Saturday, May 31, 2014

nice try

your poetry
instructor
from years ago.
she must be ninety
now.
wild haired
and beautiful
in her unkempt
clothes.
always with a handbag
on her shoulder
as she stood
in front of the class
and read
her own poems.
how she loved
the written word.
the turned
phrase, or rhyme.
how you differed
on delivery, you
telling stories
with a sprinkling
of hot pepper
and her sticking
to rosemary
and thyme.
you still hold
her critiques
dearly. your poems
folded neatly over
her words,
nice try.

once picked

it's a delicate
thing
this flower,
touching the petals
in your
hand.
smelling
the beauty
of its scent.
please tell me
it's not like love,
once picked,
gone dry
and bent.

in the dark

the news
is the same.
not good.
nothing changes.
the time
the date, the location.
people
can't stop
being people.
doing what they
do to one
another, over love
or hate,
religion
or politics, or
a wire
gone bad.
we are all dodging
bullets
these days,
dancing
in the dark, keeping
the shades
down, the phone
off the hook.

Friday, May 30, 2014

the d m v

you have been
to the abyss,
into the smoldering
ring of fire,
the seventh layer
of hell.
you stood in the line
outside
to get through
the door to the line
inside, in
order to find an
empty plastic red chair
to wait in.
a woman made of stone
handed you a ticket
stub with a number,
and a letter attached
they called out A23,
your number was
R 339 to be exact.
you settled in and
listened to the drone
of the robotic voice
speak each number
three times, then
again. and with the
others you bent over
tossing aside
the spider webs which
grew and stared at the black
inked number
that was your own.
Shirley Jackson
must have been here
at some point in her
life. how could she
not be.
after three hours,
you looked up at the clock
and only ten
minutes had passed.
the seasons changed.
women gave birth,
grown men cried into
their hands.
an ambulance pulled
up to take the dead
and dying quietly away,
moaning,
still clutching their
numbers, as if
they could possibly renew
their registrations.

silver spoon

you had a girlfriend
once, beautiful
and cultured,
an artist,
who call you a non
entity.
you had to look it up
to get the full
meaning of her
gentle insult.
but you thought about
it, and she was
right. she sucked
the life out of you
to the point where
you weren't there,
you were silent,
empty of words.
a body without bones,
in observation
mode, waiting for
the chance to sneak
away in the middle
of the night,
digging a tunnel
with one of her
silver spoons
that you stole

the naked man

what makes the man
take his clothes
off and handcuff himself
to the white house
fence? what has happened
in his life
to bring him to this point
of insanity.
did his wife leave him,
did he lose his job,
his fortune, did he run
out patience with traffic
and the daily pressures
of life, or did he just
take a look in the mirror
one morning and say,
what hell, I need to
change things, I'm
bored, honey where
are the cuffs, I'm
going downtown.

old birds

birds
seldom sit
on the wire
and complain
about how they
are getting old
how they hurt,
and how things
have changed.
you never hear
them say,
my wing, this left
one, I can't
move it up
like I used to.
I have to
throw my weight
to one side
in order to change
direction now.
I think it might
be arthritis,
or something else
they can't find
on the x ray.
and this cough, it's
no ordinary cough.
I could be
dead in a week,
or sooner, if
a cat doesn't
snare me while I'm
trying to pluck
a worm out
of the mud. I've
got no strength
in my neck anymore.
these worms are tough,
wiggling away
so fast.

noon darkness

the silver
hands
of leaves
on the dark
trees upturned
towards rain
about to fall.
how the wind
moves the shadows,
how the lack
of sun makes
everything
seem cold
and distant.
how this noon
darkness makes
the kiss of
a loved one feel
like it never
happened, or will
again.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

the fading ink

you remember
the ink
on your fingers
tossing papers
like batons
onto the porches
of your streets.
that netherworld
of time, neither
dark or light,
the squeaking
wheel of your wagon.
your dog
behind you, stopping
when you stop,
walking when
you walk.
the ink was black
and smudged.
the newsprint,
the words
coming off onto
your cold fingers.
sometimes you look
down at your
hands, even now
and expect to see
it again, as you
expect sometimes
to be young
once more as well.

fish on ice

you don't want to read
what others have
written, unless
it's in a book
or a magazine, or
published someplace
you can find it.
you don't want to
hear the words, yes,
I write too, can you
read some of mine.
you know how selfish
that sounds, how
wrong it might be,
but usually
what they've
written stinks
like fish on ice,
you are willing
at some point to be
proven wrong, but
for the moment,
at least, that
hasn't happened.

of good cheer

the world
will go on
without you
when you're gone,
in fact,
sometimes
you feel
that it's going on
without you
while you're here,
so what's
the difference,
don't count
your days left.
be of good
cheer.

all is well

everything is fine,
he says
when you ask him
how things
are going.
all is well, he smiles.
no complaints.
my life is a bed
or roses.
a bowl of cherries,
I'm on cloud nine,
making lemonade
out of lemons.
my world couldn't be
better if I tried,
he says and begins
to whistle a tune.
this is when you
tell him that you're
sorry and when
he's ready, you'll
listen and let him
lean upon
your shoulder.

no time

I have no time
says
the young man
running to catch
a bus,
the woman slipping
into her
shoes,
brushing her
hair,
eating as she
checks her
watch.
the children,
at recess chasing
the red
ball. we have
no time, hurry
they say, before
the bell rings.
be quick.
the old man
on the bench,
I have no time
he says, I need to
go, I need
to be somewhere
else. people are
waiting,
I must hurry.
the dying
in hospitals,
staring out
the sunlit window
dotted with birds.
I have no time
they say. very little
to speak of. finally
the truth.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

your house

your house
was built in 1968.
it's neither new
or old
comparatively speaking.
but at some
point during that
year,
someone's hands
placed a brick
on top of another
brick, tapping it
gently into the soft
grey mush of
mortar.
another sawed
a board to fit
where your feet
rest this moment.
someone strung
the wire for light,
connected pipes
for plumbing.
a roofer climbed
onto the slant
beneath the trees
and tacked down
shingles.
all of this went on
while robert kennedy
was shot
that june,
king was
slain, the cities
burned
and Chicago was in
the midst of a
political riot.
it was the year your
father left
your mother.
and yet
during all of this,
somehow that summer,
the house you live
in now was built.

her clam dip

she was proud
of her clam dip.
keeping its recipe
a guarded secret
her entire
adult life.
not even her
husband knew
what went in it.
she would smile
like a cat
as the chips
went in to dip,
mouths
crunching down,
with people saying
oh my, how
marvelous this is,
what's in it.
but she never told
anyone, not
even on her
death bed.
she could keep
a secret, that
witch.

the ham bone

when your mother,
for some unknown
reason, made
an enormous
boiling pot of split
pea soup
everyone groaned.
all seven children
rolled their
eyes as one, but
out of hunger you
sipped it
off a spoon,
grimacing.
there weren't
enough crackers
in the world
to make it
right.
then, of course,
there was the fight
for whatever
meat was left
to be sliced
off the ham
bone.

is that me

you see
a man who looks
like you.
the age,
the face,
the hair.
he must feel
the same
because he stares
back, perhaps
thinking
the same thing.
what an odd
thing it is
to be alive
on this planet
sometimes.

coexist

when the woman
behind you,
an inch away
from striking
your car,
grimaces red faced,
white knuckles
on her steering wheel
cursing because
you are only doing
50 in a 45
lane, you can't
help but wonder
what gives
as she passes you
waving maniacally
with one finger.
and before she
runs the red
light ahead
of you,
you see the blue
and white coexist
sticker on
her bumper, next
to the yellow
ribbon, the pink
ribbon. she's
a friend of the zoo
too. she goes to
obx, and her kids
are smart. all
of them honor
students, playing
lacrosse, baseball,
soccer, involved
in the performing
arts. you imagine
she might be a good
person if not driving,
but then again,
perhaps not.

i got your 4 G

I don't understand
a word
of what you're saying,
she says
over the phone, you
sound like
you are underwater,
gargling, chewing
food.
new phone you yell
out. it's got a security
case so that
if I get it wet
again, it won't
short out like
the last four phones.
it cost a hundred dollars
and I had to
register it on a web
site.
what? what did you
say? it can go down
six feet into a pool
of water you yell
into a part of the phone
that might be the speaker.
no, it's too cold, she
says. too cold for
the pool today.
do you have a land
line, she says. call
me back on that. or
text me later. I'm
driving now. but let's
try to get together
later, okay. what?
you say? gotta go,
another call is coming
through, I think, or
my ear just changed
the settings to airplane
mode, or something.

baked cookies

you like when
she bakes cookies
in her
apron, wearing
only that and a pair
of heels.
the house
fills with the aroma
of hope.
sweet and warm,
nothing better
than a tray of
freshly baked
cookies, well,
not quite.

home improvement

you need one
bolt
to finish your
home improvement
job.
but you don't
know what size
it is. so
after being said
hello to by every
employee in
the store, twice,
you finally
find the bolt
bin. you buy
six, all of
different sizes.
then you buy
some matching nuts
just in case.
a pair of pliers
and a crescent
wrench.
you see a very
nice silvery
tool box, so why
not you think,
and put it in
the cart.
when was the last
time you had
a new set of
screwdrivers,
maybe twenty years
ago when you were
married and it
was Christmas.
so that too goes
into the cart.
finally you make
it to the register,
again saying hello
to every employee
in the store.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

she bit me

for some reason
your sister
bit your brother
on the arm
when you were
children.
you can still
remember the imprint
of her teeth
in his boney
forearm.
a perfect ring
of teeth marks
indented white.
you remember
him running
through the house
yelling, look,
look, she bit
me, as if to prove
that she was the
guilty one, not
him.

that scream

when the bell
rings and school
lets out
the children
will scream
with joy.
you understand
that scream
everyday when
the job ends,
when the factory
whistle blows
so you can set
down your hammer
and go home.

self portrait

you set up
your easel in
the light,
near a window.
brushes.
paints, canvas
blank and white
as a snow
filled field
in February.
you put the mirror
in place.
so that you
can see
yourself as
others see you.
not the image
of you that
lives in your
mind's eye.
just you, settled
on your stool.
preparing to do
the impossible,
a self portrait.
blemishes
and all.
the lines of
joy, the furrows
of doubt.
the hope
still in your
eyes.

again

tired,
you sit on
the edge of your
bed,
remove your
shoes, your
shirt, then
pants,
socks. you lie
back onto
the cool
sheets,
the overhead
fan
blowing. your
head sinks
into
the pillow.
how easy sleep
comes
at the end
of a hard day,
how quickly
morning arrives
to begin again.

unwind

unwind
your life,
let the tight
ball
of yarn
that is your
years
fall free.
unloosen
the knots
that keep
you unhappy,
disappointed.
cut the strings
of what
could be, or
should have
been
and blow
gently in
the wind.

Monday, May 26, 2014

salted and shelled

so rare
to see an elephant.
you
have to go
to the zoo
or circus to see
one first hand.
the grey enormity
of the beast.
his gentle
eyes surveying
the crowds.
his long trunk
hauling
hay towards
his mouth.
you might hear
a muffled roar
or two, see him
stamp his
dusty flat
canned feet into
the ground.
perhaps he'll
flap his ears, or
chase the flies
away with his
whip like
tail. he'll amuse
you, as you stand
there sad with
a bag peanuts,
salted and shelled.

it looks fun

when the hot
air balloon,
with it's carnival
colored stripes
and bloom
of air, rising,
strikes
the power lines,
explodes into
flames, flinging
passengers
into the trees
and ground, everyone
seems surprised.
but not you.
and the same goes
for the bungee
cord that breaks,
or the parachute
that won't open.
yes. what a thrill
it is when all
goes well, and yet
what a thrill
it isn't when
they don't.

kiss under moonlight

a crease
of moon, hardly
a sliver
slips
behind a wisp
of broken
clouds. a summer
wind blows
in, warm,
across her
skin.
it's hardly
kiss, she gives
you, but
like the moon,
it's enough
light for
now.

a hairless cat

she owned
a grey hairless
cat.
it looked gothic
with it's large
green eyes
and skin
tightly woven
around it's
small boned frame.
you couldn't
pet
this cat, or think
of it as
warm and fun.
you expected it
to spread wings
at some point
and fly
about the room.
but it wasn't
the cat that
spelled doom
for you and her,
it was something
else, that
you don't quite
remember,
the details
being vague over
time. it's the cat
though, that you
remember well.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

the sunday call

on the phone
you could never
tell your mother everything
when she asked
so what's new, how's
it going.
in fact you left out
enormous loads
of detail, tossing out
words like great
and fine, seguing
off into the weather,
or sports, which one
of her fish died.
she'd ask you how
stacy was, a girl
you dated in the 90's.
sometimes she'd tell
you what she ate for
dinner. then you'd
tell her what you ate
for dinner. but
you could no longer
trust her
with important issues.
swearing her to secrecy
with something
about your life,
was like telling
a pilot to write it
in the sky
with the smoky
plume of his plane.
so you kept it simple.
it was a good truce
you both had as the end
approached.

moving day

you see
the truck pull
up.
the ramp go down.
the brakes
set
and the men
disembark
from the tall
cab.
muscled men
with the end
of the day
already in
their sights.
by sundown
the boxes
have been
loaded
the mattresses
tied down.
the china
neatly wrapped
and sealed
away.
you see the
neighbors in
the car.
two kids
at the window
waving
tearfully goodbye
to friends.
the mom and dad
steely eyed
going forward.
to a new place,
the dog, in back
barking happier
than everyone.

explorer

you have
very little lewis
and clark
blood in you.
no Columbus
or Magellan
either. you kind
of like to stay
put, or go
to places
already explored,
with hotels
and room service.
there is no desire
to climb
Mt. Everest,
or see what's happening
at the north pole.
you know what's
happening there.
nothing. and it's
cold.
you would not
have lasted long
crossing the prairies
in a wagon,
all dusty and dirty,
eating cold
beans out of a
can. and those
Indians, what's
with the flaming arrows,
all the yelling
and screaming.
just passing through
brother,
I don't want
your buffalo, or
your land,
or your women.
I just want to get
to san Francisco
and take a hot
bath.

handful of glass

when the gypsy
woman
throws a handful
of broken
glass at your
feet, upset
that your dog
has barked
at her, and says
something in
a strange
language, her
face curled
tight in an angry
fist, you
get the feeling
that she might
not be telling
you to have
a nice day.

Friday, May 23, 2014

the critic

the bee
settles down
so quickly
and efficiently
on your arm,
landing softly
before arching
its body
to sting you
with his
thin black
sword. he gives
no thought
to the consequences,
that his life
will end
as far as you're
concerned,
but he will have
made his
point, left
his mark
upon you.

carnival

as the carnival
goes up
on the bare
parking lot of
the abandoned mall
you see the lights
of the ferris
wheel lit up
in the night.
you smell the cotton
candy.
the pretzels
being baked
under salt. you
hear the steel
wheels grinding
around on rattling
tracks.
there is nothing
that makes you want
to walk over
there and visit.
the sound and
smell and memory
of it all is enough
to satisfy
your interest.

the front stoop

you remember your
grandmother
washing the front stoop.
scrubbing
the marble clean
with a bucket
of sudsy water
and a brush,
bent over
in her black
dress, her nylons
just covering her
fat Italian
calves. it was
more than just
getting the steps
clean, it was
something else
that you didn't
quite understand
as a child,
but do now, as
you scrub yours.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

celebrity butts

you pick the short
line, setting your
little hand
carried plastic
basket down. you've
analyzed carefully
what's in
each of the carts
ahead of you.
this should be good.
everyone seems alert
and sober.
it's a self
service line
announcing every
thing you buy
in a robotic voice.
things are going well,
but the gypsy woman two
carts ahead of you
has several strange
vegetables that
will need to be
looked up and weighed.
you didn't even see them.
you mutter
something about
a mother under
your breath and
look at the other
lines, the long
lines. the light is
blinking at one because
someone has a bottle
of wine,
and someone else
has dropped a container
of bleach
at the other, making
everyone run
through the store like
wild animals.
you look down to
where the real live
checkers are,
teenagers in red aprons,
but people's
carts are overflowing
with groceries
down there
like it's thanksgiving.
you want to scream
as the woman
two carts up flips
through page after
page of plants and vegetables
looking for hers,
the ones she's taking
home to use in some
satanic ritual,
but you don't scream,
what's the point.
instead you pick up
a copy of the enquirer
hanging conveniently
on the rack in front
of you
and try to guess
which almost naked
fat butt belongs to
which celebrity.

cry baby

not everyone
cries the same way,
or over
the same things.
you've known women
who cry over
soap commercials,
or on arbor day,
running around
the park hugging trees.
but those are
crazy women on
medication. normal
people usually don't
cry until something
significant happens
either really good
or really bad.
you tend to be more
of a private crier.
holding it all in
until you're in the car,
or in your room
with your head in
a pillow, squelching
the sobs.
but you always feel
good after a good
cry. something
about releasing
the toxins and the
tension bottled up
inside your body.
the last time you
cried was when your
team won the national
championship. they
were happy tears, which
you immediately
doused with a splash
of water in order
to hide them.

do you have windows?

the phone rings.
yes, you say, this
is he, although you
mangled both the first
and last name.
do I need windows?
I have them
right now, why?
why would you ask
me such a thing?
of course I have
windows. what house
doesn't. I don't
live in an igloo.
we'll maybe you need
some new ones,
the man on the line
says. it'll save
you money on
heat and air
conditioning.
they are easy to
close and open.
this month we have
a triple pane
special. tinted
an emerald green
they sound nice you
tell him. very nice.
I like that color
a lot. you look
at he clock on
the wall, you've
only been on the phone
for five minutes,
but your goal is
a solid hour.
tell me more about
the glass, you say,
pulling up a chair
and popping a beer.
is the glass hand
made by artisans
in venice? I have
a dog house in
the back yard. do you
make windows that small?
what about doors?
I have some doors I'd
like to change out too.
I want swinging doors,
like in a saloon. how
cool would that be?

no spring chicken

be careful, she says,
as you tie your shoes
to go for a run.
it's cold out and
windy, wear your
windbreaker and gloves.
you're no spring
chicken, she says,
handing you a scarf
and some ear muffs.
I'd appreciate it
if you didn't
compare me to farm
yard poultry, you
tell her, shaking
your head no, to
the gloves, the scarf,
the earmuffs.
we'll it's true, she
says. you aren't
a spring chicken.
do I have feathers,
do I have a beak,
and go clucking around,
pecking at the dirt?
someone's a little
grouchy today aren't
they? I just don't
like being called old,
you tell her. okay?
okay, she says, I'm
sorry, see you in about
fifteen minutes or
so. maybe less you
tell her, it's
starting to rain,
hand me that umbrella.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

when things fall apart

let's just be friends
your wife
tells you one night
as she makes
you a peanut butter
sandwich, setting
it on the table
with a glass of milk
and a pickle.
what? you say, taking
a bite of your
sandwich. do we have
any chips? she reaches
on top of the refrigerator,
sets the bag
of chips on the table.
so, she says, standing
there with her hands on
her aproned hips,
weary from fixing dinner.
let's just be friends
from now on, okay?
the neighbors across
the street are doing
it. who, you say.
jim and mary? yes,
she says. and it's working
out just great.
you sleep in one
room, I can sleep
in the other. but we
need to have rules.
no bringing dates home
unless one of us is
out of town.
how long have you felt
this way, you ask,
taking a long sip of
milk. god I love cold
milk you say, wiping
your lips with your sleeve.
maybe ten years, she says,
maybe longer.
so, that's it then, you
say. we're sort of over
but we're not over?
yes. she says, we can
pretend to be married,
but you can keep working
and paying the bills
while I do what I do.
which is what? you
say, finishing off
the pickle.

the garbage disposal

you hate
when your garbage
disposal
gets clogged up
and won't turn.
it has that low
buzzing noise
that makes you
curse
out loud.
you'd rather
lose a small
toe than
have to push that
little red button,
fish your
hand into that
dark slimy hole
to clean out
whatever nasty
debris won't allow
it to spin.
it's either glass,
or rubbery
calamari,
or something
you inadvertently
flushed down
like a set of
keys.
your trusty long
wooden
spoon is the only
thing that seems
to work short of
calling crazy mike,
your plumber.
you grind the spoon
around like
a butter churn.
again and again.
sometimes the end
of the world
can't come soon
enough.

doing the conga

she asks you to go
dancing,
which makes
you groan and bend
over as
if you suddenly
had a stomach
virus brought on
by a piece of bad
fish.
dancing, you
mumble, as you
try to catch your
breath. why?
you say. what for?
you are staring,
bent over, gazing
at the sidewalk,
at a line
of black ants
seemingly
doing the conga,
carrying
bread crumbs
over their heads
between your
two left feet.

just friends

you miss the old
days when you knew nothing
about people
and what you did
know, if it was juicy,
was passed over
the fence in the backyard
or overheard
in a local bar.
now, the second anyone
takes a step,
you know. they post
their troubles and ills
online, for
everyone to follow.
they cut a vein
and dip their pens
in red ink
to put it all on
their poetry blog,
like me.
you liked people better
back then, not
knowing everything
they were thinking,
their personal lives,
when you were just
casual, almost
mysterious friends.

fresh bread

hardly anything
beats warm
soft bread
freshly baked
with a crust
in making you happy.
of course
there's love,
but love
is elusive, hard
to come by.
fresh bread
is down the street.

the world has changed

a large tree
falls
in the night.
when you get
up the next
morning, you
look out the window
and see
that the world
has changed.
sometimes, you
hear it, or
see it coming
but most times.
it's a quiet
subtle move
behind
closed doors.

watch your step

each day
you're slipping.
your feet
find moss
on the slate
pathway,
darkened
wet with rain.
only one word
spoken
into your ear
will do this.
like a tight
rope walker
you throw
your arms out
to wobble back
towards
balance,
steady and safe
on solid
ground. at
least for now.
but
watch your
step.

i'll pray for you

so much can go
wrong
with the human body.
the mind,
the heart,
each limb
so fragile, so
quick
to break, or
bend in a way
that hurts.
and yet, you want
me to go
sky diving with
you.
I scream and curse
like a drunken
fool
when I stub my
toe, what makes
you think that
I'd possibly want
to leap
from a plane so
high in the sky
and have
the chute possibly
not open.
I see no fun
in dying that way.
take pictures, i'll
pray for you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

another side of her

she breaks a heel
in a steam
grate and screams
out a word
you've never heard
her say before.
she repeats it
again, as she pulls
her shoe
from the metal
grid imbedded
in the sidewalk.
those were my
favorite shoes, she
says. i'll never
find another pair
of heels like that.
no problem you say,
hop on board.
you give her a piggy
back to the theatre.
I've never seen
that side of you,
you say, as you
bounce along
the sidewalk.
drop me, she says,
and you'll see
even more.

the estimate

come in, sit down,
the man says.
can I fix you some
tea, perhaps a cold
glass of water
with lemon.
he states the obvious
that he is from
india, folding
his brown hands
across the white
linen table cloth.
I am happy, he says,
that you have taken
the time to come
and see me.
we are not poor,
but we are not rich
either, he says.
this house, this land
was worked for.
nothing was given
to us. I know
you will be fair
with what business
we do together.
tell me, how much.
no, don't tell me.
write it down
and I will look at
it later. I'm sure
it will be a favorable
estimate for the both
of us. I look
forward to your
services in our home.
we are not poor, but
we are not rich
either. please,
remember that
when you add and
subtract the numbers
towards your fee.

once more

help me up,
don't leave,
are phrases
that you've
heard before,
familiar
words
that you once
said,
when you were
three
or four,
reaching
up to take
your mother's
hand, but now,
it's her turn
to say what needs
to said
and heard
once more.

the lab report

the mechanic,
comes to you with
head down,
staring at his clipboard
like a doctor
who has seen
the x-rays and
the lab report.
he shakes his head,
holding bad news.
you put down
the good housekeeping
magazine dated
1994 with betty white
on the cover when
she was only 60
and listen
as he takes
a seat next to
you. you need oil,
he says, good oil,
maybe a synthetic
blend, and your filter,
he says, holding
it out to you
like a burned
out liver, look at
it. I suggest
you let us install
a new one.
you are choking
the life out of
your engine, it
can't get air. if
I put this oily rag
over you mouth
and nose, cutting
off your oxygen supply,
what would happen
he says sincerely.
I'd die? you say,
inching backwards
in your slippery chair.
right he says.
so new filter? yes, you
say. do what you have
to do. transmission
fluid? yes, you say.
new windshield wipers?
other than oil, wipers
are the most
important part of
your automobile.
what about tires,
you ask. they sort
of seem important too.
we don't do tires, he says,
but we can rotate them
for you. okay, you say,
sure. rotate them.
good he says,
now sign right here.
there's coffee over there,
it's fresh,
we made it last
month, but it's hot,
so be careful.
and I just want to
tell you sir, you are
making the right
decisions here today
at Lube Job.

marking time

on the wall
a white plate
of hours
ticks
above the calendar,
each marking
time in their
own way,
the seasons
out the window
too.
that mirror,
hanging in
the hall
holding an
image me,
of you.

the cool puddle

there may be
ghosts, you've felt
the cool
puddle of
air floating
near the ceiling
where the dog
barks,pointing
with his bare
tooth muzzle.
there may be
apparitions
floating
between life
and death making
the floor creak,
the pipes bend,
chains rattle
in the attic.
but what difference
does it make
to us, you think,
as you mutually
agree to leave
each other alone.

the future

you're tired
of hearing that
the children
are our future.
they know
nothing, not
yet at least.
leave them
to their toys,
to their playgrounds
and dreams.
let them be
children, let
them for now
believe that
everything is
what it seems.

Monday, May 19, 2014

the crooner


in a blue
orb of light
the old singer
on stage
is weary yet
smiling, still
able
to sing
the songs he
sang thirty
years ago, but
someone behind
him will
hit the high
notes, the low
notes.
he rows
sleepily
down
the middle of
the song,
taking you with
him
as you rise
to sing
along.

the yellow bikini

when young,
she says, which bikini
should I bring
to the beach.
this one,
the yellow,
or the black one,
or maybe this hot
red one.
or maybe i'll
pack them all
and see what
mood I'm in
when we get there.
but this will change
given time.
one day she'll
stand there
in her dress like
bathing suit
that covers ninety
per cent of her skin
and ask you, is
there anything
you can see in
the front,
how about from
behind?

cold showers

she'll throw
you bone
every now and
then. a peck
on the cheek.
a nuzzle
at your neck,
an unexpected
peek when a
warm wind
blows, but that's
as far it goes
until you drop
to a knee
with a ring
and a date.
other than that,
it's you and
a bar of soap
taking lots
of cold showers.

all in the game

the teacher
always wanted you
to show your work.
they wanted to see
what you knew
or didn't know,
if you leaned
across your
desk to peer
at another's
test, if you cheated
in order to get
the right answer.
it's one of the few
times in life
you needed to be
transparent,
after that, it's
all in the game.

victory

you know people
who count
the years until work
ends.
when they can
collect what's due
to them, when
they can finally
spend
what pennies they
have saved.
go fishing.
buy a boat, sail
off into some
mythical sunset, done
with the traffic,
the boss,
the tethered lines
of phones
and computers
telling them what
to do, where to
be. no more they say
hands held
high in
victory, limping
off towards
the oars and pole
to catch
a sunfish in the green
deep sea.

the wobbly table

the waiter
with furrowed brow,
sweating,
short of help,
mixes up the orders,
brings you
fish when you wanted
something
else.
the drinks are
not cold,
the salads
weak and limp
from sitting
in the window.
the bread could
hammer nails, but
so what.
the sun is shining
and there is nowhere
else you'd rather be
then with her.
her long leg
tapping yours
beneath
the wobbly table.

a new bone

sometimes you
half listen, you half
speak,
you half care.
rare are the times
when you are whole
and completely
there, but
you are not alone,
for either
are they
fully in
the moment, like
dogs
distracted with
a new bone.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

third one's the charm

the first wedding
is usually the big one.
thick hand printed
invites go out.
the five tiered
vanilla cake,
the band, the white
dress, two
hundred people
under a tent,
some of which you
know, or have known.
steak and lobster
around.
it's an event.
the second wedding,
not so much,
you pare it down
to those you are
close to, a beige
dress will do
this time around.
a dj playing your
favorite songs. no
open bar this time.
a small but nice
two tiered cake.
water chestnuts
wrapped in bacon.
the third wedding,
you invite ten people
and have
it in your living
room. you make
drinks in a blender
for the seven people
who show,
some are neighbors
that you just met.
you have the tv
on. you are wearing
shorts and a t shirt,
she's in yoga pants
with flip flops.
you text people
trying to get more
people to come.
there is a lot of
pizza and cold beer.
third one's the charm.

trash on thursdays

lock up
before you leave,
turn the lights
off.
put a bowl
of water out
for the dog.
some food
on the counter
for the cat.
put the frozen
chicken
in the sink.
water
the plants,
set the alarm.
this is the note
I would have
left you
had you told
me you were
leaving, but
you didn't,
instead,
as always,
you left
everything
as it is, except
for taking
the trash out.
thanks, but
who leaves someone
on a Thursday?

the race

in the early morning
as you get
your coffee, you see
the gaggle of
women waiting for
the bridal shop
to open. like horses
at the starting gate,
but eating like
jockeys before the race
to fit into
their colors of choice.
old and young.
the buzz of it all,
the track they've
never run,
set before them,
like silk, or mud,
who's to know.
they are jumpy
in their stalls,
rattling in their
cages at the start,
waiting for the gun,
or wedding bells
to sound. and
the mothers, who've
seen both ends
of the race, are
nervous as they place
their bets
at the window, hoping
for a winner
this time around.

Friday, May 16, 2014

girl in the well

they find
a girl in a well.
which is now
a cave,
a thousand feet
deep full
of fish
and water,
the bones
of an elephant,
a saber tooth
tiger.
it's just her
arm,
a piece of chalk
colored
leg, her
small skull,
the rest of her
is gone.
they give her a
name, they make
up a story as
to how she ended
there.
they write a
book, and spin
another web on
the evolutionary
trail. but you
think of her,
as just a girl
who lost
her way,
then fell into
a very deep well.

food poems

you write too much
about food
she tells you, why
is that?
are you obsessed
with food?
what would you
rather I write
about you ask her
as she scratches
a bug bite
on her long pale
leg. I don't know
she says. but
I'm always hungry
when I read
your poems about
food. ah ha, you
say, perhaps,
sex, then, instead?

the seeds

with her knees
in the soil
up to her wrists
in weeds
and worms, she
toils
in the mid day
sun.
the trees
sighing with
spring air,
summer
still to come.
from seed
the green will
rise, and she
will stand
on her porch,
happy with the
children
she has planted
once more,
another time.

good to go

you are technology
inept.
but you have a son,
so that
helps.
he pushes you
out of the way
and plugs
everything in,
does what he has
to do, shoving
aside boxes
and directions,
warnings,
and assorted clues.
finally, after
twenty seconds
of moving his fingers
along a tiny
keyboard
he hands you your
phone and pats
you on the back.
you're good to go
dad, he says.
try not to pocket
dial me
for a few days,
okay? and be careful
with those
pictures.

let's make the end a good time too

a song comes
on the radio,
let's make the end
a good time
too.
it's a slow
syrupy song
with acoustic
guitars
and violins.
you can almost
see the dude
with his cowboy
hat, shading
his blue
eyes, as he
sits on a porch
with a piece
of straw between
his lips.
as he sings, he
stares off
into the field,
where a woman
rides a horse,
unsmiling,
her bare shoulders
brown in
the sun
as she rides
further and further
away
in a cloud of dust.
let's make the end
a good time
too, he sings.
making you laugh,
knowing how impossible
such a thing is.

undressed

still
undressed,
you move about
the house
unseen,
as nature
made you, except
for your
socks and
shoes, all is
well
until you
approach
the stove
and pour
your coffee
feeling
a stinging
spritz of steam.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

closing out the light

no one showed
you how
to throw a ball.
how to grip it,
or where to put
your arm.
you just
went out into
the street
and did so.
for hours, for
months, for
endless summers.
and now,
with your son
across
an ocean of land,
in his world,
you remember
those days with
him, closing
out the light
with another spiral
falling
from the stars.

burly man

your burly man friend
is always
building something.
a house at the beach,
a cabin
in the mountains,
a fence made of stone.
he has a deer
mounted in his truck,
live salmon
in a cooler with his beer.
he carries a shovel
like a toothpick.
laughs at a broken
pipe, or downed wire.
he shakes his head at
weaker men, like
yourself who stand
back with white gloves,
sipping a vanilla
latte, keeping clear
as he pulls a tree out
by its roots to save
a cat.

the written word

you fall
in love not too
easily.
but words
have a way of
making you crawl
quickly
towards
the light of
someone who
can write.
the heart
and brain leading
the hand
towards a swirl
of sensual
ink.
you can almost
hear her
breathing.
feel the touch
of her punctuation,
how she dots
her i's,
crosses her t's,
turns
the pages of
her day.

who left the milk out


the bread
is stale, hard
and crusty
in the unsealed
bag.
the plastic
twist lies on
the floor.
you have no
one to blame
but yourself.
same goes
for the milk
you left out
last night,
now warm
and jelled,
as sour as a
a farewell kiss
forever.
the uncorked
wine has lost it's
luster too,
dry and harsh,
making your
whole mouth
squeeze and pucker,
with only a
half of glass
poured.
you need someone
to yell at
you all day, it
seems, to keep
this place in order.

the food pyramid

you scratch your head
trying to remember
the longest stretch
you've ever gone without
eating meat
and not fainting,
but you can't, your
thoughts are fuzzy.
they are fuzzy because
you haven't had any
meat today. you understand
that meat is now
bad for you, every day
there is some skinny
pale, wobbly person,
leaning on a table
eating sunflower seeds
telling you that meat
is from satan,
and those pork sausages
nestled between
that buttery bun with
eggs and cheese
will kill you. this makes
you reply with something
smart like, so what. or
you're not the boss of
me, skinny minny.
you remember the food
pyramid as a kid.
how you needed nine
glasses of milk,
a pork chop,
a slice of cake,
six eggs and a tomato,
or banana to keep things
going. how things have
changed, you think. as
you sneak into a dark
alley, loosening your
belt to quietly eat a
burger from five guys.

puzzled

you love doing
the cross word puzzles
when you are bored
out of your mind
and they are
easy, when you have
no trouble
with the long
words going down
or across. once
you figure those
out, it's a piece
of cake, a slice
of pie, easy
street. but sometimes
you don't know
who that fourth
Baldwin brother is,
or who is a charter
member of OPEC.
it's impossible,
and you realize how
limited your education
is, how small
your world is.
how devious these
puzzle makers are.
you can hardly wait
for the paper the next
day to see where
you went wrong.

the plant


you had a plant
once, let's call it
green.
yes. with leaves.
you found it
in the trash room
and rescued
it from doom.
it was a large
pot, the grey dirt
dry as a
bone, but you put
down a towel,
dragged it into
your apartment.
you set it by a
window, pulled off
the papery brown
leaves, spun it
around, giving it
a nice cool shower
from a coffee
mug of water.
it was never love
at first sight,
nothing like that
at all, it was
just nice to have
something to take
care of, all
the while knowing
what you would
do with it once
it was your time
to move, and leave.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

make amends

the sun burns
bright
and yellow.
for now.
but
its future
is dim.
even this
will come to
an end.
the embers
dying,
slowly
to a soft
red, spent.
this is why,
among
many reasons,
that we
must
make amends.

the party lights

a string
of lights
around the wooden
fence
that borders
the slab
of patio
red, yellow
green
and blue
sad party lights
aglow,
but she turns
them on
each night,
in remembrance
of what used
to be,
the long wild
forays into
the warm
summer evenings
when everyone
was younger.
how the music
played,
how the people
danced, how
sweet the colored
lights did
glow upon
their faces.

jelly fish dinner

despite
how soft and harmless
they look
you can't stand
the sight of
jelly fish
on the beach.
those shiny
globs of stinging
goo. where's
the head,
where's the bottom,
where are the
arms and legs
on this thing?
what the hell
is this?
how many more are
in there? we
need to clean this
beach up,
someone get a shovel
and a net.
can you fry them up
and slap some old
bay on em?
maybe some hot sauce.

cry for help?

is the woman
with the blue hair
giving
the world a cry
for help.
the pierced
nose and ear,
the stud
secured
in a cheek.
what about the ink
on half
a face,
the tattoos
of knives
and guns
along the neck.
what's the message
here?
what's yours?
in your khaki pants
and white
pressed shirt
with your
hair combed to
the side.

empty bottles

you wonder why
you only left a half
a glass
of milk
in the carton,
why didn't you
finish it?
how can you eat
cookies without
a full glass
of cold milk.
you sigh and shake
your head,
staring at
the vodka bottle,
which always
has an extra shot
or two
in reserve.
that would be
criminal to have
saved just a drop
at the bottom
of an otherwise
empty bottle.

change of plans

the plans
are made to go out.
the destination
mapped
and known,
tickets in hand,
keys,
all set and ready
to go.
one last look
into the mirror,
but then you kiss
me
before we
leave, and
things change,
the floor is
littered
with clothes,
the wine gets
opened, the door
stays closed.
was it Hamlet
you were going to
see or
Macbeth, it doesn't
matter anymore,
as you write
your own
story, playing
out each scene
once more.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

the loose hinge

you a buy
book because
everyone says how
wonderful
it is.
how it's changed
their lives,
their way of
thinking about
the world at large.
they are better
people because
of that book,
but you hate
it. you've read
the first ten
pages
three times and
still don't get
it. you can't
pronounce a single
name of any
character,
but it's a thick
book, one that
you will lend
freely if asked,
for now though it
holds the door
open, the one with
the loose hinge,
in the den.

public office

you may be forced
to run
for president
of your condo
board and have
public hangings
on Saturday
mornings. the current
board members
have voted
and installed
new speed bumps
into the community
which consists
of a mere
hundred houses on
three small cul
de sacs.
there are seven
speed bumps,
speed hills, speed
tables.
you can drive
at the most fifty
feet before
driving over one
at two miles per
hour.
they give nose
bleeds they are so
high.
the car rolls
to the top
then goes down
the other side
almost scraping
bottom.
they are painted
safety yellow.
insanity
breeds contempt,
which will be your
bumper sticker.
you will run on
the platform of no
more fools in office.

out of my way

it's hard to drive
one mile
without being
tail gated
by an angry man
or child,
a soccer mom
in a van full
of women going
to get yarn.
the world is in
a hurry up
state of mind.
to get through
the light, get
around the bend,
get to where
they are going,
as if ten seconds
mattered. you
don't quite
understand
what the rush is,
as you hug
the right lane,
sipping
your coffee
and listening
to Sinatra sing
the summer wind.

ragweed

I think I have
the flu
she says.
coughing into
the phone.
my bones ache, my
eyes itch.
I'm tired
as all get out.
my brain
is scrambled
like a pair
of eggs
on a skillet.
she sneezes,
then blows her
nose.
it sounds like
a small train
in a tunnel,
blowing its
horn.
ragweed, you
tell her. pollen.
junk the air.
then you both
sneeze at the same
time.
it's been awhile
since you
felt this close
to her.

being chased by a bear

you dream
a bear is chasing you.
you can
barely keep
out of it's fanged
paws reach.
his teeth are
enormous, gnashing
wet
as he chases you
with
salmon breath.
you know it's just
a dream,
but you don't
care, you
don't want to be
eaten by a bear,
not even
while you are
sleeping. when
you wake up
you'll try to figure
out what the dream
means. you'll
get out your dream
book and search
for the page that
says, bear chasing
man, but right
now you are on
the run, searching
for higher ground.
looking for a place
to hide.

Monday, May 12, 2014

sweet caroline

you know you are
getting old,
you accept it. you
surrender, as if there
was some choice, but
sometimes you
look exactly as
you did when you
woke up. this annoys you
and makes you buy
women's creams
to rub into your face.
despite the price,
they don't work, no
matter how hard you
lather them on.
the wrinkles just
won't settle
down and go away.
your knees creak,
hour hands
stiffen, even your
voice is getting
gravely, like
how your grandmother's
was when she used
to curse out
president kennedy
in front of the tv.
how well you
remember that,
another clue
to how old you have
become. how you loved
that little caroline.

what's yours is mine

when her mother died
she inherited everything.
every book,
every cup and plate,
every piece of clothing,
pictures,
tables and chairs,
cats and dogs,
even the frozen food
in her freezer.
twelve T-bone steaks.
she kept it all. found
room somehow in her
own crowded house.
but now it was cluttered
times two. which made her
daughter nervous.
making her say,
what's wrong with you?
are you mental?
when you die, I'm selling
it all. everything.
or i'll burn it in
a big bonfire, everything,
except maybe that dress,
those shoes,
that stack of books,
your collection of
vinyl albums and your
jewels. well, maybe
some other things too.
i'll make a list.

i need some space

out of the blue
she blurts out,
I think I need some
space. she leaves out
the word honey on
the end of her sentence,
so you know
something is up.
huh, you say. oh,
sorry, am I too
close to you?
the chairs here are
a little tight.
you slide your
chair away
from hers. no, she
says. space, I need
space in our
relationship.
really? you say.
seeing each other
twice a week is
too much? twice
a week? really?
okay. well, how
about we just try
Saturday night.
one night a week?
will that be better?
no, she says.
I need space, real
space. I need
distance to think
things over.
to think about what,
you ask, scratching
your head. work?
life? us, she says,
shaking her head.
I need some space
and some time to think
about us, where this
relationship is going.
where do you want it
to go, you ask.
marriage, moving in
together?
can't you just do
it now? think about
us now. put on your
thinking cap and think
about us now.
look, you stupid idiot,
I'm trying to break up
with you in a nice
and gentle way, but
you are to block
headed to understand.
I need space away
from you! get it?
wait a minute. are you
saying you don't love
me anymore, and that
you want to break
up? yes, yes, yes.
oh, okay, I get it now.
why didn't you just
say that. I've been
feeling the same
way, but didn't know
how to say it either.
we can still have lunch
together though, right?

olga from the ukraine

your new girl friend,
olga, from
the Ukraine wants
to arm wrestle.
come on, she says.
don't be a sissy
man. show me your
strength. put your
hand into mine.
she clears the plates
away where you
just had dinner,
rolls up her sleeve
showing a tattoo
of a cow.
I will not hurt
you, she says,
squinting her Russian
blue eyes like
glints of steel.
no, you say. I won't.
pffft, she snorts.
we will not make
love tonight until
you arm wrestle me.
your choice.
you close your eyes
and shake your head.
you think about fifi,
the French girl
you used to date,
how soft and sweet
she was. how she
smelled like pastry
fresh from the oven
in the morning.
come on, sissy man,
let's go. so you put
your hand into Olga's
tight fist and let
her slam your arm
down into the table.
she helps you get
the fork out of
your forearm, then
you go home to make
farm factory love.
it's such a small
world now.

sweet and low

some people
like to doctor
their coffee.
it takes a half
an hour at least
while they stand
at the counter
pouring, stirring,
adding
sugar, powdered
chocolate,
cinnamon and cream
into their
cup.
then they take a
small test
sip, to see if it
is drinkable, not
quite.
they start again
until finally
it is right.
they always leave
with a handful
of sweet and low
stuffing the pink
envelopes into
their pockets,
for later. they're
free, right?

the jester

you are from
drama
royalty.
the queen of
course, rules,
but
the princess's
and princes'
hold up their own
with the slightest
bit of
gossip
or trouble
brewing into
a violent storm.
a paper cut
needs surgery,
a fender
bender is a collision
where lives
were barely
saved.
a puddle is a flood.
a snow flake
a blizzard.
you try to keep quiet,
but sometimes
you can't help
yourself,
and pile on,
mocking the ballooned
misery
which makes you
the court jester,
you suppose.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

the clock

your grandmother
loved
her broken clock.
it stood
like a soldier
squared
in the foyer
silently
keeping time
at bay.
the numbers
were letters
the face
yellowed
with age,
the weight
behind the glass
was still.
but the bird
was out
of it's little
window
sitting on
it's perch,
quiet now.
but you remember
as child
how it had
so much to say.

hands on the plow

lean
years. dust
years.
no crops.
no rain
to speak of.
a hard wind
blows
brown.
there is no
fat of
the land
nothing green
is anywhere.
but you
don't leave,
you don't quit.
you keep
your hands
on the plow
and wait.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

press on

further, further
you drive.
keep going.
around the next
bend,
over the next
bridge,
keep going.
drive on.
further.
don't stop.
follow
the detour
signs, now
keep straight
that's right.
further. keep
going. we are
all in
this together.
not really,
but it sounds
good to say
as you press
onward through
the darkness.

spare love

the spare
tire will get
you home
if home isn't
too far
down the road.
a stranger's
kiss will
keep you warm
if only for
a night,
when the one
you love
has left for
the unknown.

the mint

finding
a single
sweet mint
in your pocket
that you forgot
was there
makes
you think
there is more
good in
the world
than you
realized.
the pin
in your shoe,
well,
that's a different
story.

they were having the talk

you see a couple
in a restaurant
having the talk.
you're waiting for
your friend to
arrive who is
always late,
but that's another
story.
they are talking
loudly. the couple,
not caring who
hears or doesn't
hear. you check
for rings, interested
in your nosy way
for details.
she's wearing hers.
his fingers are empty.
he strikes the table
with his hand.
he wants it to
keep going, she
wants it to end.
the lunch they ordered
arrives, but
they don't touch
their food,
their glasses
of wine sit warming
in the sun.
he's angry, she's
sad. he leans
towards her, pleading
something in a
harsh whisper, she
straightens her
back and looks away.
you want to plug
your ears with
the bread sticks
on the table, but
you don't. it might
draw attention
to yourself and
stop them from
talking. you want
to see where this
goes, as if you
didn't know.

yellow fever


you wake up early
covered in a silky
sheet of yellow
dust. you shower
then go
outside to shovel
the pollen off
your sidewalk.
you hose it off
the black car,
that you swore you'd
never get again.
people are bent
over sneezing, coughing,
gagging. they are
wearing surgical
masks, their red
eyes tearing
down their cheeks.
birds over head
are flying by,
clearing their throats.
you spit and wave
to your neighbor,
saying good morning
in a gravelly voice.
off to the drugstore,
she asks, scratching
her neck, rubbing
her eyeballs
with her fists?
yes, you say.
pick you up
anything, and she
hands you a twenty
and a list.

through the trees

you'd like
to believe
that you have
evolved
over the years,
filled your
mind with
reason
and compassion,
but there are
days when
you are still
swinging through
the trees,
taking care
of only your
basic needs.
all the art
and literature,
the learning
has been pushed
aside for food
and clothing,
for unquenched
desires, you
have forgotten
for a moment how
to walk
upright. you
are once again,
who used to be.

Friday, May 9, 2014

the new grill

from your window
you see
the new neighbors
putting
a grill together.
he has laid
all the parts
on a blue rubber
mat. the directions
are flattened out
on a table,
pinned at the corners
by small stones
from the yard.
when he
says flat head,
his wife
hands him that particular
screw driver, when
he says hammer.
in comes the hammer.
tap, tap, tap.
crescent wrench,
he whispers. she
hands it to him.
w-2 oil, he says.
a squirt there,
where the lid
hinges, he says,
pointing with his
gloved hands. she
squirts.
an hour later they
are eating
grilled chicken
and corn on the cob,
which makes you
very hungry
as you move away
from the window.

fire or ice

is god mad
at us, or just a little
ticked off
you ask
the minister
when you see
him in the grocery
store
buying beer.
he pulls on
his white color
and smiles.
probably a little
of both, young man.
why don't you
come to church
on sunday, and
we'll talk about it.
we'd love to have
a new parishioner.
but seriously,
you ask him,
staring at his
six pack of
summer ale
and bag of corn
chips.
is god about to
crush us like
ants under his
sandaled feet,
flood the whole
place again,
because of how
we behave. what will
it be, pastor?
fire or ice, this
time around?
he's sweating, a little,
no longer
smiling. see you
on sunday, he says,
giving you
a friendly tap
on the shoulder,
brushing by you.
fire or ice, you yell
to him, as he
checks out, then sprints
towards the door.
fire or ice?
oh, let him go,
an old woman standing
besides you says,
listening to the whole
conversation.
what does he know.
he's a corporate man,
a yes man.

it hurts

it's too painful
to fall in love, she
says. lying there in a
pool of communal sweat.
let's just like
each other a lot.
if we fall in love
and it ends, it
hurts, really hurts
and I don't want
to go through that
ever again. ever.
okay? she says, tapping
you on your bare
chest with her
cherry red finger nails.
sure. but, how do
we keep love at bay?
I mean obviously we
like each other a
lot from what just
happened, but how do
we keep love from
creeping in and making
a mess of things.
we'll have to be
observant she says.
strong willed. we can
never say those
words, or sign a card
using that word.
the L word.
we can't say sweet
dreams, or miss you.
or any other sugary
loving kind of stuff
on the phone, in person,
or on a card. okay?
sure, you say.
I'm in. let's shake
on it, which makes
her wiggle from head
to toe, beside you.
this makes you laugh.
it's already too late.
you love her.


rewards card

every store
has a discount card.
a bonus
card, a club
card, a membership
card.
a rewards card.
a contractor card,
or a vip
card. you have
cards stuffed
in your wallet
making it fat like
a plastic
burrito
ready to burst.
just give me
the crummy discount
and don't make
me look
for the card.
trust me, I have
it. somewhere.
thank you.

a beach read

some stories
are over
before they begin.
you see
the whole thing.
from start
to finish.
who wins in
the end.
who gets the girl,
who dies,
who lives. the plot
never thickens,
the characters
are never
fleshed out.
you don't care
or like any of them.
it's a good beach
read, if only
you were on
the beach and
distracted by
a hundred other
things, but you
aren't.
so you throw
the book across
the room, causing
the dog
to bark.

every year

while standing
in line
with twelve
other men,
at the grocery
store
with your
sappy hallmark card
and bouquet of flowers,
your heart
shaped box
of chocolates,
you wonder
how much of
the world's economy
depends
on guilt
purchases that
never come
close to hitting
the mark.


face book photos

this is the cake
I baked
this morning. this
is my son
and daughter.
these are the plants
I watered.
that cup in my
hand I bought
in florida.
I just had my
hair done, my
nails too.
look closely at
the photo,
you can see it's
a different shade
than it was
in previous pictures.
these other photos
are old ones
from when I
was in high school.
look how skinny I was.
see my braces?
these pictures
here are of my
son and daughter
and our dog.
I have ten more
of the dog.
that one there, I
took last night.
it's my husband
sleeping with a
pillow over his
head. he's camera
shy.

bowl of cherries

to some,
it appears from
a bird's
eye view,
that life
is truly a bowl
of cherries.
but don't
be fooled,
fly closer,
swoop down
and take a
closer look,
listen and
observe,
then
know the truth.

a new point of view

you don't
feel sorry for fish.
swimming
about
all day,
avoiding capture
or being
devoured
by larger fish,
or snagged
by a bear
claw swooping
down out
of nowhere.
fish never tire
of being fish.
as far as you know.
but not you,
sometimes you
grow weary
of being who you
are.you
wonder what it's
like to walk
in another
person's shoes,
have a
different face.
a new
point of view.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

someone unlike you

I need to move
on,
she says.
I'm tired.
I'm lonely,
I'm exhausted
by ambivalence.
of empty
nights
and cold
mornings. I
need to move
on and find
someone
different,
someone
unlike you,
someone here,
someone I can
wake up with,
someone new.

spinning tops

your sisters
are two tops
spinning
across the room.
bouncing
spinning,
spinning. you
can't stop
them once they
start, you
just have to
let them go
and wait for
them to get
exhausted,
then wobble
to a stop.

they are missed

we each value
different
things,
differently
a shell found
on the beach,
a gem,
a photo,
an old hat,
a lost
friend. they
lie
in the closets
of our lives,
left
unattended
until missing.
then suddenly
they are
missed.

like love

when you fell
off the roof,
for an instance
you thought about
death. that this
could be it
as you spun
in the air,
the blue sky above
you, hitting
the ground with
a thud,
and when you
stood up, caught
your breath, you
grimaced at
the pain. but you
weren't dead
yet. you went home
and washed away
the blood.
you took some pills,
you drank
some water. you
went back to work.
climbed back
up on the ladder.
how like love this
is, you thought,
this fall.

white wedding cake

you remember
the toaster you got
as a wedding
gift. four slots.
the blender,
the mixer
the juicer and
the foot massager.
a crystal bowl
to put in the center
of a table
you were yet to have.
it was Christmas
in june.
how nice to have
these things.
these shiny things.
how happy everyone
was. even you.
and the cake,
the marvelous
nine tiered cake,
white vanilla,
as sweet as any
cake can be. you
can still taste it
on your tongue.
feel the soft icing
on your lips.
how could you
possibly know that
this was as
good as it would
get.

work awaits

dulled
by sleep
you wander
towards
the day
adrift
on dreams
you'd
like to keep.
but you
must put
them aside,
you are late,
and work
awaits.

shrimp shells

why do I keep
meeting men that are
commitment phobic,
phoebe tells
you on the phone.
every single one
of them, wants
their cake and eat
it too. they
come and go like
I'm a human turnstile.
what is it with
men these days?
they don't listen
to a word I say, or
pay attention when
I'm upset.
I don't know, you
say. are you showering,
using soap?
I'm not sure what to
tell you, phoebe.
should I play hard
to get? should I
just sleep around
like a human trampoline
and not care?
I still have some
dignity.
at some point I'd
like to find my
soul mate, my one
true love, someone
that I can grow old
with. don't you
feel that way too,
she asks?
I'm sorry, what did
you say. I had to
take the trash out,
I heard the truck
coming up the street
and had a bag
of shrimp shells
that were stinking
up the house, so
what did you say?
the last word I heard
was trampoline.

tax wizard

your tax lady,
the wizard
of manassas,
laughs in the face
of IRS
communications.
she waves the document
in her hand,
scoffing at it.
it's early in
the morning and she's
still in her
pajamas.
she lives upstairs
above her office.
they have no
clue she says
as she takes a
bite of her
cheese sandwich
at her desk.
why don't they
just leave us
alone?
this sort of
worries you, and
yet strangely instills
confidence as
well. don't worry
about a thing,
she says, I don't
think we're going
to jail on this one.
I read my horoscope
this morning and it said
that things will
go smoothly.
a cat jumps
into her lap
trying to get some
of her sandwich. i'll file
an amended return
for you. easy peasy.
don't you worry
about a thing.
I got it, honey.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

minor surgery

we need to do some
minor surgery
on your mother
the doctor says.
he's staring at
your sister's
cleavage while he
talks, he's tall.
very tall, and
she wears her
blouses a little
on the risqué
side, so he gets
a good view.
just some minor
vascular adjustments
he says. wiping
the steam from
his glasses.
a snip here a snip
there. we'll
get the old blood
going again.
it will be no
problem. but she's
85 you say, won't
that be a tad risky,
putting her under
and cutting into
her? he still
doesn't look at you,
but he mouths the word
tad, having not
heard that in a while.
she's Italian, isn't
she, he says, still
staring at your sisters
breasts.
I saw a photo of
her on her nightstand,
she looked like
Sophia loren a little.
didn't she?

fashion plate

she had a tendency
to over dress.
big ear rings.
too much make up.
she was a four
cylinder car
with fins and flashy
wheels. flames
painted on the sides.
she wore leopard
print pants,
as tight as the skin
on an apple.
her stiletto heels
were long
and pointed, weapons
if need be.
she had to duck
going into doorways,
her loaf of hair
was that tall.
you wanted to tell
her to tone it down
a touch for
the easter sunday picnic,
but who are you
to judge in your
khaki shorts
and rolling stone
tongue t-shirt.

abandoned poetry

you see
a man standing
at the poetry shelf
in the bookstore.
he has a pen out
and is methodically
going through
the several
copies of a book
by the same
author.
he crosses out
one word on one
page, the same
page. then writes
in another word
with his ink pen.
you recognize him.
his face
his on the back
of the book, he's
the author.
can't let them go
can you, you
say. never, he
says, smiling.
I sleep with all
of them once
they're gone
and have to fix
things.

the pot of gold

so hard
they worked
together.
both with good jobs,
the endless
pressure.
the infidelities
and remorse,
the moving on.
the kids
came and went.
the pets,
the years.
the house got
larger,
the dust collected,
the paint
peeled.
the rugs wore
out. pictures
on the wall
yellowed.
in the end,
gray,
and bent
with their pot
of gold in hand,
hard won,
they shook
their heads and
looked at one
another, and said,
what was that
all about?

the square root of anything

of all the math
classes you took in
school, from calculus,
to analysis, to
trigonometry,
and algebra II,
you can't think
of any that did
you any real good.
you can't remember
the last time you
had to do a quadratic
equation, or find
the sine or cosine
of anything.
you've never had to
find the area of
a trapezoid, or of
a cone, or use Pi
in any calculations.
you have never
had to figure out
the square root of
anything.
the basic
addition, subtraction
and multiplication
that you learned
in the third grade
has served you well.
sometimes you use
your old slide rule
to stir buckets
of paint.

smoke crazy

there was a time
when nearly everyone
smoked cigarettes.
men and women,
gloomy children
on the street corner,
cats and dogs,
even birds were flying
around with a Virginia
Slim hanging out
of their beaks.
it was okay to smoke
in restaurants,
in the office, at
your desk. on the train,
the bus, church.
at the ball game.
the priest had an ashtray
on the altar.
the nuns were all
lighting up as they
sashayed around
in their hooded get
ups. you couldn't
get away from the smoke.
the smell, the sticky
residue of nicotine.
it was cool. it was
smart. it was fun
to be out on the water
on skis, a Winston
in one hand, waving
to the camera.

so, how you doing?

he answers the door
on crutches,
but is cheerfully
medicated.
come on in he says.
let me show you
my scar, which he
does without
hesitation.
there is a long
pink worm from his thigh
through the knee
down below
the knee.
staff infection,
he says, right now
I have no knee.
a germ got in somehow
when they operated.
they took the ball
bearing out.
he opens up his phone
and shows you the photos
of the stages
of the operation,
the x rays, what
they will put in next.
he shows you the iv
in his arm to
stave off any further
infection.
he laughs, wiping his
mouth on his sleeve
and playfully taps
his cat with the rubber
tip of one crutch.
so how you doing, he
says? everything okay?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

giddy up

when you were
a kid, with your toy
pearled pistols,
holstered in
your black
embroidered pants
you killed a lot
of bad guys,
some Indians too
along the trail.
in the darkened
room
you took your
white hat off
to wipe your brow
with a red
bandana, saying
giddy up to
your palomino
horse. you squinted
in the dust and sun,
licked your lips
in the dry wind.
you were almost always
in the middle
of something,
saving the girl,
catching
the hombres
when the knock
came on the door.
hey, what are you
doing in there?
what's all
that screaming.
dinner time, go wash
up.

a few moments alone

it only takes
a small sharp pebble
in your shoe,
or black
star like splinter
in the tip
of your finger
to get your
full attention.
the rest is white
noise around
you, as you sit
on the curb
to shake the stone
free, or pick
the slender shard
from your skin.
when you see me
sitting there like
that, leave
me alone.
i'll be fine, just
need a few moments
alone
to get things out
of my mind.

the giddy women

you overhear
the women talking
in the coffee shop
as you grab a cup
on your way to work.
they are in sweat
clothes, eating Danish,
sipping foamy
big drinks, whiling
the morning away,
with all the time
in the world.
some are knitting,
others are staring at
their phones as
they talk.
they are giddy
in their conversation.
making lunch
plans, movie plans.
where should we
take a walk today
plans. you want to ask
them, how they reached
this point in life
where there was
not much to do, but
come here everyday
and do nothing, but
you can't. you're
already late
for work and time
is money, or so it
used to be.

she was a nice person

you remember her
for her pancakes.
how she happily stood
at the counter,
hands deep into a bowl
stirring.
how bad they were.
how you threw
them off the deck
of the beach house
you were staying at.
how you tossed pieces
of them into the sky
to feed to the seagulls
when she wasn't looking,
how the seagulls
spit them out,
shaking their
collective heads.
smacking their beaks
together.
how could someone
ruin pancakes, you often
wondered. who is she
making them for now?
will anybody ever tell
her? she was such
a nice person.

the itch

there is an
itch that you can't
reach.
isn't that
always the way
it is.
the girl,
the job, the car,
the house,
the thing you think
you need, just
out of reach.
and as you
find a stick
to put down your shirt
to scratch
the itch away
you forget about
these things and
go merrily on
your way.

throw the hood up

cells divide
and conquer. you
don't feel
right.
the blood you give
is full
of yesterdays.
the wrong
food you ate,
the air you inhaled.
the worries
that you strapped
and carried on
your back
for decades. how
you loved
the sun, and lived
to bask
in its radiant
glow. this cough
is nothing, but
it might be
time
for a tune up. to
rotate your
tires,
and throw the hood
up
for a look see.
maybe tomorrow if
things don't take
a turn for
the better.
we'll see.

Monday, May 5, 2014

hovering

your friend
can't shake himself
from
his problems.
he needs
new problems.
the wife, the step
son, the bad
boss complaints
have gotten
old and stale.
you can almost
finish his rants
for him.
this doesn't
stop him
from going on
and on. you listen
but you
don't listen.
instead you leave
your body
and hover
over the table.
circling
separated from
space and time.

these people

the cleanest people.
the neatest
and most
particular people,
the anal retentive
people,
the no dust
under the bed
people.
the alphabetized
bookshelf
people.
the dust buster
people. the white
glove people.
the sparkling
kitchen sink
people,
these people
you don't usually
like too much.

angry carrots

the vegetables
are angry
tonight.
you are cutting
them, jabbing knives
into the their
stalks,
slicing
the tomatoes.
peeling
the potatoes.
chopping
off the heads
of broccoli,
those orange
carrots,
then
boiling
and boiling
them into softness.
but they are good
for you, so
you don't mind
the torture
that you put
them through.
and after enough
salt and pepper,
and melted
butter,
they are ready,
so are you.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

the best of times

it's hard to tell
your son how poor you
were as a kid. but you
try. you think it
might give him some
perspective on
his own life.
he's sitting there
on his phone, on
his computer,
watching tv
and playing a
video game while
reading a book. his
hundred and twenty
dollar tennis
shoes rest casually
on the coffee table.
it's like talking
about the great
depression to him.
you are Charles Dickens
making up a long winded
story of the worst
of times.
he shrugs it off,
and says, sure dad,
sure. you tell
him about the holes
in your shoes,
putting slices
of cardboard
in the soles
to make them
last another day.
the church
leaving baskets of food
on the front porch.
the shared beds
and rooms of all
seven kids. the electricity
going off.
not having a car,
but walking everywhere.
cutting grass for money.
the paper routes,
collecting bottles
for two cents a piece.
the welfare department
stopping by to see
where they should
take and put everyone.
all of this makes
him yawn and say,
dad, are we cooking out
on the grill tonight,
I haven't had lobster
and a nice sirloin
in a while. maybe you
can pick up a nice
Malbec too.

bibb lettuce

you try
to grow some
bibb lettuce
in your backyard,
but it draws
in the rabbits.
you don't
particularly
like rabbit stew
so you
build a fence
to keep
the rabbits out.
but the raccoons
have human
hands, almost,
and they can get
into
anything.
after awhile
you give up
on keeping
the animals away.
you plant carrots
and beets,
bell peppers
and tomatoes.
even a few stalks
of corn.
you leave your
gate open
and put out
a bowl or two
of water.
have at it, you
say to the woods,
leaving
the light on
as you go back
in to bed.

excuse me

when you pull
up to the 7-11
to grab
a paper
and a cup of
stale coffee
there is a man
standing on
the steps
peeing. he arcs
the strong
yellow stream
towards
the brick wall,
close to where
the payphone used
to be
and the sign
that says no
loitering.
carefully he
steps away
from the growing
puddle, keeping
his torn
boots dry,
as well as the
cuffs of his
grey dungarees.
he says hey,
as you walk
around and say,
excuse me.

brown loafers

people are happy
with new shoes.
they feel good
on your feet.
make you optimistic
about the future.
women like to snap
the heels
against the pavement
as they walk
in new shoes. men
rise up on
their toes, testing
out the comfort
and strength
of their new shoes.
people are happy
with a new
pair of shoes.
sometimes it doesn't
take much.
and other times
it takes
the world.

the blue parakeet

your mother
used to sweat when she
cooked. there was
a blue parakeet
in a cage
hanging near
the unopened kitchen
window.
why don't you open
a window,
you'd say, it's hot
in here.
I don't want
the bird to catch
cold, she'd say.
they don't last
long, these
birds are fragile.
not like the old
birds in the old
days. this one
looks like the last
one, you tell
her, leaning over
a boiling pot
of pasta and meatballs.
this one has
a little green
in it's feathers,
she says,
stirring the pot.
how come you don't
visit more, she says.
you never come over
anymore. no one does.
I'm here now, you
tell her. she wipes
her brow with a
dish towel, tears
or sweat are rolling
down her cheeks.
what's the name of
your bird, you ask,
changing the subject.
I don't give them
names anymore, she
says. they don't stay
around long enough
to have names. I hope
your hungry. I made
a lot.

chance meeting

behind you,
in the convenience
store,
a woman
leans into your
shoulder, touching
you. she whispers,
don't eat that.
it's bad for you.
and that water,
look at the bottom,
do you see those
numbers, the little
triangle, it's
telling you to be
careful after
a certain date.
thanks, you say,
looking back.
her face is a detailed
road map of
her life with
lots of detours
and dead ends,
crashes,
but her lips are
cherry red. like waxed
lips bought as a
kid for Halloween.
when she opens her
mouth, her teeth are
little yellowed
tombstones.
she follows you out,
and hands you a card.
we should get together,
she says. I do
legal services, so if
you're ever in trouble
I can help you.
I also do dog walking.
you look at the card
and nod, thanks.
she follows you to
your car. what's your
name? do you have a
card too, we could do
business together.
maybe we could have a
drink. I don't have any
more cards you tell her.
but here's my number.
you write down a fake
number, a fake name.
and hand it to her.
I can feel something
between us she says,
reaching out her hand
to shake yours, don't
you feel it too?
yeah, I guess, sort of
you say, but I have
to go now, and drive
away.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

put her on a boat

she shows you a photo
of her on
a boat.
wind in her hair,
sunglasses on.
staring off into
the distance,
there are blue
skies and white
clouds. a flag
waves in the breeze
at the end of
the boat as it speeds
along the bay.
it hits you
that everyone looks
good on a boat.
judge judy looks hot
on a boat
for god's sake. okay,
I exaggerate, but
you could put gandhi
on a boat
and he'd look suave
and debonair.
you've seen her on
dry land, this girl
in the photo, but she's
not the same person,
put her on a boat
and well, she's
glamorous, almost
perfect.

double secret probation

can I speak to you
in my office
your boss says to you
as you make
another cup of coffee
while in your
underwear and socks.
sure you say to
yourself, because
you are your boss.
what's on your mind?
the office is your
kitchen, where the
floor needs sweeping,
the trash needs to
go out and there
are dishes in the sink.
look at this place,
you say to yourself.
what's going on here.
is it a woman?
this makes you laugh.
a woman, you say
out loud. right, wishing
it was that simple.
you really need to get
a grip, get hold of
yourself and clean
this mess up. take
your work more seriously,
make something of
yourself, time is
running out. this makes
you cringe and you
want to say something
like, look, you're
not the boss of me,
but you are. i'll try
to do better, you say.
I'll be more sincere
and conscientious
about everything and
everyone. I just need
some down time, some
time to clear my head.
okay, okay. your
boss says, but I'm
putting you on probation.
we'll see how it goes.
but I'm already on
probabtion. well, well,
don't get smart with me
mister. you are now on
double secret probation.