Monday, March 31, 2014

if you don't die first

you want to sign
up for the new health
care
web site, but
you don't have
nine hours of sitting
there to spare.
over and over
the screen blinks
busy. wait, or call,
be patient, send
us your e mail
address and we'll
let you know
when we're ready
to answer the question
of whether or
not you qualify
for help,
the answer already
being no.
you persist though.
over and over
you plug in your age,
your state,
your county,
your income, hit
enter, only to say,
so sorry, try again.
try again.
try again, if you
don't die first, please
try again.

failing the test

when your son was little,
in the three to five range
of age, the trend
was to take children,
for their birthdays,
to chuckee cheese's. a place
you remember as a living
hell, with mechanical
rats singing non stop
on a revolving platform.
there was a coat of kid
goo on every chair. every
table, every knob, or
spoon, or cup. they
all wanted pizza and cokes.
sugar and cardboard
with tomato sauce
ladled onto the round
stiff pies. the place
was a slime festival
of noise. sometimes you'd
stay for more than five
minutes, but rarely more
than that. you'd leave
him with your wife, your
ex-wife. maybe leaving
had something to do with
that. but a man has to
know his limitations.
and singing rats, and
a room full of screaming
children put you to the
test. a test you failed.
sometimes you'd go out
to your car and cry.
putting your head on
the steering wheel
weeping, praying that he'd
get past this age.

your prom date

the girl
you took to the prom
is in prison
now.
you saw her picture
in the metro
section of
the newspaper.
she robbed a bank
and kidnapped
a teller, holding
him for ransom,
until
they shot tear
gas into her motel
room, taking her into
custody.
she looks nice
in her picture.
same dark eyes, and
dark curly hair.
she's gained
a little weight,
but you remember
what a nice time
you had at the prom.
how you almost
got to second
base. how you bought
her a flower
and pinned it onto
her dress, trying
hard not to puncture
her flesh. you always
wondered what happened
to her, searching
for her name
on facebook, but
now you know.
maybe you'll pay
her a visit when
she gets settled
into her new home
behind bars. might still
be a little connection
there.

a big white horse

you have no horse,
but if you had
a horse, it would
be a large white
horse. you would
say things like
giddy up or whoa.
you'd wave your
hat into the air
and say hi ho.
people would wave
at you. they'd
cheer as you rode
by for no good
reason, they would
like the idea
of someone on a
big white horse
riding heroically
down main street.
sometimes it seems
that it's all
about making a
good impression,
not substance.
it took a few years
to learn this,
but you've got it
down now. now that you
have a horse.
a big white horse.

lost button

a broken
lace
a lost button
a missed
call,
a flat tire.
things
add up
before you
know it.
you either
laugh with
the day
or choose
to start
drinking, or
both.
but don't
get angry
that just
involves
bringing in
other people
who have nothing
to do with it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

things are growing

you see her
in the front yard.
bent in the grass
digging. weeding.
planting.
hosing down what
grows.
tools beside
her sandaled feet.
a steel shovel,
a rake,
shears, all shiny
and new.
a large straw
flops down to
her shoulders.
she's wearing next to
nothing. working
on her tan
in a white string bikini.
out on the street
old men hit the curbs
and mailboxes
with their cars
as they slowly roll
past her yard
on their way
to church with their
wives.
it's spring time
once again they whisper
to themselves,
thank god.

woman with a small dog

when the dog
lurches
at you, biting
your hand
because you
have a sandwich
in it,
leaving a neat
band
of teeth marks
imprinted into
your skin,
you stare at
the owner as
if it was she
who latched her
teeth upon
you. but she
shrugs and says,
oh my, I'm oh so
sorry. fluffy
has never done
such a thing.
she didn't break
the skin did
she. she squints
at your red
hand, looking
for blood. nope,
don't see any,
she says.
I didn't know fluffy
could jump that
high. good jump
girl. well
have a nice
day. maybe we've
learned a lesson
about walking around
with a sandwich,
haven't we. bye.

lemon pie

the senior citizen
nursing home
smells like a wet
diaper
and boiling cabbage.
it seeps into
your skin
and clothes. hours
later, you can still
smell it on you.
the fan in the bathroom
never stops
running. ever.
your mother is
looking a good house
keeping magazine
when you come in,
but it's upside down.
the tulips on
the front dangle
pink and red
cups to the ground.
she doesn't know
what day it is.
what season,
what year, or who
the president is.
none of that really
matters at this point.
they feed her well.
she has on clean
clothes.
her hair is brushed.
her glasses are
on. she is a shade
greyer than the last
visit, but she smiles
and says your name
when you arrive.
she puts her hand out
and says, what's that.
dessert? then you
hand her a slice of
lemon pie, her favorite,
with a small
white plastic fork.

I'm not sally

you don't even know
who I am,
she tells you in a slow
burn, a simmer
that could easily
burst into flames.
you don't know me.
not really.
what color are my
eyes, what's
my middle name.
half the time you call
me sally, and
I'm not even sally.
where did I go to
school?
when is my birthday?
this rattles you
and you say something
smart like what is
this, the Spanish
inquisition?
you are happy that
this conversation is
taking place over
the phone and not in
person. you are not
good with conflict
or confrontation.
you are basically
Switzerland in a human
body. you rarely
send a dish back,
even if it's cold,
or not what you ordered
you are amenable
to world's small
mistakes. so this line
of questioning bothers
you deeply, but
you'll get over it.
but first you try to guess
her eyes.
blue? bluish green?
how about brown with
specks of gold?
let's go with that.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

a new cold war

she threatens
with a vow to never read
another word
of what you scribble
if you don't stop writing
about things she doesn't
care about.
she has become
the soviet union
of the cold war,
she is stalin with a wig.
khrushchev with a scowl,
not pleading for you
to obey, but ordering.
she begins to throw
bricks up between
you and her,
building a wall.
she slams her shoe
upon the desk and
says, i'll ignore you.
which is the worst
a reader such as her
can do. too bad.

give your love

if you give your love
to your children
they'll give it back
in full, maybe not
now, but eventually
if you live long
enough.
if you give your
love to food, it
will give you larger
clothes and
you won't be
able to see your
shoes, if you give
your love to your dog
or cat, you'll get
heart break in return
as they come and go
too fast. if you give
your love to rosemary,
well, be very careful
with that, you'll
spend all your money
at the infirmary
and never get love
back.

let's stop along the way

let's stop
at the next rest stop.
get out.
stretch our
legs.
use the bathroom
make some
calls
then have a sandwich.
let's
figure out where
we are,
how far we have
to go.
let's not drive
straight
through this time,
speeding
down the road
like maniacs.
let's stop
at the next rest
stop.
we're not in a race.
the beach
will be there when
we get there.
hey, are
you listening,
honey?
what?

so anyway

there are long gaps
in the conversation.
that cliché
cricket sound
chirps
in your ear.
tumble weeds roll
along the dry
corridors of your
mind. a dusty
breeze can be
heard rattling
the trees.
you can't always
be fun and clever.
alert and wise.
sometimes you've
got nothing more
to give, the tank
is dry. so you both
listen to the sound
of breathing.
waiting, waiting
for this ghost town
to resurrect.

guilt free

you like
ice cream, but
you can't have
it every day.
same goes for cake.
and a nice
mixed drink
when the sun
goes down.
fried foods, sure,
with a big
scoop
of mashed buttery
potatoes.
love it, but
moderation is
the key.
or so they keep
saying.
there must be
something we can
do all the time
guilt free.
I'm open for
suggestions,
are you listening?

intuition

something
is afoot.
s feeling in
the air.
your spider sense
has been
activated.
and it's not
just the smoke
alarm
going off
in your kitchen,
no, it's
something else
entirely.
your always
wrong intuition
is telling
you to beware.
be cautious
with strangers.
don't answer
that door
even if they do
look like
neighbors.

Friday, March 28, 2014

i take my bra off first

the first thing I do
when I get home
from a long day at work,
betty says while you
sit at happy
hour eating
fried calamari and
sucking down
vodka tonics, is
take off my bra.
as soon as I get
through the door,
before I even
say hi to my cat
I unsnap it with a quick
reach around under
my blouse, yank
it out from
the top then fling
that sucker across
the room. you have
no idea how great that
feels to get that
bra off.
hmm. you say, sipping
deeply into your
drink. there are so
many new things
I learn about you
all the time.

reflection

the puddle,
the glass, a pond.
a window,
a tea spoon
or a flask.
the mirror.
all
have you in
them.
but like others
they capture
you in a way
that you
truly aren't
at all.

have a nice day

you don't like wine.
it gives you a headache
and it doesn't
quench
your thirst.
but you find yourself
sniffing
at it when
it's forced upon you,
drinking slowly
in small
practice sips,
swishing it around
your mouth
before nodding
how wonderful it is.
agreeing that it
is acceptable
to drink. please,
pour me a glass.
your life is full
of phony moments
like this, but
you're working on
them daily
to be rid of them.
tomorrow you will
stop saying have a nice
day.

house on the corner

the boards
against the old
house
are peeling
of paint.
a layer of blue,
is showing pink.
the nails, heads
rusted,
are sliding
out
from where they
were pounded in
years ago.
wood twisting
towards the sun.
the gaps
between windows
let
the air in,
the air out.
some panes are cracked
or with
holes showing
the dark within.
a brick is missing
from
the chimney
where birds
have nested,
squirrels
have made a home.
how the roof sags,
tired
from snows.
exhausted by wind.
shutters bang,
hung loosely by
one screw.
it's not your
house, but at times
you've felt
like you've lived
there time and
time again.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

have some cheese

women love
cheese.
they know all about it.
when you visit
them, they
have a variety
of cheeses sliced
and ready
on a plate.
the thought of cheese
hasn't crossed
your mind in
months. you know
American
cheese and blue.
that's it. but blue
is spelled
differently because
it's cheese.
there are crackers
on the plate too.
not lame white saltines,
but fancy
crackers from
other countries.
they are hard and
tasteless, but
crunchy.
sometimes there
are olives
too. olives
like you've never
seen before. all
shades of green,
black, different
sizes of olives,
but the cheeses
are fascinating.
arranged neatly
in rows.
soft and hard.
hot and cold.
you don't know where
to start as you
hold the tiny rounded
knife in your
trembling hand.
have some cheese
she yells from
the bathroom before
shutting the door.
i'll be right out.


semi rich

your semi rich
friend likes to buy
rounds of drinks
for everyone to let
them know that he
is semi rich.
this semi bores you.
the more complicated
the drink
the more he orders,
the more he makes
sure that everyone
knows he is buying.
his big truck is out
front. he has a big
house that he rents
at the shore.
his wife has big
appendages that aren't
original parts.
he has a black
amex card and waves
it around as if it
was his, his, well,
you get the picture.

one tree falls

one tree
falls
into another.
more go
down,
trunks heavy
with water
sink
and slide.
the earth
moves
under their
feet.
uprooting
years of life.
one day here.
one day
gone.
nothing
stays
the same,
not us,
for sure.

the evil twin

someone
who looks like
you is
ruining your reputation.
he's being
nice
and kind,
helpful and
considerate
of other's feelings.
he's buying
flowers and writing
love poems.
he's open
and honest, he
listens when others
talk.
he's compassionate.
who is this
person
and why is he
behaving this way.
you don't
want to be
thought of as
the evil twin,
but so it goes.

before it gets dark

I want to find
someone to grow old
with, you tell your
son, who laughs at
you as he puts a bar
bell over his head.
it's too late dad,
you're already old.
but it would be nice,
he says, setting
the bar bell down
and sipping on a
vanilla power shake.
cause I'm not
changing your diapers,
or feeding you
baby food with a
spoon, I love you dad,
but I didn't sign
up for that.
why don't you go down
to the lake with
a loaf of bread
to feed the ducks,
I saw a lot of old
ladies down there,
some cute ones too
with teeth, speaking
English, some
without canes or
walkers. which lake
you ask him, can
you drive me there
before it gets dark?

and one other thing

you say things
that you'd like to
take back.
mean spirited
things aimed for
the heart and head
of your target.
words spewed
out in anger
like lava
from a hot mountain
giving in
to the pressure.
but you can't
take them back.
they are stuck
hot and red in place,
flaming arrows
buried deep
in where you sent
them.
so you try
to salvage things
by being
quiet for awhile,
slipping slowly
into the background
and tip toeing
away as if nothing
really happened.
humming to yourself,
singing la de da.
la de da.

pancakes

what do you think of my
legs, she asks you,
sticking them both
straight up in the air
as she lies on the bed.
which one, you ask.
the one with varicose
veins or the one with
the scars from your
motorcycle accident?
either, she says, or
both. I work out now.
I walk two miles a day
and I do this thing
with a rubber ball
and a stretch band.
I saw it on tv one night
and couldn't sleep
so I ordered it.
I've been doing it for
a week now. do you
notice the difference?
pretty shapely, you say.
not too shabby.
I'm getting the ab
stretch band ball
thing next week.
it only takes nine
minutes a day.
this tire around my
gut will be gone in
no time, she says,
grabbing a roll around
her white fleshy
stomach. you'll see.
can't wait, you say.
now let's go eat some
breakfast. pancakes?
she says excitedly,
yes, you say.
pancakes!

more

you run out
of room.
in your closets.
packed
solid with boxes
and books,
shirts and shoes.
coats
you'll never
wear again.
you slide
things under the bed.
you drag plastic
bins to the attic,
the basement,
the wet shed.
all the drawers
are stuffed.
socks and underwear,
more socks.
shorts. t shirts
with holes in
them. sweaters
with bold
horizontal stripes
that a plane
could see
from miles away
if you were stranded
on a desert island.
gifts you'll never
wear.
you can almost feel
the house tilt
with too much.
the walls bulging
as if one bite
of food too many.
about to burst.
and yet, you got
shopping for more.

big jo from texas

did I tell you I'm
from texas
big Jo tells you
as she puts a shine
on her white
boots. sure am, she
says. I was junior
miss texas once.
a long time ago.
I set the record
for twelve year
olds at the rodeo.
she looks out
the window, longingly
as if staring
at a sheep.
have I ever shown
you that picture
of me lassoing a sheep.
no, you say.
please, I'd love to
see it after
we're done eating
this fine barbeque
you cooked. oh, I
didn't cook it. i got
it from the place
up the street. I
don't cook anymore.
my husband got all
the cook ware when
we split up.
he got the horses too
and the grill.
I loved that grill.
let me get that
photo album for
you. enjoy that barbeque
while i look for it.
I'm so glad you came
over. we have so much
in common.

sugar cookies for the house

you bring cookies.
a plastic
box of sugar
cookies
for the house.
they are sprinkled
with colored
sugar for easter.
yellow and blue.
green.
it's not against
the rules.
you don't think,
but you pass
them around just
the same.
some take them
and begin to
eat, nibbling at
the edges, letting
the crumbs falls
to the floor
or couch.
others put them
in their pockets
or throw them
across the room.
one woman takes
a bite sets it
down, then begins
to tear strips
off the magazine
it sits upon,
and eats that.
your mother has two.
these are good, she
says. did you bake
them yourself?
of course you say.
of course.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

the worst has happeed

lucy calls you
at eight a.m.
you can hear the clink
of a martini
glass against the phone.
she's crying.
what else is new.
what, you say.
what's wrong?
everything, she says,
sobbing.
everything is wrong.
my life is in
ruins.
are you drinking
already. it's only
eight.
I've been up all night,
she says.
I have circles
under my eyes.
I can't believe what
happened.
what, what, you say.
tell me.
the Nordstrom shoe
sale is over.
I missed it, I can't
believe I missed
it. it's the spring
extravaganza and
I missed it.
you can hear her shaking
the newspaper pages
in her hand.
okay, okay. calm down.
i'll be over later.
we can get through this
together.
take the day off
put a warm wash rag
on your forehead.
take two aspirins and
i'll call you later.
okay. okay, she sobs.
thank you,
you are the best.
thank you.

a little while longer

you could go to work
right now.
throw on some clothes,
go get coffee,
go out into
the ice and cold,
begin your day
of labor,
but you'll wait
a little while longer.
your ambition
to be self employed
has served
you well at times
like this.

mint chocolate chip

you can't hurry
a broken heart
along.
ice cream helps.
the cold spoon
digging deep
into the frozen
sweet.
the quantity is
different for
everyone, the days
alone, and
pints
in hand find
their own
measure of relief.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

filet o fish

you've always
wondered about the
filet o fish
sandwich.
why the o between
the two words?
where are the bones?
what kind
of fish is this
on this soft
mushy bun
lathered with
a white sauce.
covered by a melted
blanket of
yellowed cheese.
what ocean did
this fish swim
in? what net or
hook reeled it to
our shores.
the stoners back
in the day used
to call it brain food,
but even now you
wonder if it's even
fish, to this
day you still
aren't sure.

the note

she leaves
you a note
on the kitchen table.
you hate when
they leave
you a note.
it's a long note.
a well
written note.
they all say
the same thing.
the promise of love
gone wrong.
tears are involved.
you can see
the rain
drop stains
smudging
the ink.
you unfold
the note, you
read the first
line, then
the second line.
there are
a hundred more
lines to go.
you stop, you've
read this note
before, you have
it memorized.
there is no need
to on.
you place it
in the box
with other
the notes.
they will keep
you warm when
winter comes,
helping to
start the fire.


water my flowers

they take
your neighbor away
in a squad
car, hands
behind his back,
cuffed.
cops are removing
boxes
and bags
from the premises.
guns
and knives,
they are digging
in the back yard,
dragging
the pond beside
his house.
dogs are sniffing
around
the fence
where roses grow
in thorny bushes,
but before they
push his
head down and into
the car to
drive him away,
he yells to you,
I'm innocent,
water my flowers
while I'm gone.
which makes you
wave and say okay.

lunch is served

as if
starving,
the well kept
men
and women
with Gucci
bags
stand in line
for a
shrimp
on a cracker
with
red sauce,
at the local
gourmet store,
then circle
the room for
one
or two more,
filling
up
on free,
sipping the wine
from
Dixie cups,
not one, not
two,
but three.

what's lost

you can understand
how things get lost,
how they fall
between the cushions
of your day.
keys and coins,
numbers scribbled
in haste.
you get the cloud
about you
that hides the land,
washes away
the sea and sky.
disregarding the wink
or nod, or slight
that's said
off hand. so much
is lost that we
don't know, so much
left behind that
we don't go
back for.

Monday, March 24, 2014

move your gala apples to the belt

please move
your gala apples
to the belt.
please remove all
items and start again.
move your gala
apples to the belt.
you need assistance
with this item.
help is on the way.
you may continue
checking out, or
wait until help
arrives. please move
your green leaf
lettuce about to turn
brown to the scale.
place dying lettuce
on the belt.
please remove all
items and start
again. you can try
your gala apples
again, or wait until
help arrives.
please do not cry.
help is on the way.

one fried chicken leg

you want
a piece of fried
chicken.
but it's late.
you can't sleep
with chicken
inside of you.
so you settle
for a banana.
this does nothing
but make you
unhappy.
tomorrow
you will eat
chicken you
promise yourself,
speaking to
your stomach
as if it was
a petulant child.
it's what you do
in order to
get some sleep.

the view

in the high
rise building
you see people
in the windows
staring out
with binoculars
to the lit
windows
of other buildings.
their lives
are made whole
by seeing glimpses
of what
are others
are up to,
despite seeing
nothing new, it's
more interesting
to them
when it's not
them they see,
but you.

at night

the ocean
comes home with
you.
the pull
off waves,
the strength
and power
of depth.
your blood
still rolls
with the tide,
as you lie in bed.
your head swims
with each
swell
and rise of
blue water.
your legs
feel
the chill
where your toes
curled
in the shifting
sand.

you unwind

you unwind.
you are a clock
ticking
down,
the wheels
clicking
slower,
gears churning
quiet,
you are low
on time.
your days
and hours
slip through
the sleeve
of glass,
the grains of
sand
piling up
against your
will.
you unwind.

the bartender tells you

to save nothing,
spend it all.
break even is
the goal
in this life.
animals have no
pockets,
to speak of,
they eat and
carry what's
in their mouths.
no retirement
plan, no
401 k,
or SEP.
no bank account
with which
to write
a check.
they prepare
only for each
season,
forget the rest.
you go out the way
you came
in, empty handed
and crying.
but I don't live
in the woods
or have feathers,
you tell him
which makes him
shrug and say
you could
though. another
round?

happy birthday

you hate birthdays.
it's just
another notch
on the bars of
your life,
telling you another
year
has passed, one
less year
to enjoy, or endure
depending on
how love
or the market does.
you try to think of
what would make
your birthday
more exciting,
and something
that you would look
forward to.
perhaps a bikini
clad woman jumping
out of a cake,
that would help,
for starters.
she could have sparklers
in her hand,
a tiara on her head.
when she opened
her mouth confetti
would fly about.

did you find everything you want?

people are not
shopping at the trader
joe's store,
no, they are studying
the packages.
taking their time,
reading the calorie
count, where
that chicken was
raised, the salt
within the nuts.
how long will this
bread need to bake.
the aisles are clogged
with men and women
in clogs. hand
printed
lists in their hands,
proud of their grey
locks, pony tailed
and serious about
their food.
it's a stress filled
cheerful place, with
bells ringing,
the help almost
humming, or singing
to the music
that's playing
your song. someday
you'll figure
out how to check
out, where to push
your cart, where
does the line
begin, or end.

the weather

it's hard to believe
but people
have grown weary
of talking about
the weather.
they have run out
of things to
say.
instead they ball
themselves up,
with scarves
and coats, thick
sweaters
and curse to
themselves as
the burrow through
the wind,
hoping to find
one spring day,
followed by more.

the empty rooms

the empty
rooms, hollowed
out of
things
less important
now,
now that walking
is difficult
as is
keeping track
of what day
it might be.
the movers, young
and strong
with muscled
backs, sweat
on their brows
made quick work
of the things
you owned,
but never owned,
just leased.
the chair you sat
on. the lamp
that shone
upon the pages
of your favorite
book.
how you wish your
hands
were on that book
once more,
as new.
as new as you
were when you read
it and couldn't
put it down.

spinach dip

you are not
particularly
fond of spinach,
but given a tub
of spinach dip
and some decent salty
crackers,
you'll dig your
way through to
the bottom
if distracted
enough. this worries
you.
your lack of
self awareness
and acceptance
of things you don't
even like or
care about.
how you fill your
belly with the mischief
of the world
and spinach.
you need a mirror
in front of
you at all times
to stay under
control.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

spinach teeth

she doesn't tell
you when
you come back
from the bathroom
that your
zipper is down,
or that you are
dragging toilet
paper on
your shoe,
and when you
sit, you fail to
mention
that there is
spinach in her
teeth, or that
one of her earrings
has just fallen
into a bowl
of soup.
you have gone
in different directions,
and it's not
the road
of ever lasting
love.

the good luck cat

there is a cat
on your car in
the morning.
black and white
with green eyes
like broken glass.
a red collar
with a bell
around his fluffy
neck.
he is stretched
out on the hood
of your car.
lying in the sun.
you take this as
a message
to you. whether
good luck
or bad you are
unsure, but you
like the idea that
this cat has
chosen your car
to lie on.
your lives are
intertwined,
but you with just
one, and him
with nine.

fenced in

a fence means
nothing to a dog.
it means
nothing to
me either.
we both can leap
or gnaw our
way out if
need be.
the fence is
nothing but a
boundary set
with good intentions,
but it's useless
when one decides
to leave.

old ears

when you had ears
you would listen
to what others
had to tell you
in their tears.
you were younger
and no less
compassionate than
now, but you
had an appetite
for such talk.
you'd take on all
words. for hours
you would allow
anyone to speak
and fill you with
their grief,
their troubles.
but that was when
you had ears.
you are older now,
and your
ears are turned
off.


this is not my life

this is not my
life.
I am not the one
you see
moving
through
the shadows
of the day.
these are not
my hands
lying quiet
in the sun
across the table
from you.
my patience has
turned into sorrow.
I am no longer
who I used
to be. I have
moved on
without me.
I leave nothing
behind.
I take nothing
with me.
this is not
my life.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

how it begins

I want what
I don't have.
I have what I
don't care about.
I dream of
being in places
that I'm not.
I'm an infant
in a crib
staring up
at a mobile
that's making
a lot of noise.
I can't reach
it with my foot
to stop it
and if I did
I have no muscles
yet, or
coordination.
I feel wet
and hungry, I
am going to lie
here and cry
until things
change for my
betterment.

the greeter

you get a job as a greeter
at a large chain store.
you wear a red vest
and stand near the front
as people come
through the doors.
after a while you
tire of saying hello
and smiling.
instead you begin to give
advice. quit smoking
you tell the woman with
a pack of camels in
her hand. your teeth are
brown, and you smell
bad. eat less, you tell
the big men who enter
chomping on sandwiches,
eating chips. your
heart is going to explode.
you yell at the little brats,
no running, you tell
them, no yelling, no
crying. if you do I'm
coming to get you.
hey you, you yell to
the teenagers staring
into their phones, ever
read a book?
hey lady, don't you
have a light on in
your house, or a mirror.
I can't believe you're
out walking around
in that dress.
by the end of the day
you have a black eye
and a broken nose. you
lose your job. honesty
is not the best policy.

nothing to wear

pulling things out
of your third closet.
emptying the fourth
dresser
found in the spare
room, you declare
with a shriek
I have nothing to
wear? this is when
she turns to you
and says, what's
the matter with you?
wear what you have
on. it worked our
last nine dates in
a row. black sweater
and jeans. it's you,
now let's go.

your place

you find your
own space
in life.
the place
where
you stand or
sit,
eat, or sleep.
it's taken
time, trial
and error, but
you've managed
to finally get
where it feels
right.
not even love
could make you
budge an
inch in either
direction,
but you've been
wrong before.

Friday, March 21, 2014

snakes under rocks

you watch
the ranger on
t.v.
in his khaki
shorts and shirt
turning over
rocks
in calvert county
searching
for snakes.
when he finds
one he picks
it up like a
harmless ribbon
and holds it to camera.
he talk about
it's stripes,
it's fangs
and habits,
discuses what it
might eat,
or when it might
strike.
he's easy and casual
with these snakes.
turning over rocks
and picking
them up.
snake after snake
all day until
the sun starts to
go down.
then finally one
bites him on the arm.
strangely
this makes you
happy.

what's up?

you start to write
a letter,
a real letter,
not an e mail
or a bunch of
abbreviated
and truncated
words punched
into a phone
keyboard.
no, it's a real
letter on a sheet
of white
paper, with lines.
you have an ink
pen in your hand.
your mind is full
of wonderful things
to say,
and ways to say
them. you want to
have flourish
and embellishments.
your thoughts
are seeds turned
into flowers
ready to blossom.
it's hard
though.
there's the address,
an envelope,
you need a stamp,
a mailbox. you don't
even know
her zip code.
not to mention how
rusty your handwriting
probably is.
you grab your phone.
hey, you type.
what's up?

a new location

you are neither
grumpy
or necessarily
happy
when you awaken
in the morning.
but
sometimes you are
surprised
and curious as
to this new location,
groggy and dry
mouthed.
it takes
a few minutes
to figure out
where you are.
in those situations
it's best
to just get
dressed and leave
quietly,
find coffee and
hit the gps
with your own
address.


come soon

she plays
it safe
and runs with
a dull
pair of scissors.
but run
she does, to
where, she's
not sure, but
when she gets
there she'll
let you know.
usually it's a bar
on the south
side of town
where she'll
call and say
that everyone here
is older
than my mother
and father.
the dead sea
was still alive
when these people
were born,
you'll fit right
in, come soon.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

the dress

do you like my
new dress,
she says,
swirling around
the room before
you go out to dinner.
I spent all
day shopping for it.
I love your dress,
you tell her.
it brings out the color
in your eyes.
but my eyes are
blue, she says.
the dress is green.
still, you say,
green is a very
close cousin to
blue, and yes, I
love the dress. you
look wonderful
in it. go
wait in the car,
she says. I need
to change.

office man

you scribble notes
on the back
of receipts,
on envelopes
unopened. on
your hand.
names and numbers,
places you
need to be
the time with
which to be
there.
you were never
an office
man. this hasn't
changed.

the grey

the world
would be easier
if things
were black
and white
with no greys
to deal with.
but it's not that
way.
there is very
little that we can
be sure of.
take love
for example.

your train

you missed
your train.
you were too busy
staring
at the tracks
behind you,
where you just
arrived from.
you were lost
in the sun
rising, at
the possibilities
of spring.
you missed
your train,
but there will
be more
coming.
be patient.
be ready.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

let my people go

you part
the red sea
of your yard
with a broom.
it's the outdoors
broom, so
it's okay.
with sweeping
motions of your
arms you
roll back the great
puddles of water.
snow, and ice,
now rain,
all melting into
a still sea.
you open
the gate and push
the water
towards
the woods, down
the slope
to a waiting
full stream.
you are a beardless
moses in
your terry cloth
bathrobe and nike
sandals. you
are letting your
people go,
and by people you
mean your short
legged dog
moe.

because it's there

just because
it's there is
not a good enough
reason to hear
anymore
when you
see the climber
hauling
gear, rope
on his shoulder,
spikes
in his shoes
towards the cliff
and snow covered
peak.
what's missing
inside
of you, that you
are trying
to fill?
how high do you
need to go,
or drop to feel
alive?
how close to death
do you need
to be to have
your itch
scratched
sufficiently?
you ask all of this
as you look
both ways before
crossing
and stepping
gingerly off
the curb.

don't ever change

don't ever
change the inscription
says in
your high school
year book,
scribbled
hurriedly
on the last page
within a heart
with an arrow
through it.
remember
the time, remember
when this
happened.
don't ever change,
stay
the same,
let's keep
in touch through
the summer.
you are my best.
friend
forever even though
you are quiet
and I don't know
you that well.
you are
the most fantabulous
guy I've
ever known.
don't ever change.
don't ever change.
but you did being
barely a seed
below the ground.

but you are here

nothing changes,
nothing stays
the same.
these words
you speak
are echoes of
what others have
said
in different ways.
your arms
and legs repeat
the motions
of what they've
done before.
you dial his number
but there's
no one there.
there is nowhere
else to be, but
here. the future
is not what
it used to be,
the yesterdays
once full of people
that you knew
are slowly
emptying.

committment phobia

he's so mr. non
committal,
she tells me
with exasperation
over a hot bowl
of clam chowder
at the fish market.
i watch her break
crackers into her steamy
white bowl of chowder.
we've been going out
two weeks now
and I've never
been to his house,
or met his kids, or
even his dog.
he can't even say
I love you
after I say it first.
well, I say,
cautiously, maybe
he's, you know,
just not into you.
that's crazy, she
says. we had sex
five times last weekend.
he told me I had
beautiful eyes.
he is into me.
does he spend
the night, or go home.
I ask, peeling a
shrimp then dipping
it into cocktail
sauce. he has to go
home because of the dog,
she says,
blowing on her spoon
of soup before
slurping it down.
do you think you might
be rushing things
a little. love takes
time. I mean you just
broke up with jimmy
three weeks ago
and you said the same
things about him.
I don't know she says,
men are all alike,
they all have commitment
phobia and want just
one thing. can I
have one of your shrimp,
she asks, reaching
over to take one
off my plate.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

undettered


after you would
tease
your sisters
without mercy,
as boys
are prone to do
on hot summer days
without school,
your mother would
chase you, but you
were fast.
too fast.
think grey hound,
or field mouse
perhaps.
or a puma cat.
she would reach
out
with a broom
handle,
or a mop,
or a belt, but
it was unfair,
she had no chance.
she could only
sting you with words,
and threats,
but even those
fell flat
against your
ears. how well
those summers
have prepared you
for life.

what you need

the firemen
like fires.
they need them
to be who
they are.
as the doctors
need ailments,
and the lawyers
trouble.
the chefs
need hunger,
and the garbage
men
need trash.
and you,
how you wish
for the rain
to peel away
a thousand
houses
located nearby,
against
rush hour
traffic.

libido

red
tomatoes
on the vine
catch
your eye, so
you push
your cart
towards
them,
they are so
red, so
plump,
you almost
can taste
the juices
upon your
tongue.
with care
you pick one
off and
bounce it
in your palm.
so many
tomatoes,
so little time.

their separate ways

the priest
exhausted by his
day
loosens his
collar
and sits on
the steps of
the rectory
after everyone
has gone.
a stray
dog wanders by
and sees
him, approaches
the slouching
father
and lets out
a small
yet pitiful
bark.
there is no
wag in his
tail, his tongue
hangs heavy,
his eyes are
sick and yellow
with fever.
he has no collar,
his paws
are raw from
roads traveled.
he curls
beside the priest's
shoes,
and sighs.
together they sit
as the evening
sky grows
dark, a chill
sets in the air.
then they both
rise and
go their separate
ways.



keep the receipt

having half a day
off is dangerous.
money leaves your pocket
in a hurry
as you carry
home the hand painted
oil
painting, which says
on the tag
hand painted,
you wonder which wall
will you hammer
a nail into
to hang it.
will you even like it?
it looked so
wonderful in the store,
under the bright
flickering lights,
abstract, but
not abstract.
maybe that's an
ocean, maybe that's
blood, or the sun
setting. maybe it's
a forest gone empty
from acid rain.
who knows. who cares.
you like it, at
least you did as you
slid it into your truck
to take it home.

long distance runners

with your
hands deep into
the pockets
of your shorts,
you shiver
bare legged
near
the finish line
of the half
marathon race,
watching
with flushed
cheeks as the
runners stagger
in. they are of
all sizes and
ages, their
numbered and named
bibs, green
and billowing
in the wind
upon their
heaving chests.
you used to run,
but you're
older now.
wiser, with bad
knees. you
don't miss it.
your races are
different now.

breakfast all day

the road not taken
is plural.
roads, there never
was just one
road.
two roads have
never diverged
either.
the wheel, though
in your hand
was not,
not really.
there are no maps.
no directions
to and fro,
no gps
to plot your
joy, your sorrow.
you just keep
driving, and driving.
hoping that maybe
there's a diner
up ahead
with breakfast
all day, strong
coffee and a waitress
that calls you
hon.

the closet

you go to clean
a closet
to relieve
the house of weight
it's been
carrying for
years now.
old musty sweaters,
board games
unused since
the boy grew up
and moved to L.A. .
it's not as
easy as it looks.
each toy,
each deck of cards
each broken
lace to shoes
once worn
have meaning.
are gold in some
divine way.
you remember
that ball cap on
his head
standing in the sun,
slapping
his glove,
forever young.
perhaps tomorrow
you'll try again.

Monday, March 17, 2014

mistakes

there are no
mistakes miles
davis
once said, though
you tend
to disagree.
and with jazz
how would you know?
you can think
of hundreds
of mistakes
you've made
in a matter of
minutes.
take this fish
for example
that you just ordered
with beans
and small
potatoes
still cold
and salted like
the sea.

pink boy

you see a loud boy
outside the window
sledding
on the hill without
his shirt.
his skin is pink,
glowing
towards red.
he is the only
boy there,
the rest are young
girls his age
bundled tightly
in striped
scarves and coats,
wool hats pulled
down over their
ears. he has decided
that this is
the way to win
them over.
to be fearless
to show them
courage in
the face of wind
and falling
snow. it will
be a long life
beyond this day
for pink boy.

non profit

you want
to become a non
profit
fundraiser.
but first you
need a cause,
a religion
to stand by.
a set of rules
and laws
by which to
govern your
newly created
world.
the money will
be used to raise
more money,
and that money
will be used to
take you to where
the money is.
you'll need
stationary to start
with and a plea
that they will
believe and give
and give.
you promise to only
use to this money
to further your
cause, which
is to make more
money.


persevere

the sea is grey
and cold
yet the white
birds
settle down
like cut flowers
upon the rough
wash beyond
the shore.
we can't understand
how they
persevere through
weather
like this,
how they go
with the wind
and rain,
as you don't
understand
me, and how
I go on despite
you.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

six white horses

you can't get
a song out of your
head.
it was the last
song you
heard before you
turned the television
off last night.
an old cowboy movie
with guitars
and horses,
and singing around
the campfire.
she'll be coming
round the mountain
when she comes, when
she comes.
you try to analyze
the words to the song,
break it down
into something
meaningful, but
it's hopeless.
she'll be riding six
white horses when
she comes, when she
comes.
what does this mean.
it's going to be
a long day.

six thousand miles

when you were
younger
you changed
your own oil.
five cans of ten
w thirty. quaker state
in the white
green striped cans.
lying on the street
you shimmied
under the car
on the gravelly
pavement, or
a flat bed of
grass to turn
that one nut
to let the black
warm goo spill
out into a
bucket that you
positioned under
the hole. you watched
as it drained
out, then
you turned
the thread of the
nut back in, if
you could find it.
you climbed out
from under,
then poured the fresh
honey colored oil
back into the
engine. you started
the car up
watching the oil
light blink red,
then go dark
you stood there
wiping your
hands with a soft
rag in the sunlight.
you felt that
your life was good
for another six
thousand miles.

making the rounds

you decide to pay
a visit
to your aging father
of 85
hard won
years.
it's too early
for a bag of tomatoes,
but he'll
have a book
for you waiting.
maybe
a sandwich
and a slice of
pie.
he knows how
to make you happy.
as you do
him. you bring
nothing
but love
and affection.
conversation.
a few jokes he can
use as
he makes his rounds
on Monday
from the gym
to the krispy crème,
to the commissary,
then home.

a dangerous world

it's a dangerous
world.
read
the papers,
catch the blurbs
on line.
listen to a snippet
of the news
on the radio.
see
the bullets
fly on t.v.
things blowing
up.
it's a dangerous
world.
you are so
glad to have
a bed
with which to
hide under.
won't you come
and join me.
let's be safe
together.
but first I have
to pat you
down.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

lint

lint reminds
you of how out
of control
the world is.
your black sweater
is covered
with lint.
no matter
how many times
you roll that sticky
wheel brush over
the arms and back,
down the front.
lint keeps
coming, it
never sleeps,
never takes a day
off. lint owns
you. it's just
the way things are.

stick our tongue out like miley

why does she keep
sticking her
tongue out whenever
someone takes her
picture you ask
your friend gina
as you flip
through a people
magazine at the coffee
shop. she looks
twelve years old.
I don't know she
says. it's a long
tongue though.
I think it touches
her chin. it might
be a message, she
says. some sort
of sex message
to the teen world.
do you know
her music, is it
any good? who
cares, stick your
tongue out and let
me see how long
it is. no, you say.
I won't do that.
oh, do it for me.
please, i'll give
you a bite of my
blueberry scone.
okay, okay, you say
and stick your
tongue out.
it goes out maybe an
inch or two.
come on she says,
you're obviously holding
back. stick it out
baby. let's see what you
got. you extend
your tongue, but you
can only do it for
a few seconds because
it hurts. you reel
it back in. okay,
give me a bite of
your scone now.

the dashboard drum

you knew most
of the words by heart.
nearly every
song
of the sixties
and seventies.
the words
you didn't know
you filled in
with words of
your own.
you pounded
the dashboard
riding shotgun
in many of beat
up cars, dodge darts,
and mustangs,
impalas and
bugs, a cold
can of beer
between your
legs, a few friends
shaking their
long hair
and a token
blonde, someone's
sister who you never
had a shot with.
but you knew
the songs. you
had that going
for you. still do.

cut a vein

be serious for once.
write something
extraordinary.
be bold, brazen,
be open and honest
pull the curtain back.
don't be the old
man oz, shivering
behind the thin
veil of your humor.
cut a vein and
dip your wicked
pen into that. show
me what you've got.
write me a line
of gold, unfold
the hidden fabric
of your soul.
be serious for once.

we can be friends


small butter
soft
drops
of rain,
which may
not be rain
roll off your
face into
the puddle
which holds
only part of you.
love ends
love
begins, again
and again,
until
it stops
and you are
slow to
realize
that you were
meant to be
just friends.

gilrs night out

sometimes she comes
home late
from her book club
and smells
of old spice
after shave
and rum.
her dress will
be on backwards
and her lipstick
will be smudged
to one side
of her flush
cheeks. you suspect
something
may be going on,
and ask her,
so how was the book
club tonight.
fine, she'll answer.
what was the book,
you'll ask gently,
watching her undress,
getting the tangles
out of her
hair with a brush.
oh, ummm, it's a book
about the civil
war.
you want to ask her
what book. to
be specific about
Lincoln
and Gettysburg.
tell me about
the soliers dying
at Antietam, you say,
oh it's too horrible
to discuss, really.
it will give me
nightmares. next week
we are meeting
two nights. we will
be reading war and
peace. it's very
long book, so we might
need a sleep
over for that one.
so don't wait up.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

lunch time with your therapist

instead of whining
like a baby every time
you come in here,
why don't you just
do something
about your problem
your therapist
tells you as she
takes a bite of
her Italian combo
sub sandwich.
you raise your head
from the long
couch you're lying on.
you look at her chewing
loudly, her mouth open,
with lettuce
between her teeth.
isn't it a little
rude to be eating
during our session,
you tell her, raising
your voice
to what she would
call an interesting level.
she wipes some
mayonnaise from
her mouth. don't get
snippy with me
she says. I have
a tight schedule.
go look out in
the hall I've got
more nuts than you
to deal with today.
now what were you whining
about again.
some girlfriend, wife.
your mother. I've
lost track.
tell me again, but
condense it a little.
don't be dragging
the story out.
you're on the clock.
before you start,
I don't want
my pickle. you can
have it if you want
it, here. she tosses
the pickle to you.
I think it's dill.
you take a bite,
then start telling
her about the time
your mother forgot
your birthday.

giddy up little doggies

when you were a cowboy
riding the range
you weren't a very good
cowboy.
for one thing
you disliked beans.
not to mention being
afraid of horses
and cattle
with their runny
black eyes always
giving you a strange
look.
you liked the hat
and the chaps,
spurs. you've always
been a big
fan of spurs ever
since you met
rosey at the cantina
but the boots
crimped your
toes and gave you
blisters.
they wouldn't let
you wear your loafers
or tennis shoes
while rustling
the cattle.
sometimes you didn't
want to sing
those cowboy songs
around the campfire
so you would put cotton
in your ears
and hum your own
songs which didn't bode
well with your
fellow cowboys
when Indians attacked.
you were slow
to circle the wagons.
sometimes you
wistfully hoped
that you could be an
indian. shirt off
getting a tan,
and making those
whooping noises.
living off the lay
of the land. you liked
their back to nature
style. at heart you were
an indian.














any old ear

distracted,
you put the milk
into cupboard,
your hat
in the ice box.
you lock
the cat into
the closet
and let your
dog run free.
this is what
love
will do to you,
if you allow
it to happen.
so be careful
out there
with your kisses.
be cautious
with
those sweet
nothings. don't
be whispering into
any old ear.

we need more

it's not enough.
more,
she says.
I need more.
we need more room.
more space.
more
things.
our happiness
depends on it.
work harder.
we can't stay here
forever
living this way.
our car is old.
my clothes are worn.
I want a Viking stove.
we need more.
we need to rise
above where we've
come from.
we need to
spread our wings
and fly.
so go back to
work,
we need more,
tell me when
we've arrived,
but be quiet when
you come home.
I like to take a
nap then.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

full service booth

you make
friends with a toll
booth operator.
you see her
nearly everyday
as you hand her
a dollar to break
down into quarters.
it's so obvious
that you like each
other. you can
feel that unspoken
vibe. there's
chemistry, for sure.
you get goose bumps
when her hand
touches yours as
she drops the coins
into your palm.
on occasion
you'll linger
a little, to look
into her eyes,
tea brown with
little flecks
of gold. you
stare at her
grey bib
that covers up
her civilian
clothes, trying
to figure out
what kind of shape
she's in.
you wonder what
hair looks like
down, blonde
beneath that webbed
net. you
hate to pull
away some mornings,
but there is
always a car
behind you,
laying on his horn.
there is tomorrow
though. you'll never
get an e z pass. your
love is that strong.

ice berg lettuce

you went through a phase
in your life
where you bad mouthed
ice berg lettuce,
not because you didn't
like it, but because
other people were
dissing it.
those big light green
balls of leaves.
sure they were crunchy
and easy to roll
into the fridge, but
as far as lettuce went
ice berg was
pedestrian at best
to these people.
you may have even been
mocked by a variety of
dates you cooked for
who sniffed haughtily.
is that ice berg in
my salad. to which you
responded, yes I'm
sorry. then you went
to romaine and even
spinach leafs. arugula
found it's way
in to your house
as well as oak leaf
lettuce and boston.
you lost your mind
a little.
who were these people
telling you no more ice
berg lettuce.
but you have found
your way home again,
and it's ice berg.

a morning person

i'm not a morning
person, not usually.
but I have made
exceptions, adjusted
over time to changes
that are beyond
my control. so morning
is just fine.
but so is midnight,
or mid-afternoon if
you have anything
in particular of a
romantic nature,
in mind. i'm
flexible to a fault.
make note of that.

hello darkness, my old friend

you are no fun
to be with anymore.
you are going
through a phase
of complaining
about the weather,
ignoring people,
of thinking everyone
else is an idiot.
you can hear
yourself mumbling
things like
why is she driving
like that, or
I can't believe
the bartender
is so slow, or
why doesn't that
person take a shower
so that they don't
smell. one more snow
storm and I'm going
to kill myself.
what's with this stupid
time change?
you know
it's a temporary
state of mind, but
you worry sometimes
that it might
be permanent.

draw me a picture

your therapist says
draw me a picture
of what you think your
life looks like.
he hands you a pad
of paper and a pencil.
you stare at the blank
sheet for a moment
then say,
I need paint.
gallons and
gallons of paint.
I need walls,
a ceiling, doors
and windows.
I need a good
brush. I need a
cup of coffee too
before I start.
this makes him sit
back into his chair,
and go hmmmm.
what would it cost
for this room
and the receptionist
area?
ballpark?

Monday, March 10, 2014

the soliloquy

her green eyes
like bits
of broken
bottle glass
glimmer
in the sunlight
as she quotes
from Shakespeare.
to be or not to be.
and it's not
the words that
hold you still.
it is something
more to do with
how she looks,
alive and full
of self, her
heart beating
sometimes just
for you.

her hands

her hands are of
great importance now.
she stares into
them for hours.
folding them over
into themselves.
lacing the fingers,
rubbing out
the bones.
these hands she
used to wash and hang
clothes,
stirred pots
of food, and ironed.
cut roses from
her yard.
these hands that
smoothed out the
hair upon your
head, stretched
bandages upon
your wounds. these
hands that once held
yours. they are
alone now as you
leave her in
the empty crowded
room.


i love you, sometimes

you open
the card and it
reads.
I love you
sometimes.
not all
the time, like
last week
when you forgot
to take
the trash out,
or forgot to
pick me up
at the train
station and left
me standing
in the cold.
but sometimes
I do love you.
I'm not sure why.
it's hard to put
into words. it's
easier to tell
you why I don't
love you,
than why I
do. I'm not sure
what that means,
but well, this
was the only card
I could find
that says what
I want to say.
I love you,
sometimes.

short clock

you don't believe
in space
travel.
you think that
everyone should stay
put. solve
the problems here.
why take them
with you, to the moon
or mars, or some
more forgiving star
with a blue
planet.
so much to do
in the here
and now,
on this short clock.

the ball rolling

you slip
and fall
on the last
piece of melting
ice and go
head first
down the hill.
you tumble
and roll,
bringing your
arms and legs
together
as if a ball.
faster and
faster you go,
down the great
slope
of street.
people step
out of the
way as you fly
by. rolling
faster
and faster.
dogs bark at
you, but don't
give chase.
their tongues hang
out in wonder.
people point, smiling,
and say oh my.
look at him go.
you begin to enjoy
the rolling once
the dizziness
stops.
perhaps this
is what you
were meant to be.
a ball,
rolling swiftly
down the street
admired by
everyone that sees
you.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

discount sermon

the preacher
lets the assistant preacher,
the new deacon,
take over
for a while.
he stumbles at first,
nervous about his
first sermon, he pauses,
flips through
the pages
of his bible,
looking for bookmarked
passages,
things he's
highlighted. let's take
Job for example, he
says loudly,
during the great
flood, what did he
do. did he quit.
no siree bob.
he went out and
made himself a boat
so that all the animals
could climb aboard.
he didn't know the first
thing about ship
building, being
a shepherd by day.
this is when the preacher
says ahem, ahem.
and whispers, noah
to the deacon.
right, the deacon
says. and what about
noah, did he flinch
when the tower
of babel fell down,
or when god appeared
to him in the burning
bush. hell no. he went out
and wrote down
the ten commandments
on a slab of stone.
ahem, the preacher
whispers. don't say
hell. say heck.
right right.
and what about jesus?
heck, my landscaper's
name is jesus.
and he's a good man.
okay, okay. the preacher
says, standing back
up and giving the deacon
the stop motion by
putting a hand to
his neck. let's have
a moment of silent prayer
and give thanks for
the cookies and punch
we are about to eat.

he's got the whole wide world

we try to define
god
in human terms.
an old man with
a white beard,
wise beyond
comprehension, but
he's a jealous god
in a glowing robe
speaking in
a loud booming
voice with
lighting bolts
held high
in each hand.
and yet, we say,
he's a loving god.
he loves
us beyond measure.
he watches over
us, keeps us
from harm.
look at those sunsets,
the blue
sweet cold of
glaciers.
the mountains and
forests
full of life.
look at the way
the ocean keeps at
it, wave after
wave of impossible
beauty.
all of that is good
you think,
but it's the lightning
bolts
that hold your
interest and worries
you.

the golden years

you see your evil
step father
hovering over your
eighty-five year
old
mother
as she sleeps,
snoring
on the big leather
couch
at the senior living
home.
he has a pair of pliers
in his hand
and a plastic bag.
he's startled
when he sees you coming
through the door.
oh, hello there,
he says, smirking.
what's up you say.
doing some dental work
on my mom?
trying to get the gold
out of her teeth,
she's not going to
need them for very much
longer. she's had
a rough week and well,
I've got her on
a non-resuscitation
order, so
might as well
get the gold out now.
can you help me hold
her down, this might
hurt a little
and I don't want her
to scream and wake
everyone up.

sunday morning

on sunday morning
two well dressed
young men come to your
door holding
thick biblical books.
white shirts, ties,
black pants,
shined shoes. hair
combed with parts
on the side.
they almost glow
with enthusiasm.
you open the door
just a crack, because
you just woke up.
you have a towel around
you and you're
rubbing sand out
of your blood shot
eyes. what? you say.
I don't want any
more cookies.
which makes them laugh.
no, we aren't
the girl scouts
they say together.
may we come in for
a moment. we are here
to save your soul from
being cast into the eternal
lake of fire. umm, not
a good idea, I have
a guest here, and well
we're sort of naked.
this makes them blink
rapidly and try to peek
inside the door.
who is it, Shirley
yells from the couch.
tell them to go away
and come back over
here big boy. where's
my mimosa?
do you have a
web site or something.
i'll check it out later.
I can give you a donation
if you need some money.
give me a bottle of
holy water or something
and i'll get you
some cash.
hey Shirley, do you
have a five dollar
bill?

gossip

did you hear what happened?
your friend
Karen, pronounced, Car on,
tells you
over the phone.
no you say, flipping
through the paper,
do tell.
I can't, she says,
if you don't know yet,
I don't want to be
the one to let the cat
out of the bag.
Car on, you say, please,
you've released more
cats in your life
than the broadway show
cats. just tell me.
okay, she says, but you
have to swear that you
won't tell a soul,
not one single soul.
crossing my heart,
you tell her, going
to the fridge to see
if there is anything
to snack on. what
happened? well, our
mutual friend suzie, you
know suzie, the hair
dresser. yes, yes,
you say. suzie, botox
suzie. what?
well, she's dating
another woman.
I saw her at the movies
the other night, and
she was holding hands
with a woman. can you
believe it?
pffft, you say, it's kind
of exciting. you peel
a banana and begin to
eat it.
whatever, she says. you
are not even the least
bit shocked? nah.
I think it's fine. whatever
people want to do.
I've got my own life to
worry about, you say,
dipping the banana into
a jar of chocolate.





obey the rules

the prospect
of prison frightens
you. so you obey
the rules.
traffic signals,
for one.
you pay your taxes
on time,
your bills. you
are not acting out
with road rage,
although at
times it seems
to be a reasonable
response.
you are a responsible
person. besides,
you have no widdling
skills
which one needs
in the slammer.
your last fight was
in the ninth grade
and it was with
a girl. you lost.
you are not a great
socializer, so
the yard where they
lift weights and trade
cigarettes for
magazines would
be an awkward
place to be.
you have no tattoos
or gang
affiliations.
you have a library card
and belong to
triple A
and the AARP.
when you look at
a bar of soap, you
don't think about
sex, or a knife,
you think about
soap suds and bubbles,
of being fresh
and clean for
the day ahead of
you. you would not
do well in prison.
so you obey the rules.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

you wake up in jersey

you find yourself
in a motel
room in new jersey.
you were too tired
to drive any further.
it smells like smoke.
bleach.
coffee brewing
in the machine in
the lobby, just down
the hall.
you listen to the couple
next door,
through the thin
walls make love
again. they are insatiable.
the loose headboard
bangs and bangs,
rattling
the painting above
your head of a ship
in a storm.
it's three a.m.
the thick yellowed
curtains are pulled
almost together,
the last inch
is a long bar
of neon light
crossing your bed.
there are trucks coming
and going.
someone is yelling
for ruby,
over and over again.
ruby, I know you're
in there. come out.
you think about turning
on the tv to blot
out the madness,
but this is much better.
you want to see how
things end.

how are you?

what are you doing
way over
here, your mother asks
as you go to visit.
you are carrying
a plant.
candy. your hat
is in your hands.
you had to sit
in your car before
going in and cry
there. she asks
you how you are.
your son. work.
then she stares out
the window
at a robin sitting
on the sill.
look at the bird
she says, smiling.
her hair like
silver silk
has been brushed back
by someone
who has never known
how she wears it.
she turns back to
you. what are you doing
way over here, she
says. when did
you get here?
how are you?

the honey

the children
in the street are
on fire,
excited by everything
and anything,
their desires
not quite set
on any one thing.
they run
from base to base,
up the snowy
slopes, darting
behind trees.
they are brilliant
in their
exuberance,
the energy that
they need to speed
about like
bees, not yet
tasting or knowing
what the honey
is, not yet.
they are still safe
for awhile.

people like you

when you leave
a room
you take everything
with you.
the air
divides as
you walk,
breathing in
what you can
exhaling when
ready.
you make space
for yourself
wherever you travel.
you find a seat
or a place
to stand.
you find and hold
a position
that your feet
can land on.
the world is full
of people
like you.
coming, going,
then leaving for
good.

birds and bees

the birds are ready.
you see them
circling the trees,
lighting down
on branches,
staring into
little mirrors
of ice and snow.
getting ready
for spring. for
romance. some of
the girl birds
are dabbing bits
of sweet wild
berries behind
their ears,
you see the men
birds lifting
large frozen
worms over their
heads, working
on their muscles.
and the bees, oh
the bees. don't
get me started on
the bees.

the new tan

it's hard to be
a rebel
these days.
what can you wear
anymore
that stands out,
half the world
dresses like
circus clowns.
lime green used
to be an outrageous
color, the daring
bold statement
of creativity,
now it's the new
tan. there are no
mothers who say
to their children
are you going
to wear that out
of the house today.
they can't say
it because they
have sewing needles
protruding from
their own lips
and noses and their
hair is painted
with blue
stripes, like
groupers in
the ocean.

employee of the month

your new employee
has no credentials
but he's living,
breathing and sober.
he works hard
without complaint.
so he fits in
perfectly.
he needs a cigarette
every other hour,
but that's fine too.
he likes hard rock
music. aerosmith
and journey, Kansas
ten years after.
led zeppelin.
he plugs the cassettes
into the boom box
in the room that
he's painting.
politely, he keeps
it at a non ear deafening
decibel. he has no
tattoos of satan
or pentagrams,
as far as you know,
so that's a step up
from your last employee.
at lunch he tells you
a story about when he
was in jail for fifteen
days. when he got out
his wife had sold
his double wide trailer,
his Harley, all his
weapons, his clothes
and shoes, and cleaned
out the seven hundred
dollars in their joint
savings account. but he
doesn't seem mad about
it at all as he takes a bite
of some beef jerky.
she made her move, he
says. got to hand it
to her, she made her move
when she could. I
guess I'd have done
the same to her if she'd
been the one in jail.
oh well. beef jerky?
he says, sticking out
a reddish strip of rawhide
jerky. sure, you say,
cutting a piece with a pair
of scissors.
I got a new girlfriend now,
though he says, smiling.
she only charges fifty
dollars. she's twenty four
and she can go
all night. any sisters, you
ask, jokingly, before
getting up to go
back to work.

Friday, March 7, 2014

clean up in aisle six

somehow you get stuck
with the task of picking
up a bag of adult
diapers for your sick
uncle who can't
drive anymore.
you get a grocery cart
and begin to slowly
peruse the aisles,
tossing in aspirin
and gum, vicks vapo
rub, things of that
nature. finally,
exhausted from looking
you ask a clerk who
is more than happy to
answer all your questions
about adult diapers.
adult diapers, he says
loudly, thinking
to himself. hmm.
for a man or a woman,
he asks? man you say,
as he rubs his chin.
fat man, skinny?
umm, about my size I
guess, you say, which
makes him wink at you
and nod, thinking that
they are for you.
are you an astronaut
by any chance he says,
laughing. sorry, just
always loved that story
about the ......
you interrupt him, look
I'm sort of in a hurry,
where are they? he loses the
smile, well, sir, he
says. they may be in
the women's hygiene
section. suddenly you have
to go to the bathroom.
that last cup of coffee
wants out. is there a
bathroom in this store,
you ask him, moving your
feet around and putting
your hands inside your
pockets. he looks at you
jumping around. boy, you do
need those diapers don't
you he says. hold on.
he grabs a microphone
from the shelf and yells
out, would someone please
bring me a bag of men's
diapers to aisle 6.
this is an emergency.
aisle 6, a bag of men's
diapers. bring a mop
too. hurry.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

tuna sandwich

while hanging
on to a subway strap
as the car
rumbled along
the knotted rails
heading into
darkness, then
light, you wondered
what you might
have for dinner.
you thought about
the cans of tuna
fish in your cupboard.
what year will
you open those
and mix up the tuna
into a bowl
with mayo and onions,
pepper. maybe
never.

baby powder


when your wife
was pregnant you
were forced
to go to Lamaze
classes
to learn
things that might
help
in the assistance
of the birth.
this horrified
you.
what is the point
of nurses
and doctors and
all that training
if you're
the mix.
breathe in,
breathe out.
let me know when
it's over.
when the baby is
out and freshened
up with some
baby powder. dry and
happy, ready to
throw the ball
around.

you understand

the baby
talking babble
and drooling
being held
in the arms
of the woman
in front
of you
is making
sense.
his blue
eyes, or
hers, catch
yours
so you give
the little
bald headed
creature
a wink
for solidarity.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

the white dog

the brittle
boned dog, on
nervous legs, once
leaping
each fence
and blade of
grass with
quiet ease
and grace,
now stumbles
towards the light,
his eyes
opaque, a shade
of fish
blue, cloudy
with the sea
of his long
life. his death
will come with
tears, his decade
plus was
yours as well,
a part of you
feeling the needle
and slowing
of heart until
it beats
no more.

this life

this life
is not your own.
you are borrowing
the air
in your lungs
the food in
your belly.
the bed you lie
on is
yours but for
a few years.
your shoes
are rented.
everything you
own will belong
to someone else
when you are gone.
even now your hair
thins, as
your body shrinks
towards where
it began.
there is nothing
you can do
that will have
significance
in time.
and yet, you go
on as if
none of this
mattered.

the tumble weed boy

when your son
was small
and dirty. a
tumbleweed
of boy, his hands
caked in
mud
you installed
a brown rug
the color of dirt
throughout
the house, you
painted the walls
a deep
tan color, you
set aside
special towels
for him
and the dog.
so now, when
he visits you,
it's so strange
to see him,
neat and
pressed, nails
clipped, hair combed.
careful not spill
a drop
of anything,
it makes you
wonder
where did you
go right.

made in china

everything these days
is made
in china.
my shoes, my
coat,
the leather belt
holding up my pants.
the dish I'm
eating off of,
the sticks I use
to pluck
rice and duck
from my plate.
spring onions.
leeks. those
little plastic
packets
of soy sauce.
the tumbler
of drink that
I raise to my
lips.
even later
as I go
to kiss my girl
friend, I see
a tattoo
on her shoulder
that says
made in china.
or something
like that.
hard to read
those drawings.

tax deductible

a telemarketer calls you
in the middle of the day
and asks for a donation
for the fallen and still
missing soldiers of the civil
war. but, you say, clearing
your throat, wasn't that
over a hundred and fifty
years ago? ummm, let me check
on that with my manager,
says the young woman,
snapping her gum into the phone.
hey Betty, Betty,
she yells out across the room.
this man here has a question.
do you know when the civil
war was? yes, I guess he
means the American civil war.
right sir? she asks.
yes. you say. that would
be the one.
you hear a voice whisper
hmmm, good question,
I'm not sure. I could google
it, then someone says,
in the 60's. yeah, it
has to be in the 60's. I think.
she comes back onto the
phone. sir, I'm doing
the math right now,
and it was only
fifty years ago, so yes
there are some civil war
veterans that need your
help. how much would you
like to donate this year?
oh, and by the way,
it's tax deductible.
we'll also send you a
waterproof flag bumper sticker
as an appreciation
of your donation.
is the bumper sticker
of an American flag? you
ask. hold on one second sir.
Betty, hey Betty, he's got
another question, is
the bumper sticker
American, with the stripes
and stuff?

this movie stinks

the movie stinks.
big noise,
big guns, big
scenes generated
by computers
and what not.
lots of dead
people and blood.
naked robots.
as fake as fake
can be. not even
the wacky 3 D
glasses help,
but there is
the occasional
flash of acting,
tears, and
laughter,
smirks and a
happy ending as
the villain
is blown into
a thousand, no,
make that a million
pieces. your ears
hurt, your
eyes burn, but
your pulse has
flat lined.
the movie stinks,
but the fake
buttery popcorn
is not too shabby.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ice cream therapy

with no
clean dishes
or silver ware
you make due
with a wooden
spoon found nestled
in the knife drawer,
curled carefully
alone in the back.
it fits nicely
into the round
bucket of ice
cream that you've
bought to stave
off winter depression.
ice cream
would brighten
your day, but you
are very impatient
because it is
frozen solid like
a rock. with menace
you strike the top
of the unyielding
surface trying
to gouge out enough
to get you started.
just a small
taste of it deliciously
melting on your
warm tongue would
be heaven. but there
is no god, no mercy.
it's too hard
to break loose.
you don't want to
microwave it,
that might be too
risky, so you
fill the sink
up with warm water
and set the bucket
in. then you pace
the room, and wait.
rubbing your hands
together nervously.
you stare out the window
at the frozen stream
behind your house.
the bare trees, surrendered
grey and lean to winter.
a thought crosses
your mind that maybe
this is the week
to go see a therapist.

old man and the coffee


(apologies to e. h.)

you venture out
into the sea of snow
seeking a grande
coffee. you wish
the boy were with you.
to help you.
to hold your place
in line, while you
fiddled in your
pockets for correct
change, for
crumbled bills.
your hands are cramped.
the wind creases
your face into
a hard squint.
you go with
the current, shuffling
towards the light,
towards the glow
of the sign
through the blowing
snow. you do not
see or care
about the sharks,
the youthful men and
women, beating you
to the door,
you wish the boy were
with you, to
push you along, to
talk to you.
but he is not here.
you have only yourself
to talk with.
you will get this coffee.
you will defeat
this storm. it is
destiny.
your curled hands
will open for what is
rightfully yours.
you wish the boy was
there though in case
you can't.

if king

if king, you would
enjoy saying things like
bring me the head
of so and so.
or, dance for me,
sing and play
the lute, make
me happy, or else.
but as it stands
right now, you can
only demand pizza
over the phone,
and rarely get your
dog to stop
barking or begging
at the table.

when searching

when searching
for the lost key
that's in
your hand, the hat
nowhere to be
found, upon
your head,
the book you
were reading
sitting on
the bed where
you left it
at the page,
turned down,
you wonder, is
this the end of
who I used to be,
or the beginning
of what I will
become, or
something yet
unknown,
not seen.

sweet icing

how lovely is
the wedding coat of
winter.
the bride in her
brilliant gown
of crystal sequins,
the falling
into crisp smooth
hills, covering
all, making
the trees and
hedges bow.
how marriages begin
this way,
but in little time
turns under the daily
wheels of give
and take, the exhaust
of real life
taking over, sweet
icing on the cake,
gone grey.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

you are home

the water
can't get hot
enough, but
it will do.
the pipes are
cold.
you slip
into the luke
warm
pond anyway
with a new bar
of soap.
a drink, no
phone.
a book
of poetry that
you'll probably
hate,
a New Yorker,
freshly fallen
through
the door. you
are home.

the plow horse

she leads you
around with a
carrot.
you are her
plow horse,
her stallion,
her mule,
her Clydesdale
pulling
the wagon.
she has you
pinned in a
tight stable
where only
the cold winter
moon shoots
through
the ragged
cracks.

survival kit

food,
water,
meat and potatoes.
check.
batteries
and
vodka.
can you think
of anything
else?
cake
and ice cream.
that should
do it.
oh, and you.

low on ink

your printer
is annoying. always
needing
ink. a spoiled
child.
out of red
and blue, yellow.
empty on black
is a given,
look at that
low level.
how it shakes
and rattles
when turned on
or off.
spitting, grinding
it's machiavellian
wheels,
flashing lights,
speaking in
devilish tongues of
dings and dongs
about what is right
or wrong.
no paper. insert
paper. no paper.
hate is too strong
of a word,
but you are getting
very close to
saying that.

the celery talk

the dalai lama
seems sad, your spiritual
friend
lucy tells you.
doesn't he? look at
that long face,
the forced smile.
it's just my observation
of him,
she says, biting
into a stalk of
celery
filled with hummus.
want some, she says,
offering you
a stalk.
get that away
from me, you tell
her.
look at his photo
she says, holding
up her wallet with
his laminated cat
who ate the canary
face. look into
his eyes. he looks
very sad.
I'd be sad too, you
say, if I was him.
he's wearing women's
clothes. sandals
and he has to always
pretend to be good.
do you think he's
pretending?
no, not all the time.
but hey, he's a man
for god's sake.
men have desires and
needs, if you know
what I mean,
and well it's not
like he can go online
and meet someone
in that get up. he is
stuck. he has to be
the freaking dalai
lama twenty four seven.
who can do that and
be happy?
yeah, maybe you're right.
never thought of him
that way.
sure you don't want
some celery?
positive.

the sword fight

you hear swords
clanging against one
another in the other room.
you rush in to see
what the commotion
is about.
your two sisters
are fighting again,
circling the room,
attempting to once
and for all decide who
is the queen bee
of this family.
one sister jumps
up onto the couch
to get a better angle
with which to swipe
at the other sister's
head, but she sees
it coming and ducks,
pulling a crocheted
afghan blanket out
from under her feet.
in a tumble they both
fall to the floor,
wrestling in their
armor. you don't even
try to break them up.
they will at some
point exhaust themselves
and go back to their
lives, forgetting why
any of this ever
happened.

the grocery list

going through
your box of important
papers
for tax time
you come across a
hand written note
from decades ago.
a grocery list.
it's wrinkled
from being wet
at one time,
but folded neatly
into a square.
milk, eggs, bacon.
chips. wine.
bread and cereal,
it reads.
brownie mix.
at the end of
the list are
a few words
in someone else's
handing writing.
candles it says,
massage oil.
twine.
you smile and say
her name,
then fold
it back up
to stuff neatly
into the bin
of bank statements
and stock reports.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

don't leave

she cries
when you arrive,
asks where
have you been,
wilts
in your arms.
gathers herself
as if the
sun was part
of it, then
cries and crumbles
more when you
stand to leave.
when will you come
again, she says.
but what is there
to do, or say,
but come
and go. leaving
her alone
with a promise
of return,
pulling your
hand away.

how quickly

how quickly time
dismisses us.
evidence given
by the shredded carpet
once gold,
now pale as any
yellow moon
from your footsteps
heavy, and
stamped wet
inside the hall.
the curtains hung
together, when
love was in
the room, each holding
up his or her
end, selflessly,
until the hooks
set in.
how quickly time
dismisses us,
the clock now stopped
at one,
fixed once
too many times,
it too has wearied,
it's machinery
forever left
undone.

talk like a pirate


I want you to talk
like a pirate,
she tells you one
morning, as you both
awaken after a night
of very mediocre
love making.
that might help
us get to another
level, she says
in a sexy
whisper. another
level? you ask.
turning your
head to look
at her. go ahead.
try it. say grrrr.
or arrrgh, or
shiver me timbers,
something like
that. arrrgh, you
say deeply.
good, good. nice
start.
should I wear a patch
over one eye, you
ask. yes, yes.
she says. but no
parrot, and you
can't smell like a
pirate either, but
let your beard
grow a little,
so that it's bristly
against my cheeks.
you have to brush
your teeth too.
I could get a sword
and some boots
down at the costume
shop today, you tell
her. maybe find some
sort of lime after
shave. a gold hoop
ear ring, and some
fake scar make up.
you sit up, excited
by the prospect of
becoming a pirate.
ummmm, sure, she says.
okay. you hop out
of bed and practice
a limp, dragging
your wooden leg across
the room.
arrggh, you say,
over and over,
waving an imaginary
saber in the air.
this makes her
sigh deeply
and put a pillow
over her head.