Thursday, January 31, 2013

mice in the cupboard

a box of saltines
is all you find
on the top shelf.
the cupboard
is almost bare.
you get the stool,
and peek up into
that deep dark
area where you
never go. you see
a bunch of mice
standing around,
with their paws
on their hips.
they have a list
of grievances
written out on
a shred of paper.
an old grey mouse
is writing one last
thing at the bottom
as he rests his
elbows on a table
they made out
of a wild mushroom.
they hand you
the tiny scroll,
making squeaking
noises, pulling
on their whiskers.
more cookies,
the note says,
more open boxes,
more bags
of dried fruit,
a bag of sugar,
white and brown,
and fruit juice
packs with the easy
zip opening.
one of them has
written down cheese
three times.
you read through
the list, and nod
your head, okay, okay,
you say. i'll see
what i can do.
geez. anything else?
you hear one of
them squeak loudly,
tooth pics, we
could use
some tooth pics.

the nudist colony

i want to join
a nudist colony, your
wife tells you,
standing there
naked in the kitchen
stringing garlic
cloves onto a rib
roast. you watch
her slide the pan
into the hot oven,
her breasts brushing
up against
the parsley.
i think that naked
is my true being,
she says, licking
her fingers.
watch the splatter,
you tell her looking
over the top your
newspaper.
i feel free when
i'm naked, i feel like
a child again.
like i'm back at woodstock.
have you seen the size
of that mole
on your butt lately,
you tell her,
wincing. no, what
mole. it's right
there, you take a long
wooden spoon and tap
the mole.
is it symetrical,
different colors.
no, you tell her. it
looks like a fat black
gum drop. oh.
well, so what. maybe
i'll wear granny panties
at the nudist
colony to hide it.
so what do you think,
should we join or what?
it might be fun.
no, you say. i feel
free enough as it is, but
go right ahead sunflower,
do your thing.

family reunion

some of your relatives
are not participating
in the family renunion
this year, in fact most
have made other plans
to spend their day.
there are grudges,
and differences, slights
and miscommunications
that have added up
to cause a breech
in the loving bond
of everyone.
of the fifty or so
cousins and cousinettes,
uncles and aunts,
brothers and sisters
it will only be you,
and your mother, who
calls you by your
father's name,earle,
a second cousin jimmy,
with his new wife,
a pole dancer from ohio
and a nine year
old hindu boy, yak,
someone adopted
along the way. sadly,
there won't be a potato
sack race this year,
and no potato salad
for that matter.
but your mother made
an apple pie, so
that's good.

a cup of crazy

there was a time
when crazy people
were just
that. crazy.
there were places
like
st. elizabeths
were you could see
them in the wide
stretches
of green lawns
talking to no one.
having conversations
with theodore
roosevelt,
or god. mad dogs
in the sun.
perhaps, we all have
a little cup of crazy
in us, some more
than others.
but like candy
from heaven the new
medication, the sharp
edged pills
are swallowed
as perscribed.
it hasn't taken
the crazy away,
but it has made it
easier for everyone,
to get through
the years,
blended us all
numbly together
as one.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

the first cell phone


in a strange
neighborhood,
when your car
broke down,
you searched each
corner for
a pay phone
and then you saw
a man
in a green dumpster
digging through
the wet slop
of what people
had eaten
and discarded
throughout
the week.
you could hear
him talking
to someone.
and when you
peeked in,
you saw that he
was on a cell
phone. this gave
you an epiphany.
you had to get one.

the factory

your boss
is mean. he spits
when he talks.
telling you how
worthless you are.
how you can be
replaced by half
a man, or even
easier by a machine.
don't talk, he says.
do your work
and keep your mind
on the job
at hand. you're
lucky, he says to
be here. there are
men on the street with
more brains than
you that would take
this job for half
your salary. he
laughs as he leaves
the room. and as
you grind the next
piece metal down,
you wonder what
keeps you here.
what fear within
holds you to the fire
of this. making
you less a man
than those out there.

the love song

when you go home
from work, there is a man
standing
in your kitchen.
he has a wife
and a small child
who sits at the table
eating an apple.
the man and woman
are dancing
along the checker
tiled floor,
gleaming black
and white.
their arms are around
one another.
they kiss lightly
and smile at each other.
the radio is on,
an old song, a love
song. a song you
know the words to
by heart. you take
your hat off and watch
them, saying nothing.

there is no fire

someone pulls
the fire alarm.
but there is no fire.
it makes no difference.
everyone files out
in polite lines
just the same.
they go to the field
across the street
then turn back to the
building, looking for
smoke, or flames.
but there is none.
there is only
the constant
ringing of the bell.
so much of life is
like that, there is
no fire.

going home

no reason
to go home again.
this is home.
no need to return
to where you
were born.
where you first learned
to walk.
or sing
a song, or read.
this is your
home.
this is where you
lie down
to sleep, where
you sit
near a window
with a book
to read. it's the
place where you make
love, and find
comfort
in the woods outside
your window.
this is your home,
or so you've talked
yourself
into that belief.

a grey pair of shoes

tired of brown
and black
shoes, loafers
and those with
laces.
the same shoe
over and over
again you
without thought
purchase.
so it surpises
you when you take
home the grey
pair this time.
who are you now?

following the crowd

how do birds
know
which way
the flock will
turn. it's beyond
reason
how this crowd
of gulls
or sparrows
rise and fall
in rhythm.
are we too
of one mind set,
following
unknowingly
the crowd?
you see it
in fashion,
or flavor,
what's
believed to be
true or
false, almost
all giving chase
in that direction,
only the genius
few refuse,
and they are left
outside
the maddening
crowd.

the apple fritter meditation

you fast
for almost an
hour, no food,
no water, no
nothing, but your brain
won't let go
of an apple fritter
you saw the other
day on the bakery
shelf.
no, you say silently.
no. you focus,
breathe in
breathe out. you
close your eyes
and make quiet
your brain as
best you can,
but you can't
free yourself
from the apple fritter.
it's a runaway
train this thought.
you can taste it in
your mouth,
the sweet crispy
dough. and then you
have an epiphany.
the only way to rid
yourself of temptation
is to give in
to it. so off
you go.

corporate clown

you were never
happy being a circus
clown. dancing
for the bosses
in your floppy shoes,
with a bulb red
nose. you never
liked smiling
when you didn't
want to. or being
funny and clever
when you wanted
to step
back and just
listen, observe,
or leave and go
into another room.
there's not a clown
bone in your body.
you have no pies
to throw.

stuck outside

the lock on
the door won't turn.
it's old,
there may be rust
inside.
the key
goes in,
but it sticks
and will hardly
move despite
the jiggle
and push, the
pull of your
hand. how
can you not
go home again.
get inside
where it's safe
and warm.
how can such a
simple thing as
a key
keep you outside
in the rain.
if only there was
someone inside
to let you in.
perhaps you've been
wrong
about things.

what they find

your life long
friend
may be dying.
they've found
the beginning
of an end
cramped painfully
within him.
a solid
mass of disease.
you don't see him
that way.
old
and grey, thin
beyond thin.
grappling with
words
to say, trying
to explain
how this may
have happened.
you still see
him in the apirl
of his life.
you want to shake
the sky
and set things
right again.

higher ground

you don't need
to be an emotional
isaac newton
to understand
the gravity of
things when,
the world is
falling down
around you,
striking
your head
repeatedly. you
know what
you need to do.
to get up
and move,
to higher ground.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

inked up

you get a tattoo
that says
maybe, next to
the one that says
baby. oh baby.
below that is
a rocket going
into space,
circa 1950,
on your shoulder
is the moon,
or mars, you can
go either way
with that, although
you wish you
had inked saturn
there with the rings.
you are telling
a story with
this ink, but you
aren't sure what
it is, or
where it's going,
you hope to finish
it before you
grow up and come
to your senses.

blue or pink cotton candy?

a rollercoast
car derails
killing
seven and injuring
three others
on the ground
waiting their turn.
the park will be
closed until
repairs are made
and the problem
resolved the
newspaper article
reads. that part
of the park will
be closed to
the general public
until further notice.
however the ferris
wheel is fine.
half price tickets
go on sale
today, plus
a free hot dog
and cone of cotton
candy to the first
one hundred
riders. blue or
the pink kind,
your pick.

being boys

you watch the boys
breaking
the ice
along the edge
of the lake.
using rocks, or
sticks,
they move to the
rim and pound
at the blue
thin layer
of frozen water.
it possesses
them. stamping
their christmas
boots onto the white
frosted circles,
stepping
out a little
farther and farther.
and from
where you sit
you can see it
crack, you can hear
it crack
and their loud
delighted screams
as one slips
down into
the mud. there is
a part of you
that wants to join
them, still.
show them how
it's done.

you really listen

when she made love
she was very
talkative,
expressive,
using her hands
to speak with.
she chewed gum too,
spearmint, mostly,
blowing bubbles
and popping
them in my ear.
she was fun
like that.
she liked to go
on and on about
her laundry, and
how the dog chewed
up her sandals,
and the time her
ex-husband put a knife
in the side of her
tires the day
she got divorced.
and afterwards,
lying on the pillow,
sweat on her brow,
she was silent.
having said,
everything thing
there was to be said
about her world
at large. even the gum
came out as she
said in all
seriousness, i like you.
you really listen
to me.

a dozen roses

you see a small
truck
on the side of the road
whenever you
drive
south towards the bay.
there is a hand
made sign
sitting in
the back, propped
up
by other signs.
plywood, black letters
painted on,
some smaller letters
are squeezed
in after spelling
corrections have
been made by those
with stronger vocabulary
skills.
sharks teeth the sign says
today.
yeserday it was
hubcaps and rabbits.
the day before
that it read hot crabs,
females, and some
large males.
with valentines
day approaching, i'm
waiting for the twelve
ninety nine, a dozen
roses, to make my stop.

Monday, January 28, 2013

the new red car

climb into my new car.
it's cherry red,
because it fits my
sparkling personality.
here, let me
get the door.
take your shoes off
please, and
don't touch anything.
in fact, here put
these gloves on,
one size fits all,
sit back and relax.
we're not going
anywhere, but
close your eyes
and imagine that
we were. to the shore,
the mountains
perhaps. a sunny
sea side cottage
where we could park
on a long
gravel drive way
and be able to see
the car
from any window.
are you chewing gum
in my new car?
here, spit it into
my hand. i'll dispose
of it. okay, ride's
over.

well water

your hand
pulls up the bucket
from
the well
slowly so as
not to spill.
your mouth
already
tastes the cool
flush
of water
quenching your
parched soul.
and it doesn't
dissapoint,
hardly ever,
unlike those
you thought you
knew.

what life should be

you leave a small
trail
behind you,
like most others,
words written,
love
endured.
the meaningless
ness
of work
and money
visible in
what you own,
or owe upon.
even the free
seem to be scratching
with a stone
time
on a wall,
imprisoned by
what they think
life
should be.

the worst lie

like a cloud
casting
a shadow over
you, you sense
the need
of a dear friend
and call.
the air gets cold
when he
answers
and everything
you feared,
is true,
the worst lie
of the world
is that we will
stay young
forever
and not die.

the orphaned tuba

the tuba
as large as
an elephant's
ear, tarnished,
turning
away from its
silverish
color into
a green blue
metal sat
in your parent's
basement
for years.
left there
by someone your
father knew
in the navy.
you remember
struggling
to pick it up
every now and then,
trying hard
to blow a note
out of its
small mouth,
emitting only
a strange sneeze
of a sound.
you have thought
often of that
orphaned tuba,
whose hands were
around it
making music.
whose lips,
whose cheeks ballooned
and carried
it from place
to place until
it ended there.

children

she plants
the seeds in spring.
and when
the flowers
come up
she waters them,
nutures
their growth,
trims out
the weeds.
she admires
them in the summer,
telling them
daily how
fine and beautiful
they are.
in the fall
she cuts
them clean,
letting them go
from stem to
ground, places
the memory of
them in a vase
by the window
and waits
once more
for the snow
to melt
and for them
to visit again.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

limping towards the fire

i want to grow
old with someone, she
says, looking
at a sunset, giving
it some romantic
meaning
beyond words.
i want someone
to love me,
and i love them.
to grow old with.
you don't know
what your saying, you
tell her
limping towards
the fire to stir
the flames.

paper lives

into
the fire
you shovel
boxes
of what you've
written.
wanting to be
done with them.
and as the papers
curl
blue
then red, towards
yellow, a full
frank
moon watches
between
the fingers
of bare trees.
you remember
sweet
days
of youth, both
yours and
others. how
fast your pen
moved, and now
at this age, you
see
how time burns
quickly
our paper
lives.

falling trees

in time, even
the strongest of trees
bends
and loses
its leaves, then
withers, becomes
brittle
awaiting the wash
of wind
and rain to take
it down. sometimes
others fall
with it, taking
down
the ones nearby,
those with
roots tangled
in yours.
just the thought
of this
at times, keeps you
from getting too
close, or falling
in love.

the new you

you've changed.
you're different now.
yesterday
you were another
person, but you've
shed that skin,
and awakened
the inner you,
the new and improved
you.
people will take
notice, and hold you
in their arms.
they will welcome
the new person
you've become.
they will introduce
you to others
as if you are a stranger.
they will give
you a new name.
they will forget
the past and all that
you've done.
there is only
today, for the new
you, and tomorrow.

divorce court

you see
a mountain
of turnips
outside
the courthouse.
then
another
one comes
flying out
the window
into the growing
pile.
you take a closer
look,
they all appear
to be bleeding.

the beautiful silence

an old man, well,
much older
than you are,
backs his car
into yours,
banging bumpers
in the mall parking
lot. you get
out and study
the damage
as he gets out,
shaking his head.
his wife climbs
out as well
and begins to curse
him. all three of us
stand there,
hands in our coats,
in the cold and wind,
staring
at our bumpers,
examining them
for any dents
or bruises, scrapes.
but there aren't
any, much to
everyone's relief.
so you nod and
wave and say it's fine,
and as they climb
back into their
car, you hear her
go after him with
a barrage of curses,
and i told you so's,
her angry lips are
still moving
as you look into
the rearview mirror,
pulling away,
alone,
you sigh
and inhale
the beautiful
silence of
your world.

omar?

in the heat
of the moment,
when the stars
and planets are about
to align,
when the cake has
risen, and the eclipse
is about to occur,
she screams out
someone else's name,
her finger nails
digging into your back,
nearly drawing
blood, she says it
not once, or twice,
but three times.
omar, omar, omar.
somehow you go along
with this, trying
hard to figure out
who the hell she's
imagining you to be,
but you say nothing,
not wanting to spoil
the moment for her,
or for you, for
that matter.

the map

bored,
north seems
like a nice
destination
to travel to,
expect for
the snow.
then there's west,
but the winds
and tornados
scare you.
east, well, you're
there already,
then there's south,
but the heat
and lizards
don't appeal
to you. nor does
that twang
and syrupy way
of talking. you
realize that you
need more
directions in
which to go, or
just stay put
and quit whining.

girl with a bull whip

there was an exotic
girl from hawaii
who lived next door
to you as a kid.
she was the same age,
as you,
thirteen at
the time, but she
was stronger, faster,
bigger, and
she carried a bul lwhip
around with her.
she would take it
out into the street
and snap coke cans out
of your hand as
you stood there like
a scarecrow in a
field. she was
feared and loved,
but all the neighbor
hood children,
admired and not to
crossed.
she kissed you once
on the forehead,
like the queen bee
she was. there are times
you almost believe
that you still feel
the tingle of the spot
where her lips
touched your skin.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

wild life

bending over
the sign that says
keep the wildlife
wild, please
don't feed the ducks,
a group of people
throw broken pieces
of wonder bread
into the shallow
man made pond.
the kids spit
to bring the fish
up too, hoping
for something
more.
it's hard to stop
human kindness
sometimes
no matter how
misguided.

he had this look

an ambulance
pulls up on your
street late
one night, the red
lights pulsing,
the scream of it's
siren dulled
for a moment. people
go out to their
porches in their
robes to see
whose turn is,
whose time has
come. and when
they see the stretcher
being pulled
out over
the curb, the grey
faced body
slipping into
the bright
mouth of the truck,
they whisper
to one another,
you know, he
didn't look so well
when i saw him
the other day.
i kind of saw it
coming. he just had
this look about
him.

can't get there from here

the rhythm
and rhyme of you
is out of sync.
it snows
on a sunny day,
rains
with a full
moon
up in the sky.
you kiss
when you oughta
wave,
walk, when you
should be
running.
you're drifting
in circles,
like a one
oared boat. you
can see the shore,
but you just
can't get there,
from here.

a man of his time

he had a good life,
the preacher says,
standing near the grave,
but not too close
as to fall in.
jimmy was a funny guy,
a wise man, a smart
ass, some might
say. caustic and
sarcastic towards
those around him,
but he was a person
who loved women and dogs.
i understand, he
even had a steady girl
friend once in high
school. and yes, i
know that he didn't get
along with his
mother, or anyone
else in his family
for that matter, but
who really does. jimmy
boy, we'll miss you,
a woman sobs while
texting on her phone.
yes, he didn't like to work
too hard at anything,
but managed to get
by. figuring out how to
work the system to his
advantage. yes, i know,
i know, he had a tendency
to bend the truth,
and lie a little, okay,
all the time to
manipulate his friends,
but let me say this
about jimmy,
he enjoyed his down
time and wearing
sweat clothes and
flip flops in all
seasons. he knew how
to relax. we could all
learn something from that.
amen, amen, the small
crowd murmurs.
yes, he was quirky
sometimes, saying
things that made you
shake your head,
so random, at times.
and yes, he loved his
video games and wall
to wall plasma tvs. from
what i hear,
he had every phone
and gizzmo you could
think of. 2 G, 3 G,
4 G's, he had them
all and stayed in constant
touch with his peeps
on facebook and twitter,
and linked in,
and my space, and
on sites we best not
mention here with
children present. yes
he was a constant texter.
two thumbs, i understand,
going at it furiously.
he was a man of
his time. we didn't quite
know him that well,
because he liked to
stay in his man cave
in his grandmother's
basement, and have food
delivered, especially those
spicy chicken wings,
but when we did see
him, we all greeted
him with love and affection,
loaning him a few bucks
for beer and nachos.
may he rest in peace,
our good friend jimmy.
he was a man
for his time.

decisions

you settle
on something.
it's taken a while.
but you understand
now completely.
you've had
a moment of clarity
as they
like to say.
epiphany is a
word you
like much better.
it's clear
though, what you
need to do.
why the muddle
and fog
for so long, you
don't know. but
now,
strangely, and with
confidence,
you do.

the late night commercial

she can't stop
smiling, or talking,
or oozing
with positive
thinking and vibes.
she's thrilled
to be showing you
this one step
spray that will
remove carpet
spills, embarassing
stains from
your clothing,
lipstick from your
collar, unwanted
hair from
your ears and nose.
this spray will
change your life,
she says, standing
there like a long
slender ray
of sunshine.
it makes you
want to throw
your shoe at
the television.
these happy people,
what drugs
are they on?

the chew toy

curling up in
a corner,
like a dog
with a bone,
or his favorite
unbreaklable toy,
there are things
you like to think
about, over and over
in your mind.
unable to let
go, and give it
a rest. drop
it to the floor.
take you for
instance, and how
it ended.
i'm chewing on
that thought
right now.

Friday, January 25, 2013

winter bitters

go away snow.
leave me alone,
take your
flakes and your
pretense
at pretty
and melt.
ice too, i hate
you most of all
with your
stuck and hardened
ways.
your personality
stinks. and
wind, take
a break and
relax, we
get it, you can
blow things
around, knock
down the power
lines. big deal.
aren't you proud
of yourself?
frost be
gone with your cute
name, nobody
likes to be called
cute at your
wicked age.
in fact winter
with all
your darkness,
take a hike.

happiness is a leaky pen

are you on board
with this
your boss says,
pointing
at a graph
image projected
on a wall.
do you understand
what these numbers
mean. you have
to hit them,
and soon, or
else we might
need to make
some changes.
you stare
at the chart,
edging up
in your chair,
rubbing your chin,
then at a blue
ball pen
leaking in
the pocket
of his white
dress shirt.
you nod
and smile.
funny how little
things like
that can make
you happy.

fall of the roman empire

she says on the phone,
calling from her job
at the white house.
so what are you doing
home all day, writing,
goofing around?
you tell her that you
have no work. it's finally
all dried up. if any thing
the economy is worse than
it ever was. the election
certainly didn't help
things one bit. oh, fiddle
dee dee, she says, don't go
blaming the economy on
him. he's doing the best
he can. it's the last guy
who caused this mess
we're in. that was five
years ago, you tell her,
taking out a magic marker
to write on the cardboard
sign you're making.
it takes time, she says,
rome wasn't built in a day.
rome? and where exactly
is the roman empire today,
you ask her. i don't know,
she says, i'm not good
with geography. Italy?
well, tell me this,
you ask her, what sounds
better? will work for food,
or I will work for food.
also, should i say god bless,
or will that offend
the atheists and agnostics?
hmmm, she says. not sure,
but i would use colorful
markers and a white board,
seems like everyone is
going with that old
black marker on brown
cardboard, be inventive!
got to go, lunch time. bye!

self improvement

you begin a daily
regimen of lifting weights
and eating
only healthy foods.
you are tired of women
taking your lunch
money and calling
you a sissy boy.
within weeks
the veins and muscles
are popping
out of your skin.
the buttons on your
shirt spring off
in the middle of
the day, when you
flex, or reach over
to grab a handful
of granola and raisins.
people begin to take
notice and say
things like, oh my,
aren't you a strong
boy. you begin
to help people with
stuck pickle jars, or
opening anything
vacuum wrapped. you like
the reaction you are
getting. so you lift
more and more weights,
soon, your head looks
like an apple on top
of a coke machine.
you go to a tanning
salon to get that
rotissiere chicken look.
wet and greasy,
the muscles gleaming.
people can't take
your eyes off of you,
grown men say excuse
me and go to the other
side of the street when
they see you coming.
before long there are
no longer any store made
clothes that fit
you so you make ponchos
out of bedsheets.
you can no longer tie
your shoes, unable to
bend, so you wear
sandals or flip flops.
finally you have achieved
the first stage
of the new you.
now it's time to buy
a book and read one.

the birthday cake

i have some bones
to pick with you, she
says, sitting
at the kitchen table,
hands folded.
only the light
over the stove is
on, which seems ominous,
that soft low wattage
bulb, the kind you
see in the movies
when detectives
are questioning
the suspect. pick away,
you say, opening
the refrigerator
to drink from a
quart of milk.
use a glass, why don't
you she says
not even turning
her head to see.
okay, you say, and
place the carton
back in, taking out
the last piece
of birthday cake
hardened like a slice
of cheese on
a cold plate.
you sit down next to
her and nibble
on the cake. no fork?
she says, nah,
this cake is so hard
it might bend.
so what's wrong, you
ask her, shoveling
pieces in, crumbs,
icing, cascading
onto the table. oh,
i'm sorry, did you
want the last piece?
it's your cake.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

no sugar

you are not
normally the jealous
type, but
when you don't hear
from her for a few
days or so
you imagine
the worst. an old
boyfriend back
in town, a new
lover from the internet,
a neighbor
who needs a bowl
of sugar.
why doesn't anyone
have their own sugar?

our lives in boxes

cleaning out
the basement
you get stuck
for an hour
leafing through a box
of old letters,
photos and poems
you wrote in a workshop
when you were in
your twenties,
your son's age now.
slowly you turn
each picture over,
with a few you
remember the place,
the time,
exactly where you were
and with who,
while others
seem like a mystery
without any clues,
the poetry
is bad. but you
always think it's bad
even when it's
praised as gold.
the letters, still
in envelopes with post
marks from the various
places your
infatuations, or loves
had gone. it's hard
to throw away
such things you
think, stretching
a fresh piece of tape
along the top
of the cardboard flap,
strange how so much
of our lives
eventually finds
its way into boxes
in the basement.

her dancing

the woman who lives
above you
in apartment
3 G likes to dance
late at night
in her stocking feet.
you hear her
as you lie in bed
staring at the ceiling,
her feet moving
gently across
the hardwood floors,
a jump and twist,
a turn perhaps
and leap
onto the soft throw
rugs, then off
again. and when you
see her on the elevator
the next morning,
going to work,
you smile and say
hello. you don't
mention to her
the dancing.
you don't want
things to end
that way.

a naked woman runs by

standing at the window
you see a naked
woman running by,
pale as a sheet
of paper,
with only her shoes
on. they look green
and glittery.
she may be drunk
as she teeters
and stumbles
forward. it seems
as if she's being
chased, but you don't
see anyone, there's
not even a dog
at her heels. she's
going someplace
in a hurry. it's
beginning to snow.
there seems to be
more to this story,
but you lose interest
when you see
the mailman at your
door with a package
from amazon.

self help books

every now and then
you hit the book stores
for another round of self
help books.
you need some screws
tightened, feeling
a little loose and
jiggly in the brain
department. you need
a little tune up
because the direction
of your life seems to have
a zig zag pattern to it.
you've done the whole
live in the moment
thing, you tried that.
and the Now lasted for
about a cup of coffee
up until the point
when the cannister
which is supposed to hold
the half and half
was completely freaking
empty. you can't walk
around like a zombie
and pretend that nothing
or no one bothers you.
it just doesn't work
that way. hey, hey,
you are out of half and half!
okay, where was i,
right, self help books.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

the butterfly

your friend jimmy
is into eastern
religion now
after he lost his
life savings
at the racetrack.
you see him sitting
on a bar stool
at the neighborhood
pub chanting quietly
in a lotus position.
he has a beer in front
of him and pretzels
with a small jar of
hot mustard. he hears
you coming, sitting down
next to him, and motions
with his hand to wait,
one finger in the air.
he chants a few more
times, lets out a deep
breath then opens his
eyes. hey, he says.
you should try this,
man, i feel good after
i do that. you really
should get in touch
with your inner self,
you know, he says,
crunching down
on a pretzel. you
have to free the
true self that is
buried deep within
your ego. we are all
caterpillars trying
to become butterflies.
shut up, you tell him
then order a gin and tonic.


this riddle

i'm smart, you think.
i can solve
this riddle, this
girl who has me
in knots.
i can figure it out,
i always have
untied the strings,
worked at it
tirelessly,
loosened
the ends and gotten
free, but the knife,
sitting there,
is tempting.

she was dessert

she was dessert.
not a meal.
a slice
of cake, a scoop
of ice cream.
she was
creme brulee
burned just so
to harden
its shell.
she was an eclair
waiting to
be bitten, a
brownie warm
uncut in the tray.
she was
dessert, not
a meal. and
it was never
going to be any
other way.

the icing

the child
licks
the spoon
from the mixing
bowl.
slowly
taking his
fingers along
the iced rim
of the yellow
dish.
the joy in his
eyes
will seldom
be so sweet
so pure,
as his mother
watches,
and doesn't
scold.

february frost

she doesn't write,
she doesn't call.
no postcards
in the mail.
nothing but cold
silence. she is
february through
and through.
you shiver in
your bare feet,
staring down
the empty ice
covered street, but
still no sign
or word from her.
how you long for
a change in seasons,
the warm
hands of april.

going under

listing to the left
taking
on water,
the ship begins
to slip gently
into the bay.
seeking
the bottom
where it can rest
from all
this sailing
endlessly from
port to port
without even an
inkling of where
to anchor and stay.

i think your phone is ringing

your future is not
what it used
to be, oh my, the gypsy
says, wiping her
brow with her
sleeve. i can see
coffee though, today,
a large coffee,
black? no, you say.
cream and sugar.
right, she says,
i can see it clearly
now. two sweet
and lows. i see you
in line, staring
at your phone,
reading who e mailed
or texted since
you last looked two
minutes ago.
they know your name
these coffee servers,
they write it on
the side of your
cup don't they?
yes, you say.
amazing what you are
able to see. but
what about the
bigger picture, my
future. what about
what happens next?
i'm sorry she says.
the crystal ball has
gone dark. you'll
have to come back later.
i think your phone
is ringing, or
is that mine?

just a small one will do

you'd like
a burning bush
some days
when stuck
in traffic
with things not
going your way,
with a voice
coming out
of it, telling
you which way
to turn. perhaps
a river opening
wide to cross
so that
you don't have
to take
the congested bridge.
you'd like
to see some
walking on
water, or
water turned
into wine when
the last drop
is gone from
your pinot noir.
your blurry
vision cleared
up, your
sprained
ankle healed.
some days you
need a miracle
to keep you going
in the right
direction. just
a small one will
work fine.

the small print

you never see
the small print
on anyone.
you see the large
letters
the obvious
statement
of who they are,
or want
to be.
the details
are carefully
hidden
in tiny printed
words,
dense, compact,
safely
tucked away
on the bottom
of the back
last page
and it's
not always
a pleasant
surprise what
you find
there, in
the end.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

deal breaker

she was a brilliant
woman
who worked for
the state department.
she traveled
over seas on important
missions.
she was well educated
and cultured.
blue blood
off the mayflower.
small and petite,
but strong
and bold. so when
you finally met
her after so many
e mails you were
shocked by
the minnie mouse
tone of her voice,
that squeaked
in a high pitched
squeal, as if she
had inhaled
a balloon of helium.
how could you
live with that?

beating the rug

you watch
the woman beat
the rug
as it hangs
over the clothes
line. she takes
a broom
and slams it
against the thick
matted wool.
dust rises
in a grey cloud
around her.
you see
her arms rise
and go again
and again against
the rug.
her hair in her
face. sweat
on her brow.
as you watch
the anger in her
swings,
the fury,
you understand
that there is more
to this story
than just
a rug
needing to be
cleaned.

will work for money

out of work,
the cupboards nearly
bare of
the basic
necessities
you try to think of
things that you could
do for a living.
something
you might be good at
to make some money
and continue
to survive in this
high end lifestyle
you've become
accustomed to.
nothing comes
to mind.
you can do this,
typing, word after
word,
all day long, but
no one seems to notice
or wants to pay
you for your efforts
or clever charm.

her mail still comes

you spend your
days
on the front
porch.
waving at strangers.
your dog
is beside you.
sleeping.
curled on a blue
rug.
the mailman
says hello
and stops to talk
for a moment
or two, about
the weather,
about the game.
about the blisters
on his feet
from his new
shoes.
you sort through
the mail
seeing her name
still on a few
bills,
inquiries
for insurance
or newspapers.
letters you'll
throw away,
unopened.
to what point?
you imagine
that one day,
someone will get
your mail
as well,
read the name
and wonder who.

flesh wound

you try to ignore
your cut finger,
it's just the tip,
but it keeps
bleeding, cut from
when you bent
over to pick up
the broken glass
from a lightbulb
you twisted off
too fast in the
hall ceiling.
you wash it out,
wrap it in tissue.
the blood keeps
coming. there is a
trail of crimson
drips along
the floor, from
the stairs to
the kitchen.
it has no
door to close,
this cut, no
window to put down.
you believe that
this is how things
will end. even
a small hole,
can sink a ship.

Monday, January 21, 2013

fifty shades of horror

you stop by
to see your mother on
sunday for a nice
meatball and spaghetti
dinner. the usual,
but when you show
up no one answers
the locked door,
you knock and knock,
you ring the bell.
no one answers, but
the lights are all on.
you move a trashcan
around to the window,
between the hedges
and stand on it. you
take a peek inside.
you see your mother
tied up, and bound
like a rodeo steer.
she's wearing
a blindfold. standing
over her is your
stepfather with a lit
candle dripping wax
onto her belly,
the terry cloth robe
you got her for
christmas is balled
up on the floor
beside her chained
ankles. you bang
on the window, hey,
hey, you yell, what
the hell is going on
in there. then you
see the open book on
the table, and even
greyer fifty shades
of grey. oh brother.

cash only

seeking wisdom
you climb
a moutain where
a wise man
sits in his
diaper like
clothing.
his white beard
is long.
his shoulders
narrow,
his thin arms
and legs are
folded together
like a bug
might do
when it's about
to die.
finally you
reach him,
and out of breath,
you say oh wise
man, what is
the secret
of life.
he stares at you
and laughs,
then says,
how would i know.
i came
up here for
the fresh air
and to avoid
the likes of you.
but for your trouble
i give you two
words to live your
life by. follow
them and you'll
find happiness
all the days of
your life.
cash only.

nicotine fit

you see
the smokers
huddled outside
the hollows
of buildings
like
drug addicts.
cupping
their cigs
in their hands,
stamping
their feet in
the cold.
another drag,
another
puff, quickly,
it's starting
to rain. then
back to work
and biting
their nails.

over the fence

you can hear
the dogs
chasing you, as
you run
through the woods,
fighting
through the bramble
and thorns,
dragging
a broken chain
around
your ankle.
you hear them
yelling,
blowing whistles,
the bullhorn
calling
you out,
telling you
to stop running
and you won't
be harmed.
but you keep
going, you've
tasted
life on the other
side,
and you won't
be going back,
dead
or alive
to that married
life.

almost you

i met someone
the other day, just
like you.
except that she was
tall and had
green eyes, not
brown. and she was
left handed,
not right.
but otherwise
she was very much
like you,
although she
liked every shade
of red, not blue.
her hair was blonde
with curls,
while yours is
straight
and long, but she
had a way of
speaking, a tone
to her voice,
that reminded me
of yours, when
you were sick
and had the flu.
she could have
easily been
you. one more drink
and i would have
been certain
that it truly
was almost you.

the bones of others

she liked to save
things. old
calendars
for instance,
scraps of paper.
inkless pens,
empty tomato
cans, magazines
no longer in
existence,
old shoes
without laces,
worn soles.
she liked to stack
up
the books
along the wall,
the dresses
she wore when
she was young
hung in the closet,
below a shelf
of dusty hats.
it made
you wonder where
you fit in,
and where
the bones of others
were hidden.

somebody else

come here
and kiss
me she says
sleepily
on the phone.
drive, get in the car
and come
see me.
i miss you, i want
you. i'll leave
the door unlocked,
bring nothing
but your lips
and arms to hold
me. come here
and kiss me,
she says, come now
before i change
my mind
and call somebody
else.

not a parade person

you've never been
in a parade
or even stood still
long enough
to watch one.
you don't like
being stared at.
you've come to realize
over time that you
are not
a parade person.
you find no thrill
in the floats,
you don't like waving,
or smiling,
or marching
in a band wearing
a glittering
costume.
you own nothing
that glitters,
and you have no horn
to blow. you just
aren't a parade
person.

babies with the bathwater

you see
on any given
day, from
windows
high and low,
the babies
being thrown
out with
the bathwater.
their pink
round souls,
like balloons
of hope,
floating
in the air.
you can't
save them
all. you've
done you're
share of tossing
too, so
you understand
the emotion.

cold creek

you miss the burn
of your
lungs
the heaviness
of your legs
and arms
after a long
winters run.
you're down
to walking now,
deep into
the furrowed
brow
of brown woods,
finding
the sleeve
of a cold
creek to ponder.

how things change

the sky,
blue hinged
along
the flat land
is
the color
of sadness.
the metal
grey of an
old man's
hair
and the blue
of once
sterling
eyes full
of hope and desire
wanting
tomorrow,
more than
today. how
things
change with
age.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

under water

you see a turtle
lifting
his head in the shallow
water.
his ancient
blinking eyes
sees you, but
he feels safe
and paddles
about, his
neck straining
to see
around him,
his shoulders,
are mud
brown, hunched
below. it's
a long day
for the turtle,
his life
half under water,
and even a longer
one for you,
watching him
from above.

her list

when she
died you found
her list
of all the men
she ever made
love to.
she put stars
next
those that
she deemed worthy
of having stars.
somewhere down,
near the end
of the list,
there was two
more after you,
you see
your name.
there is no
star beside
it, there is
the curl
of a frown,
with tears.

what you can't have

you want what
you can't have.
you have what
you don't care about.
you are still
an infant
in a man's body.
what comes
and goes is just
out of your
reach.
just when you
think love is
near, it slips
out of
your hand
like a ball,
and your eyes
watch it as it
rolls
down across
the room
bouncing
down the steps
through
the hall
and out the door.

disappearing

one day
you are sitting in
the sun
and you notice
that a finger
is slowly
disappearing,
it continues up
to your hand,
your legs too
are slipping
away
in the sunlight.
your waist,
your chest,
before long
there is
nothing left
of you sitting
in the chair,
you are gone
but you are still
there. this is
the way
things end,
as they began,
something from
nothing,
then into thin
air.

the screaming baby

there's a screaming
baby in the store
and because it's not
your screaming baby
it's very annoying
and you want it to
stop soon. it's
giving you a headache,
and maybe a rash.
quickly you rush
through the store,
passing by completely
the diaper, wipes,
baby food in little
jar aisle, remembering
the ancient past.

the green witch

she arches
her back cat like
in the morning
and squints
at you, her catholic
school girl
glasses are
still on the night
stand, so
she can hardly see.
i had a dream
last night,
she says. i dreamed
that the nuns
were beating
me for something
i did wrong.
i have that same
dream all the time,
you tell her,
was one of them
tall
and looked like
the green witch
in the wizard
of oz. yup, she
says. exactly.
i hate her, you
say. she's
despicable.

paper boy

when you were a paper
boy, you saw the news
first, before most others.
you'd cut the metal
ribbon holding the bundle
together, in the dark
of morning and stare
at the front page
as the snow fell, or
the rain, or the wind
seeped into your jacket.
you can still smell
the ink and crisp
paper straight from
the presses, rolled
to you on trucks
driven by gruff cigar
smoking men, who
waved with stained
fingers, coughing,
as they watched you
in their rear view
mirrors, having been
there too.

for now

your maid
can't reach
the dust on the top
shelf
of the book case.
but you
forgive her
as you wish
to be forgiven
for the things
you don't
or won't do.
the floors
shine, the bathrooms
sparkle.
even the forty
year old
stove
has a glow to it.
and she's
pleasant
and doesn't steal.
the dust
she leaves behind,
is fine
with you,
for now.

slowly around the world

you take the boat
out, securing
the oars,
you push off
from the muddy
shore
and head towards
open water.
it's quiet.
even the geese
are moving slowly
this early sunday
morning.
the smooth glass
plain of water
makes you believe
that nothing
bad ever happens.
your plan is to
row around
the world. slowly.
you have
the time, and
the proper
delusionary frame
of mind.

the big squeeze

my divorce will
be final
in a few years
he says, sipping
on his scotch,
eating pretzels
at the bar.
we are just ironing
out the details now.
i notice a hole
in his shoe
as he crosses
his legs,
the elbows of
his jacket
are worn thin.
he hasn't had
a haircut in weeks.
as soon as my
lawyer gets
back from his vacation
in france
he's going to
wrap this all up
and get us
a court date,
i think i can take
out an equity
loan for that.
i sold my car
the other day to
take care of his
investigative work.
he found out she's
been cheating
on me for years.
can you believe
that?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

he's not there

a man
on the corner
with a ruddy
face,
chopped
blonde
hair, like
wheat,
has a sign
and a red can.
everyday
he's out
there on
the median
silently
pacing back
and forth
towards
the nod and
open windows.
his head is
bowed, his
bristled
chin nearly
touching
his chest.
a dollar here,
some change.
all in a days
work.
then he disappears.
you feel better
for some reason
when he's
not there.

the hat

you see a man
running
down
the street,
flushed,
chasing his
wind blown hat.
the hat
seems more
important than
losing his
life
in traffic.
you too have
wrongly
chased
things down
a street,
not counting
the price
it may cost
you.

the new condo

your friend
elaine
excitedly
moves into
a new condo
on the second
floor
of a four
story building
with
sparkling
appliances,
a sunken tub,
maple floors
against wide
white trim
and crown molding.
the sunken
jacuzzi tub
smiles at her
as she opens
the door, pulls
up the blinds.
it's perfect.
when she
moves her
dishes in on
saturday,
the first
day of her
arrival she hears
chanting
in the unit
above her.
a family chanting
loudly
in a strange language
their prayers.
and so the war
begins.

no parking

you try to think
if you
have ever driven
into the city
of washington
dc, and not gotten
a parking ticket.
maybe never.
unreadable meters,
and ambiguous
signs are
everywhere.
the government
that runs
the city, from
the mayor
on down to the
dog catcher
is third world
at best, nepotism
and corruption
runs wild, but
the parking
enforcement
department
is a state of
the art,
ruthless
and efficient
facist force
to be reckoned
with.

imaginary girlfriends

you are amazed
that everyone
is so upset
by the football player
having an imaginary
girlfriend.
like who doesn't?
your girlfriend's
name is sheila.
she's beautiful,
and very quiet.
not an unkind word
ever comes out of her
sweet pouty lips.
you even have
an imaginary dog
named rex
that you don't have
to walk or pick
up after,
and a friend named jimmy
that you blame
everything on
when things go wrong.
you mean to tell me
that there is
lying on the internet?
horrifying! pffft. hardly.
you once pretended
to be an astronaut
for a week,
who went to the moon.
before long you were
invited to high brow affairs
and parties to discuss
your amazing adventures.
the beauty of
the imaginary girlfriend
is that you don't
have to buy her
stuff, or meet her
parents, or eat
the tofu that she
shapes into a turkey
on thanksgiving.
long live sheila
and all the other
wonderful imaginary
people online,
like you and me.

Friday, January 18, 2013

teachers and students

like a chant
they whisper
in unison
as the day
goes on,
more snow,
more cold.
more ice
and frozen
roads.
the kids
and teachers
keep looking
out the window
up at the
grey sky,
finally
both agreeing
on the same
exact
thing.

the end

feeling tubby,
you go on
a crash
diet. no more
chips
or soda,
no more
donuts or
bread lathered
with butter.
no
white russians
before bed.
no more
candy from
a jar
that glistens
on top
of the fridge.
easy on
the pasta, red
sauce only,
the red meat
must go as well.
creme brulee
is a distant
memory,
as is the banana
split.
just shoot
me now.

grudges

you can hold a grudge
pretty well,
but not as well as
most members
of your family.
you have a tendency
to break around
the holidays, being
the sentimental
fool that you are.
your two uncles
on your mother's side
are the masters. they
haven't spoken to
one another for over
thirty years.
maybe longer.
in their eighties now,
they stand quietly
near one another
at funerals, then
go their separate ways.
no can remember what
exactly happened
to cause this rift,
but who cares.
your mother and brother
are doing a nice
job too holding onto
the silence between
them, it's a race
to the death, it
seems. your sisters
are good as well,
two of them haven't
spoken to you in years,
and they won't return
your calls. something
you said perhaps
about a burned pot roast.
as far as your father
goes, no one talks
to him, but you. you'd
like to hold a grudge
against him, but you
just can't bring
yourself to it.
the ex wife, well,
that's a given.
there's enough there
for her to hold two
lifetimes of grudges,
she remains
mute as a melon,
but in time, you
hope they will all let
go of whatever is
bothering them,
and become more
forgiving.

a new team

with your girlfriend
busy with her own life
you feel lonely
on a friday night, so
you go through
your list of possible
people to call
and do something with.
just to shoot the
breeze, grab a drink.
nothing more, nothing
less. betty, nope, in rehab.
shirley, married,
again. cathy, hates
you. regina. hates you
even more than cathy does.
jimmy, doing time.
jeff, working on
his novel about
ben franklin. yawn.
crazy bill, number
disconnected.
frank, boring, puts
you to sleep in ten
minutes when he starts
talking about his
golf game. linda,
doesn't drive
at night anymore.
ellen, nope, this is
knitting night.
kim, in the hospital
for more cosmetic
surgery.
lisa, likes girls
now and wants nothing
to do with a dog
man like you.
esther, moved to colorado
to be closer
to her pyschiatrist.
karen, hmmm. she doesn't
want to leave her
dog alone on a windy
night. pat, nope, he/she
is still healing
from his sex
change operation.
you really do
need a new team.

jersey girl

i'm from
jersey, she said.
you got a problem
with that?
no. you said.
no problem
none whatsoever.
i think we should
dance, she
said,
then took my
hand.
but, no buts,
she said,
dragging me out
into the flickering
mayhem
of a dance floor.
the room pulsed
with
black lights
and strobes.
do you have a
knife she yelled
as she gyrated
her arms
and legs
like a tornado.
the black dog
collar
around her neck
spun like
a carnival ride.
no, you yelled
back. well,
that's okay, she
said, i have extra
one in my boot
in case there's
trouble. thanks
you said and proceeded
to try to duplicate
her dance
as best you could.

king no more

when you were
king
you had things in
order.
there was prosperity
and happiness
as far across
the room
as you could see.
but now,
your robe is in
tatters,
your staff broken
and bent.
the people
have lost
hope in you
and said no
more. your wife
has packed her
bags and left
without a word.
your son has
disappeared.
even your
dog no longer
obeys your command
to sit
and heel.
he laughs at
you and chews
on your fallen
crown.

illness

when her hair
fell out
in clumps.
leaving strands
along the tub
and sink.
she thought,
what else.
an arm
left here,
a leg there.
an ear,
my nose, my
eyes.
slowly
becoming what
i once was,
nothing
and no one,
about to
disappear,
never to be
seen
whole again.

leave it alone

you can't unstick
the rusted
pipe,
no wrench will
do, it may
break before
it turns.
but at least
it's not
leaking,
for now, so
leave it as
it is, old
and worn,
things
could get worse.

the first mile

the first mile
is a warm up,
stretching,
going slow,
getting
the kinks
out of the knees
and ankles,
your spine.
the ligaments
loosening as
your body heats
up. not unlike
the first
kiss.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

clean your room

your mother would
often say
things like, why
don't you pick up
your clothes and put
them in the closet
or the dresser drawers.
why do you throw
everything on the floor?
i'm not a maid
for you boys. you
live like pigs
in a barnyard.
and sometimes you'd
look up, or down
from your bunkbed,
depending on where
you were located,
taking your eyes
off the marvel comic
book you were
reading, just slightly
and say, okay. okay.
i just want
to finish this.
ten minutes and then
i'll pick up my stuff.
she'd leave the room
at some point, giving
up, but opening
a window before she
left and saying
it smells bad in
here. wash your hands
before dinner.

peace out

you hear
the children
saying
'peace out'
these days
when they leave
the room,
and want to say
plainly, 'goodbye',
but it's too mundane
and boring
to just say that.
not cool. adios
is fine, or just
'later' has a nice
breezy flair.
short and
sweet. we would just
say 'peace', or
'right on'
or perhaps, 'be cool'
'take it easy' at that
age, adding brother
or sister at the end,
depending on
the gender of
the person who
you were saying
farewell to, or
the politics of the moment.
flashing
the v, two fingers
spread apart,
not in that crazy
star trek way,
but well, you
know what i mean.
and the secret
handshake,
we had that too,
with the shoulder
bump and nod,
the clasp, the grip,
the slide
out of palms.
these days, at
least for me,
it's see ya,
and the regular
old handshake thing,
but not too
long, that's weird.
just shake and let go.

funny bone

the doctor comes out
of the room, holding
several x-rays in his
hand, he sees you pacing
nervously, and asks you
to sit down. it's not
all bad news, he says,
your wife...which you
quickly correct him,
friend, you say, okay,
he says, your friend,
as you can see in this
x-ray has broken her
funny bone. when you hold
it up to the light,
you can clearly see that
it was small to begin
with, hereditary, perhaps,
environmental, strict
education, who knows,
was she a vegetarian?
yup. carrot eater.
religion? was she catholic.
yes, but fallen away.
he nods, thought so.
but it is clearly broken.
so you are going to have
to be patient with her
and explain a lot
of your jokes, and
smart alecky remarks.
in fact, maybe hold off
on joking around for awhile.
no puns, or clever
observations. stay away
from metaphors too.
they can be funny sometimes.
he holds the x-ray up.
as you can see, the irony
bone and the wish bone
are all still there
and fine. we're going
to put her on a donor
list, and hopefully when
some comedian dies we
can transplant their funny
bone into her. risky, yes.
but it's worth a try.
anyone but gallagher,
you tell him, and he
writes that down.

google ernie

you wonder, as you
presume others
do of you, what
happened
to so and so.
like ernie,
the strange kid down
the block who had
his own in house
zoo, of lizards
and snakes, a pet
rat and hairless
cat. what part in
the world's play
do these people
assume, or are they
still under the
stage, howling
at just a quarter
of the moon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

february

your imagination
is
uninspired
these days.
january
has a way
of making even
the blank
page
grey.
the only month
you
dread even
more, is
february.
thankfully
though, its
days are
short.

family

your family,
such as it is.
extendend
and related
through blood
or marriage
is not odd, or
different
than most.
divorces and
children, litter
the room,
as does
a minister,
a sailor, a salesman
and a laborer,
and someone
accused of murder,
although
in self defense,
the whispered
story goes.
together, though,
in some
strange way.
they are all of
different breeds
and species.
cats and dogs.
birds and fish.
with their own
language
to be misunderstood
in.

it's not about that

your phone
is not ringing,
but it doesn't
mean you're
lonely.
sure, it's
raining,
and the cat
is under
the bed and yes,
you can
hear the buzz
of laughter
and dancing
in the
apartment
above you, but
what do they
know?
this is not
about being
lonely,
or being
alone. it's
about something
else.
you swear it is.

waterproof

you remove
your hat and toss
it aside, heavy
with rain.
you take your coat
off next,
hang it near
the front door
so that it
drips against
the linoleum
tiles, puddle
where you can mop
up later, then
you sit on the
steps to take
off your expensive
water proof boots,
unlacing the strings
that burn tight
against your chins.
your socks come
off next. you ring
them out in
the kitchen sink.
soaked.
such are promises
unkept.

too big

surprising you
for your birthday,
in the dark,
in bed
you nearly poke
your eye
out on something
plastic
and hard where
it used
to be soft
and sexy.
the light goes
on and she
says, oh my,
i'm so sorry.
can you see,
there's a bruise
there, right
below your eye.
i guess i should
have told
you about
my surgery.
are they too big?
i need ice,
you say,
lying back
onto the pillow.

the long day

a chill
in the air.
stiff
wind.
ice on
the rail.
step gingerly
down
the steps.
open
the mail box
and take
out the flyer
for
chicken
wings on sale.
cottage
cheese,
flu shots,
half price.
the electric
bill.
grab
the rail
and go back in.
oprah
is on at four.

the parade

a few years ago
lost in a traffic
jam in washington
dc. you took a wrong
turn and another
wrong turn and ended up
at the front of a
barricade where a cop
on a horse
put his leather
gloved hand out
and told you to stop.
you can't move
until the parade
is over, he said
behind his dark
sunglasses, his
crazy big horse
staring you down too.
what parade you said?
searching the streets.
and then it began.
cowboys
and indians,
whooping it up
with drums and cap
guns. men in long gowns
and wigs, sashaying
to and fro,
like marelene dietrich
and greta garbo.
men in diapers holding
bottles,
sucking on binkys,
craddling teddy bears.
men dancing on the back
of flat bed trucks,
gyrating to donna
summers, shaking it
in short cut
off jeans.
then the leathered
men arrived in shiny black,
muscled with mustaches
and goatees,
the boas, the sequins.
the sassy screams
and chants.
it was a long parade.
interesting, but not
your cup of tea. perhaps
next time you thought,
you'd take the
rock creek parkway,
around.

the bribe

have you met
my friend,
mr. lincoln
you say to the bouncer
at the door,
waving the five
in front of
his beaded
chops,
hoping
to get in sooner
so as not
to stand in line
in the cold
with the other
neer do wells.
he laughs.
then spits.
lincoln, ha,
he says, get back
in line, and
find another
president
in your wallet.

in the night

you've taken
to wandering
the streets
late at night when
most everyone else
is asleep.
you get to know
the drunks staggering
home thinking
about tomorrows
drink, and dealers
counting their money,
yawning,
the strippers
going home
to put clothes on.
the alley cats
and rats, stop and
tip their hats
when you pass, for
a moment taking a break
from what they
do. even the full moon
has a twisted smile
on his face as he
watches you wander
through the night
neither coming
or going.

the lover's quarrel

enough with these
words, she says,
and pulls a sword
out of nowhere.
she tosses you one
and says, get up.
en garde. let's finish
this, one way
or the other.
so you kick the chair
aside, catching
the sword, and taking
your stance.
till the death, you say,
touching yours
against hers.

listening

no one
listens anymore.
they wait,
until
you're finished
then tell
you what's
on their mind,
then ask
you a question
about what
you just told
them. you
do the same
sometimes,
bored with what
you hear,
turning it
off in your
mind, like
a drip drip
drip of the
bathroom faucet,
squeezing
the knob
closed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

to thine own self

to thine
own self be true
and yet
which self
are we speaking
of.
the morning one,
half awake
with
words
or thoughts
entangled by dreams.
or the day
self, wrapped
tightly
in the gears
and springs
of work.
or perhaps,
the night self,
the tired
and weary one
from the long
hours since waking,
hungry for love,
for food,
for rest before
the next
begins again.

the white flag

the white
flag goes up.
you keep ten
in your pocket
to raise
throughout
the day.
there is no
fight left
in you,
no stand you
need, or want
to take.
you throw
your hands into
the air
and say look.
i surrender,
let's just go
our separate
ways.

football prayers

in the hard
and desperate
times
of illness,
or broken heart,
of poverty
and confusion,
you seek god.
you get
on your knees
and bow
your head.
you petition
him for answers.
for quick
deliverance, but
he's busy,
it seems
with football
season,
guiding the ball
left or
right
depending on
his team
that sunday.

kindness

how kind of you
to not say
what you really want
to say.
to bite your tongue
and look the other way.
how gentle and sweet
your heart is,
to swallow whole
your true feelings
and look the other
way. how kind it
is as friends, true
friends, to keep
hidden what lies
below the surface.
how kind of you
to be this way.

no moral code

the worm
at work
is silent in
his ways.
moving slowly
through
a fallen apple
to be where
he needs to be,
and the moth
does
the same
upon a leaf,
and the caterpilar
has no
moral code
to speak of,
nor the bee
who stings
a hand,
or a bird
who pecks
and pecks
towards a
home within
a given tree.

Monday, January 14, 2013

points of view

when you wrote
in the first person
someone told
you to try another point
of view, and so you did,
and when you wrote
in the third
person, again you
were taken
to task and asked to
try another way of
saying what you want
to say. you are slowly
losing points
of view, but never
ever out of words
or things to say.

who doesn't?

you want
to lick the spoon
of love. bake
a cake
not measured
short
in tablespoons
of non fat
butter,
saccharine,
or saltless
salt.
you want a
real cake,
you want to see
it rise
in the oven.
you want to take
it out warm
then iced,
and feed
it to your
lips and mouth
with your bare
eager hands,
you want love
without a fork,
without
a knife. you want
the real cake.
who doesn't?

the brights

the brightness
of the sun
conceals life
more thoroughly
than darkness
ever can. it
layers the day
with what we see
in colors.
the truth is
hidden, tucked
neatly away
in the prisms
of our eyes.
wanting yellows
to be more
yellow, reds,
and greens,
the bright
palettes of love,
likewise.

the names

names
are checked
off,
people fired,
new
faces hired.
click, click
and
click again.
the paper
crumbled then
tossed
across the room.
it circles
the can
and falls softly
onto
the bottom.
how quickly
we move on.

the closed book

she is
a closed book,
a latched window
with the shade
drawn.
she's the cellar
you can't
get into.
the attic door
that won't pull
down.
she is the lock
that the key
can't turn,
the car that
won't start.
she's the oven
of varying
uncertain degrees.
a horse that
won't break,
she's an impenetrable
fog over
the depths
of an ancient sea.

jail bird

you visit her
in jail
and she says
in a hoarse
whisper, you've
got to get me outta
here jimmy, you
don't know what
it's like.
i'm dying in here.
dying i tell you.
i slept with
one eye open
the whole night,
and i made
a shiv out of
a chapstick tube.
look in my mouth,
i'm hiding it
under my tongue.
well maybe, just
maybe, little miss
you shouldn't be
driving like
a maniac on the highway.
how many speeding
tickets have
you had this year.
five, six, seven.
she looks down
at her shoes
that flop open
because they don't
have shoelaces.
i'm a changed woman,
honest, jimmy.
when i get out of
here, i'm in the right
lane for now on,
just like you.
just like you jimmy.
but you have to bail
me out, you just
have to. don't make
me beg. i'll cook
you a pot roast when
i get outta here, i'll
bake you a cake.
anything, anything,
just throw down
my bail.
mashed potatoes?
sure jimmy, gravy
too. promise.

vagabond poser

out of work
again
you roll up a
bag of
clothes
and tie them
to the end
of a stick.
you hop on
a box car
rolling slowly
south.
you figure you
can pick oranges
in florida
for a few months,
but your grande
starbuck's cup
of extra
hot vanilla
latte,
skim, with
your name
scribbled
on the side
gives you
away and the other
vagabons cheer
and laugh
through their
broken teeth
as they shove you
off into
the gravel,
holding your cup
high so as
not to spill
it's contents.

settling

as the box lowers
into the fresh
cut grave
and the dirt
settles down
upon it
she remembers
the chair she took
as a child,
wanting one by
the window, not
in front
near a door.
she recalls
the boy she married,
not tall,
or attractive,
or even smart, but
just kind enough
to be hers
and be liked
by others.
then there was
the house not on
the water, but
further into town,
near the train
station, where
her dishes rattled.
the job she worked
at for a lifetime
was good enough
as well,
the money short,
the hours long,
the work itself mundane,
she could have
done much more.
and the dress she
wanted, not the green
one she wore,
but the one
in the window,
blue and bright
as an april sky.
it's still there,
forevermore.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

cut and rewind

the story ends
the way you wanted
it to end.
the last franes
of the film
holding the final
kiss. the guy
gets the girl
the bad guy dies.
they ride away
on horses into
the sunset, but
cut. rewind.
go back and tell it
more like it really
is. the bad guy
gets the girl,
because he is more
interesting,
he has a scar
and a story
that won't put her
to sleep,
the good guy goes
to jail for things
he never did
but wanted to.
there are no
horses either,
there are sled dogs
maybe
because of
global warming.

angry at something

you're angry
at something,
or someone,
but you don't
know what
or who it is.
something's not right.
there is a bruise
on your soul
that you don't know
how it got there.
it's black
and blue, pulsing
as you sort backwards
through your day,
who you spoke,
or listened to.
it weakens you,
this anger,
makes you limp
down the street
with the others
who are limping too.

sphinx

it remains
a mystery,
the silence
that women can
hold within
them.
you can't even
scratch the surface
to reach
the place
where they reside.
the truth
will not set
you free
with them, but
confuse you
even more.
they carry more
words
than we as men
could ever
lift
and yet when
they want to
they can turn
into a stone
like sphinx,
silent
in the desert
sun.

witches

with her
cat
she delves
in black magic
with a boiling
pot to stir,
sticks pins
into vodoo
dolls
and throws
spells
without blinking
a green
crossed eye, she
pulls hexes
out of thin
air.
she rides on
an old bent
broom across
the dark cold
sky,
silhouetted
by a harvest
moon, she's
not the kind
of girl
you make long
term plans
with, but she's
a great kisser.

stepping on a nail

you step
on a nail
and as it slides
through
your boot,
and punctures
the soul
of your soft
foot,
passing
through a
to be bloodied
sock,
you think if
only i had
taken a
different route,
another
path in my
life,
this would not
have happened.
but the wound
will heal,
it always
has before.

new kitchen

you want a new kitchen.
a new stove,
one that has a
magic button,
so when you push it
a turkey dinner
arrives
in minutes,
and a new fridge
with all the bells
and whistles.
something with two
swinging doors
and a freezer
below, you want
music coming
out of it, martinis,
or red wine
from the door,
you want it to make
ice cream for
you on a hot
summers day.
you want a new kitchen,
and someone
to keep it clean
like a svelte french
maid.

thin ice

you are cautious
with your words,
your tone of talk,
walking gently
across the blue ice
of her.
you don't swim
well in cold
water and there's
no one around
with a warm rope
to save you
when it all cracks
and down you go.

the laughing buddha

someone brings
a crying
baby into the room of
the long white
restaurant with
soiled red carpet.
she looks to be
at least five
months
pregnant, her
face is red,
blotched with
raspberry spots,
a stroller is pulled
behind her,
a bag
of diapers, small
blankets and a
bag of bottles are
draped over
her shoulder.
the father
is not far behind,
squared jawed
with a cap on.
three small
boys of
decreasing height
are in front
of him,
touching
each chair and
kicking one
another.
they are seated
at a table in back
of the chinese
restaurant.
where they loudly
sit.
the children
drumming and poking
one another
with chopsticks.
there is no music,
no joy, or conversation.
just the sound
of knives and forks,
the clinking of white
plates, glasses full
of pink flowered
drinks, called zombies.

drunk by noon

drunk by noon,
she staggers into
the room
where you hang her paper
and sits.
she lights a
cigarette
and says, want one,
do you smoke.
you look back
at her and say no.
drink? she says.
i can fix you a bloody
mary if you want,
i'm having one,
i like them spicy.
she laughs.
i like everything
spicy. she takes
out a celery
stalk and gives it
a long slow lick.
my husband's not
coming back
for a few days.
can i fix you lunch?
i bet your shoulders
hurt after a long
day of hanging
wallpaper, don't
they, she says,
blowing smoke
in your direction?
you shrug and say,
no, not really,
it's what i do.
well, i'm going upstairs
she says, if you
need anything,
just holler or
knock on the door,
i'll be taking
a nap. nice job,
she says, pushing by
you, her hand
touching your back.
nice job.

the long drive

it's a long drive
home in the rain,
in the fog,
on black
empty streets,
with your headlights
on, your hand turns
the dial but
all the stations
are wrong,
you settle on
silence, the sound
of your tires
grabbing the hard
wash of road.
the thump
of wipers against
the windsheild.
farmland
rises on either
side, as you
hug the right
lane, in no hurry,
letting everyone
pass you by,
the winter fields
are barren and cold
with black cattle
lying in the dirt.
you see someone in a
blue shirt staring out
a window in
a farmhouse.
it's a long
drive home,
in the rain,
in the fog,
alone.

Friday, January 11, 2013

the quiet

a dog who
won't bark, or
beg,
a cat
without claws
or any
meow
whatsover,
makes it hard
to know
what they want.
the same goes
for you, when
you turn
your head
and keep silent.

apple pie

you bake
a lovely
apple pie
and set it on
the sill
to cool
as you change
your clothes
and get ready
for your date.
you think how
wonderful you are
baking a pie
for someone
you almost care
about,
how thoughtful
and kind
you must be.
you are very
happy with yourself
before she
arrives.
clueless of
her disdain for
any kind of
sweets, especially
apple pie.

the dmv

you go to the dmv
to get your driver's
license
renewed. a new photo,
a new card.
black and white
this time.
they tell you
not to smile
before they click
the button.
it's not a good
shot, you look
five years older
than you really
are. a mug shot,
you think, pinned
against the wall,
accused falsely
of things
you've never done.
they laugh when
you tell them you
want to do it
over. go away
they say. we are
done with you.
next.

the energy

when your ex
finally
remarries, the sky
opens up
and sunight suddenly
is everywhere
with a warm
bright smile.
you are no longer
the reason
she stubs her toe
or gets into
a fender
bender, or loses
her way from here
to there
during her nights
or day.
you can almost
feel the energy
of her anger make
a left
hand turn
and go towards another
unaware soul.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

leaving work

under the violet
sky, a line
of blackbirds
sway on the thick
electric
twine with
their
slick oiled
feathers
and knotted
shoulders.
they are still
in the way
old men stand
on the platform,
turning heads,
from side
to side,
leaving work
in dark overcoats,
waiting
for the train
to take them
home.

the engagement ring

you hear her
screaming into the phone
with excitement,
dancing in a circle
as the dog barks
at her feet.
i'm engaged, she
hollers, he finallly
proposed to me. i'm
staring at the ring
right now. it's on
my finger. what?
how big?
i don't know?
a carat or two, i
suppose, but can you
believe it, i'm getting
married...what?
how much did it cost?
i'm not sure, mom.
he didn't tell me.
yes. i guess i could
go online and find out,
but aren't you
excited? i'm getting
married. what?
no, he didn't steal it.
and no his grandmother
didn't die and leave
it to him. i'll show
it to you tomorrow.
it's not zirconia, mom.
and i'm not going to get
a piece of glass
to see if it cuts.
i'm sure it's a diamond.
i know you hate him, so
i won't bring him
with me for dinner.
but you just have to see
this ring. it's gorgeous,
it's absolutely beautiful.
i have to go now,
i have ten other calls
to make. yes, mom,
i'll find out where
he got it and what it
cost. promise, and
i won't give it back
no matter what happens.
i give you my word.

tossed aside

tossed aside
are lost souls,
the grieving,
the mentally ill,
the aged,
the unhealthy.
you see
them on
the curbs,
the jobless,
the worried
and worn,
the drifters.
politicians
have no answer
for what to
do with those
tossed aside, only
hoping that
the merciful
plow of time
will push them
out of sight,
out of mind.

crimson rose

the woman
loved white.
pale blues and greens.
red
meant sex
which she abhorred
and made her hiss
at the television
screen when
just the hint
of it arose.
she loved life
when it snowed
and the world
was sinless and
frozen,
without color,
without even the soft
petals
of a crimson rose.

daddy

she was nearing sixty,
but she still liked
to call her father
daddy in a sweet
little girl like voice,
as syrupy as melted candy.
daddy this, daddy that.
and he was
her daddy. each divorce
was met with
cash or check, a
new car when the wine
spilled
her into a pole.
another house
close by to daddy
when the old one became
ruined with dogs
and men,
and the wayward
children, inked up
and drifting
bleary eyed through
school after school
as he picked
up the tabs of
their ambivalent
existence. daddy, oh,
daddy, why are you
so good to me,
she'd say as he drifted
into senility,
forgetting her name.
oh sweet daddy,
she'd say putting a
pen into his hand
to write another check
to save herself again.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

forgive me...

you go to confession
finally
after so many decades.
you've written
down all the sins that you
can remember.
you wheel barrow
them into
the confessional.
you have an assistant
with you
with a wet sponge
to moisten your fingers
and tongue
as you turn
the dry pages.
the priest listens
patiently, ordering
out for pizza
as he sits behind
the metal screen
and curtain. go on
my son, he says.
continue. you can smell
the pepperoni
and cheese wafting
through the darkened
booth. you hear him
sipping a nice
chianti. this makes
you angry and jealous
of him. you have
your assitant write
that one down too.
it never ends.

don't ignore the kiss

stars falling
unwished upon,
a ticket won
but uncashed, left
in a drawer,
a number never
called, a job
untaken.
the roads not
taken, are many.
so what, but
don't ignore
the gentle touch
or kiss
it's worth more
than all
the others left
unattended to.

fixed

just seeing a needle
makes the back
of her throat
drip, drip
drip. the gentle
tap along the arm
searching for
a thick blue vein
makes her mouth
water, her heart
skip, the feeling
in her stomach
grows soft and sexy
as the spike
plunges deep
within and
the colors of the world
bleed outside
the lines.
she's left it all
behind for ten
years, but it hasn't
left her. nor
the fear of going
back.

sheep

the bleating
of sheep
rising like fog,
coming up
from the gravel
stretch
of road
where cars wait
for them to pass
in the blue
clouds
of fumes.
the grey white
wool
knotted tight
against
their skin.
even now, in
this day and
age we all
a season of being
needed.

green cheese

you remember
how anxious
the mice
were
when we
landed on
the moon.
their tiny hearts
beating,
giddy with hope,
waiting to hear
the news
finally of what
it was made
of. their
little finger
like paws
were
laced together
across
the cellar
floors
around the world,
and then the dust
flew up
when the first
boot hit
and you could
hear the echo
of cats
laughing
in the alleys.

love finds a way

you've gone green
because the girl
you love
is green. she's
all over the green
thing.
saving the earth
one tin
can at a time.
nothing is wasted
with her.
string,
or lids, foil,
plastic bottles.
those orange
peels
and apple cores
are reborn
in the compost
pile
behind the log
cabin
in the woods
where a cold stream
runs.
she smiles sweetly
at you
as you beat
a pile of
your dirty clothes
against the rocks,
no bleach
no scented detergents,
love finds
a way.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

open for discussion

i don't believe
in god she says.
the bible, pffft.
a bunch of made up
nonsense.
old folk tales.
who was this jesus
character anyways?
moses, my foot.
lost for forty years.
that sounds like
my uncle driving
around manhattan.
can you really believe
that jonah was
swallowed
by a whale. give me
a break, buddy.
hmmm. you say.
so what do you
believe. nothing,
she says, i'm
an independent thinker.
i'd like to believe
that life is a random
mix of happenstance
events. suddenly
a lighting
bolt crashes across
the sky. sizzling
the black clouds.
however, she says.
i'm open for
discussion.

good manners

you leave early
because
you can't stand the
people you are talking
to. you might say
something you'll
regret as you sit
around the coffee
shop discussing
politics
and sports. your
mind wanders
and wants to say
something along
the lines of
you're a big fat
stupid idiot for
saying that, but
you don't, you are
more civilized than
that, you are
well read, educated
and have manners.
so instead you say
something like,
if you gentlemen
and ladies will excuse
me, i must depart.
i have another
appointment pending.
our discussion
today has been quite
enlightening.

give me the old nurses

the nurse comes into
your room,
she might be all
of nineteen,
she is wearing
a flowered baggy
shirt and loose
fitting pants,
tied at the waist.
this does nothing
for you.
this silly flowered
get up.
it neither makes
you happy
or feel better, in
fact you may
feel a little
worse because of her
outfit. your
fever spikes a
few notches
and you groan with
pain. where are
the nurses from
your youth, from
the old movies,
real women
in white, with hats,
and polished nails.
heels and little
red crosses
strategically placed.
you could get
well soon with
medical help like
that, but these new
nurses are for
the birds.