
her dog's name
is blue. occasionally,
she says, she
feels blue.
she talks a blue
streak at times
when not in a blue
mood. the sky above
her, the water
in the distance.
both blue.
she points at a vein
in her arm and asks,
what color is that
and before you
can answer, she
smiles and says,
that's right, blue.

the dance studio

you open up a dance
studio and begin to give
lessons.
you only know
the twist, the mashed
potatoes, the jerk
and the fly, but it's a
start. oh, and freestyle,
which is your favorite
after about three
long neck beers.
you can teach slow dancing
too, but that's more of
an advanced lesson.
at first no one comes.
so you paint the room
purple and put up some
black lights. you
open the door
to the street and turn
the music up.
the temptations, the doors,
jimi hendrix,
and janis joplin.
it's hard music to dance
to, so you throw in
james brown,
some beach boys
and the ventures.
who doesn't like beach
music. before long
they start pouring in.
you have a cooler full
of beer in the corner
for those who want
to learn and practice
free style. you're in
business. feet don't
fail me now.

train surgery


you meet a stranger
on the train,
and have a friendly
conversation
about the weather
as you both hang
onto the overhead
straps. so, she says,
how long have
you had that mole
on the side of your
forehead. she takes
a sharpie out
of her purse with
the deftness of a thief
and circles it. hey,
what are you doing.
is that indelible ink?
i can take it off
for you, she says.
i'm a registered nurse
in south carolina.
she pulls out a
gleaming scalpel
and puts on a
surgical mask.
the train is going
to hit a stretch
of straight rails
soon, i'll cut it
out then, she says
pressing her
gloved fingers
against your head.
it might bleed a little,
but don't worry,
i have some cotton
balls and astringent
in my purse. okay,
here we go.

lonely guy

your lonely neighbor
larry, calls you.
i have two tickets
to wolftrap he says.
it's a blues concert
and it might be fun.
sit out on a blanket
under the stars
have a few beers
and enjoy the music.
but larry, you tell
him, what about your
wife, doesn't she
want to go with you.
i don't really
roll in that direction.
if you know what i mean.
oh, it's nothing like
that he says, i just
need someone to hang
out with. she's no
fun anymore, we're
basically roomates.
maybe we can ride our
bikes together,
or go camping
sometime too. larry,
please. i'm not into
the brokeback
mountain thing at all.
me either, he says.
but it does seem like
they had a lot of fun
up there herding sheep
and camping out.
larry, i have to go,
you're making me
nervous. what about
dinner and a movie
sometime. my wife
hates the movies.
larry, i have another
call coming in, i think
it's this hot babe
i've been seeing, plus
the line is really
full of static. i have
to go now and lift
some weights, or
something.

the locked door

the locked door
is always
the door
the intriques
you. what's in
there that you
shouldn't see,
what secrets
are in a box
upon the shelf.
what has
happened that
this door needs
to be locked
and secrets
kepty hidden
from other's eyes.
it's better though
that you don't
know. just
walk away with
that crow bar
and hammer.
forget the bobby pin
that you rattle
and spin
in the slot.

that's why i love mankind

god smiles
and laughs.
he scratches his
chin and throws
his head back.
i burn, i kill,
i send floods
and plagues
upon them, but
still they don't
give in, or up.
i spin the tornado,
crack open
the earth, unleash
a new
disease, i
toss the dice
with their lives
and yet they don't
give up on me.
how can i not
love them,
who else is
there to turn to,
they need me,
they really need me.

what's gone away

pretend that you love
me. say the words.
hold me. kiss me.
adore me. play the role
of a loving kind
and wonderful soul.
whisper sweet
nothings into my ears.
it doesn't matter
that you are acting.
i can ignore that and go
along with the play.
it's better than nothing,
better than what's come
and gone away.

carrots

the cut carrot
almost reaches
your open mouth
but slips from the fork
and falls to the floor,
rolling like an
orange wheel
towards the door.
down the steps
it goes. buttered
and salted,
a thin coat of
black pepper on
it's gleaming
soft back.
there is no chase
though, in you,
you shrug and
take a stab at
the greenbean
in the bowl. always
more where
it came from.
no sweat.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

the ladder

with all
the strength
you can gather
you push the forty
foot ladder
upright
against the house
and pull
the rope to extend
the upper
half. it clanks
metal against
metal as it gains
height. each rung
another pull,
until finally
it's as high as it
will go.
you set the feet
into the soft
ground, steady it
finding a balance.
wiggle it to see
if it's secure,
take a deep breath
and climb.
you do the same
with her.

silence

the monk
upon the stone
hill
in silence
for decades
neither seeking
or wanting
the sound
of his own
voice, or that
of another.
the wind
is enough,
the birds,
the cry of a
wolf upon
the snow.
and yet to what
gain.
what secret
has he learned
that won't
be told.

some birds

some
unwelcome
birds
flock to
the feeder
flapping
violent
wings
at one
another.
the fitful
life
they lead
is less
about love
and more
about what
they need.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

the blue trees

her knees
know her garden,
where the stones
are, the briars,
the thorns,
the rabbit who
finds shelter
in the shed.
her hands move
against
the dirt, and dark
soil, taking out
what needs
to be gone,
planting what
pleases her.
she chooses
the cool hours
after the sun
has left the curve
of what the earth
gives it.
the rake and hoe
in hand,
the sweeping
of her hair,
her eyes looking
up into
the darkening
blueness of trees.

the house

the house slips
quietly
into the blue sea,
the water rising
and etching
out the cliffs
of soft
dirt, and sand.
it was no
place to plant
a home, but
the view was
great for a while.
remember me
when i'm
gone too.

clock watching

the minute
hand is relentless
in its pursuit
of an hour,
and the hour
sober and humorless
as it turns into
a day. the calendar
page is alive
with the wind
of time.
it's strange how
quickly tomorrow
becomes
yesterday,
how the body bends
to it.
how the grey
blooms
upon you.

Monday, July 9, 2012

heads or tails

i'll flip you for it,
she says,
holding a half
dollar in her
hand. sure you
say. go ahead.
i call heads.
so she flips the
coin and slaps
it down onto
the back of her
hand. if you lose,
you know how
hard this is
going to be,
don't you? are you
sure you don't want
to change your mind
to tails?  heads
you say again
shaking yours.
i'm sure it's heads.
she shows the coin.
it's tails.
off we go to
the opera house.

the lightning bolt

your grandmother's version
of heaven and hell,
was vastly different
than the biblical account.
she'd say things like you're
going to burn in hell with
your father if you don't finish
your breakfast. which confused
us, because your father
just patted you on the head
as he took the trash out
and went to work.
when billy graham came on
the tv, she had us on our
knees touching the screen
praying for our salvation
and forgiveness. forgive
these bad children she'd
say, blowing smoke from
her tarreyton cigarette
into the air. they know
not what they do.
don't stand near the window,
she'd rail when it stormed.
lightning will strike you
and if you haven't
been saved, well once
again you'll be sent
to the lake of fire to swim
with all the evil people
that ever lived, especially
that catholic monster
john f. kennedy.  if he's
re-elected, she'd say,
as God is my witness,
i'm moving to canada.
she was a lot of fun
to be around and i think
of her everytime
i see a lightning bolt
crackle across the sky.

is there a horn?

you hop into the new
car and start down the road.
what are all these buttons
for you ask the car salesman
as you begin to push them.
he rolls his eyes and pushes
your hand away from
the console. eyes on
the road he says. those are
for bluetooth and xm, and
the internet, and over there
is your nav system, back
up camera and blind spot
alert. the red one starts
and stops the car. that button
there is for the automatic
moonroof and back door.
the green button saves
you gas. and the orange
one puts you into all
wheel drive. if you pull
that lever you turn
on the lemon water spritzer
that comes out of the overhead
light for really hot days.
oh, you say. hmm. i like
it. what about a horn, is
there a horn? i like to beep
my horn sometimes.

aloe

you look so much
younger you tell her
as you put your
arm around her
shoulder and lightly
kiss her on the neck.
aloe, she says.
every day i take
a leaf off of that aloe
plant in my living
room, squeeze
the juice out of it
and rub it all over
my face and body.
nice, you tell her.
it's working,
i don't see
a single wrinkle
anyplace on you,
although my
inspection
is incomplete. will
it work for me,
you ask. she leans
you into the light
and smiles. i think
we're going to need
a bigger plant,
she says.

the old dog

the old dog
was once the new
dog.
fresh and limber
jumping onto
the bed,
eyes bright,
his bark
loud and strong.
the old
dog sniffs
at his food,
sleeps fitfully
and stares
out the window
neither waiting
or wanting,
his eyes blurred
blue.
the old dog is
sweetly fading
into memory
as one day so
will you.

the open road

the car behind you
is in a hurry, he needs
to get to where he's
going quickly.
he must be a doctor
or a scientist,
or perhaps a member
of an elite squad
of security needing
to save the world,
or maybe 7-11 is
having a two for one
deal on slurpees.
he flashes his lights
at you, then gestures,
inching up towards
your galloping bumper.
but you are boxed in.
he has to go around
in order to get in
front of you, and he
does at racecar speed.
his little hyundai
finally rattles
into your lane
and he gives
you an unkind salute,
and wave, pleased
with what he's done.
those slurpees must
be good.

the country club

next door they have
a pool.
you watch them
putting it together.
wire mess and
a plastic sheet
that stretches round.
it might be four
feet deep and ten across.
they drop a hose
over the side
and let it run for hours,
filling it to the brim.
they gather around
and stare at the clear
water gurgling,
then they all jump
in. little billy, susie,
mom and dad.
even the dog is helped
over the sagging
side.  a mother in
law appears with
potato salad, and
grandpop brings in
a tray of hot dogs.
together, they eat and
frolic, get pink and
washed in the hot july
sun.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

tweet

you give your mom
the weekly call to see
how's she doing.
oh, i'm really really
busy. did you see
my tweets this week.
what? my tweets.
i'm having my bunions
looked at by
a podiatrist in elkridge
on monday, and i
won at bingo on saturday
night when i went
to the firehouse
with beth and myrtle.
hmmm, you say. how
much. fifty bucks, she
says and if you
had been following my
tweets, you'd know
all this. sorry, you tell
her. hold on, she says.
i'm putting a blueberry pie
on the window sill
to cool and i have
to tweet this. there.
i have over ten followers
she says. do you want
to follow me too
to see what your mom
is up to? no mom,
that's okay. hold on
she says, i'm tweeting
that you are joining
my account.

sunday morning

you hear the neighbors
argue across the yard,
across the street.
their voices carrying
in the quiet
of a sunday morning.
there is cursing, vows
of departure. threats
of finality. you hear
a door slam.
something break.
silence. then you see
them in the car, backing
out with the children
in tow, off to church.

can of beans

a can of beans
sits in your cupboard.
everyday it stares
you down when
you reach for a pack
of sweet and low
or a jar of peanut
butter. sometimes
you turn the can,
or slide it behind
a box of uncle ben's
rice. you get tired
of looking at that
can. year after year.
you try not to think
too much about it,
or think that it's
a metaphor
for marriage.

haircut

you can carve out
the phases of your life
by the look of your hair.
the cowlick early years.
think dennis the menace
or the beave.
the parted on the side
boy next door look
came next.
television had it's effect
on how you combed your
thick locks.
elvis came along
and you had the wave
with a strand pulled out
and down for sex appeal.
but you were only eleven
at the time. then the beatles
forced you to grow it long,
to your shoulders. but you
were saved by disco,
you had it styled
for fifty dollars by women
wearing heels and lots
of makeup who danced
while they clipped
and blow dried
it into shape.
the punk and new wave
era made it short
and spikey, full of goo
to keep it in place as
you danced to the clash,
if you can call it dancing.
and now as you slowly
drag the electric clippers
across your clean scalp
you remember fondly
those golden years.

the five dollar cat

there is a picture
of a cat
hand drawn
with crayons
posted to the pole
outside.
lost cat,
it says,  a five
dollar reward
will be given
to anyone who
helps me find
my cat.  she doesn't
answer to any
name though,
she's a cat
and doesn't care
what you call it.
although i call her
precious.
dont' try to pick
her up, because
she'll bite your
hand, really hard,
and scratch
your face.
she's black and
white, but i only
had the colors
blue in my box,
so she's not
a blue cat. thanks.

take notes

turn to page
one.
start there.
now read
and learn,
go slow. absorb.
remember.
there will be
a test later.
in fact there
will be many
tests along
the way.
some spot
quizzes
too. take
notes and underline
what seems
important,
what doesn't.
it all matters
despite your
indifference
at the moment.
carry it with you,
what you've
learned, tomorrow
will hold more.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

what is it that you want

the shop keeper
has turned his sign
to closed
right when you
put your hand
on the door.
he shakes his
head, sorry his words
mouth, but no,
we're closed, come
back tomorrow.
you plead with
your eyes, showing
him money
in your hand. he
looks at it for
second, but takes
his fingers off the
key and says
tomorrow. we open
at nine. you take
out a picture of
your son, your family.
your dog.
you smile and beg
with your body
leaning forward
arms open, please
you utter. so he
shakes his head,
giving in
and opens the door
just slightly, what,
he says, what is it
that you want?

not her

the stick you
pick up is a snake.
the rock
a groundhog
with sharp teeth.
the diamond
a shard of broken
glass. the water
oil, the air,
fumes. the song,
opera. but i'm
happy that you
are you
and not her.

therapy session

your therapist believes
that you are making
nice progress and that
one day you will be
able to say that the glass
is either half full, or
half empty, not spilled
across the rug staining
it beyond repair, causing
you to go online and
shop until two in
the morning to find
a quick replacement.
you're coming along
nicely, she says. your
spending is down,
this week you've only
purchased two new
pair of shoes, necessary,
you tell her, and a half
a dozen t-shirts, also
needed. you've
managed to reduce
your intake of ice cream
to just one dairy queen
blizzard a week.
i feel that we are making
progress, she says,
smiling from across
the room, chewing
on her glasses.

ocean city, maryland

the pale line
of bodies, stretched
on the wide swath
of hot sand.
umbrellas tilted
full of ocean
wind, drilled down
giving just a
petal of shade.
the smell of
pizza and fried chicken
filling the air.
a sputtering plane
with a red tail
saying eat here
plows through the
blue sky.
you've come here
most of your
life and done
the same.
the chilled waves
always a
surprise, as is
the passing of
another year bringing
you to this age.

the hunter

your friend loves
his guns,
he talks about them
like they are women
he is seducing.
loading the chambers
taking them
apart, the oils,
the rubs, the adjustment
of sights. how
he holds them in
his hand, stroking
the long leg
of a barrel, spinning
the chambers.
slipping in a bullet,
firing a round
then another, awaiting
the hunt
the pheasant, a deer,
something
quick to die as he
sits and hides
in a tree, or blind.

shaving in the morning

shaving
in the morning
is a ritual
of lather
and water,
the sharp razor
starting slow
against the spread
face. how
the steam
fills the mirror
and your balled
fist let's you
be seen. around
the chin, up
to the ears,
below the nose.
the etching
of steel
against the stiff
bristles
that have grown.
this mirror holds
a thousand
mornings
maybe a thousand
more.

the church of caffeine

the line
is long at
the coffee shop
thirty deep
to get their morning
fix. it's the only
store in town
with power.
it is the church
of caffeine.
the temple
of whipped cream.
the pantry full
of sweets.
they wait, and
wait, sagging in
a zig zag
line, staring
longingly at those
exiting with
their lips
pressed to communion
cups, the crumbs
of wafers
on their chins.

the green dress

it's green on green
with light airy fabric,
cotton or polyester,
or a blend of
modern ingenuity
you aren't sure,
but it looks
swell on her.
the way her
legs exit the soft
petal like folds
at the bottom,
the way her shoulders
slip out at
the thin top. you
smile at her ballet
swing of arms
as she twirls
in the mirror
of the changing
room hall. i want it,
she says, and so
do you.

chewing gum in class

your hand begins
to cramp
as you write on
the blackboard
a hundred times
i will not chew gum
in class.
you are still chewing
gum, but without
enthusiasm.
the chalk makes
you sneeze
and your small
fingers are white
with the soft dust.
you have been
caught and punished,
but you have
not surrendered.
this will be the pattern
of your life.

the subjective case

you fall in love
with an anonymous
person who
comments
on your poetry.
she writes, at least
you hope that she's a she,
and if not, what then,
about nouns
and pronouns
and proper usage
of verbs.
she is incisive
and right in her
comments. it pleases
you to no
end, that someone
cares that much
to rid your hurried
work of superfluous
prepositions, she or he
shows you where
to dot the eyes,
and cross the tees.
i'm leaving those
words for her,
hopefully,
to fix too.

Friday, July 6, 2012

truce

you spot
a squirrel
on a bench
lying down.
his small grey
head
on an acorn.
it's hot.
the sun is a
white balloon
that won't burst.
he doesn't
care, this thin
squirrel. in his eyes
are the words,
go ahead dog
come kill me.
but the dog too
is tired.
he is in the shade
on the porch.
dumb
with indifference
his head
almost in his
water. his tail
is still, his ears
down.
he likes having
a reason to not
give chase.

the box lifter

in his eyes
you see beyond
the work
the sweat, the grime
of day on his
collar. you
see his wife.
his bills, his children.
you see him
lift each box
onto the truck.
another, then
another. there is no
end to the boxes.
even when he
sleeps,
they still come.
they will be
waiting for him
in the morning, but
what other way
is there.
this is the life
that has chosen
him.

pizza night

the stove catches
fire while
you prepare
another gourmet
meal for yourself.
how hard is salmon?
the flames leap
up though the air
like dante's inferno
and it smells like
oil burning,
perhaps bacon
from last week.
a piece had fallen
through the
circular electric
grill. you let
it burn out,
splapping at the big
flames with a dishtowel
your mother gave
you for christmas.
but the fuzzy end
that resembles santa's
beard, catches fire too
so you run that
under the spigot.
with the room full
of smoke you turn on
the fan, open the windows
and the doors, hit
the smoke alarm with
the end of the broom.
knocking free the battery.
the dog runs out the door
and you give chase.
when you return
the salmon is black
and thin, charred
beyond recognition.
how hard is pizza?

it's the heat

i can't talk
to you now, she says.
i'm too hot.
i'm lying on the sofa
with a cold
dishrag on
my head. my
feet are in a bag
of ice.
i'm in no mood
for your silly
banter
and childish
observations.
why don't you
leave me alone
until september.
take a trip
somewhere
and tell me all
about it when
you get back.
right now i've got
nothing. if you were
here in fact
i might just
slap you and blame
this weather
on you. you can
do one thing for
me though. bring
me some ice cream
and leave it at
the door. one
knock will do.
you aren't coming in.

dear diary

your lover
leaves out her diary,
you hesitate for
about a millionth
of a second,
then take a look.
it's on the bed
where she made
her last entry.
meh. it says.
not so much.
followed by your
name with only one
star. a small star
at that.
your heart sinks.
you just made
love to her eight
hours ago.
you thought
everything had gone
fine. her toes
curled and she
said some things
that she reserves
specifically
for that special
moment when her
eyes roll into her
head and she summons
God. you turn
the page, but it's
blank. you sit on
the edge of the bed
and you realize
that it's not all about
you. maybe you
should kiss next time.
go slower.
five minutes, perhaps
is not enough
time. you sigh.
and the day was going
so well.

a little up to the left

it's an itch
in the  middle
of your back.
you can't quite
reach it
and spend
much of the day
rubbing your
spine like a cat
in heat against
the corners
of walls, door
edges, and poles
along your way.
some people
smile and nod,
they understand,
you see
them reaching
with their briefcases
and hairbrushes
to get to their
itch as well. it's not
quite the same
or as satisfying as
a nice pair
of hands with nails
scratching at
your direction
as you lie there
in the cool room
against the sheets.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

asleep on ice

are they sleeping
my son would say
from the steel
grate seat of the shopping
cart, twisting his
head to see
the limber lines
of rockfish
and flounder
on chipped ice
that glistened
behind the glass.
are they sleeping, dad,
he'd ask. his
small hands gripping
the red vinyl bar
where a hundred
other kids sat this
weekend,
and i'd say, yes, but
just for awhile,
like me, they like
to take an
occasional nap
before dinner.

community pool

you don't like
that far away stare
that the children
have in their
beady eyes
when they become
still in the shallow
end of the pool.
slowly moving
their yellow
water wings from
side to side
for balance,
but you are prepared
with flippers
and goggles,
an air tank to help
you swim
quickly away
to the deep end.

the pear tree

your pear tree
has grown
apples.
the grapes
are pumpkins,
the daffodils
have become roses.
you run inside
to look at yourself
in the mirror,
but sadly, or
perhaps happily
there is no
change.

electric eels

being in the middle
of storm season
and having the power
go out so often
you decide that this
time you will be
prepared. you won't
be left in the dark.
so you go out
and buy a hundred
electric eels from
the eel store
and put them in a tub
in your basement.
now you are good
to go. the next part
you haven't quite
figured out, by hey,
it's a start.

birthday girl

feeling unloved
on her birthday.
cardless and with
the phone silent
she sent herself
a dozen dog roses.
then took out
the photo album
to peruse happier
times. how the sun
did shine back
then. how everyone
was young
and smiling. a glass
of wine, a pill.
a pulling of the shade
to keep
the sun away
from mirrors.

endangered species

you see on tv
there is a line
of endangered species
marching
and carrying picket
signs in front
of the U.N. building
in new york.
squeaking and barking,
making their own
peculiar noises.
elephants and turtles
together.
my dog moe,
my fat red daschund
who loves tv
sees the protest
and says that he wants
to go. i'm feeling
endangered, he says.
i'll take the bus
up. but you tell him
no, they don't
need agitators up
there. this is a peaceful
march. here
go chase this ball.
pffft, he says
and goes into the other
room to get his
overnight bag and beret.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

hoodoos

like hoodoos you see
them in the park.
still or slow afoot.
hands deep
in the litter basket.
eyes bleary, red
with cheap wine
and stale bread.
sleep  doesn't
evade them. it
encircles their
minds and gives
them peace until
another sun reminds
them of what is,
what isn't.

the bird feeder

birds pecking
at the feeder
daily, resourceful
and persistent.
you see
your reflection
against theirs
in the wide
window.

fast friends

they disappear.
fade. they become
memories with swift
feet. apparitions
like balloons rising
between the clouds
in summer
heat. faces
and names obscured
in the smoke
of times quick
fire. here today.
there is no tomorrow.

the meeting

you remember
the pentacostal
meeting in a large
hall, the circled
chairs, the lights
flickering. the cold
winter air
seeping in from
the snow covered
streets outside.
there was screaming,
falling, fainting,
hands raised
to the ceiling.
it was frightening.
it was like no religion
you recognized
in your eighteen
years. the speaking
in tongues,
the twirling dance
of loose limbs
and wild hair. you
only wanted to
leave, to flee with
self in tact. then
they all grabbed
hands and you could
feel the strange sting
of something,
something not right.
a dark vibration
that would keep you
from ever going back.

frosting


when you
were five
your finger
found
the cake icing
thick and sweet
as it scooped
up a lick
full and entered
your mouth
open to its
stolen
wave
of chocolate.
your eyes
would dart
around the room
hearing
the shoes come
down
the stairs.
and as you do
now, one
more taste
is what
you want.

your life

the current edition
of your life is under
revision. you've selected
various chapters
to delete. there are
characters littered
throughout the manuscript
that also must go.
facts that seemed like
facts must be removed.
photos must be cropped
and airbrushed.
no need to tell everyone
everything.
it has to be thinned
and lightened.
the tragedies
diffused, the fun times
embellished. in time,
nobody will remember
what is true or what
is false, so let's just
print the good stuff
and let it be.

friend me

a stranger finds you
on facebook. he says
his name is george.
remember me?
no, you tell him. i don't
know any georges.
but we were best
friends for a while
in highschool.
lab partners in biology.
remember that frog
we disected together?
we pulled his tongue out
and stuck a pin in
it to hold it down.
no, you say again. well
can we be friends
now, he says, can
you friend me? no you
tell him, continuing
with your theme of no.
but you signed my year
book, and said, i'll never
forget the fun times
we had in shop class.
let's stay in touch.
no, you repeat and if
i said that, well, i've
changed my mind.
but before you
delete and block him
until the sun expires
you ask him whatever
happened to that girl
mary margaret puglisi
with the big brown
eyes and dark hair
who used to sit behind
him in third period
english and always wore
that purple sweater?

Monday, July 2, 2012

still life

the museum
is full of
paintings
of pears
and oranges.
assorted fruit.
a bowl of grapes
as purple
as purple can be.
sunlit plums
with angelic halos
and yes, they look
like pears
and oranges
and fruit, but
it does nothing
for you.
you shrug
and nod and move
on, walking
away, still
hungry.

outlaw

after robbing
the local bank
you go on the lamb.
you buy a fake
mustache and an
old beat up
car. you criss
cross the country
being chased
by the law. but
they can't catch
you. you are too
smart for them.
you are slick
and smooth
staying in off beat
motels and
hiding out in
the desert. you
never stay in
the same town
more than one night.
it's lonely this outlaw
life. sometimes
it almost feels
like they aren't
even looking for
you. like they
don't even care that
you took a dozen
ball point pens
from their counter.

the seventies bush

your neighbor
wants to cut down
the bush in front
of your house.
it's ugly, she says,
i'm sorry, but i think
you should, or we
should take it out
of the ground
and replace it with
something more
up to date.
it's so seventies,
that kind of bush.
she brushes strands
of hair out of her
eyes from the blonde
loaf that tilts on
top of her head.
she scratches
at a tattoo of a pink
tongue on
her tanned
and surreal sized
breasts. she squints
at you, waiting
for a response.
the seventies,
you say out loud.
you think
of polyester, and
disco. of white
suits and blue
eye shadow. you think
of kc and the sunshine
band. you
aren't sure why your
bush is from that
era. to you it's green
and bushy, full
of bees and bugs.  but
sure, you tell her, go
ahead, cut it out and
put something hip
and modern in.
i'm nothing
if not a hipster with
my foilage,
and i'm
certainly willing
to change with
the times.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

the wind

at the mercy
of wind
we lie under
the roof
and hope
that the trees
stay upright,
that the fires
from a tangle
of power
lines twisting
on the road
stays clear of us.
the churches
get full
after such winds.

the cook

more salt she says,
now more pepper,
a little pinch of
this, a sprinkling
of that. hmm. let
me stir and taste.
hold on, i'll pour
just a tablespoon
of this into the mix
and then i think
you have it.
before you put
the lid on let me
chop up another
onion and toss
it in. there we
go.  i just love
the way you cook,
she says. you really
know what you're
doing in the kitchen.

the move

you have a friend
who moves often.
he calls and says
i need your help.
through the years
he has gone from
downtown, to across
the river, to the burbs
and back. it's always
a break up, or a new
job, or money issues
that makes him
put everything into
a truck and go.
you can't count
the times you've
carried his boxes
of albums, the big
chair with the hole,
his rack of ties,
and bags of shoes.
there are less friends
now to join in,
they have disappeared
into the years,
grown scarce since
the first truck
was loaded, but
not you.

the little things

one tire loses air
a little everyday
depending upon
the speed and twist
of the wheel
in your hand.
you notice
its slow eeking
of air out to from
it came. you can't
hear it, or see it.
it's hardly
discernable, this
loss, but in the end
it all adds up. it is
the little things
that can put us
on the side of
the road, over time.

snake hunt

there is a note on your
door when you get home
from work. your stomach
drops when you see it.
it's never good news.
it's never, i won the lottery
and want to share it
with my neighbors.
it's crudely written in block
print. maybe a crayon
was used. the professor
at the local university
wrote it two doors up
from your house. there is
a snake in our adjoining
yards, it says, so we
need to band together
and find him. we are meeting
at noon on saturday
with pitchforks
and torches to hunt him
down. bring a burlap
bag if you have one,
and a pair of long tongs.
oh,  and don't wear flip flops.
it's a copperhead.
mindy is making coffee
cake and a pot of french
roast, so bring a mug.

what to do with the space shuttles

the judge, removing his
glasses, sits sternly
on the bench with a
grim face and says
pointing to those
accused
and found guilty of
horrible and unforgivable
crimes against
humanity the good news.
you are now all
astronauts, he says.
you will be
leaving the planet
earth tomorrow morning.
rest up. free tang and
power bars for all. it's a
one way trip, so say
your farewells, and don't
forget to wave
as you pass mercury
into the sun.

hot fun in the summer time

you awaken in a ball
of sweat,
there is a mushroom
growing on
your chest,
birds have taken to
making nests
in your hair.
spiders have spun
webs between your
legs. you have been
without electricity
for two days
in a hundred degree
heat. you don't
have the strength
to get up and
cut your self with
a sharp knife.  you look
out your window
and see the low
spiral of vultures
circling. you've
missed two days
of news cycle.
what has happened
with tom and his
wife. has alec slapped
another camera man.
who's getting out of
their car not wearing
underwear.
you have a thousand
spam e mails
to sort through.
you have fond memories
of ice. cubes and
cubes of ice. slowly
you arise peeling
yourself from
sheets you will burn.
you begin to sob
into your hands
as you hear the random
beeping of everything
you own blink on.