Tuesday, December 31, 2013

forget about it

no point
in going backwards,
making
those apologetic
calls.
saying
you're sorry for
a years worth
of miscues
and errant
choices, words
said or not
said that
could have made
a difference.
no use in falling
on your sword
what's the point.
forget about it
and move on.

the dropping ball

new years eve
can
be wonderful
or painful
depending on what
and how much
you drink and
who you kiss,
or who turns
their cold
and reluctant
cheek.
you want to avoid
driving
the porcelain
bus
as the clock
strikes
twelve
and the ball
drops,
or having the party
lights flashing
behind you
in the constable's
car.
you want to wake
up and know
what your name
is and where
your pants are.

the thirst

how delicious
is the kiss
of youth,
quenching
ever so shortly
the unquenchable
thirst for love
and being loved,
the pursuit never
flagging,
or veering from
course, but how
dry and barren
the desert of lips
that elders
bear when love
and life
have failed
and left them
in bittered
sleep.

Monday, December 30, 2013

the printed news

the news
is no longer
on paper, held
in your hands
over morning coffee.
no longer found
in the tomes
of journals
and magazines.
it's here
and there in snippets
online.
blurbs of
wars
buried between
lines of
surgery
on the nose
of the singer
who can't sing,
enlargements
of breasts by
the actress without
a dress.
a cure for cancer,
hidden
in the news about
a diet drink
and electronic
cigarettes.
you miss the ink.
the slow
unfolding
of a story in
your hand.

into glass

near sighted
birds
steering
towards death
into windows
and glass
seeing their
own reflection.
in love with
themselves,
perhaps.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

the new hair cut

you want a new
hair style, you've
grown tired
of the eggness
of your head.
you want a full
shock of hair.
something you can
comb back and dye
blue, like elvis,
or a televangelist
screaming for money.
you want a little
black comb in your
back pocket, something
you can pull out
and tidy up the loose
strands as you
look at your reflection
in a toaster or
the window of
a passing car.
you want to have
a woman, a beautiful
woman, get her
hands stuck in
the waves and curls
of its thickness.
you want to fling it
around in slow motion
when its wet
and you climb out
of a deep blue pool.
you want a new
hair style.

sunny days

I'm at the pool
she says
on the phone,
tapping her nails
against the glass
table.
I'm having a drink
and thinking
about
leonard, my
ex husband.
he gets out of
jail next week
and I haven't
done my nails
or hair, or
skimmed the pool
for debris.
he's a minister now
and wants me
to believe,
but I don't care.
I'm having a
drink right now.
the sun is out
and it feels
good on my face
and legs.
what are you doing,
she asks,
are you busy?
no, you tell her.
just walking
the dog in the snow,
shoveling over
what he leaves.

take two of these

take two
of these and
call me
in the morning
your doctor
says
handing you
a bottle of
pills.
but don't call
too early,
or in the afternoon
i'll be golfing
then, or too
late at night.
I like to
watch tv and
my show comes
on at eight.
in fact don't
call me. just
take two of these
and see what
happens.

word for the day

the whole day
she decides to use
the word squishy.
in the rain stepping
into the mud,
squishy, she says,
smiling.
eating a jelly
donut at the local
café, squishy,
she says, as powdered
sugar rings
her smiling
lips.
and when she kisses
you later
your lips touching
wetly
against one another.
squishy she says,
again.
now let's get out
of these wet clothes
and into a dry
martini.
she's nearly done
with that word
for the day.

the blue pencil

with her blue
pencil she liked to
mark up everything
you wrote.
page after page.
spelling, grammar,
punctuation.
her glasses
on the tip of her
pretty nose,
her eyes steady
into the text.
editing like a
madwoman while
you tried so hard
to unzip her dress.

directions

you are never lost
once you get there.
but it's the getting there
part that is sometimes
difficult.
why ask directions
when you are perfectly
capable of reading
the stars,
sniffing the wind,
putting your ear
to the ground like
a wild animal. asking
others for street
signs and markers,
where to turn or turn
around at seems weak
and unmanly. just give
me time. I can find
it, we have a quarter
tank. hold on.

chopping wood

you have a violent
dream of
revenge.
it's one
of righteousness
overcoming
evil. it horrifies
you when you wake up,
making you stare
at your hands,
looking for blood.
you know exactly who
the dream is about
and why you are
dreaming it.
you don't need
dr. freud, or phil,
or laura to
disseminate your
dream.
you get it.
it's swift and fast
and loud,
like chopping wood
for a fire
on a fat stump
in the yard.

the next day

what do you
expect?
gold everyday?
a wise
kernel of truth
in every
sparse poem.
it doesn't work
that way.
sometimes
the well is dry.
you've got
nothing.
the cupboard
is bare expect
for these old
dusty
clichés. sorry
about that,
but sometimes
life gets in
the way. try me
again tomorrow.
or the next
day. maybe then
i'll have something
more to say.
maybe not.
we'll see.

no big deal

the aged
drive slowly
through
the streets.
the hurry
has been taken out
of their lives
by years.
there is no rush
to get there,
they've been there
already
and it was no big
deal.

the apples

someone
has stood
at the pile of
apples
and polished each
one.
someone has
stacked
them into a
pyramid of
red or green,
or yellow.
someone's hands
have been
there, at work,
carefully,
with cloth
in hand
rubbing each
skin towards a
shine.
each life to
his own
pyramid
of apples.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

it's easy

easy
to look
the other way.
to turn
one's head
and pretend
that what goes
on is
right,
that there is
no wrong.
easy
to sleep at
night
when your
belly is full,
the lights
are on,
the doors
are locked,
each window
sealed
tight.
it's easy
to stay within
your life
and not listen,
not look
in any direction
just straight
ahead,
never left,
never right.

Friday, December 27, 2013

barely assisted living

your mother lands
in an assisted care
facility.
you sign the sheet
in the grand
living room where
a Christmas tree
blinks wildly
in the corner.
a man, older than
any man should be allowed
to live, jumps
up from the couch
and stumbles towards
you. you remember
the old joke
that he may have gone
to high school
with moses.
he wants to shake
your hand. and shake
your hand. and shake
your hand.
with no room on the couch
you kneel beside
your mother and ask her
how's it going.
she's in a pink robe
and her hair has been
brushed back
like metallic silk.
behind you
a woman is trying
to pull off your boots.
she's in a wheel
chair, so you let her
work on the laces.
it's lunch time
and a tray of bologna
sandwiches
have arrived on
a tray. there is juice.
and one cookie
each for the seven
people in the room.
the man takes three
cookies, stuffing
them into his pants,
then he goes off into
the corner
with his sandwich
leaving a trail of
lettuce behind his Velcro
sandals.

the gift sweater

the striped
sweater
with bold
horizontal
primary colors
would distract
the bulls
if you were
a rodeo clown,
but here you
sit on Christmas
morning, saying,
wow, it's what
I always wanted.
and these socks
too, not to mention
the peanut brittle,
here, have
some, I'm full.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

the sparkling wine

the sparkling
wine
has a bite
to it
as you go on
into
the evening
pouring more
into the glasses
around you.
someone says
look how
bright the stars
are in
the winter sky,
beyond the string
of colored
lights
in the window
of the darkened room.
how quickly
the time goes by,
you say,
warming your
hands by the dwindling
fire,
the wine too,
someone says
and laughs,
as you set
the bottle, and
other thoughts
aside.

italian moms

your grandmother,
and her mother
used to cook with
lard in an
enormous black
frying pan. they
used real butter
and salt.
pure sugar.
no scrimping
on the recipe.
it was bacon
and eggs for
breakfast,
scrapple,
potatoes.
whiskey
by the shots
when they got
a cold, or it was
new years eve.
they lived to
be a hundred
and one and saluted
each birthday
like a victory
with red wine.
they got their
exercise
by chasing chickens
around the yard
before ringing
their necks,
or by scrubbing
the marble stoops
of their row
houses in south
philly
with tooth brushes.
they were fat
Italian
women who knew
how to cook and
sew, sing opera,
shovel coal into
the furnace
come winter.
and have babies.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

the missed kick

I believe you,
the detective says.
you don't seem like
the type
of person who would
steal from
the poor.
you have a nice
house, a nice
car. you are
well dressed
and you've decorated
your house
so nicely with
lights. so it
doesn't make
sense, you, a
good man, kicking
over the swinging
pot where
santa rings
his bell
all day and all
night. the money
went everywhere.
coins and bills
flying. why,
the detective says.
why. because,
you say, looking
him in the eye.
because I missed.
I was aiming
for the bell.

the gift pony

your gift
of a pony was
nice.
it woke
me this morning
tied to
a kitchen chair.
braying,
stomping it's
hooves.
the hay
was a nice
touch.
as was the pitch
fork
and shovel.
thank you for
the pony.
i'll get you
next year.
count on that.

the cold

how quiet this bug
is, sneaking
into one's life.
no fear of being
found, no prejudice
or slight
in it's choosing.
the high and mighty,
the low and beaten
are both equals
to it's bite.
bringing forth
the sneeze, the drip
and drizzle
of all noses
across this kingdom
whether crown upon
a royal head or
in the field
bent over the stiff
plow, shaded
by a straw hat,
both stopping to
kneel and blow
at it's might.

Monday, December 23, 2013

remember the time

you call your old
friend from back
in the day and
immediately
the conversation
goes to this:
remember the time
we hopped into
that MG at two
in the morning
on Wisconsin
avenue, there was
five of us and we
had just left
Winstons on M
street after meeting
those girls
from Marymount
college, and the cops
pulled us over?
hmmm, vaguely,
you say. Who's MG
was it?
yours, your friend
says, it was yellow
or orange. no,
I never had an MG.
I had a dodge dart,
army green.
well, maybe it was
one of the girl's
cars. cindy's?
the girl with
the big nose? no,
not her the other one,
the blonde
with freckles.
she had a high
pitched laugh.
like a seagull.
yes, you say. I remember
that laugh.
could be hers.
and you broke off
the antennae while
hanging on to
the luggage rack.
oh yeah, now I
remember. I still
have that by the way.
you're kidding.
yes, I am. so what
have you been doing
lately? How you been?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

what is to come

I made these
cookies for you,
the old woman
says
as her husband
stands
in the dining room
having risen
from his hospital
bed to pee
into a long glass
tube.
but these cookies
are for you,
she says,
looking into your
eyes. grateful
for having done
the work you've
done,
and for speaking
with her
about other things,
besides
what's happened
to him,
and what is
to come.

a stone in hand

everyone
has a stone
in their
hand. they are not
happy
about something,
or someone.
all day long
they clutch
their stone,
feeling it's cold
hard righteousness,
tossing it from
hand to hand.
ready at a
moments notice
to heave it
at the glass
that isn't their
kind of right.

wishing well

after making
a wish,
you fall
in love,
you fall
in a well
it's the landing
that counts.
a nice
warm
splash
or the cold
hard
bricks
awash on
the grey bottom
where you
try to climb
out.

the 'oh well' stage of life

you don't think
of yourself as being
very smart
or very dumb, you
lie somewhere in
between with
neither parent
possessing an
over abundance
of brain power, but
you get by
just the same.
on occasion you will
do things that
astonish you.
smart things or
horrifically
dumb things.
this continues
every day,
never landing
squarely
on one or the other
foot. but you've
reached the, oh well,
stage of your
life and you rarely
lose sleep
over any of it.
which seems to be
a very smart thing
to do.

fat man

the fat
man, sitting in
a chair
on the corner,
whistles at
the girls going by,
saying my o my.
he's given up
on chasing them
and now is happy
to just watch
them walking by.
you don't
ever want to be
the fat man
in a chair, but
it could happen
given time
and age
and this cinnamon
crusted
blueberry pie.

why don't you shut up

your neighbor
tells you that she
hates the bush
in front of your house,
that it is
the ugliest bush
in the entire
neighborhood.
look at it, she says,
it's overgrown
and in the spring
it's full of bees.
why don't you cut
it down, she says.
I can help you.
why don't you
shut up and mind
your own business
you tell her,
and quit walking
around like you're
the queen of
England. worry about
your own bushes.
this makes her stomp
off shaking her
head.
you love that bush
in front of your house,
and now you
love it even more.

bad news

you weary
of the next call.
the next
death or
announcement
of disease
and dying.
you tire of what
the world
brings
in spades to
your door.
you don't want
to be a part
of it, but
there is no escaping
this life
as your world
ages
and gets smaller
just a little
bit more.

making room

we make room
for one another
in early love.
pushing
things to the corner,
giving up
half the closet
and hangers
for clothes,
and shoes.
we put a chair
in the sunlight
where you like
it.
we clear a shelf
for your books,
for the things more
dear to you
than me.
we make room
for one another
in early love,
but all the while
knowing
that what fills
a space,
can one day
be removed.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

anything is possible

anything is possible
the man
says as you sit
side by side
at the neighbor hood
pub. life is at
your fingertips.
just have faith
and believe. we
are all children
of the universe,
flowers just waiting
to bloom.
the whole world
is our playground
to be happy in.
find your inner
child and become one
with everyone.
life is to be
enjoyed, not endured.
you tap the bar
and tell the bartender
that you want what
your new best friend
is having.
a double shot, please.
and some pretzels
too, for the both
of you.

roll on deodarant

in a hurry
you forget to take
the plastic
shield off
the roll on
deodorant and cut
a vein under
your arm.
the blood pools
on the floor
dripping down
the side of
your body.
you grab some
tissue and pat
the gash down,
but it keeps
flowing out.
within minutes
you're weak
and holding
on to the sink
to stand up.
your wife yells
out that she
is going shopping
and will be
back in a few
hours, but you
are too weak
to answer
and slip to
the floor. you
manage to yell
out help, and she
says, no thanks,
I'm fine.
bandage, you say,
loudly. I need
a bandage.
what? no, I can
manage, why are
you being so nice
today? she laughs
and says goodbye,
shutting the front
door behind her.

Friday, December 20, 2013

tis the season

finally,
after hours
of hard shopping,
you are done.
everything on your
list is crossed
off and bought.
you arrive home
right as the snow
begins to fall
and the traffic
thickens.
you put some music
on, a little bing,
a little frank,
some andy williams.
why not,
who would know
that you like
their music. it's
your secret.
you doctor
up in a large tumbler
an eggnog
with some rum,
you put on your
cotton pj's
and slippers,
then let out
a happy but
exhausted sigh.
the gifts
are on the table
ready to be wrapped.
the boxes
are there, the scissors,
the name tags
the ribbons, a few
of those sticky
bows for some,
but, but....
there's no tape.
no freaking scotch
tape. you let
out a primal scream
that makes
your neighbor bang
on the wall
and sends the dog
scurrying under
the bed.

people you hate

we wish you
were here,
the postcard reads.
it's warm
and sunny,
the water is
delightful.
last night we
ate lobsters
and crabs
and drank
tequila until
the sun came
up. we really
wish you
were here
with us. how
is the snow?
we saw on the news
that there
is three
feet and more
to come.
be careful in
those winds.
don't slip and fall.
well, that's it
for now.
we're playing
volleyball
with the women's
Swedish
volley ball
team at noon.
wish us luck.

the morgan

her old horse
comes up lame
in the middle
of a cold
rain soaked night
at the stables.
gingerly,
the morgan
steps out
of the barn
under her lead,
snorting with joy
at her presence.
she takes
him up the road
to where
the soft grass
is, outside
the fence
where the other
horses can't
graze.
rubbing his nose
with the palm
of her hand,
she whispers sweet
nothings
into his brown
silk ears. he limps
along as she
feeds him
carrots.
we should be
so lucky
in our end days.

the green flag

it doesn't take
much
to get her
engine revved
and warm.
her wheels
are ready to spin
at the first
kiss placed
gently upon
her neck.
add wine
to the tank,
and there is smoke
on the soft
track where
she leads you.

cake with candles

there is too much
food
on the plates,
too much
wine poured
too many
forced laughs
and future
plans made
that will never
take place.
the cars are too
large
for the driveway.
the houses
are small hotels.
there is too
much of every
thing these days.
few that you
know are hungry,
expect for
understanding
of why things
are the way
they are,
and what life
could possibly
mean besides this
enormous cake
with candles.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

what did you say?

without her
coke bottle glasses
she was legally
blind
in both eyes, which
was to your
benefit.
rarely did
you have to shave
or wash your
face, or wear
clean clothes.
but she had an
extraordinary
sense of smell,
so you had to tidy
up a little
every now and then,
a little
spritz of cologne
in the appropriate
areas. sometimes
you would hide
her glasses,
just for fun,
and sometimes she
would whisper
mean things to you
in your bad ear.
she got even
that way, which made
you like her
even more.

don't tell anyone

don't tell anyone
I told you this,
she tells you
in a conspiratorial
low whisper over
the phone, what i'm
about to tell you
is top secret, only
me, you, and several
other people that i've
called today
know about this. you
must swear on a stack
of Bibles that
you won't say
a word to anyone,
yes, yes,
you tell her, as God
is my witness, on
my honor, I will
never repeat what I'm
about to hear.
Promise?
yes. I Promise!
okay, okay, so what's
the big secret?
so she tells you in
a breathless rush
of words, excitedly,
revealing this gem
of gossip. Can you
believe that,
she says at the end,
exhausted by her
own jabbering.
Isn't that incredible?
yeah, I guess so, but
I heard that already,
about an hour ago.
You're kidding, from
who? Sorry, I can't
tell you. I'm sworn
to secrecy on that.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

the white board

you take a white
board
with a sharpie
pen
and make a flow
chart of your family.
you want to understand
once and for all
why there is so
much dysfunction.
it's a wild
diagram of discontent
concerning the ongoing
and never ending
squabbles
between all of
your siblings.
who said what
and never said
they were sorry,
who snubbed who at
last years
birthday party,
what about the time
when I was five
and you pulled my
hair, then there
was the father
who was never there,
the mother trying
her best to get scissors
out of your sister's
hand as she chased
your laughing
brother.
you run out of ink
before you can finish
and it's not
even Christmas.

no rolling pin

not having
a rolling pin,
having searched
high and low
in every corner
of the house,
you realize
that it was
taken by your
ex wife some years
ago in a vicious
struggle
for kitchen items
when the divorce
went down,
so you use
a captain morgan
rum bottle
to roll out
your cookie dough
to make sugar
cookies. it works
just fine,
and as you wait
for the cookies
to rise and bake,
you pour yourself
a nice egg nog
with rum.
you turn up the music
from the under
the counter radio
and dance slowly
around the room
as the Christmas
song comes on.

what can santa do for you

santa comes
nearly every day
to your neighborhood.
he drives
a brown truck
which he double
parks anywhere
he pleases
and walks quickly
in his tan shorts
and boots, his
little military
hat.
he walks
in a gallop
from door
to door with
packages under
his muscled
arms, racing,
with no time
for chimneys,
or cookies set
out on a plate
or for a ho ho ho,
as he drives
off in his belching
squared truck
to deliver more.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

the green room

I made cookies
for you boys,
she says,
as you unload the truck
to cover
her furniture
and rugs,
the lamps with
torn shades.
coffee too,
she says,
carrying in a
tarnished silver
tray with
cups, milk
and sugar, small
spoons with which
to stir.
she is happy to
have company,
men, about to paint
away the drabness
of her long
winters day.

a room without light

as she lies
in a stranger's bed,
on one of
the lower levels
of dante's inferno,
in a room
without light,
writhing,
awash in muddled
memory,
staring into her hands
as if they
held stars,
back stage they
quibble over
dollars
and miles
and control
of who will decide
her final
days, the place
she will take
a last breath,
eat her last meal,
sigh her
last sigh,
and hold the sound
of your
own name in
her mouth.

Monday, December 16, 2013

see you at hagan field

don't worry about
the road you're on
dear john,
that's all behind
you now.
the work,
the dust in your
beard,
the smudge on
your glasses.
lover of any
stray cat,
kind to every
soul who crossed
your path.
don't worry about
the road you're
on dear john
that's all behind
you now.
and i'll see you
when I get there,
we'll have a good
time then,
talking old times,
making new
times,
taking to the court
once more
for a shoot around
and a game
of one on one
on the cold hard
court of
hagan field.

king of the world

you can be anything
you want to be
with perseverance
and a positive
attitude the speaker
says, waving his
hands in the air,
stirring up a warm
glow of hope
in the anxious crowd,
but I want to be king
of the world
you yell out, making
everyone laugh.
what about grocery
clerk instead someone
says wearing his
name tag from his
job at the A and P.
you can have my job,
loser. then a fight
breaks out, and someone
yells, I want to
be muhammad ali.
I am going to float
like a butter fly
and sting like a bee.
a woman yells out, I
want to be a kardashian,
and another woman,
says, no I want that.
they begin to pull
each other's hair out,
as the speaker,
takes his satchel
of money and hope
and exits quickly
through the door.

in the morning

the party
begins slowly
but as the night wears
on, and the wine
is poured,
the egg nog
tilted more
towards rum
than nog,
then the party
really begins,
with slips
of tongues
and wandering hands,
bad dancing,
and long
interludes
in the bathroom.
marriages come
close to ending,
and friends reap
benefits they never
saw coming.
in the morning,
everything will
be forgotten, or
glossed over
like the ice
forming on
the lawn. it's better
that way.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

just walk on bye

you don't own me,
she says,
I'm not your little toy.
huh, you say
back. what are
you leslie gore now?
who's she,
another one of your
old girlfriends.
no, she sang that song
back in the sixties.
you happen to be
quoting directly from it.
i've never heard of her
and anyway, we're done,
me and you, she
says, and if you
see me walking down
the street
and I start to cry,
well, just
walk on bye. walk on
bye.
you shake your head.
don't think twice,
you tell her.
it's all right.

once upon a time

you told your son
about
santa claus
at an early age,
lighting up his
heart with
hope and joy.
you went on and on
about
the rein deer,
the toys,
the bell jingling
sleigh.
the elves
so busy in their
workshop.
you felt obligated
to keep
the lie going,
as it was told
to you
on your father's
knee.
it seems to have
prepared him
for the future
in many ways.

receipts

the dress
that doesn't fit,
the wrong
color shoes,
the food she
can't eat,
the ring
too shiny,
the lingerie
too risqué,
the hat too
tight,
the candy too
sweet,
these are just
a few of
the reasons
to keep all
of the receipts.

Friday, December 13, 2013

the old bar

you remember
the old haunts
in the city,
before the city
went out
into the strip
malls, replicating
their store fronts
with unlimited
parking.
bartenders knew
you, knew your
drink, a little
bit about your
life and habits,
enough
to strike up
a small conversation
that purposely
went nowhere.
now, the mixologists
are young
and unwrinkled,
they couldn't break
up a wheat cracker
let alone a bar fight.
they are just pups out
of college.
you need to shout
and wave
to get their
attention. they are
in the lab
behind the bar
concentrating on
their spoon and strainers
with precise
measurements. they
have no game, no
chit chat, no bar
rag to wipe
the mahogany wood
where you rest
your elbows
and stare at a euro
fusion menu.
it's tuna samplers,
salmon bites,
spinach and artichoke
dip. where the hell
are the onion rings?
where is the woman
not staring at her phone,
but sipping
on a manhattan,
leaning over to ask
you for a light?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

two tragedies

you tell
your long time
faithful friend
about a tragedy
that has happened
in your life,
opening
yourself up
in a rare
moment of
vulnerability.
with a hoarse whisper
you tell
her everything,
holding back
the sobs.
she nods
and listens,
puts her
hand on your
hand as you
wipe
away tears,
sniffling
like a child.
when you're finished,
you manage
a thankful smile,
and say softly,
thanks for listening,
then she says,
I haven't told
anyone this yet,
but I have
a gluten allergy.
I know it's not
the same as what
you are going
through, but can
you believe that?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

sex phone operator


she pulls up in
a new red sports
car, parking it
diagonally in the lot
to avoid dings
and scratches.
what's up with that,
you ask her, as she
strolls over? Nice.
I got a part time job
last year, she says,
taking a seat
outside the café.
oh yeah, doing what?
at night i'm a sex
phone operator.
of course you are,
you say, rolling
your eyes.
she is thin
and red haired,
no make up with pale
sad eyes and parted
teeth. lean
over the table,
she says. come
closer. then
she whispers with
a harsh strange voice
into my ear to prove
it. okay, okay.
stop, I tell her
as my ears burn
and I search my
pockets for a set
of rosary beads.
true, she says.
I make more money
doing that than
I do at my
accountant job.
it's all about
keeping them on
the phone once you
get their credit
card numbers. she
shrugs, picks up
the menu,
it's just a job,
she says. Men
are so easy and
predictable.
but where did you learn
to talk like that?
I don't know, guess
it was always in me,
I just needed the motivation.
what about your kids,
I ask,
don't they answer
the phone sometimes?
I have a separate
phone, she says.
a mommy phone with
a special mommy ring.
I take the call in
the bathroom and
then seal the door
with thick towels
to keep the sound
in. then i run
the water in the sink.
everything goes well
until the dog
starts scratching.
interesting, I say.
how many miles per gallon
do you get in
that car? premium gas?

chinese dry cleaners

angry
at the Chinese
laundry
when you get
back your
over starched shirts
with iron
burns on the sleeves
you yell out
with exasperation
My cat could run
this place
better than you
people, which
makes the owner
jump over
the counter with
a broom
to get you out
of the store.
but having watched
many kung fu movies,
you strike
the broom in half
with your stiffened
hand, but
because it's made
of metal you yell
out in pain
and crumble to the floor,
my hand is broken
you say to the man
with the broom.
but he doesn't care,
he curses you in his
own language
pushing you out the door.
the only word you
understand is Cat
as you roll
out into the street,
your burned
shirts thrown
out after you.

troopers

a gaggle of state
troopers
sit in the coffee shop
that you visit
every morning for
your jump start
of caffeine
and stale pastry.
they are dressed
in pressed greys
and blues, with hats
lying on the tables
they have pushed
together.
the older ones are
red faced and full
in the waist,
thick necks
folded over
their tight collars.
you suspect that the
trouble they've seen
has made them eat
badly.
a woman cop
joins them, her hair
pulled back into
a thin blonde pony
tail, she wears glasses,
and nods a lot
while sipping
her cup. when she speaks,
they all agree
with what she says,
they include her as they
laugh and talk shop,
no one speaks to them,
and they offer no
hellos or waves
to anyone, they are
separated by guns
on their belts, crackling
speakers attached
to their shoulders.
you feel a darkness
in their protection,
the blue lights on
their cars, unlit for
the moment under
the falling snow.

to come this far

the grey of
you
is here.
the fog has settled
on the sand.
cold waves
rush
before your
bare feet.
autumn has arrived.
your yesterdays
out weigh
your tomorrows
and you
understand
that letting go
of the hand
you hold
is part of it,
but still that long
sleep
doesn't seem
right, or why
you lived
to come this far,
and end.

force of nature

you can see
the crack in
the ceiling
widening
as the weather
gets colder,
wetter,
as snow
pelts the roof
and the rush
of broken
leaves, twigs
and branches
damn the works.
you can see
the crack spread
and take
its time as it
grows into
a fissure
dividing plaster
and paint
with a determined
force. this is
nature telling
you who
is in control.
not you, it never
was you.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

not now

less
of me is
interested
in tomorrow,
or today
than what
I used
to be.
I'm more
fond
of yesterday
and the day
before that.
sometimes
I can turn back
the clock
to twenty
years ago,
a so much better
place to be
than where
I'm at right now,
in line,
awaiting my
number to be
called
at the DMV.

workshop this


for three hundred
and fifty
dollars
you can go down
to the writer's center
for eight consecutive
Saturdays
and have your poetry
read and dissected
by those
that know.
they can tell you
what's wrong
or what is right
with your writing
life, how to use
the knife to cut
and trim, to be on
point. they will
ask about rhyme
and meter, about
metaphors and sound.
you don't think
much of the first
person, do you, they
will say, or punctuation,
or subject matter.
you can't just write
about whatever
crosses your mind,
or tell
stories, another
owl will whisper
from across the round
table of sincere
and anguished poets
in training. it
will be painful, you
imagine.
knitting needles
into your eyes.
and yet, you are tempted.
the instructor
looks sympathetic to
someone of your ilk,
with your plight.
there is something in her
eyes. she is someone
you may write
about on a cold
December night.

pressing the button

i find her sitting
upright in her room,
the channel
permanently on
no channel
because
the batteries
have died
and no one seems
to care
one way or
the other what's
on t.v.
the blurred
static of snow
blows
in a mindless blizzard.
it's not unlike
turning on
the set for the pet
dog, or cat,
to give the animals
noise and company
when you leave
the house.
how much you
miss the movement
of her hand,
the ability to simply
press a button.
that is still
unmeasured. that
grief is in waiting.
as she is
towards death.

the wag and wiggle of you

i can't imagine
a life
without you,
although i have
at times,
without good
reason.
i would miss
your warm
body,
the wag and wiggle
of you,
your smile,
the way you
greet me
at the door when
i arrive home
from work
with a soup
bone from
the butcher.
if only you wouldn't
bark so much.

decorating the tree

it is less
about caring
and more about
pleasing you
by pretending
that I don't
care.
choosing to
sit nearby
as you decorate
the tree,
or ice a cake,
or move a chair
across
the room
into a more
sunny place.
I am all about
the sunny
place, that's
where I want
to be
with you,
without quarrel,
lips sealed
tight into
a stitched
smile.

can't all be winners

you lie
in the warm
water
of the tub
waiting for
the muse to arrive.
you're done
with soap,
with shaving
with washing.
you are just waiting
for inspiration.
a line or
two, a clever
word or thought
to make you
get out and go
to the desk
to type some
brilliant
piece of work,
but no,
the water gets
cold, so this
will have
to do.

never far from home

you are never far
from home.
you can reach
into any given
box and be there,
lifting
a photo into
your hand,
turning it over
for a clue
that's unwritten.
that fence,
that stretch of
lawn, the tilt
of the wet roof,
the window
that wouldn't
open. your brothers
and sisters
in other rooms
inventing their
own lives,
your mother
at the sink,
perpetually washing
dishes
as she cooked,
staring out
beyond the scrub
brushes, the lidless
garbage cans
to the snow
laden street,
waiting for life
to change,
to be made not
good, but
better.

Monday, December 9, 2013

the ice box

a light
goes on when
she opens
her mouth.
a breath of
frosty air
floats out.
she keeps
the greens in
her crisper,
the ice cubes
in her head,
the left overs
on the middle
shelf,
wrapped
in foil with
nothing fresh
to share.

the apology

the I'm sorry
line
is over
there.
you've been it
before.
sorry for this,
sorry for
that, sorry for
not understanding
who you are.
please forgive
me and take me
back,
but you are
less sorry these
days, and
you never did
like lines.
it's easier to
walk away
than to stay
and utter an
apology you really
don't mean.
so you go.

the office party

with too
much eggnog
in your body
and brain
you say things
that you wish
you hadn't said.
you make
comments about
someone's shirt,
or pants,
or dress, not
nice things either.
you tell someone
that you don't
love that you love
them dearly.
you shake hands
too long,
and hug people you
just hugged
three minutes ago.
you pet the cat
too hard,
chasing it around
the room,
and eat too many
peanut butter
cookies. you
keep drinking
the egg nog
though, taking
larger sips,
putting a yellowish
rum laced
mustache on
your face,
and when the music
comes on, you
yell out, okay
who wants to dance?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

the christmas tree

you ask the man
how much
for that tree.
he looks at your
shoes, then at
the car you just
pulled up in.
I don't know,
he says, scratching
his chin, seventy
five dollars?
but it's only
two feet tall, you
tell him.
I want to put it
on a table.
it's a special tree
he says. it's hard
to get them to
stop growing
and remain small.
it's really a special
tree. he turns his back
and puts his hands
over a barrel of fire
that's near
the trailer where
his office is.
he takes out a bottle,
taking a swig,
then turns back around.
cough syrup, he says.
my doctor says that I
shouldn't be out here,
but my wife is sick
and the kids need
shoes. right you say.
how about ten dollars
for the little tree?
twelve? he says.
sure you say. do you
want me to strap it
on the roof for you?
nah, you say, i'll
put it up front
with me.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

and now you

in a large
clear bowl
you add sugar
and
baking powder,
a teaspoon
of vanilla
one egg, some
flour.
you stir and mix,
then place
your hands
into the dough
and knead
it all
together. this
is what she
did, and now
you.

not enough

a man
empties
himself
to his wife.
his work.
his children.
he comes home
from a hard
day
and shows
her his hands
calloused
and bruised,
and says,
this is what
love is.
this is what
I do
for you.
and she says
no,
it isn't, I
need more.

the walk

you find the world
noisy
this morning,
the stones under
foot
as you walk
along the path.
the blue stream
churning where
it needs to go,
the birds
in full chatter,
the runners
going by in
herds, galloping
as they gulp
for breath.
the world is noisy
as you walk
and hear the soft
beating
of your own heart
above your footsteps.

in the bag

there are many
things that I have
that I don't
necessarily want.
some I throw
away
when the truck
comes,
others I bag
and wait upon,
unsure of their
value to me
in this state
of mind.
I change
my mind constantly
on what
has value,
what doesn't.
and you,
so patient.
curled
in a bag
by the door
saying hey, hey,
let me out.

taking pride

the spoon
in your hand
says made in china,
the dish,
the bowl,
the car
you drive.
the computer
you sit
in front of
and type upon,
all
say made in
china. that
tattoo on
your muscle
bound friend's
arm is inked
with Chinese
words.
everything
seems to
be made over
there,
everything but
Chinese food,
we can still
deep fry
vegetables
and duck with
the best of them.
that's something
to be proud of.

Friday, December 6, 2013

coffee talk


wrapping her scarf
around her neck,
she applies her
lipstick, then takes
a sip of her coffee.
people are
friendlier
when the weather
turns cold, she says,
nodding at a
homeless man
shuffling by,
pushing his shopping
cart. there
is a feeling
of niceness in
the world.
perhaps it's the fear
of being abandoned
and left
alone in a snow
bank you say, a
primitive urge to
bond with our
fellow men. no
one wants to be
left out in the cold
with no one
to snuggle up
against. imagine
being left out
here, freezing,
with nothing
in your one mittened
hand, not even
an extra hot pumpkin
spice latte.
I hear that, she
says, taking sip,
leaving a white
foamy mustache on
her lip.

among the scattered clouds

some days the fog
lifts
and you can
see clearer
how things really
are.
the brightness
in color
of what couldn't
be avoided and lies
in the road,
a red hat on
a stranger passing
by.
the sign on
the door saying
open, not
closed.
you can see your
shoes
in a puddle
of last
nights melted snow,
or the reflection
of your aging face
in the dry
cleaners window,
a piece of sun
and blue
sky there too
among the scattered
clouds.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

relics

relics
along the river,
stumbling
forward
with cane
and nurses,
heads
bent neither
towards
the sun nor
sand, nor
water, but
to a place
where they once
were,
where they
can't go
back again.
so it's just
this now, this
walk, this
stumbling
forward, being
helped
through another
day, another
hour.

faster

you want
the world to spin
slower
on some days,
just to savor
the sweetness
of life,
an orange
fresh picked
in your hand,
the juice
of love on
your lips.
and other
days, you want
it to go
so fast that
your hat flies
off. a spin
so quick
that you grab
a tree
to hang on to
and wait out
the storm.

sugar cookie

a smile
and sweetness
goes a long
way when
robbing
a bank.
how cheerful
the thief
is with her
ear to
the safe,
turning the dials
click
click click.
how can anyone
think wrongly
of someone
with such
a sugary
disposition.
it's good
to have a judge
in your pocket
though in case
the lights
come on,
as well as
your bed.

the laundry of our minds

wait
ten minutes
more
and everything
you believed
to be true
will
change.
wait longer
and what you
rejected
as truth
will come
back again.
rinse and repeat
it's what
we do with
the laundry
of our minds.
when you put
your ear
to floor
of the sky
you can hear
the thumping
of an unevenly
balanced
load.

my nigerian prince

there are so many
Nigerian princes
having banking issues
in their country
that it's hard sometimes
to know which one
to help when you
get their pleas for
assistance. you are
willing to open up
your bank account
to let them deposit their
tied up millions
of dollars, but which
prince do you choose.
the e mails are so sad
sometimes, that I tear
up, shaking my head
at their situation.
the offer of rewarding
me for my generous
help is really unnecessary.
I would do it for free
because I understand
how ruthless the banks
can be with their
service charges and broken
atm's. the way they tie
up your money in long
term cd's. it's a shame
what they do to us,
keeping our money and
making it so hard
to get back. not to mention
the cheap plastic
pens that aren't worth
stealing anymore. so I
understand the plight
of all these princes
in Nigeria with their
millions stuck in some
bank. at some point though,
I will have to choose.
the last set pf e mails that
they sent said that
there is a deadline
so i must work on it later
today when I get home
from work. right after
I walk the dog
and heat up some soup.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

the in between

death is
the parenthesis
that closes
the sentence
of your life,
making clearer
what it was
or wasn't,
going no further
with more
words or
thoughts, or
ideas. the beginning
and end
get carved into
the stone,
not the minutes
in between.
not the love,
the work,
the joy or pain.
and even
those things will
be guessed at
after the seasons
grow upon
the grave, or
cover it in
leaves.

press 9 for operator

you get a long
list, a
menu of numbers
to push
but you wait
for the operator
wanting
to hear a voice instead.
the voice is pleasant
but in a hurry
to get rid of you.
she sends you
to another
number, which leads
to another
recording
that leads
you to push
a number which
you deem
appropriate
for your particular
issue.
this leads
to a dial tone
and then a
disconnect.
this goes on for
an hour
or so, two
cups of coffee,
a toasted
bagel with butter.
you have better
things to do,
but you are not
a quitter,
you will at some
point reach
your destination.
or maybe not.

land ho

someone yells
out land ho,
and someone makes
a joke
of that, saying
finally, rubbing
his beard,
squinting
his eyes across
the endless sea
of water.
what does she
look like
another man
says climbing
the yard arm.
the commotion
makes the captain
come out
of his quarters
with his binoculars
to stare out too.
all hands on
board go to
the edge of the ship,
which now lists
with their longing.


the feral cats

some want to be
rescued
while others
want to roam
free untethered
by life's social
binds. they want
to forage the land
for food, for love,
and affection.
unencumbered by
a warm bed, a bowl
of food on
the floor.
they want to see
the sun rise,
the moon set high
between the trees,
they don't want to
miss any of it.
they don't want to
stare into
the fishbowl of
a screen watching
others lead their
lives while theirs
slip away. some want
to be rescued
but the poets
don't, the men
in the park don't
the women under
the bridge don't.
the feral cats with
arched backs
sitting strong
on the fence don't.

Monday, December 2, 2013

the corner gas station

the shell station
on the corner
sells oil
and gas, tune
ups at a discount
tires
and gum,
cold drinks,
stands decorated
for Christmas,
the trimmed
hedges blink
with blue and silver
lights,
the planted trees
are draped
in garlands
of red tinted
bulbs,
the pumps are
adorned with wreathes
of gold.
on the roof are
reindeers in
mid flight, santa
red cheeked
and laughing.
how sweet and kind
of them
to celebrate
the birth of Christ
and to sell
gas at a special
discounted price.

epiphany of love

the epiphany
of love
for another
becomes a
minute sized
moment
held
in a breath
a memory
etched
in the stone
side of
your mind.
it is never
forgotten
only deepened
with time.

the insurance salesman

a man in a black
suit is at your
door. he knocks
and knocks. it's
a persistent knock,
but polite too.
there is a brief case
in his hand.
what, you say,
edging the door
open. a wet towel
around your waist,
and you are holding a
ham sandwich
you just carefully
put together.
you push your barking
dog back with
your bare foot,
what, you say
again, i'm sort
of busy. I don't
have a fireplace.
no, he says.
it's not about that.
i'm not selling
firewood.
do you have a
few moments.
i'd like to discuss
your future
with you. it's
very important.
not really you say,
licking mustard
from your finger.
my future is rather
personal. I keep
it to myself.
do you have life
insurance, he says.
term, or whole?
I don't think so,
you take a bite of
the sandwich. look,
I have to wash this
down, do you mind, plus
jeopardy is about
to come on.
put your card through
the slot, and i'll
give you a call,
maybe. call me
he says, it's very
important that you
call me. you don't
want to leave
your loved ones left
holding the bag
with nothing.
loved ones? you say,
who might they be.
I see he, says, tipping
his hat, well, good
day then.

martini time

I do this when
i'm upset she says,
getting out of her
chair, going
to the middle
of the room.
when the world
is closing in
on me I get
up and do this.
she begins to
violently shake
her head,
her body
as if she's
doing a dance,
or having
a fit.
her arms
are out like
bird wings,
her legs like
rubber, her
feet tap as if
stamping out a fire.
I do it until
i'm out
of breath, she
says, huffing,
bending over
with a red face,
then I feel
better for having
done so.
and if that doesn't
work you ask.
she smiles,
making a drinking
motion
with her hand.
well then it's
martini time.

falling apart

the rust
is silent
in its ways.
the slow
crawl
of reddish
orange biting
gently, relentless
in its onslaught
against
the iron rail.
it's there
before you know
it, growing,
weakening
what was once
strong
and could hold
your weight.
what else,
you ask yourself,
is escaping
your eyes.
falling apart
before you.

everyone together

someone says
maybe she needs another
blanket.
while someone
else opens
a window.
another
person, crying,
asks
if there is a
place to eat
nearby.
a small boy
plays a trumpet
at the end
of her bed.
someone
opens her drawer
to see what
lies inside.
a ring on her
finger is slipped
off for safe
keeping. a man
opens his check
book to see
what all of this
will cost.
her feet covered
in long
purple socks
dangle over
the bed.
she sits
back and smiles.
finally, everyone
together.

oysters

fry them,
put them on
a sandwich,
pour
hot sauce
or sprinkle
on their
cold bed shell
a zesty seasoning,
eat them raw,
letting them
slide down
the hatch
as your eyes
bug out.
it doesn't
matter,
you've never
spent a waking
moment
of your hungry
life thinking
about them. so
here, have mine.

communication

she says more
when
she whispers
than when
she shouts,
but she's most
listened to
when she goes
quiet and
silent. it's
then that I
disappear,
and at least
for a little
while,
go south.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

coconut heads

in the turmoil
and confusion
of your mother dying
you want to take
your two
sister's heads
and clunk them
together like
coconuts, but
that's something
you can't do now.
being the ages
that you are.
but there was a
time, when it
was appropriate
and necessary
to do so. no words
needed to be said,
and even they
knew why you were
clunking their
heads together
like coconuts.
it solved so many
things.

where am I

you awaken
in a strange room.
a woman
beside you
is on one elbow.
she is staring
at you
and smiling.
at the end
of the bed
are people with
clip boards,
they are writing
things down.
in the corner
an artist is
sketching
you in charcoal,
tilting his
head from
side to side
as he brushes
his hand across
the thick paper.
where am I,
you say out loud,
and where are
my pants.
hold still
the artist says.
we're not
done yet.

grocery shopping

you see
the old man
in the long grey
over coat
filling his
pockets
with cans
of food
as he shuffles
through
the store.
the music plays
on, the lights
are bright.
each can,
a shine to it.
but they are
waiting for
him
at the front
of the store,
letting him
load what he
can into his deep
pockets
letting him
believe
how easy this is.
as you leave
with your own
bags
you see him sitting
in a black
car, a small
smile
across his face,
his hand
going up to wave.

blue bird

a blue
bird on the sill
peers
in
as you look
out, your hands
still on
the keyboard.
it's a short
visit.
but the blue
wings,
the white flecks
of feathers
the grey
plumes
will be with
you all day,
there is
so much beauty
in the world
that quickly
flies
away.

a room with light


the window
on the far side
of the room
brings
in light
diluted
by blinds,
a thinly offered
curtain,
a hollow of trees
rising
for no reason
along the wall.
the nurse presents
the light with
a wave of her
short arm.
light, she says.
see how bright
this room is?
everything
has the feel
of being old
and worn,
threads swimming
along
the edges
of blankets.
a single stiff
pillow, a hard pill
on the once
white sheets.
the ghosts of
who died here before
sit upright
in the visiting
chairs, watching,
but not waiting.
they are now patient
in their place,
without pain
their lives, continued,
much easier.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

tickets out the window

there are countries
you will
never set foot in.
cities you will
not walk through,
or sleep
in their beds,
this does not
bother you. you've
seen enough of
the world to know
of it. you've
been everywhere.
you've been nowhere.
it's unimportant
to you.
you are neither
amused nor amazed
by what lies
beyond your shores.
there is no
bucket list to
speak of, no wish
list, or well to
throw a coin in.
here and now seems
fine for the time
being. you throw
your tickets out
the window.

girl on a carousel

talking to your
sister
is often like
talking
to someone on
a carousel,
going round
and round.
you keep waiting
for her to circle
back
to the point
of what you
are talking about.
your patience
is thin,
as you feel
the wind of her
spinning mind
go bye.

untrue

if you tell yourself
enough times
that something
is true, then it
will be.
whether love or
hate, your thoughts
will keep
you there, ashore
on the myth
of what you believe.
it will be hard
to leave
that island.
no swimming alone
will get you far,
no ship appearing
in the distance
will rescue you
from yourself,
you will die
with your feet
in the shifting sands
of who you are,
untrue to your
own self.

as she left them

she left
everything behind.
those shoes
beneath her
bed. those rings
on the dresser.
that dress
on a hanger
on the closet door,
all still there
just where
they were left.
the opened book
turned
over at the last
page read.
her glasses
on the night
stand. a glass
of water
that her lips
last touched,
the pillows just
so, where
she rested
her head.

stand firm

unlike
the weather.
you do not
change.
you stand
still
and firm,
unbending
in wind
and rain.
these storms
will pass
they always
do.
let others
flail
madly in
the turmoil
trying to
change what
they cannot.
but not
you. you've
thrown
your anchor
down. you'll
wait it out.

survival

you download
another slice
of pumpkin
pie into
your belly
which is
warmed by
sweat pants
loosely cinched
at the waist.
finishing
off the can
of whipped cream
with a vigorous
shake
you make a mental
note of what
you need at
the grocery store
when you hear
the last gasp
of air
coughing out
of the cold
can. you hate
yourself for eating
so much,
but you love
pie and what if
it gets really cold
out. you'll need
this extra layer
of fat to survive.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

gold fish

when the small
table in the corner
breaks, the leg
giving
out under
the weight of
a large bowl
of goldfish,
and everything
goes tumbling
to the floor
in a splash,
you wonder which
fish to save
first, if
any, before
the cat pounces
off the sill,
licking her teeth,
in surprised
wonder and glee.

snow ball

it's okay
if it never snows
again. ever.
except maybe on
Fridays,
or Saturday
if it's a long
weekend.
It can snow
in Montana, fine.
or Alaska,
or upstate
new York, they
don't seem
to mind. but you'd
like to put
your shovel
and salt, scrapers
and boots into
permanent storage.
you've had
your share of snow.
it's a wonderful
thing, but you're
done with it
for now.
the only snow you
want to see
is the snow
in this glass
ball you are shaking
with a tiny
sled and house,
and tree inside,
and a little
kid, frozen,
pulling a sled.

who do you know in India

who do you
know in
india, the postman
says, shaking
the package
with the strange
postmarks
on the front.
what's in the box?
you look
at his name tag,
and say
elmer, that's
a rather
personal question.
but if you
must know,
it's generic
vitamins. oh
he says, well,
I hope those work
out for you,
then winks.
why are you winking,
you ask him,
handing over
the slip
of paper and showing
him your ID.
he leans over
the counter and
whispers, hey buddy.
it's fine, really,
it happens to
the best of us
once in a while.
whatever, you say.
taking the box
and striding out
with proper
indignation.

size doesn't matter

I don't care
she says
on the phone,
size doesn't
matter,
fresh
or frozen,
doesn't matter
either,
as long as
it fits
in the oven,
but
we need to
stuff it
and baste
it, etc.,
she says. so
turn
the oven on,
i'm on my way
over, i'll bring
the sweet potatoes
whipped
cream,
and hot buns.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

be good

comb your hair,
son, wipe
your mouth
and brush your
teeth.
pull up
your zipper.
here's your
lunch money,
don't forget
your books,
your homework,
the permission
slip I signed
so that you
can go
to the museum
to see
the dinosaur bones.
now kiss me
and be off
before you
miss the bus.
be good, be good.
be good.

the holiday referee

each holiday
dinner should have
a professional
referee standing
in the corner of
the room, a whistle
in his mouth,
a yellow flag
in his pocket.
one time out per
hour allowed.
ejection for flagrant
fouls
permitted, seating
arrangements
altered when
the game gets
heated. discussion
limited to light
hearted topics,
no reminiscing
about the past,
no old quarrels
brought up, or loud
voices
allowed. cursing
would be punished
by banishment,
as would expelling
food from one's
mouth at another.
the referee would
keep things in order.
make for a pleasant
holiday dinner,
unlike past years.

pill bottles

a row of small
brown jars
plastic
with white
tabs stuck
to the front
neatly wrapped
around
in blue or black
type.
the name
the date
when and where
each
pill was to
be swallowed.
the white
hard lid
screw on tight.
the winged serpent
and sword insignia
stamped
in red to
the right.
all of them lined
up full
of amber
light, awaiting,
like soldiers
the gulp of
water,
then swallow,
the lids going
down
for the night.

the pyramid of bottles

you see a mother
in the liquor store
shaking her slobbering
kid, red cheeked
and blue eyed.
his knees
worn out, his hair
a wired mesh
of blonde curls.
what's wrong with
you, she yells.
don't touch things.
how many times
do I have to tell
you that when we
are in a store.
now look at what you've
done. do you
know how much these
bottles cost?
do you have any
idea how hard I work
to buy things
for you, to take
care of you.
now I'm gong to
have to pay for
all these bottles
that you've broken
and I better have
some money left
for mine. now get
out of that puddle,
your feet
are sloshing in
scotch. good scotch
too.

a line of cars

everyone
is home. the holidays
have begun.
the roads
are less traveled
towards
work,
and now are full
in other
directions.
suitcases
and gifts
wrapped and rattling
in trunks.
the tail lights
glitter
red in a long
snake line
from here to there.
down each
tree of roads,
each thin
vine.

horse in the field

the dead horse
in the field
is found the next
day. the grass
is a blue
frost waiting
for sunlight.
the fence is close
by, the gate
locked. there
is no reason
other than age,
someone says,
shaking her head.
but let's see.
a man from
the barn brings
out a long green
tarp, dragging
it towards
the still shadow
across the cold
ground.
the other horses
stand far
away.

change the sheets

do I look fat
in this big sheet
I'm wearing with
a hole through
the top, she asks
while pouring gravy
over her mashed
potatoes.
no, not at all.
that sheet looks
good on you.
vera wang? I like
the paisley print
too. hides the cranberry
sauce
and sweet potatoes
that you dripped
on it when you had
your first helping.
I'm gong to change
it later, she says.
I bought a whole
other queen set,
one for dessert.
it's an orange color.
ah ha you say,
getting ready for
pumpkin pie, right?

Monday, November 25, 2013

remembering what it was

you came
upstairs for something.
what was it?
you go
from room to room,
scratching your head,
turning
lights on
then off, you open
up the closet,
close it.
you lie down in
bed and stare at
the ceiling fan,
then lean over
to pick up
a new biography
on salinger.
not the kennedy
salinger, but
the other one.
franny and zooey,
that one.
you look at
the pictures first,
staring at
the transformation
of years, from
youthful, lean
and dashing,
to old codger,
bent with white
hair, still hiding
in the light
of who he was.
then you remember.

i'm over here

the unloved,
the unwanted, the
disenfranchised
souls
that wander
the internet
seeking love,
or like or some
form of
lust. they remind
you of the faux
santas
in front of
k mart, ringing
and ringing
their bells.
you too have
rung that bell,
many times.

a can of soup

there is one can
of soup
in your cupboard
that you may have
had for ten
years or more.
chicken noodle.
there is a picture
on the label
with the steam coming
off the spoon, chunks
of chicken
swimming
in broth,
littered with carrots
and what not.
sometimes you'll
pull the can out,
looking for
something else
and stare at it,
spinning it
around to see
if there might be
an expiration
date on it. you
have no memory
of when or why
you bought it. maybe
you had a cold
one day, or a sore
throat and thought
that it might help.
that can of soup
has been a good
friend throughout
the years,
rain and shine,
pain and joy,
a decade of being
together. always there
when you open
the cupboard, who
or what else can
that be said
about in your life.
no one comes to mind.
you almost hate
to open it
even if you were
starving,
ending
this warm and fuzzy
relationship.
you'll keep it where
it is. safe
and sound
behind the orange
uncle ben's quick
rice box.

stepping on a nail

the nail
in your boot
has not
got in all
the way.
it has
stopped
somehow before
piercing
your skin.
a twist
or turn, one
way or the other
a sudden stamp
of foot
harder, then
things would
have been
different. how
often this
is true.

enjoy the ride

your sister' husband
being
nice and kind,
helpful
to a fault helps
your aunt
board the train
back to philly.
he carries her
luggage
onboard and hugs
her goodbye,
but then the train
leaves
the station
with him on it.
there is nothing
he can do
as he runs to
the door, looks
out the window
at the lights
passing by,
the buildings
increasingly
blur. he's taking
an unexpected
trip, like many
of us, we might as
well sit down,
and enjoy the ride.

waiting for visitors

like birds
on a wire, they
line up
as you get off
the elevator.
silent and unsmiling
in wheel chairs,
abandoned souls
who have
out lived
friends
and enemies,
awaiting reluctant
relatives
bringing little
more
than tired hellos,
and boxes
of unwanted
candy. the world
does not
do the end
very well, the smell
of guilt
and regret
is everywhere.
hanging in the air
like a grey cloud.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Know You're There!

there are people
and you know who you
are, who don't like
to answer their phones.
these are special people.
so you have to leave
an agonizing voice mail
explaining why you've
called and when they
call back they haven't
listened to what you
said, but have just hit
dial to ring you up.
these people need to
burn in hell. okay, okay.
very much in need
of coffee. but just pick
up the phone when it rings,
I know you're there.

four hundred dollars

there was always
a big gift
for christmas
when your son
was little.
somehow it
always cost 400
hundred dollars
no matter what piece
of junk it was
later to become.
always.
not unlike taking
your dog
to the vet.
four hundred
dollars, blood
work and stool samples
included
despite having
done that the last
visit and the time
before that.
and the car.
never twenty bucks
for just wipers,
no, you need a
new gadget or you
may die in
a crash on the highway.
400 bucks.
the dentist.
the cleaning and those
awful trays
for whitening.
right. 400 hundred.
that seems to be
the dividing point
on what we'll pay.
no more, no less.
400 hundred dollars.

christmas girl

she was a walking
Christmas
tree
the moment she
sat down
for thanksgiving
dinner.
the red reindeer
sweater, the tinsel
earrings,
the broche that
lit up up
and played
music when you
touched it.
the bangles on both
wrists jingling
like santa's sleigh.
it was open season
on cookies
and eggnog,
a mistletoe
head band twirling
above her
frosted hair,
puckering her
candy cane lips
for whoever crossed
her path.

you are up

you miss
those sleepy dog
mornings
of youth.
lying in bed
until noon,
not quite
done with
the eleven hours
of deep sleep
that you
allotted for
your young self.
now the sun
with it's banging
drum of
light
stirs you awake,
no matter how
deep the mattress
how soft
the pillows,
how gentle
and sweet the soul
is beside you
still dreaming,
you are up.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

come closer

you like
the curve of her,
the shadowed
moon of who
she is, the rise
and fall
of her body,
from her
lips down
to her toes.
she is pale
in the light
and more
so in the dark,
a sheet of paper
whispering
sweet prose
inviting you to
come here,
come closer to me
and write.

table talk

distant
relatives
are not quite distant
enough.
like a cold
wind
they blow
in for the holidays
bearing
not gifts
or words
of wisdom, but
saying things
like what happened
to your hair,
we thought you'd
do better things
with your life
than this,
pass me the gravy.
you don't dislike
these people,
but you aren't
fond of them
either, and you
wonder if perhaps
you were
adopted and of
no blood relation
whatsoever.

loves compromise

the politics
of a relationship
is full of
taking polls,
registering
emotions,
pulling
levers
each day on
what to eat,
or where to go
whose turn it is
to say yes,
or no.
voting, always
voting
with compromise
in mind.
as long
as there is love
and like
and lust
there is just
one side
not two, but
remove one
and the world
comes down.

a life of birds

for most of her
life
she had a bird
or two
canaries
in a small
cage
hanging
in the kitchen
window.
they'd last
a month or so,
a year,
some longer,
some just a day,
an hour.
some whistled
and sang,
others were
silent, yet
still
beautiful
in their strange
yellows
and greens,
brilliant blues
beneath the spread
of their wings.
she'd talk
sweetly
to them,
feeding them
gently,
filling the dish
of water.
each bird
bringing joy,
each death, tears.

ringing bells

the man
in a red soft
hat
in front of the grocery
store
has bells
in each hand.
all day
he rings them
vigorously
as he greets
the shoppers
coming
and going.
a black kettle
strung
on a chain beside
him fills
up with
coins
and bills.
he couldn't be
nicer
despite the annoying
bells.
you wonder how
long
he can keep this
up with
forty more days
to go until
Christmas.

the bookstore

you peruse
the stacks of books
on the tables
near the front
of the bookstore
with sale stickers
freshly pressed
onto the covers.
fifty things or
places, or food
you need to visit
or eat before you
pass away into
eternity. a new
Lincoln biography,
another shade
of grey. a shelf
just for kennedy
and Oswald.
eat this and live
longer, one book
says, with a bright
red photo of
a radish on
the front. drink
this and be smarter
another says,
a glass of water
gleaming in
a bright light
over someone's
hand. slowly you
wind your way
through the aisles,
past the magazines
and hats, and kindles,
and movies
to finally find
the slender shelf
of poetry hidden
deep within
us all.

Friday, November 22, 2013

the sheriff is coming

the sheriff is coming,
you hear
one sister say
to another, trembling
on the phone.
the sheriff
will be here
today. this means
that your other
sister is flying
into town.
the streets empty,
the foolish ones
scatter and hide
behind their curtains.
there will be hell
to pay when the dust
settles and she sees
what's going on here.
she will take no
prisoners. the sheriff
is coming. there
will be no parade.

how to make gravy

you put on
your pilgrim hat
with the large
buckle around
the brim,
your boots
and blousy
white shirt.
it's turkey
killing time
once again.
bring back a fat
one jonathan
your wife
yells at you
as you grab
your musket
and hatchet.
oh, and knock
on your sister's
thatched hut
door, if you
don't mind, she's
the only one around
this village
that knows
how to make
real gravy. she
can't make
a pumpkin pie worth
a damn, but
she knows her
gravy.
i need the recipe.
and don't tell her
what I said
about her pies.

with open arms

this isn't what
you planned for.
slipping
away into the sea.
ice into water,
melting slowly
into the whole
of what is
and what will be.
the ocean neither
forgives, nor
remembers what
comes to it, but
accepts all
with open
arms and mystery.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

chain chain chain

at night
you hear the music
coming from
the house next
door,
chain chain
chain,
chain of fools.
Aretha
belting it out.
you peek
out the window
and see
the old
woman in her
apron, holding
a spatula
to her mouth
like a microphone,
dancing with
her dogs.
she spins around,
as
the dogs leap
and bark
around her feet.
you love her
and want
to marry her.

your room

a place
to be, a room
to call
your own.
it's down to this.
a bed, a blanket,
a pillow
and a tray
of food.
a t.v.
on the wall, a
sheet hung
to divide
the room
in two.
no luggage
at the ready,
no coat
or hat hung
on the door,
no maps to
tell you where
you're going
anymore.
this is it.
a place
to be, a room
to call
your own.

fresh air

driving home
you smell something
strange.
it's the smell
of sickness
the taint
of hospital
gowns and wipes,
hand sanitizers
and shoes
set by the bedside.
life gone
stale is with you.
it's in your hair,
your clothes
on the tips of
your fingers.
you want to take
the top off
of that building
and let the wind
in, let the stars
and moon
rain down
with light. you
want fresh air
to fill their lungs.
you want the birds
to land
on the beds,
you want meteors
to flash
in front of the dying
eyes, to tell
them, that is
everything is fine,
everything will
be alright.

the queen

she's playing
chess
while you play
checkers.
always
a jump or two
ahead of
you.
she takes her
time, staring
long
at the board
while you
tap your foot
and drink
your wine.
she protects
her queen
more than her
king. it's who
she is
and why she
keeps winning,
just
as you want
it to be.

side dishes

you pull your
empty cart up
to the chilled
meat section
to ponder
the frozen turkey
bin, there
are dozens of
white smooth
birds wrapped
in red fish net
stockings.
your mind wanders,
it drifts
to a woman you
used to know.
you need
stuffing,
and potatoes,
don't forget
the gravy,
a side dish
or two,
excuse me someone
says, bumping
into your
cart, but
are you going
to stand there
all day
and stare at
those birds.
the word cranberries
comes out
of your mouth,
for no reason.

dessert

the nurse,
in a maroon
jump suit,
her hair done
in Christmas
curls,
is doing
her nails
next to the heart
machine
that glows
with numbers
in a variety
of colors.
she looks at
her watch,
then peels
back a small
plastic container
of apple sauce,
pushing aside
the untouched
ham
sandwich.
she looks out
the window
as a plane goes
by, low
in the grey clouds.
she dips the
plastic spoon
into the thin
mush
and brings it
to someone's lips,
looking
at a chart
to find her name.

on hold

your feet
are cold.
your hands,
your heart.
there's frost
on the windows.
the paper
is ice cold
as you bend
down with
the door open
to retrieve
it from
the porch.
the news is
cold. the dead
are cold.
the dog
feels the wind
and retreats
back inside.
everything
in this weather
is on hold.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

wanting out

we are all
strangers,
out contempt
and love
for one another
often hidden
beneath
the surface
of our days.
unspoken words
fill the room,
darkened
by the shuttered
windows
that keep
the light out.
we hang beauty
on the wall,
line the floors
with bright
woven rugs,
put silver
on the table,
but who we are
lies quiet
in the tightly
locked drawer,
the secrets
whispering
wanting out.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

the fallen leaf

you've had
enough sadness
for one day.
you take the next
off.
you don't clock
in.
you stay away
from the phone.
the e mails
and text messages
pile up
with beeps
and flashes
of blue light.
the hollow
knock at
the front door
is ignored.
you sweep
the world into
a corner
and find a chair
to sit in,
you find a
book, a song
to listen to.
a stiff drink
with the bottle
nearby.
out the window
you follow
the air borne
path of a yellow
leaf falling.

sharpening knives

the sisters
are sharpening their
knives.
their eyes
gleaming
in the fire
and pot that
boils in front
of them.
there is cutting
to be done.
soured
on each other's
whims
and quirks,
itching
to get at the fight,
to decide once
and for all
something
indiscernible
not only
to them, but
to all those
around them.

vincent's ear

you sympathize with
Vincent,
his self portrait
with bandage
around his head.
he looks cold
and miserable,
unshaven,
taking great
pains to show
the pain of his
lost love
and ear.
why the ear though?
why not a toe,
or a little
finger,
a tooth perhaps,
a lock of hair?
what significance
was the ear,
was it
the one she whispered
her false love
into, the one
she nibbled
while the fire
roared at their
bare feet, was it
the one she talked
incessantly
into about
her mother
or her knitting
circle
where she was making
his winter
scarf?

fools gold

the talk comes
around to money.
what's left.
who will pay for what.
who will chip
in and help.
is there any
hidden
in a jar, in a hole
dug deep
within the cold
yard.
who has the money.
where is the secret
bank account.
where and when
will the money show.
is it real
money, or loose
change between the
cushions,
fallen coins
with heads or
tails showing up.
some come with shovels
in hand,
others, with
flashlights to scour
the cupboards,
the floor boards
that they pry open
with hopeful tools.
where is the money?

in the window

the dog
sits near
her slippers,
near the window
staring out
waiting
for things to
change,
for a car to
pull up
bringing her
back home,
knowing
and not knowing
how the world
spins
outside of
his own short
life.
there is little
that he needs,
food, water,
affection.
a hand
on his warm
brown. the absence
of her
will fade,
one hopes, but
doubts.

Monday, November 18, 2013

the juggler

with three pins
in the air,
the juggler
asks for more.
tossing
them high
into the clouds,
spinning upwards
into the light.
this can't
last for long
you think,
spotting
the fear in his
eyes, the sweat
on his brow.
it's just a matter
of time,
before life
will come
crashing down.

be still heart

be still
heart.
enough beats
have
drummed
your life
ahead.
rest now
and be free
of what
ails
you. sing
and dance
on the sinking
ship
of your
body.
the party
has just
begun.
drink
the new wine
of
the next life.
eat at
the feast
of forever.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

the clothes line

the tight
line, from
pole to pole
across
the beaten
lawn, the dirt
row
where the dog
ran back
and forth
barking all
day.
and the basket
at her
feet, pinning
clothes
to the line,
wringing out
the water, snapping
them in
the air before
hanging
them to dry
in the breeze
under the young sun
of her youth.

vanilla pudding

you break off
a piece
of white bread,
a tiny sliver
of grey
hospital turkey,
you move
it towards
her mouth,
she opens.
a bird small
and weak
in the nest
of pillows
and white sheets.
more, you ask,
making her nod
no, no.
but then a spoon
of pudding
touches
her lips
and she smiles,
and nods
yes, opening
as wide
as she can
with laughing
eyes.

day in day out

the cows
in the field
don't care.
they chew
and chew
all day.
lying down
at night
to sleep
and dream of
standing,
of chewing more.
they stare
with wide
brown eyes as
the cars ride
by, children
pointing
with their
short arms. saying
look, cows.
do you see them?
look at
the cows.
and the tails
wag softly
in the summer sun.

gum world

gum stuck
to your shoe.
under
the table,
on the bed post.
gum
in her hair,
on a coat
sleeve, gum
snapped
loudly
in a mouth.
gum, smoothed
out and
blown into
a bubble.
purple gum,
orange gum.
on the bus seat.
gum
on the subway.
wads of gum
turned
grey.
chewed and spat
out,
flicked out
a car window
by the tip
of a finger.
gum stuck to a
moose's head.
put five pieces
in your mouth
and chew. be
a fool,
no one's
looking, why
not.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

brushing her hair

even now
at 84, her hair
as thick
and lush
as it was at 30 or
40.
silver and white,
brushed
back by a nurse,
a stranger's
hands,
not unlike
the same hands
that handed
her over
to her mother
so long ago
who then gently
brushed
to the side
the black locks
for the first
time.

borrowing three eggs

there was a time
when your
mother would send
you across
the street to borrow
a cup of sugar,
or three eggs,
from the neighbor
that you knew only
as Lillian.
she was the go to place
for things
that we lacked.
go wash her car,
your mother would
say, cut her lawn,
shovel
her snow. it all
evened out
somehow as you
felt the warm
cup cake in your
mouth, icing on
your chin. happiness
in small crumbs
cascading down
your shirt.

expired meters

the disappointment line
is long,
it winds out the door
and down
the block.
people are standing
in line
with their
papers, their lists
of complaints
and sorrows wanting
to know how
things went wrong,
how they ended up
here, and not there,
despite good intentions.
bad marriages, jobs
gone wrong, kids
set free like balloons
cast into wild
winds. how did
this happen, they
ask when they arrive
at the window.
why me. how could
this have possibly
happened to me. but
there is no answer,
but why not as the
parking meters expire
where they parked
their cars, tickets
slipped under
the wipers.

Friday, November 15, 2013

passing through

the room
was small. a
hard bed
against
the wall
facing a window.
a thin
trace
of curtains
hung
short of the sill
hardly blocking
the sharpness
of a winter sun
glistening
against the trains
idling
in the rail yard.
a photo
of a couple
in sepia
long past, you
are sure, not
smiling, but certain
about their love,
is on the dresser
where a
mirror and a
hairbrush rests.
no television,
no radio.
this room will do
you tell
the woman, holding
the key.
she hands it to
you. bathroom
down the hall
she says. we
like to keep it
quiet,then leaves.

nice hat

the mail man
is tired of saying
hello.
the leather
satchel
sags on his
back. an eskimo
styled hat is
tilted on
his head
and his gloves
are worn thin.
how are you,
you ask him
as he hands you
your mail.
what are you,
a doctor, he says.
how the hell
do you think I
am? he then
moves on
to the next house,
before you can
even tell him
nice hat.

the lost poem

you can't remember
the poem
you were going
to write, so
you write this
one instead.
it was so full of
metaphor and light,
the words
rolled off your
tongue as you
drove along
the highway.
how could you possibly
forget, but
alas, you did,
so this is all
you get.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

this circle

it circles back
this cruel
and beautiful
life.
from child
into child
and the strange
struggle
and joy
of the years
tucked
in between.