Saturday, January 31, 2015

happy together

as her beauty faded
and she let her hair
turn grey,
he fell into
disinterest about
his eyebrows and ears,
the size of his waist,
wearing pajama pants all day,
she learned how to bake.
they no longer made
love
the way they did
when they were younger,
if at all
but they were full
and happy together,
kissing now with closed lips,
tapping their bellies
while staring into
a roaring fire.

the fire fly boy

when you were a fire fly
of a boy. your feet were
fast. your body a wiggle
worm of glory, untouchable
in tag, or any other game
the street made up.
your hips slid left
or right, your ankles
would bend like rubber,
your arms were loose
and free, hardly attached,
almost wind mills
as you ducked and dashed.

the corn beef sandwich

you must try the corn beef
the man says
sitting next to you at the counter.
you put the menu down to look at him.
there is mustard in his mustache.
bread in his teeth.
he sips his beer and smiles.
it's the best around.
you won't be sorry he says,
putting money on the counter
and slapping you on the back
in a friendly way.
you watch him zipper up
his jacket, tight around
his belly. he puts his
hat on, a scarf
around his thick neck, then
slips his hands into his
gloves. try the corn beef
he says. if my wife
had made it like they do
here, I'd be home now,
still married, and happy.

the open gate

paw prints in the snow.
near the window,
onto the porch, to the door.
an animal
of some sort has walked
here at night
while you slept safe
in your home.
it peered in the window
sniffed at the locks,
the open gate,
then left.
the world outside,
the one you can't see
is a dangerous one
at times

the matchbook

the young waiter slides
a match book under
the one short leg of the table,
then tries to rock it
back and forth.
there, he says. better?
perfect, you say.
he smiles. he's happy
having done one small
thing to right the world
today.

made in china

she returns from Istanbul
with her
passport stamped
and a strange rash on
her neck.
something I ate, I think,
she says.
I touched a camel
hair rug in Iraq.
that might have caused
it too.
you wouldn't believe
the coffee there,
she says. holding out
her wrist to show me
a silver bracelet
with the price tag still
attached.
what a deal she says
holding it out
for me to see.
made in china, you read.
no she says. really?

i hate men

you tell her to step inside
your office and take a seat.
but you have no office.
you are just saying it in
a metaphorical way to get
her to loosen up and relax,
to tell you once again
why she hates men
and will never date again.
she says, I might even
switch to the other side
meaning becoming a full
fledged lesbian. you don't
question her. you listen
and nod. it's what you do
for her. sometimes she'll
walk your dog when you
are away, so you're even
in that regard.
you lean back, put your
hands behind your head,
you are a coffee shop
Sigmund Freud, a veritable
Jung in tennis shoes
and shorts. You put your
finger to your chin
and you say words like
interesting and I see,
pulling at a non existent
beard. you are such a
good listener she says
after exhausting herself
telling you why she hates
men. I could talk all day
with you, but I can't. I
have to go, I have a lunch
date with a man
I met online. he has a boat,
so we might sail
this afternoon. he said
to bring a bikini. do you
think that's a red flag?

Friday, January 30, 2015

these flowers

these flowers,
these children.
racing into form,
rising from the earth.
stretching legs and arms
in our sun,
becoming one of us.
replacing us in time,
sleeping where we do,
working and living
as we did.
they fill the fields
where we will
fall and die.
these flowers
these children will
rise.

your hands

the grime on your hands
is from work.
years of it.
decades. imbedded
in your skin,
mixed with blood
and callouses.
there is no soap,
no lye, no brush
to scrub any of
it away. you are
the farmer, the miner.
the steel worker.
you build bridges
and pave the roads.
you bend to the earth,
rising each morning
to do it again
and again. it's
all you know.

at work

so high, so far up,
almost to the very end
of the bald tree.
just below the stratus clouds.
this woodpecker machine guns
his pointed beak.
pounding a hole
for shelter or food,
who's to know.
you stand and watch, he
looks down. quiet
for a minute, waiting
for you to move on.
so you do.

the parking garage

you can't remember where you parked.
every level looks the same.
you repeated blue seventeen
over and over again as you left
for the store. but maybe it was
green. maybe the number was eleven.
it's cold as you search.
up the ramps, down the ramps.
you wave to the others, also
lost, that you have come
to know.

he was after me

you remember the time
your friend doris
tried to stab you with a knife
in her sleep.
she had a bad dream.
you asked her later
why she slept with a knife
in her hand. it's a habit
she said. i'm sorry.
I thought you were my father.
he was after me.

the kitchen floor

you'll clean the puddle
of milk later.
you like the way it looks
for now.
a small shallow
lake on the dark floor.
you think of ice
fishing in Minnesota
when you stare at it.
it's just milk though.
not a frozen lake
covered in snow. but
with more milk you can
make more lakes.
you can make a river
of milk from one
door to the next.
maybe you need some land.
you find the flour
and the brown sugar
and begin. stalks of celery
for trees.
you are essentially God
at this point
creating a new world.
you take two eggs
out of the carton
and place them on the beach,
uncracked
adam and eve
you call them.
it's a busy afternoon,
then the phone rings.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

boredom is upon us

boredom is upon us.
no books of interest.
no new art.
no movie to sit and watch
that stirs our heart.
nothing new under the sun.
each note has been heard.
each love old and lost.
boredom is upon us.
the centuries of beauty
and genius that have
come before us
have screeched to a halt.

the peach house

the clapboard was peach,
but worn near white.
bleached by the unblocked
sun. not a tree around.
a straight dirt path
of rising dust
where the chained dog
ran and ran.
there was a metal rooster
at the peak which spun
with the awful wind
telling you of the places
you couldn't be. north
or south, west,
or east. it was a house
full and empty
at the same time.
each room a sanctuary,
each bed, at night, a place
with which to leave.
sometimes when you drive
by you can still see
your face in the corner
of a window.

blue wings

we are like
the buzz of flies
against the screen,
fluttering blue wings,
wanting to get out
after trying so hard
to get in, searching
for the small gap
or rip in the wire
mesh that keeps us
unfree.

she is

she is a ferris wheel
spinning with colored
lights ablaze,
a kaliedoscope of music
playing, she is
a coaster screaming along
the narrow rails in
the blue madness
of hot summer.
she is lip gloss,
and heels, she is a
dress flying in the air.
she is the fun house
with bent mirrors,
and trap doors.
she is a dream, a cold
glass of water thrown
against your face, she is
cotton candy on your lips,
sticky and sweet,
she is too far gone,
and you want more tickets
to go there.

stale bread

yesterdays bread,
already stale on the counter,
wrapped in a long paper sleeve,
the crust hard, there is
nothing you can do about that.
maybe the birds will
enjoy it, breaking it down
into small white pieces,
tossing them towards the woods
from your open window.
but there are no birds.
it's too cold for birds.
too cold to go out and get
more bread. you need
more of everything it seems,
as you go back upstairs to read,
staring at your empty bed.

dogs and cats

they get sick and old,
they die and leave us alone.
these cats and dogs.
these furry beasts
we own.
we give them names.
we take pictures, we love
them dearly
and they love us back,
or so it seems, perhaps
it's much simpler,
more primal than that.
food and shelter,
sweet words of affection,
just habit, that keeps them
in our lap.

the second month

with one kick of your boot
you swing
and knock January out
the door
of this new year.
February,
with your wind
and snow, your ice.
it's fine.
I can do 28 more days
of this lack of love
and sunshine standing
on my head. but
there is always a birthday
to be had, so grim,
and that awful day
called valentine.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

out of season

like love,
it's best to buy fruit
in season,
this orange proves my point.
it looks ready and ripe,
the skin peels off
as it should,
easy with your fingers,
hardly needing the help
of a knife. it's colorful
and bright, full of juice,
this quartered fruit.
but the taste is sour,
it isn't right.

your teacher

she is a walking
Webster's dictionary.

a human volume
of strunk and white.

she carries a ruler
to smack your knuckles

for misspelled words,
or grammar not quite right.

she's a teacher through
and through, with her glasses

and black sweaters,
long dresses, hair pulled

into a bun,
neat and tight.

you fear the wrath of her,
as you hunch over your desk

composing each new poem,
cowering in the dark of night.

the life you've chosen

this dry farm,
a thousand parched acres
of brown burden
curled in a flat sea
of dust and dirt,
it lies before you
every morning when
you wake up.
you've prayed for rain,
you've asked for forgiveness
for your sins,
you've cried and begged
for mercy, but it never ends,
this farm.
this life you've chosen.
in the next world
you will fish.
you will sail the high seas,
throwing your net
over the side and be free.

the nectarine sun

the sun,
a nectarine
falling
slowly
across the horizon,
beyond
where we sit
and sip
our drinks in
happy silence.
love being
settled.
life
exhaled and resting.
hand in
hand,
a good way
to go out
from this peaceful
day.

the rich uncle

the uncle, your uncle,
your mother's
brother, one of two,
with the white Cadillac
and toupee,
the uncle
with the house
and pool in florida,
the wife
who posed for
playboy, yes, that
uncle, the one from
philly with a roll
of cash in the pocket
of his white suit.
the uncle with
the white shoes,
the whispered
connections
to the underworld, he
sends you a check
for five dollars
for your birthday
and says, hey kid,
what's new.

the big game

you loved her
for many reasons, none
of which were less
important than
her making of potato
skins
for the big game
on sunday.
baked and crisp,
loaded with sour cream
and bacon bits,
peppers and sliced
barbeque chicken.
sometimes she'd sit
and watch part
of the game
with you and your friends
as you devoured her
tray of food,
asking questions such
as
why are there lines on
the field
and who are those men
in striped shirts.
they seem bossy
with those whistles.
are we going to take a walk
at halftime?
you'd say shhhh, honey,
please, the game
is on
which would make her
shrug and leave
to go check on the brownies.

the wallpaper estimate

the religious artifacts
fill the wall,
crosses and pictures
of the bishop
and pope.
palm leaves tacked
above the statue
of the virgin mary.
and the bowl
of holy water with which
to tap
wet against your brow,
and genuflect as you
enter the front
door.
a glow in the dark
statue of Christ,
five inches
tall greets you in
the bathroom.
you almost expect
an organ to begin to playing
when you walk in,
to the left is confession,
then communion, if it's
going to be a longer
stay.
you take out your measuring
tape, then tell
her six rolls of
wallpaper should do
the job.

faces on a train

these faces on the train,
as the dark cars roll by
under the shade of clouds,
like cotton
on this summer
day. too hot to move,
or speak,
hardly a thing
is in motion, but
this train.
these faces, you'll never
know, or see again,
tired and longing
to be back
from where they came.

howling at the moon

not unlike
a dog, i beg at the table
of your love.
wanting just a small
tid bit
of food from your
loving hand. I
howl at the moon,
scratch at
the floor, circling
three times
before i curl into
a pathetic ball.
what's more loyal
than a dog, I ask you,
hopping on your
leg when you get home.
licking your
face, barking loudly
our favorite song.

new ideas

like Edison
you are nearly
out of brilliant ideas
after
the light bulb
lit up the world,
but it doesn't
stop you from trying
to invent a new way
to get her back,
a time machine, perhaps,
cards and flowers,
poetry
and begging doesn't
seem to work.

in the woods

she likes to keep
to herself.
quiet and alone.
distant.
the phone off the hook,
aloof in the woods
with her pets,
her books, her
shovel
and rake.
it's safer this
way, keeping
a closed heart
and locked gate.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

winter fish

the fish, silver
bends of light
twisting together in
cold water,
winter thin,
swimming low
among the weeds,
moving slow
below the coat
of ice, but living,
still living,
and you above
walking near the edge
where it's hard
and thick, happy
not be to hungry,
or too cold,
or alone, like them.


darkness


blind in your own way,
with your white
cane and dog you move
slowly through the dark
world, this cave
of no light
you live in.
everyone wants to help
you. the braille
of faces
tells you they are sad.
I'm fine you say,
don't worry. this too
shall pass. I just
need to get through
February.

the black and white cat

how do you kill
a cat
who loves you,
who sits
by the window all
day and waits
for you to come home.
who presses his
paws against
you in the morning
licking the side
of your nose.
how do kill a cat
who knows
you. whose head
rises
when the door opens,
the collar
jingling as he
runs, tail up
to shimmy his warm
body against
your cold legs.
how do you kill a
cat
who once was a kitten
twenty years
ago,
before he went
blind, before
he lost control
of his bladder, before
he cried all
night in pain.
how do you kill a cat
who is older
than your children,
and sits now in your lap,
shivering
half asleep.
how?


on her own terms

the note is not good.
she's dying.
cancer. or so they say,
or think. what do doctors
know anyway.
it's not for sure, but
she leans
towards the darkness
even on a sunny day,
so her money is on
death.
you half believe her,
but she's too strong
and stubborn to go out
that way. the earth needs
to circle the sun
a few more years,
and decades before
she let's go for good,
leaving the room
and you on her own terms.

among the stars

how wonderful it would be
for us, together,

to be paddling in a canoe
to the moon.

our oars in the deep
blue of sky, rowing

among the stars. what
memories we would have,

making our love unbreakable,
just you and I.

a good crowd

nervous with her one poem,
the single
sheet of paper
in her hand, she steps
into the light,
to the microphone
and says her name.
there is no crowd,
there are couples,
there a few singles drinking
tea. other poets
who have read their
epic poems
about aliens and dragons.
there is a drunk in the corner
half asleep, his head
resting on rimbaud.
she clears her throat
and reads.
it's about her mother,
it's about love.
it's about
death and dying.
when she's done,
she looks out
to the one woman clapping.
her daughter
in the back, with tears
in her eyes, smiling
from the shadows.

my blue

my blue
is not like your blue.
we're different like that.
but I still
love you
just the same.
it makes no
difference to me
what color
you prefer, deep
and azure,
or slightly green
like the Mediterranean.
I don't
really care
as long as you
stay close
and never leave.

pralines and cream

she calls you lazy
and without ambition.
so you call
her fat and old.
she ups the ante
and says
you're without talent,
you have no ability
to write a letter
let alone a poem.
you laugh and say,
oh yeah, well you
make love like a dead
person, they should
call you the dead
sea scrolls. not a wave or
anything living
down below.
this makes her throw
a spoon at you that
she was eating a carton
of ice cream with,
and say. I hate you.
I hate you. I hate
you. you pick up
the spoon up and lick
it. pralines
and cream you ask
her. do we have anymore?
none for you shorty,
she says laughing,
and you say, okay.
okay. it's not over yet.
here we go.

take the tree down

it's time to take
the tree down.
remove the lights,
the ornaments, strip
off the silvery tinsel.
pluck the star
from her pointed top.
the limbs are dry,
with needles on the floor,
not one green, all brown.
it was a good run with
this tree. how beautiful
and fun she was
glowing in the window
with presents all around.
two months these days,
is a long time
for anything or anyone
you love to stay.

blizzard conditions


she was a blizzard
of love
and affection, a white
storm of desire
ready
to cave the roof
in with snow
and hot ice.
she was the wind,
she was
the fire, she
was the flame of
your undivided attention.
she was
the low pressure
system
that kept you inside,
bundled up, exhausted,
tongue tied.

Monday, January 26, 2015

camels

camels
on the desert,
those
humps, and noses,
long legged
and brown.
across the sand,
the dunes,
searching
for an oasis
to drink,
to lie down.
and us, here,
at the bar,
with glasses
in our hand
toasting
a new year,
a new day,
wandering too
through our own
stretches
of hot barren
sand.

the bite

it's not
the bite, or the blood,
the sharp
pain
rising from
your arm
to your
unsuspecting brain,
it's none
of that.
it's the surprise
of how
someone that you
loved
so dearly
could close
her teeth on you.

you are home

you have no where
to go
because you are already
there.
you have arrived
at the place
you were always meant
to be.
you have discarded
your clothes
and your religion,
you have set
aside the lovers
you have known,
your friends
and children.
you are seated in
the room
where there are windows.
you've always
wanted
a room
with a view.
you have that now.
this where you are.
you are home.

what lies below

the snow is cruel
in its white
frosting.
pretending to be
sweet
and kind,
beautiful as it
covers
the road, the trees.
but you know
better about
beauty.
you know what lies
beneath,
below and in
the mind.

the fitted sheet

you could no longer
stand
how unorganized your linen
closet was,
so in a furious
fit of emptying
you pulled out every
sheet and pillow
case, towel
and wash cloth,
blanket and old sham
down off
the shelves.
you would start over,
tossing the old
and worn, neatly folding
whatever would be
kept.
someone once told
you how to fold
a fitted sheet, you
think, as you start
with a blue one.
the tight rumpled
corners with minds
of their own crimping
together.
she even showed
you how, smiling as she
demonstrated her technique,
folding from left to right,
how efficient and neat
she was and strange,
you don't forget that,
but you miss her
just the same and her
folding of
your fitted sheets.

the coin flip

you flip a coin
to decide
what's next
in your life.
it's a big
decision that you
can't go back on.
you call heads,
it comes
up tails.
two out of three
you say to
yourself, flipping
it again.
okay, three out
of five, you say
a little louder.
then five
out of seven
to yell to the coin
flipping gods.
by now it's decided.

let's be friends

let's be friends
from now on,
your wife
says to you one morning
waking up in bed. let's just be
friends with each
other, instead of
this other thing we
got ourselves
into. why pretend
any longer. all we do is fight.
the kids know, our
friends know,
the neighbors, our
relatives. our therapists
know. so what's the point
in pretending.
sure, you tell her.
maybe do a movie,
one night, something like
that. okay, she
says. but let's take
it slow and easy
at first, see how it goes.


after you

from here to there
is a place
I want to be.
some distance would
be nice
between us.
I can't wake up
beside you anymore,
or listen
to your voice,
or the sound you make
when you
snore.
your relatives
from jersey are
crowding our lives
with their pet snakes
and pen knives,
filling up the room,
your dog
and cat,
give me watery
eyes.
the roses are dead,
baby, the violets
are too, as tom waits
sang so succinctly,
i'm sick and tired
of picking up
after you.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

tea kettles

these tea kettles
were everything to her,
from Russia, from Spain,
porcelain white and blue
with matching cups
and saucers. they lined
the wide sills of her
windows, in plain view
for anyone to see.
how kind she was
with her cloth and time,
polishing against the curve
of glass making each shine,
so how strange it was to see
them on the street, broken,
lying in pieces with other
things less loved,
the week she died.

the baked farewell

a spoon of regret,
a pinch of
sorrow. one half
cup of tears,
a farewell note
or two of fond
memories, for
good measure.
some salt for the
wounds, but no.
all baked for a week
or three then,
sprinkled
with sugar,
just in case she
gets a late night
craving and wants more
of you later.

untired

unable to sleep,
you rise from your bed
and peer out
at the darkened streets,
the empty sky
of trees.
the rounded backs
of cars catching
the wash of pink
lamplights
near the woods.
nothing stirs,
but you. wondering
in the shadows,
unclothed, untired,
what's to become
of everything.

the rewrite

the movie of you,
starring you in
the lead role
has hit a slow
part in the plot.
you seem to be stuck
in an entire reel
of filler, loops of boring
dialogue, players
acting badly
in bit parts. it
seems to be going
nowhere. you want to yell
out, cut. stop, bring me
the script,
we need to rewrite
nearly all of this.

her whistle

she would whistle
from the top of the porch
stairs
to bring you in.
dinner's on the table.
exhausted, but not quite
ready, you'd circle once
more the street
the poles and cars
where the games would
start
and end.
now, she'd say louder,
everyone, let's go,
then whistle once more.
dinner's getting cold,
as she held the screen
door to let you,
one by one, file in.

in Puget Sound

she can't fly
anymore. her wings are bent
and heavy.
they stand dusty in
the closet.
she's in a cage
now in Puget sound.
a dog, a dozen cats,
a path of flowers
along the way.
he watches her from
the window,
from the door,
he sees every step
she takes.
this time, she stays,
he won't let her
get away.

we move on

the penny
that you let lie
on the sidewalk
is still there,
no one bends over
to pick up a penny
these days.
that's the kind of world
we live in now.
small things
hardly matter,
a wave hello,
a word of praise,
a thank you, are all
left lying, where
they'll stay.
we move on.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

phone photos

you are officially
in the fifth grade once more.
your cell phone
has allowed you to regress
back to the boy
in you who pulled pig tails,
and counted freckles
on penny karr's face.
you used to call her nickel
truck, with your rapier
wit and quick
feet, at the age of twelve.
you take pictures now of
food, cones of stacked
scoops of
ice cream.
slices of cake.
pot roast and martinis
you are about to drink.
you take photos of
the Washington monument
and add captions such
as, thinking of you.
this phone has not made you
a fool, it came too late
for that,
but perhaps it confirms
that general notion
of what others think of you.

the bible salesman

the salesman,
weary, but still enthusiastic
and polite with his boxed
briefcase
full of bibles and holy water,
knocks on your door.
you tell him you already
have a bible,
but he insists,
not like this one,
can I come in.
he's selling God
how can you say no to
that.
before long you are
pouring him
a cup of coffee and telling
the dog to get off
his leg.
he doesn't mind.
you put a slice of pastry
on his plate,
a fork and knife.
he opens his brief case
and shows you the bible
as cecil b d'mille
pictured it, bold and glossy
with colors
nothing black and white.
he looks around
and asks if the missus
is home, you say no,
she hasn't been here for
awhile.
I see he says. well, makes
no difference you seem
like a religious man.
I am, you say, I am,
tossing a left red slip
lying on the chair
into the other room, but I
don't have much time.
how much for the bible
and a flask of holy water?
you both turn your head
to a voice coming from up
the stairs, honey, who's down
there, are you coming back
up. i'm lonely.
he points at a number on
a brochure. checks only
or cash he says. hold on you
tell him, let me get
my wallet.


other blue skies

the yesterdays
collected neatly in albums
under the coffee
table
in front of the tv
are there
for you to see,
to pick up
on a rainy night
and say out loud
things like,
how young we were once.
how much fun
we had.
look at the smiles,
remember how cold the ocean
was that day.
you looked happy
then, I remember that book
in your hand.
I still have it
somewhere on the shelf
behind me.
we were young then.
skinny
and long, unknowing
about so much
of what was to come.
I say these things alone,
though.
you are off and married
again.
the child we had is grown.
the dogs
have come and gone.
our lives, like balloons
have veered off
into other blue skies.

the blue scarf

nothing prepares
you for death and dying.
each one
unique in its quick or slow
way
of disappearing
from your life,
becoming shadows,
leaving remnants behind.
take
this scarf for example
that hangs in
the closet as if she might
return one day
to throw it around
her neck, soft and warm,
a sea blue,
as bright and
sparkling,
as who she was
the moment she was born.

already

already
the young girls that
were younger last year
in the field of pavement
before the row of houses
where you live,
have slowed
into themselves,
no longer scattered
and yelling
across the lot, with
no difference between
boys or girls,
kicking a red ball,
hiding
and seeking, marking
their world
in colored chalk.
no longer
are they in the mix
of the other children
rising,
they have moved on to
another side
of life, already.

one of them

they fit you early
for the collar, the clasps,
the irons
around your ankles.
the ball and chain.
they ease
them on each year,
tightening
the screws, turning
the key just a touch
more to the right,
adding more weight
as you grow.
before long
you forget they are
there. this is how
you lose your childhood,
and become one of
them.

Friday, January 23, 2015

without the sun

without the sun
you are flour, a white page
of paper with two
eyes and teeth, a pair
of thin lips and ears.
you are an egg
without the sun,
wanting to be boiled,
to be poached
or fried.
you are cold without
the sun.
you shiver as you stand
on a corner in
the snow, shuffling
your wet feet in the gloom
of near darkness.
you are lost without
the sun.
sometimes you stop
people on the street
and ask them,
do you remember,
do you remember that
thing that used
to be in the sky.
you take your hand
and point upwards.


the unknown


you can't begin
to know her.
impossible despite
years
of trying.
no bed can bridge
the gap,
no meal
sitting side
by side,
no hand in hand
walk
along the beach
or through
town.
no talk can peel
back
the layers
of her skin.
she isn't there,
she won't let you in.
she's always just
slightly
out of reach,
which she knows,
and keeps
coming back.

for two seconds

this arc of birds
curves through the windy sky
as one
going from
phone line
to phone line stretched
across
the poles.
they rest for a moment
then go again,
into the wind
their soft flutter of
wings,
muted claps of feathers
making
you stop to watch and
listen.
your day being less
important for two seconds.

culinary differences

no eggs for her.
no meat, or fish, no
animal by products whatsoever.
nothing with
a face
goes into her mouth.
no lobster screaming
in a pot
while you melt a small
bowl of butter
for the claws.
i'm free of meat
she says, trembling,
eating slowly
a slice of vegan cheesecake.
interesting you say, as
you cut into
your prime rib
with horse radish on
the side.

on the shelf

don't close the book
on us, quite yet.
there are more pages
to be read,
more lines to be lifted
and savored.
I've dog eared
the page where we last
left.
don't put us on
the shelf with the others.
not yet.
the story is not over.

the wait

the wired trees, a brown
grey mesh
of tumbleweed
cords and cable, bunched
together, huddled
in winter, the thick
trunks heavy
and still.
waiting. always waiting
for that warm
day to get dressed again
in green.

the unborn

the unborn are
unlearned, unloved,
unburdened
by what we go through.
their unnamed
lives
are cut short,
inconvenient to the living.
but still
their angelic souls
find a way
towards the end,
the end we will one day
see as well. perhaps
we will be
more tired, more
worn, but no less wise
than these unborn.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

the new baby

the women
stop on the sidewalk
to lean over into
a shaded stroller
and say my oh my.
they squeeze
the feet and cheeks
of the new born baby
sounding like seagulls
at a fish fry.
it's what women do.
men on the other hand
wait for a new car
to appear on the block
then stroll over
to look under hood,
sit in the seats,
check out the front,
then the rear,
and then say my
oh my.

riding alone

you prefer not to
join
the fitness club,
the health club,
the book club
or the writer's meet up
on Thursday nights.
not to mention
all the other clubs
and groups you get invited to.
you won't even touch
a club sandwich.
you like to ride
the open range on your
horse alone
with bullets in
your gun,
a canteen of water
and a broad hat to shade
your squinting
eyes from
the harsh desert sun.

the truth

the rain
never lies to you.
it comes.
it falls.
it does what
it's supposed to do.
you get wet.
the rivers
rise, the streams
overflow.
the oceans fill
again
and again.
how simple life
is when
the truth is told.

hard candy

hard candy stuck
in a bowl. red squares
and green, white
stars. ribbons
and bows.
Christmas
candy
left over from
two
months ago.
all stuck
together in
clumps
of hardened sugar.
unbreakable
from one another.
hardly a day
goes by without you
thinking of
throwing it all away.

the open door

a bruise,
a blue mouse under
your eye
where the door swung
open
and hit you.
that's the story
that you tell all day
and into tomorrow
as the swelling
and color subsides.
a lie being
easier than
the truth when it
comes to explaining
what happens between
you and I.

not snow

a handful
of snow falls from
your eyes.
not rain,
or tears, but a frozen
mix
of cold regret
and sorrow
that has finally
found it's
way out
of your weather
congested
heart. it's closer
to sleet
than snow.
snow is too soft
too sentimental
of a word,
too easy to mistake
what we thought was love
for this poem.

coffee and donuts

the contest requires
one poem.
single spaced.
there is no limitation
on subject matter.
you must not be
a member
of this organization
or related
in any way to anyone
involved
in judging
of the work submitted.
deadline is tomorrow.
e mail
submissions are
preferred, but will
accept poems
sent via mail
if they arrive before
the deadline
of 3 p.m. eastern
standard time,
tomorrow.
they must be no longer
than twenty one
lines, and must not
contain bad language
or material unsuited
for publication in our
yearly compiled book
that can be found
at the front of
the building.
first prize is five
hundred dollars
and a free
workshop class starting
in the fall.
second prize is two
hundred and fifty
dollars. third prize
is a hundred dollars
and for poets that have
not won there will
be coffee and donuts
in the lobby after
the winners are announced.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

coming apart

a small crack
of the ice catches
your ear.
you are past the middle
too far
out to run back,
or swim if
it comes apart that fast.
carefully you step
forward to the other
side, inch by
inch, not ready yet
go under into the cold
depths of forever.

indian head highway

it used to be a two
lane highway with double
yellow lines
striped down the middle
of its long black tongue.
it unraveled north and south
starting at the d.c. line.
the head on collisions
were horrific,
always in the newspapers,
the black and white
photos of cars locked into
one another from high speeds.
the sheeted bodies
lying on the ground.
drinking, careless
teenagers, someone falling asleep.
but the road was straight
and barren as it moved on.
ripe for drag racing
as it reached farther
into southern Maryland,
past the clumps of low rises,
apartment buildings built
in what seemed like days.
clapboard shacks,
some pink, or a dingy shade
of green or blue.
the road sped past
the dairy queen and driving
range, past the drive in theaters
set back in a cove
of trees on graded gravel,
the superchief and abc,
where you desperately
steamed up windows, professing
your love to someone
whose name you've long
forgotten.
it was a long road.
a road you hitch hiked on,
a road where you drove
old cars, new cars, going
nowhere, just wanting
to be seen. it was
the road where you went
to school, where it veered
off towards the river
and fished away summers with friends.
it was the road that held the bars
and package stores
where you had your first drink.
it was a road of work, of love,
of mischief and mystery.
a road of growing up.
a dangerous road.
two lanes that went on
and on forever and still do.

her purse, your hat

the guard at the museum
lazily searches
your hat, her purse,
then waves you on
with sleepy eyes
towards
the long marbled
hall, down the stairs
into a gallery of
art. rembrant, degas,
whistler too.
things you've known
but never seen, or
stood next to.
but it's the guard
you remember most.
his blue uniform
nearly black, his
tiredness, so much
of his life
behind him, his
delicate brown
hands pushing forward
her purse,
your hat.

without tears

a crowd gathers
around you as you fall
in the street
clutching your heart.
you stare
up to the sky.
you see past the faces,
beyond their frantic
voices,
you see birds afloat
on slow wings,
you see the blueness
behind
the clouds, you smell
the oil
of the street,
the grime
you rest in.
you are alive, more
alive than you have
been in years as
you lay dying, suddenly
awake in strange
joy, without tears.

the rake

the rake
against the shed.
sitting in the snow.
the wooden
handle
splintered
and worn,
shaped smooth
where your hands
would go,
unsharp
and rusted,
but still a rake.
still wanting
to be what it
was meant to be,
nothing less,
nothing more.

your shadow

a still photo
of pears
and apples
in a white bowl
centered on
a wood table,
with the sunlight
behind you
only your shadow
shows your presence
as you focus
and push
the button to save
this moment.
now I hold it in my
hand
and try to remember
who you
were in my life.

state of me

the president,
your leader,
is sincere with his words,
smart and charismatic
in delivery.
they clap
they clamor, they rise
in respect, smiling
with approval.
it goes on and on.
a wash of promises
to come, polishing
the apples of
wishes fulfilled.
you can't find the remote
fast enough,
even though you voted
for him twice.
you just want
to go to work
and to be left alone.
to be free
and for the most
part safe and secure,
with a moderate
amount of happiness
sprinkled about
the remaining years
of your life.

what's coming

the belt, having been
buckled
so many times, uncountable
times
around your waist,
years of sliding it
through the loops,
and finding the clasp
has finally broken.
which surprises you.
everything
that ends surprises
you, despite knowing
what's coming.

waiting for the train

I haven't found my soul
mate yet, betty tells you.
she's holding an umbrella while
we both stand in the rain
waiting for the eight
o'clock train.
i'm sick of love, she says.
rubbing out a cigarette
with her red shoes.
weak love, fake love.
love disguised as sex,
sex disguised as love.
i'm tired of the game,
I want out.
you nod, staring up at
the long grey line of rails.

the scholar

the dancer
in her tights, and heels,
light on her
feet, persuades
you with hips
and lips
towards
something like love,
but less.
she spins
in the colored
lights, arms
over her head,
draped in dollar
bills, losing herself
in the bright
shadows of the room.
i'm working
my way through med
school, she says,
a scholar.
it's enough to weaken
your knees
to put the key under
the flower pot
in case she decides
to change her mind
and come over.

musings

a thought comes
into your mind.
something you might want
to write about
when you get home tonight.
it's a clear
clean line
of poetic musing.
no need to write it
down, it's unforgettable.
an hour later
it's gone.
a feather in the wind,
unborn.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

blue pills

take some these, she says.
these pills. they are
wonderful. organic, natural
and full of health.
they'll make you feel better
about the world,
about yourself.
take two a day for
a few weeks, maybe a
month or two. you'll
be off the ledge,
you'll be happier
less willing to jump,
less blue. here,
open your hand, i'll
take some too.

messages

you stand by the ocean
collecting
bottles
corked with notes
rolled
into scrolls.
love notes.
save me notes, farewell
notes.
there are so many
afloat on the wide sea
washing up
onto the shore.
but none from her,
not yet, but
it's early.


Monday, January 19, 2015

our blue

my red
is not your red.
we're different
that way,
preferring
slightly different
shades.
but we find a
middle ground
with blue,
lying between blue
sheets
all day.

unread poems

in the quiet
of night you read the book
of poems
she left behind.
some are better than others,
some you
skim, some you pass by,
they are not unlike our lives,
often open ended,
unrhymed, many unread
and also left behind.

elixir

she can't be trusted,
this reed
of a woman, with grey
blue eyes
and a burning mind.
she says enough, but
it's not true,
as her hands
lace into yours
and she moves her
cat like body against
you. she isn't
done, she's never
done with you.
she's an elixir
in the bend of
a silver spoon.

the yellow kitchen

his face
is sallow as he sits
pushing
a cigarette
out in a blue ashtray
that rests
on the kitchen
counter.
he lights another one.
he thinks
that yellow, the yellow
of his walls
needs to be changed.
the thought of blue
crosses his mind
as he blows smoke
towards the ceiling.
maybe, he says out loud,
maybe blue,
then he leaves
the room.

departing

with planes in the air,
on the ground
turning, arriving,
leaving.
the runways long and grey,
the terminals
full, like hives
of hurried souls,
that spill and spill.
we hug
in the low light
of a January sun and say
warm farewells,
we make promises to see
each other soon again.
but our worlds move
with or without one
another.
with planes in the air,
on the ground
turning, arriving,
leaving.

before it rains

the parade
is slow and long.
the high school band
wears green and gold
with tall white hats.
they hold tubas
and flutes, drumming
while marching
in quick step.
young girls
throw up their silver
batons.
there are no floats
or beauty queens in
open cars,
no clowns, or celebrities.
just the mayor
and his wife,
someone else.
it's a sad parade,
but the children
lick their cones,
and wave from the curb,
the parents, stare past
it all
thinking of tomorrow,
of work,
of life, of how quickly
we march
to the grave, hoping
to get home
before it rains.

the broken arm

her broken arm
in a white
cast,
will heal.
it waves like
a white
flag as she speaks,
prompting the question
of how,
or what,
does it hurt still?
but her broken
heart
is different.
no one seems to know
or care.
it stays hidden,
healing
on a different path.

the last oyster

the last
oyster on the cold plate,
sits
in its stone
shell, rugged still
from the sea,
the salted
tongue of it
waiting to be held
and tilted
with a dash of
spice, swallowed
whole.
but not this last
one,
no takers at the table
to finish
what was left
for you and me.

old clothes

the edges are frayed.
the fabric
weary from wear,
unravelling
at the seams,
buttons loose
and hanging in
the air, ready
to quit
and fall onto
the ground.
everything can't
be new
all the time,
sometimes you need
to take
what's on the shelf,
what's
hanging on the pole,
what rests waiting
in a drawer.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

the muddied path

the unblue wash
of sky has fallen
into the cold stream.
we walk along
the muddied path,
glove in glove
hurrying to be home
by dark, to fix
a meal, to sink
into the comfort
of a couch before
a fire, to talk
long into the winter
night
about everything,
everything but love.

the pearl earring

you lift the covers,
shaking the blanket. you
turn the sheets over, the pillows
get fluffed and tossed.
on hands and knees
you both
look under the bed,
crawling from
spot to spot on the rug.
it's white, she says,
hands moving slowly across
the floor.
a pearl,
like this one, pulling
back her hair
and pointing at an ear.
maybe it's in the other room,
or on the couch,
or on the stairs,
you say, the bathroom,
did we do anything
in there?

the abstract

you stare into the wild
random strokes of paint that is
jackon Pollock
hanging on the wall at
the national gallery of art.
it's wide and long.
it's everything a painting
should be
and nothing.
you laugh and think how easily
it is to do.
to straddle a canvas flat
on the floor and sling
and dribble, splash
house paint
against the white stretched
cloth.
insanely simple, and genius.
beyond you,
and it is you.

the red chair

the red chair has been
there for years, maybe ten
years. it's more
for show than sitting,
but it's bright
and bold, unhidden,
so it surprises you when your
unshoed foot
collides against
the metal leg.
you yell out and bounce
around on
your one good foot.
you let out a stream
of obscenities.
the toe is blue and red
already,
throbbing like a toothache.
it's not the chairs fault.
it's you, the path
you've chosen so many
times
to have this happen.

no eel

there is confusion
at the sushi bar.
the lists are long,
the blue marker in your hand
is cautious as
you read down the columns,
trying to understand
what fish is what,
what's cooked, what's raw,
what might
kill you. where is
eel, you don't want eel.
you used to catch eels
in the river
and cut the line, to let
them go. you can still
see them snapping away
in the water
like black whips.
the waitress is bored
and tired of explaining
the spicy, the sweet,
she doesn't understand what
you want,
and neither do you.
so you hand the menu
across the table and sigh,
please, just order for.
no eel.

house guests

the guests, having arrived
by taxi, hands full of luggage,
heavy in their hands,
other bags looped
around shoulders,
the wear of travel
in their smiling faces.
happy to be here, happy
to be away, but already
thinking of the flight home
and sleep,
of their own beds,
their own books, their
routine ways.

these gulls

these gulls
on the black pavement,
some hovering
some in huddled groups,
white and gray splotched,
black eyed
with bird musings,
having landed
in this pond
of concrete, having
wandered far into land,
they are unafraid
of you, hardly
moving a wing
as you drive slowly
around their winter
gathering.
how long can they stay
where they shouldn't
be, is what we all
think
on given days.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

a third wind

you are past your second
wind.
you might be on your third
or fourth wind.
but you have wind.
there is time
to climb another hill,
to scamper through
the woods,
to run
another mile,
to open your heart
for another lap
around love.

another place

you put your ear
to ground, but you don't hear
her coming.
no footsteps,
no clicking of heels,
no noise
no sound.
she's gone in another
direction.
where you are
is not the place
where she will be
found.

the essence

it's not just
his memory,
or the way
his muscles
don't respond, or
the thinning of hair,
or trembling in
his hands.
it's not the failing
of vision,
or slowness
in speaking.
it's none of that
that matters now.
you see past it to
the essence
of his life as it
was and always
will be in
your heart.

two spoons of sugar

two spoons of sugar
are too much.
one is just enough.
save the other
spoon for later dear.
i'm not as young
as I used
to be. but no
worries, we'll
have another cup.

Friday, January 16, 2015

the chamois cloth

you could spend
hours, washing and waxing
your car
when you were younger,
buffing out
the shine with a chamois
cloth
on a sunny Saturday,
the radio on.
the wheels,
the bumpers,
the wind shield, all feeling
the turn and pressure
of your hand.
changing he oil,
adjusting
a belt, or screw.
these cars lasted
forever
with your tender care,
and all the while,
she said that you never
had this kind of love
within you.

the puzzles

for hours, into days
your mother would sit and
piece a giant puzzle
together at the dining
room table. eventually,
it would be done.
next she would laminate
it with glue, or paste,
then hang it on the wall
in her crafts room,
above the doll houses,
the balls of yarn,
the sewing machine
with patterns spread
across the floor. you
wonder if she remembers
any of it, as she sits
now and contemplates
her quietly folded
hands.

cat in a tree

as the fire truck,
aglow in red,
sirens blaring,
its lights lit up
and spinning
careens through
the intersection
the cars pile
against one another.
bumper into bumper,
door into door.
heads flung forward
into glass. more trucks
will arrive
and stretchers.
meanwhile the first
truck raises
its ladder to get
the cat out of the tree.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

the salt in the sky

like sprinkled salt
the stars are out.
they are everywhere
in clusters,
the shaker has spilled
and emptied.
you feel as if you
could reach
up and grab a
crisp handful to
bring them down.
the heavens seem
so close
when health is good,
when bills are paid,
when love, even
if it's an illusion,
abounds.

it's in the room

you keep her around
because you are afraid
of what comes next.
she does the same.
you don't talk about it.
but it's in
the room, it's in the
light, in the dark,
it's in
the silence you converse
in.
it's in the loveless
nights
in bed with each
other, alone.

the lint

in
a box,
a barrel a bowl.
a shed,
an attic,
the lint of your
life
finds a way
to stay
and keep you
strangely
whole.

the chase

she takes a needle,
the sharp point
of steel, as thin
as gossamer
and sticks it into
a vein pouring a
liquid heaven
into her heart,
into her brain.
she lies back and
swims in the
euphoric seas
of her awakened
dreams. she'll never
again get there,
to this impossible
height,
the chase is on
until the end.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

shoes

you have many shoes.
they are everywhere
in every room, under
the bed, on the stairs.
closets and shelves
are lined with
shoes. brown and black,
boots and loafers.
tennis shoes of all
types and colors.
some you'll never wear
again, some brand
new, not ready for
the rain or slush.
it makes you almost
forget the days when
you had one pair,
with holes in
the bottom, how you
filled the soles
with cardboard
to keep them going
just one more day,
one more run on
the playground.

one potato

down to one potato,
you set it on the counter
after washing
it in cold water.
it's traveled far
to get here and now
it's time.
you take a knife
and slice it down
the middle, then
into quarters.
you boil it in water
until the pieces are soft
and ready to be
mashed with milk
and butter, salt
and pepper. it's your
last potato and
this is how she liked
them cooked. so this what you
do, one last time.

laundry night

the washers and dryers,
the ones that work,
grind away with filthy clothes
and grey water
spilling into a
cast iron tub
from black hoses coated
in grey hair.
it's cold down
there. you need
the right amount
of change.
you need hours
of your life to get
these old
clothes clean.
you sit on a lawn
chair next to the caged
storage bins
full of bikes
and paint cans,
Christmas trees
already decorated
waiting for next year.
you drink
a beer, you flip through
a magazine, you
listen to the rattle
of coins and keys
that have fallen out
of your pockets,
now spinning in the hollow
of drums.

too close to the edge

you step backwards,
too close to
the edge where the trains
roar by.
you feel the wind
of death
on your face
in your hair
along
the rigid bumps
of your spine.
you've heard stories
of people
falling onto the rails
or jumping
into an oncoming car.
you step backwards,
all your life,
you've been careful
of getting too
close to the edge.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

these pigeons

these pigeons
like
dark nuns on the steps
of a great
cathedral.
regal
in blue and grey,
the stripes
of feathered
cloth
along their breasts,
their wings.
fat with
what we throw
away.
how easy it is
for them to fly
to rise
above
these palaces where
we kneel
to confess,
where we ask
forgiveness and pray.

the leaving

you see your father
with a glass
of whiskey in his hand.
a cigarette
burning blue in a glass
ashtray.
he's leaving.
there's a suitcase
in the hall.
a suit on a hanger,
a pair of
shoes which he'll
carry out to the car.
he won't be back
this time.
you know that, even
as a child
you can see that he
has other plans.
you'll remember
this moment for the
rest of your life,
and one day,
in fact today you
will write it down.

the shave

you shave your face
slowly in the tub
without a mirror.
the radio is on
the shelf, playing
oldies from
the sixties.
incense peppermint.
you know all the words.
you take
long easy strokes
of the razor,
swiping into the white
foam, warm
and wet.
you know where every
thing is.
you slide your fingers
along your skin
in search of uncut
bristles. under
your nose, around
the ears, your neck,
chin.
it doesn't take long.
you don't need
a mirror anymore,
you know where
everything is.

the picture show

as the camera pulls
away
and the director stands
and yells
cut,
it's a wrap,
the picture fades
to black.
what is done is
done, nothing
more to add or take away,
you set the script aside
and rest.
no more loves
to begin or end,
all the lines have been
spoken, the plots
played out,
the crowds of your
life have left
the theater, there will
be no second show.

so far away

someone like you was
on the street today.
she wore a dress you'd wear,
her hair was braided,
dark and down
her back.
I almost called out your name,
whistled like
I used to do,
but she turned
her head and it wasn't
you. of course it wasn't
you. you being so far away
in so many ways.

your travels

you've haven't seen
the pyramids, at least in
person, but you have
a good idea of what they look like.
or the grand canyon,
the Eiffel tower,
or the great wall of china.
does this bother you,
do you feel slighted, or
uncultured because of this,
no. you don't.
maybe one day, you'll stand
in Yellowstone and stare
at old faithful
spurting hot water
into the air,
and maybe you won't.
but if you do get around to
seeing these sites,
you'll keep it to yourself.
for now you like the path
behind your house,
the one that goes around
the lake for miles and miles
without a soul around.


where do we go from here

can I ask you a question,
your new love
says to you, while stroking
a brush against her hair,
counting to herself,
staring into the dresser mirror.
sure, you say. but nothing
too hard, no math questions,
or chemistry. twenty one,
she says, her hand
moving the brush with
long even strokes.
twenty two, she whispers.
i'm ready, you tell her,
tightening up, getting nervous
as to what she might ask.
do I love her, are we
in a relationship now,
what's next for us?
should I bring some clothes over?
you cringe and put another
pillow behind your head.
twenty seven she says.
then turns around. is there
a good place to get a pizza
around here, i'm starving.

the empty mind

the blank sheet
is white, unlined.
it isn't snow, it isn't
the sky,
or a long layer of ice,
it's more empty
than that.
more empty
than the thoughts
that are
blowing like
smoke
through your hollow
mind.
you have stepped
out on the ledge
of nothing. you'll
try again later
to summon the muse,
to tap into
the walls of your
emptying mine.

no more paper

the salesman, in his fevered
pitch
wants to help you with new
health insurance,
if you are ready today
to sign on and commit
to the policy constructed
just for you, he's ready
to give you a price, but
it's fluctuating, so
you must decide now. slow down,
you tell him, hold on.
I need to see all of this
on paper first before I
agree to anything. this
makes him groan and hang up.
another man calls
a few minutes later,
mispronouncing your name,
and then again all with
the same results.
this goes on the entire
day. they won't bend to
your wishes, obviously
you've gotten old.
it's no longer a paper
world with a line that you
sign with an ink pen.

Monday, January 12, 2015

the child

the child who
stamps his shoes
and gets what he wants,
his face turning red,
will never
change, not spurned.
you them everyday
on the bus,
in restaurants,
on the trains.
they have learned
how to make
their way in the world,
demanding
and getting what
they need and
they prefer.


getting out

all day you hear
this murmur,
these whispered words,
I feel trapped,
then the rest of it.
my job,
my wife, my kids.
no one understands me,
or knows who I
really am.
I don't love him anymore,
or she doesn't
love me,
but I can't leave.
i'm stuck inside of my
life
with no locks, no
bars, no walls,
no key.

the black dot

you are a poor gambler,
better off
piling your hard earned bills
into a pile
and setting them on fire.
you pick the wrong
horse every time.
the wheel spins and lands
on red.
you've picked black.
it's not unluck, but
no luck.
your planets do not align
that way. you pay no
mind to the black cat,
or the ladder
you walk under.
the cracks get stepped
on, and the pennies
you let lie, not
caring. this is the way
it is and you accept
it. you know that if you
were a character in Shirley
jackon's short story,
the lottery, that you
would be the one to pick
the slip of paper
with the black dot.

and others like her

the cat with milky lips
and whiskers.
lean and long, awake
and yawning,
gently rubbing a wet
paw across a green eye
and ear.
she stiffens her back
then curls into a warm
ball of silky indifference.
she cares, but she
doesn't care.
you've made your peace
with this cat
and others like her.

the bonfire

you want a bonfire.
you want sparks and flames
flying off
the pile of driftwood
burning, you want
the sky to light up, to
hear the sizzle, the crackle
of the wood. you want heat,
a blaze, a warmth
so thick and large
that it will consume
you. this is the kind
of love you desire,
not the weak flashlight
ones you've gotten
used to and carried around,
banging the batteries
against your leg to
keep it going.

fading love

this fog
of love, this mist,
this fading light,
you wander
through the woods,
holding a candle,
cupping
the flame
in your hand.
you keep the wind
away,
the rain off its
shine. but
there is not much
further you can go
to keep it alive.
the candle is
getting smaller,
it's almost
done now.

at the diner

your waitress
comes by the table
with the coffee pot
and smiles, she says
can I top that ccup
off for you.
sure you tell her.
you have not known
such kindness
from a woman in so
long that it
frightens you.
you see how easily
it is for you to
fall in love, you
almost reach out to
touch her hand
as she pours, but
you don't. you stir
in the sugar,
you add cream,
you read the paper.

the argument

you begin the day
arguing with the weather.
berating it
for rain and cold,
wagging your finger
at the sky.
but the day says nothing
back.
what is there to say
that hasn't
been said
by the wind and snow.
it's a relationship
you are stuck in
with no way out,
so you bundle up,
put on your boots
and continue on.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

the romance cruise

each time you take a cruise
the relationship
ends
not long after.
usually as you sit
at your desk
sending in money to pay
the bill, she's already
gone, already
with someone else,
in bed.
you haven't even
recovered from your sun
burn yet, or
the stomach bug you
picked up in Puerto
rico.
the photos are all you
have left, which you
stare at
trying once more to
analyze what went wrong.

the ice photo


you see a grown man
bend over the edge
of the frozen lake
to take a picture of ice.
you are certain
that he's seen ice before.
most of us have.
but he has his wife
hold his hat
and coat, his plaid
scarf and gloves as he leans
in the cold
balancing on
the sharp rocks.
he looks up at sun,
squares the point of
where he wants to shoot
with his fingers,
then points and clicks.
you understand though.
having once taken a picture
of a bowl of beef stew.
also not appreciated by
the person you sent it to.

you told her once

you told her once
in a parking lot, shivering
in march.
the wind
finding its way against
your skin.
you told her
that you loved her.
it surprised you
more than it did her,
it may have
been too soon, or
perhaps too late
for anything long lasting
to begin.
but it was said,
it was true, as
true as the sunlight
was on your faces,
but strangely now,
neither of you not knowing
quite what to do.

small things

there was a time
when a good haircut
and shine of your best
shoes made your day.
now you cut your own
hair, and haven't shined a
pair of shoes
since the last funeral
you attended four
years ago.
so you find other small
things to make
you happy.
coffee for one,
the New York Times
on sunday.
a call from a friend who
is packing a suitcase,
soon to be on her way.

enter your amount here

you study the electric bill
as if it might
be a poem you are trying
to dissect,
you turn it over
and over, unfolding the three
sheets of paper
of small print and even
more smaller print
which no one
could possibly read without
a magnifying glass.
you find the box
that says pay this.
tearing at the perforated
line of where to rip. it says
enter your amount, so you
write the numbers in.
it's more than last month.
much more. you get up
and go over to the box to lower
the heat two notches, then
you enclose a check.
you seal the envelope
and smooth a Christmas
stamp onto the right corner.
you place it on the table
near your keys, so you
won't forget, then you
open the next bill, it's
thick with old news too,
marked American express.

sunday morning

glum, under a spell
of unknown
origin, she steps out
onto her porch
and kicks the ice
off the edges
of the stoop.
she sweeps acorns
and needles to
the snowy grass.
she pours a bag of
salt where her
feet will step.
she whistles for
the dog to come in.
a white winter sun
slips a cold light
between grey trees.
she is happy
in her unhappiness,
filled with no one.

what you know

it is in silence
that you find yourself,
walking through the quiet
of woods, along an empty
shoreline. scaling
a peak that has
risen over
the eons
above everything.
it is here that you
let go
and begin again
to get free of what ails
you. you see the madness
in bending to
the will of this world
with its false
loves and desires.
all of this will
pass. you know this,
you always have.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

run home children

they told you
to hide under your wooden
desks
as the sirens blared.
they told you to run
home
to your burning
houses, your scorched
lawns,
to your parents now
skeletons
in their chairs.
they told you
to find shelter in a
basement, to not
breathe in
the radiated air,
they told you
to save food and water,
they told you not
to be scared, but
even now after all
these years, you still
are.


nothing less nothing more


this line of laundry,
white, against a blue sky.
the cool grass long from
spring rain.
your mother at thirty,
the basket at her feet,
as happy as she'll ever
be. her hands pin
shirts and dresses, sheets
next to one another.
each child alive and well.
a husband at work,
about to come home.
a cool breeze lifts
her hair from her
shoulders. she wants
for nothing less,
nothing more.

the fever

you wake up in a strange room.
you are a child again.
there is a woman there.
with curlers in her hair,
the way your mother used to do.
she's sitting
up in a chair watching television,
holding a baby.
it's an old show, black and white.
people are laughing too hard
and too long.
the room smells of medicine,
a radiator clunks below a window.
you ask her where you are,
and she smiles, don't worry,
it's all a dream.
everything will be fine.
you'll feel better soon, your
fever is gone.
but i'm here if you need me.
go back to sleep. so you do.

the five and ten

the five and ten
is no longer the five
and ten.
there is no counter
where you can rest
your skinny elbows
on and read comics
while sipping on a
cherry coke and nibbling
at a butter fried
grilled cheese sandwich.
the woman in pink,
with her hair up
in a stiff curl of hat
pays you no mind, she's
elsewhere
in her photoplay magazine,
wiping the counter,
humming a song
she heard on the radio.
you miss the five and ten.
the long summer rains,
hours of lingering,
spinning on and off
the stool,
imagining a different life,
along with the waitress,
just you two.

Friday, January 9, 2015

while fishing

while fishing
she says I want to find someone
I can grow old with.
a true love
to live out my golden
years. to walk hand in hand
towards the end.
what about a cat, you suggest.
casting your line into another
part of the blue pond.

the note farewell

you are not good
at endings. you are awkward
and careless,
you stumble and stammer
with words,
with notes. you want to
wrap things up neatly,
to tie a bow around
the box of sorrow
and call it a day.
part of you wants to leave
the door open,
just in case things could
change.
you are bad at this,
but you keep trying.
keep wrapping, keep finding
a new box to say what
you are unable to say.

the pink baby

the baby, pink as any grape fruit,
listed in her
mother's arms,
her eyes too blue
for this world, sponging
up this new life
now opened
to her view.
no teeth yet, her
arms and legs still
twisted
remembering
the womb. how fragile
we begin,
how mysterious
and unknown so much
is, not unlike
the end.

empty rooms

the empty house,
with empty rooms,
the walls free of pictures,
the nails
still there
where the frames
were removed.
the cupboards bare,
a crumb or two,
a line of sugar,
a dash
of salt.
the closets unburdened
by coats
or shoes.
how sad is to leave,
and start over,
hearing your
voice
echo in these empty
rooms.

hard water

the iced sleeve
of an iron
stream rolls ever so
slowly
down the small gulf
of woods
behind your house.
it's hard water now.
the trees sing
with brittleness,
sway with broken limbs,
the sky, so low
you can almost touch
it with your gloved
hand, your red nose.
how winter makes us
beg for being young
again, for the warmth
of an april sun,
a new set of bones,
a heart that leaps
towards love.

these wars

these wars. these men.
these women.
dying.
coming home
limbless. eyeless.
minds torn
in half, never
quite out
of where they've been.
these wars.
that never end,
from the first
sword drawn,
to the last missile
spent. filling
endlessly the flag
draped coffins.
these wars
are with us,
with our parents,
with our children.
these wars.
these women,
these men.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

the grain of sand


something off the wind
flies into your eye. a tiny
fleck of sand, maybe.
it makes you tear up,
the tears slide down
your cheek. big tears
making your cheeks wet.
people mistake
you for someone crying,
someone sad and mournful,
tearing up in public
not caring what others think.
how sensitive he must be
they say quietly, how
compassionate and kind
this man is. you blink
and blink trying to get
the grain of sand out
with no luck,
but suddenly not wanting
to, enjoying how wonderful
you have become.

the flute

under her spell, she makes
you pull out your credit
card and buy her a fur
coat, matching shoes,
a watch. a purse and for
some reason, a flute. she
has that kind of power over you.
it's in her kiss,
the way she makes love,
you'd lie down on a bed
nails for her, walk a
path of burning coals she's
a magician like that, she's
got you where she wants
you, this much she knows.

flowers

there was a time when you'd
buy flowers
after a fight, after a
misunderstanding.
you'd stop by the shop
and browse the chilled
roses, daffodils, a mixed
bunch of something
bright and colorful.
always a dozen delivered,
maybe a vase too,
pulling out all the stops,
a little note attached,
with a plea for
forgiveness in hopes
that she would take you
back. but that was then,
now you text her, and say
something along the lines
of hey, what's up?

stuck under a house

you see an old girl
friend on the road,
it's a yellow road,
bricked, in fact.
her shoes stick out
from under a house.
you can see them begin
to curl in her
green striped socks.
you lean over to say
hello, but there is
no answer. she
refuses to take your
calls, or text you
back, and even now,
while stuck under a house,
she's quiet and silent
as a grey church mouse.

apple scrapple

for days all you could
think about was bread,
apple scrapple
to be specific.
warm and wrapped
tight right out of
the oven, sprinkled
in cinnamon, the apples
real and juicy
buried within
the hot dough.
your mouth watered
as you stood in line,
finally making it
to the store.
but there was none
to be found. we'll make
more on Saturday
the girl said, making
a playful frown.
how is it possible,
why even open the doors without
apple scrapple, you
mumbled to yourself,
as you left with a loaf
of wheat and raisons
under your arm.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

the ring

you have no rings.
you have fingers, but
they go unadorned
by gold or silver.
you had one once.
it was slipped on with
vows of love
and promise, it was
a bright polished
band, but you tossed
it out the window
when crossing
at the highest point
of the Chesapeake Bridge,
making a different
vow under the glare
of a bright rising sun.

indigo

it's blue
this water where you
wade,
half in half out.
your legs
cold with it.
the night is upon
you. this winter
mood, this
iced world gone
blue.

the orange

you haven't eaten an
orange in
months.
the last one was neither
sour or sweet,
but bland.
it looked like
an orange full of
orange promise,
but despite the color,
the juice,
the roundedness
of it, it
disappointed you
when the skin was
peeled away,
and first bite played
against your tongue.
you could easily
connect this orange
to beauty
and love, but you
won't it's too easy,
you'll save
that poem for another
day.

the maybe trip

your father wants to take a trip
to nova scotia
in an RV.
wanting to return home
before he dies.
you say something along
the lines of really,
i'm not so sure, maybe.
for Christmas you send him
a calendar of Halifax.
the ocean,
the trees turning color.
it's not the same,
but it's something for him
to look at
and ponder. the buildings,
the churches,
the long lush fields
where he grew up.
maybe you could fly, you
think. maybe.

this you know

you do believe in prayer.
in forgiveness. how could
one live without it.
with no place to go
for fear, or loneliness.
you do have faith.
you have a soul that longs
for blessings in your
life and others.
your imperfections are
many, your sins great
and small, you fall often.
you stray like the prodigal
son, again and again,
but you return once more.
it is the only place
to go, to your knees
in surrender.
you've been everywhere
else, so this you are
certain of, this you know.

the whiskey fall

his face,
bruised from falling on the ice,
purple and blue,
a chipped
tooth, a broken finger
wrapped tight
in his own way of bandaging.
his eyes were
red, his cheeks flush,
as he explained
how it all went down
I was coming out of a
tavern in town
with a girl I knew,
she grabbed my arm
and we fell against
the rail. it happened
so fast.
we both lay there
in the snow and laughed.
I remember how bright
the stars were
as we lay there, still
holding hands,
wondering how we would
get up and go
on to finish the night.
but we did.
we crawled to the car
and got in.

the get well soup

here, she says.
I made you some soup.
it's hot.
she hands you a spoon,
puts a sleeve
of crackers
on the table,
a glass of milk.
always a glass of milk
and slices of
white bread, a knife,
butter.
here, she says.
it's the best I could
do.
let me know if you
want more.
it's on the stove, i'll
be in the other
room. you can't stay
home all week. so eat
your soup,
tomorrow you go
back to school.

the first time

her name was Martha.
she had long hair, it may
have been brown or blonde.
but long. you remember
that, how she had to move
it away from her face
to kiss you.
she was wearing a dress
that fell to her knees.
a light cotton
dress, it may have been
green.
you made love, which
wasn't love at all.
the two of you in the back
seat of a dodge dart
circa 1970.
the windows were down.
the road was dark where
you parked, beneath
the overhang of willow
trees. you remember
a dog barking nearby,
the bones of her back
in your hands
as she arched her body
towards you, you felt
the warm stickiness of
the vinyl seats on your
knees. how quiet you
were. how vocal she was,
as if you were both involved
in two different things.
you remember feeling
the surprise emptiness
of it all
that still lingers
even now, these years
later.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

four inches

it isn't pretty, this snow.
already a grey slush, seasoned
with salt and sand.
the black of the road
as slippery as a catfish
in your hand.
this is winter now. how it goes.
no sleigh ride, no snow man.
just sitting in line
behind other cars waiting
for the jack knifed trailer
to be towed.

the toaster

you were married to your first wife
for nearly an hour
before you knew
that it would never work.
her mother lived across
the street and had stretched
a sheet of polyurethane
across her daughter's room
with hope that one day she would
return. she did six months
later leaving a simple note
saying, i'm sorry, but i'm
going home. she withdrew half your
savings, a thousand dollars,
then walked home with
a toaster and a mixer
under her arm. wedding
gifts. she then came back to get her
clothes and framed picture
of Jesus hanging over the bed.
she became catholic the next
month, and you received a
letter from the bishop annulling
your marriage. not long after
that she married the owner
of an Italian restaurant where
her mother was a hostess.
you were happy for her.
you were happy for you.
you missed the toaster though,
it had four slots and could
toast bagels.

cat and dog

people want
to believe that their dog
can talk, can dance,
can read.
they take photos
or videos
of their pets
wearing hats and gloves,
holding diplomas
in their paws.
a scarf around their neck.
they turn on music
to get them
to spin around.
they ask them to count
to ten
by barking, holding
up a wooden treat
to persuade them.
they roll over, they play
dead, they yodel
with their dog voices.
all the while, the cat
in the room
sits on the sill,
half asleep,
half watching, knowing
full well
that the food will
come without the charades.

the way out

you escape with a spoon.
digging, digging.
quietly.
it takes hours,
days, months. longer
sometimes,
depending on how
thick the walls
are. how soft the dirt is.
sometimes
the tunnel collapses
and you start all over,
but you keep at it,
before long
there is light.
there is air. there is
someone else waiting
on the other side.

another land

bent towards
the fallen snow,
with shovel
in gloved hand, the white
crust
that fell overnight
when I was dreaming
of clouds,
and sand,
a stretch of beach,
those palm
trees
swaying as we bathed
in the morning sun,
saying nothing
to one another,
but smiling,
happy to be in another
land.

Monday, January 5, 2015

net worth

your slim
dollar taxed, your
silver
coin
bitten into,
the rose you picked
is missing
petals,
it comes and goes
so fast
this pay
you grind your
wheels for.
hardly
a penny left
to close
your eyes
when they find
you stiff.

black and blue

how black
and blue the sky is
this evening,
a powdered moon
coming through
the curve of glass
as you drive,
not lost, just
moving along without
a care,
or map. you could
die happily
under a moon
like that, its
beauty enough
for one night, one
life, you pull
to the side of the road,
to remember.

i know you

you stare at the back of your hand
after she tells you
I know you like the back of my hand.
you let it rest on the table.
there are ropes of veins,
bluish strands below the skin.
the knuckles red and worn,
dark spots,
the fingers thick from work,
a scar. thin bands of hair,
some grey, some brown.
you know this hand so well,
you don't know anyone quite the same,
it's been with you for as long
as you can remember,
then you stop staring at it, look up,
and wait for whatever else it was
she had to say.

the session

it's been a while
your therapist says to you,
telling you to take a seat
and relax.
coffee, some tea perhaps?
you shake your head no
and sit.
so what brings you here
again, after all these years.
broken heart, death,
illness, or sorrow?
parents didn't love you?
which fun issue has brought
you to my office once again.
all of the above, you tell
him, and I know what you will
say to me to make me feel better,
we've been down these roads before,
but is it okay if we don't talk,
you ask him? can I just take
a nap here? sure, he says.
put your feet up, lie back.
i'll get the light,
leave a check on the table
when you awaken. thanks, you
say, then close your eyes
and gently fall asleep,
letting it all wash away
like a dream.

the apple

she slices
the red apple
at her kitchen table,
the knife
pressing hard
into the core,
carving it
into quarters,
she places the pieces
onto a plate.
there is no rush.
the radio is on low.
small yellow birds are in
the feeder
making it swing
gently
against the window.
the apples are tart
against her tongue.
she's had better
ones before, but these
will do this cold
morning with nowhere
to be, no place to go.

monday

you will go to work
today.
you will, at some point.
but there
is coffee to make,
a bath to take,
a book
you need to read, just
one more page.
you will go to work
you tell yourself
again,
and again, slipping
one sock
slowly, then
the other onto
your cold feet.

checks and balances

you make a checks and balance
list, when it no
longer feels right.
good points
and bad points.
ups and down.
in the beginning. it's
all good.
it always is, but
by the end.
the tide has turned.
the wrong side
out weighs the good.
what was once quirky and fun,
is now annoying
and intolerable.
but, you love her just
the same,
and ignore the list.
you ball it up
and toss it into the fire,
hoping she does
the same with
her list about what's
wrong with you.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

these horses

a field of horses
along the road makes you slow
down.
they pay you no mind,
behind the white post fence,
busy
with grass, with each other
under the blue
dome of this day.
the slant of a red stable
is in the distance.
their coats are black or grey,
some a rich
chestnut brown.
if she was with you, she'd tell
you something
you didn't know about these horses.
which one was old,
which one was young and could
still run,
but she's not here, so you drive
on, never knowing what there
is to be known.

to sleep

the rest of the night
you will devote to sleep.
it will be your church,
your pew
of prayer, your
booth of confession.
you will lie down
on the altar of your
bed, in the sanctuary
of your room
and wait for the blessing
of dreams, the forgiveness
of sleep to arrive. you will
rise in the morning
cleansed, ready once
more to start your life.

the climb



at this age,
these steps are narrow
and deep.
you catch your breath
half way up,
resting at the rail,
you look down
from where you
came, then up
to where you need
to go.
there is more behind
you
than ever before,
but you are still
rising, having not
fallen, not yet,
back to from where
you began.

the island of you

an ankle,
an arm, a set of lips
and legs,
the oasis
of your mouth
parted. the white
beaches
of your skin.
you are the island
I have landed
on, swum
to without a map
or compass
to guide me.
I will rest here
until it's time
to move on,
the day will come
before you
know it, it's what
I do best. I dive
back in, and swim.

the flow

like a balloon set
free
from a child's hand
you sail
above the carnival.
you have your sights
on the moon
or stars,
there is no place
below
that you wish to land,
you've seen
everything you've
wanted to see,
been to the places you've
wanted to go,
so it's best now,
to find a strong wind,
a gust,
a current, to exhale,
and sail with
the flow.

dark angel

she has a flare
for madness, a way
of looking at life
strangely. she's an
electric eel, a medusa
riding a winged horse,
a dark angel. she wants
to take you with her,
but you refuse to go.
it might be fun for
an hour, or two,
but then you'll have
to gnaw yourself
free from the leather
straps of love
she ties you to. how
sweetly though, she
sings, this woman,
with dark eyes,
silk skin, stirring
under a full moon
her witches brew.

six months, no less

let's take another look,
the young doctor says, telling
you to lie still
while they take an x-ray of your chest.
what was her name,
he says, staring at the black
and white chalked
negatives. there's
a crack across your heart,
a fissure,
right there, he says
holding the photo up to
the light. the old ones have
healed, but this one looks fresh.
may I suggest, and i know
it will be difficult,
but you need to rest.
be alone for awhile. just you.
six months, no less.

the apparition

silently she leaves
sweet cookies on your doorstep.
a book of poems,
a note of warmth,
almonds
wrapped in dark
chocolate, all
in a red bag,
tied by her hands
with a bow.
she is the ghost
of Christmas
presents,
an apparition
of your past.

the career

her hand
up, holding the strap.
the subway car tumbles
below the city
through a tunnel,
the flickering of lights,
the screech of wheels,
the dulled
eyes of tired
commuters looking
through her, neither
forward or back,
her hand up,
holding the strap.
ten years becomes
twenty oh
so fast.

intruders

her fence, broken on the east
side, the wire
torn from the post,
the grass trampled,
foot prints of winter
deer that passed
through,
the heads of flowers
eaten, the tops
of shrubs shredded,
they find a way in, she thinks,
while pounding a nail
held tightly in her
hand. these intruders,
like the men I don't love,
they find a way in.

around the bend

your indestructible
heart,
part stone, part
rubber, part flesh
and blood,
keeps beating, ignoring
lost love.
gently you pat
it with your hand,
whispering, we'll get
there one day,
keep going, keep
going, I can feel her
right around the bend.

sweet peppers

one ear
stuffed with life, full
of debris,
the roar of the world
is muffled, dulled
for him.
his blue eyes blurred
in color,
squinting,
unable to know
whether red or green,
to stop or go,
which sign
leads where, he presses
the pedal
forward. it doesn't
matter though, for in
the spring, if he has
another, he will
kneel in his small
garden and massage with
old hands
the soil to make sweet peppers
rise
and bloom again.

a different sea

despite the cold,
despite it being the month
of January
you take your shoes off
and walk alone
the empty stretch
of grey sand.
you approach
the wicked roll of ocean,
listen to
the violence
of its surf, pounding,
punching
the earth,
no longer soft
with summer, no longer
a clear green, no longer
holding out its
arms of waves saying
embrace me. the world
has changed,
this is a different sea,
it's not the same,
and neither are you.

monuments

this city, washed
in grey light. no luminous
wings of angels,
no bright swords,
it's the darkness
of rain,
the cloak
of sadness that death
brings,
shadowing the monuments
of war,
the false glory
of victory
that we bathe in.
in stone
we give the dead names,
they give us
the space
they leave behind
to walk in and live
our lives.