Saturday, February 28, 2015

without mystery

not unlike Oscar wilde
you fear not being
misunderstood, of being plain
and simple, the point
of you, dull and
unsharpened,
straight forward and to
the point.
you worry that people
might see you
as you really are
and not who you pretend
to be. then what?
what fun is that,
with everything known,
living a life without
mystery.

the pink gun


after showing you her new
pink lady gun tucked neatly
in her purse,
she talks about not wounding,
but killing an intruder
if he breaks into her home.
she uses her hand, as if the
gun, and says bang, bang.
I wouldn't wound him. i'd
try to kill him. self defense.
she blows at the tip of her
finger as if it was emitting
gunsmoke. I wouldn't feel
bad about it either, she
says. i'm going to the range
today to practice. come
with me. let me show you
how it's done.

church fashion

you wear your new shirt
to church.
it's canary yellow with white
buttons down the front.
short sleeved.
you leave it untucked.
it's a florida shirt
minus the palm
trees and coconuts.
it looks nice against
your khaki pants,
and brown shoes.
you feel comfortable
praying in this shirt,
kneeing in the pews,
taking communion
and singing along
with the choir.
you feel forgiven and
holy in this yellow
shirt. people stop
to touch it and ask you,
is that a new shirt.
which pleases you to no end.
it's your sunday
shirt from here on out.

under water

you are a ship
at the bottom of a sea.
listing, rusting slowly,
under the salt
and weight of water
over time.
no sailor on deck
pointing to the north
star, no land
in sight, no letters
from afar.
in the black deep
the blind fish swim
through your portholes,
the leviathans
bump up against your hull
mistaking you for them.
you are docked forever
in one place,
anchored to where you
rest, unmoving,
unable to sail where
you want to be.

anew

with a broom, you sweep
the lint of her, the hair,
the shoe, the sock left
behind, a photo torn in half
of her and you.
slowly you move what's
left to the center
of the room. the backing
of an earring,
a brush, shampoo, a bottle
of perfume. into the dust
pan two years go,
into the bag, out to curb,
then you slap your hands
against one another.
you start anew.

Friday, February 27, 2015

ice world

you cringe and lean
into the wind.
you throw your fist
at the weak melt of sun
and curse it.
you spit meanly at the ice
under your feet.
you are not a cold
weather person.
or even a hot weather person.
you prefer the middle
these days. balmy.
a slight breeze, with
a chance of a mixed
tropical drink at five.

stolen cans

you see them in the grocery store,
the frail and bent,
moving slowly down
the fluorescent aisles,
a bundle of coupons
in hand, their great long
coats sagging with stolen cans
of tuna, or cat food.
let them go, you think,
let them be, but no, the store
shakes them down before
they have a chance to leave.
they're scolded like children
then sent back out into
the cold wind. the end of life
without love or money
being sorrow ten fold.

the power line

the boy with one arm
in the neighborhood could
do everything you could,
and better, with his
baseball glove and bat,
but you still stared,
all the other kids
stared. you wondered
what it felt like.
the pink roundness
of his forearm,
the absence of a hand
with which to rely on.
you wondered how he
buttered bread, or combed
his hair,
or did a number of
mundane things you did.
you wondered how your
life would have
changed had it been you
to have grabbed the downed
power line.
he was different,
having been somewhere
we might never go.
in a place already beyond
the childhood we lived in.

whiskey bottles

your mother would
knit poodle sleeves for
the whiskey bottles emptied
by your father.
she would line them up
on the shelves,
on top of the kitchen
cabinets. pink and purple,
green and yellow.
old grand dad jugs
now covered up
with ears and noses,
cute stitching,
fluffy and playful, hiding
the misery that lay
beneath.

first kiss

you remember the girl next door.
Karen was her name.
her father was in the navy.
they were here now,
having traveled from Hawaii.
she was tall and lean
at thirteen
and had a bullwhip where she
would snap crabapples
out of your hand.
sometimes she would demand
that you kiss her.
which you would, pecking badly
at lips until she calmed
you down and showed you how.
she knew so much.
she told you about pineapples
on the island.
sugar cane.
she knew the stars,
pointing them out at night
as you both lay on
a picnic table in the back
yard. she made you sweat
made you made you crazy with
young love and passion.
you would never have
her. she would move again
by September,
disappearing into the world
but never far from your mind,
that summer etched
in memory.

setting goals

adrift on a sea of snow
and ice,
your boots crunch only inches in,
your legs tire from
the methodical stomp
of toe to heel,
the slipping
and awkward spread of arms
to keep your
precarious balance.
you're sweating under the wraps
of cotton and polyester,
the hoods, and gloves,
the scarf that swings
in the wind.
you just want to get coffee
and yet
the world is so difficult
sometimes. you have all day
though, you'll get there
by noon, it's good to
have goals in life.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

in the trunk

you find yourself in the trunk
of a car. gagged and tied, but
alive. you can hear a man
singing to the radio
in the front seat. billy joel,
this is my life. it's muffled
though from the trunk where
it smells like gas and oil,
rubber. a cold tire is pressed
against you. a wrench, a loose flare,
an empty beer can or two roll
about. the red roses you bought
to ask her to forgive you
are scattered everywhere.
your life has come to this.
you had no idea what kind
of man her father was.
but now you know.

where you used to be

you see her in the morning.
stretching, sitting at the edge
of her blue bed.
the blinds open. the yard
full of snow. you see her
stand up and look out.
her long hair behind her.
her feet cold against the floor.
her dog wanting to go out.
you see her, making tea,
making toast, pouring seed
into the bird feeder
against the window.
you see her going back to
bed, staring at the place
where you used to be.

every six months

you tell the dental hygienist
to skip the x rays this visit.
skip the cancer screening
with the blue light, skip
the thorough search for lumps
and lesions. shorten
the lecture on flossing,
on grinding, on snoring
and brushing. give me the express
cleaning, please. just polish
them up. I only brought
three hundred dollars
with me this time, so make
it snappy.

greetings from L.A.

your son, in California.
tanned and blonde streaked,
lean and relaxed sends you
a photo of him
and his dog
walking the beach,
his girlfriend too, hand
in hand. he's eating an orange,
pointing at the sea.
you're happy that he's
happy.
you send him a picture
of a snow shovel,
your boots in the grey
salted slush
pushing out your car,
sucking on a cough drop,
your cheeks flushed with
February, the soft smudge
of a low sun on
the horizon.

how do you want your eggs

you ask her if she'd
like an egg for breakfast.
she nods yes from the couch,
texting on her phone
to someone you don't know.
maybe her sister in Dayton.
how would you like them,
you yell out across the room.
this question makes
her shrug her shoulders.
over easy, scrambled?
she keeps texting and says,
do you have any mushrooms?
to which you say, no.
she laughs at her phone.
something is funny.
hey, you say again.
no mushrooms. how do you
want your eggs.
you pick up a brown egg
from the carton
and crack it in the pan
of melting butter.
hey, you say again.
i'm making eggs, do you
want some?
do you have any toast?
she says, but laughing harder
at her phone.
just toast. and coffee
she manages to yell out,
brewed, not instant.
she sinks further into
the couch. you only
see the top of her head.
you stare out the window
as the eggs crackle
against one another.
you see a bird
flying twigs into a nest
high in a tree.
you see another bird
bringing a worm.
it seems so simple from
the outside looking in.

when the sun dies out

sometimes, it seems ridiculous
to separate the paper
and the plastic, putting the cans
and glass in separate piles,
bins and bags,
especially after reading that at
some point the sun
will burn out and the earth
will be a frozen solid
chunk of ice with no life
left to even pick up
the trash.
you just wonder sometimes, why
bother with these little
things and feel guilty
all the time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

every crooked tree

when you read the news,
you think at times

that the world is a well
full of poison apples.

the water dark and tainted,
while we drink and sip

getting sick on the evil
that persists,

growing new and more fierce
on every crooked tree.

how quickly

how quickly these kittens
full of new life,
wrapped as one rolling
and leaping on the floor
to the couch, to the table.
nothing unreachable,
everything a toy,
how quickly they become
the cat in the window,
half asleep, wisely staring
at the birds they'll
never catch,
watching and waiting,
done with joy.

a starting point

it was a small speck
at first, but she went at it,
scrubbing with the pad,
around and around the sink.
her hands red and raw.
her wrists bent so.
she couldn't get it out.
she cried over it,
telling her husband look,
don't you see it, then
tried again. in time
she forgot where
she lived, her name.
everything that mattered
in her life soon vanished.
but not the spot.
it never came out.

tequila island

tequila is the devil,
be careful you tell her
as she laughs and tilts
the golden bottle to her pink lips.
she says something like, pffft.
in an hour she's speaking
in a foreign tongue
unknown on this planet
or any other.
some of her clothes are still
on while others are in her hand
waving like slender white
flags out the car window.
her feet are on the dashboard
as she turns the music up.
go faster, go faster, lets
see what this tercel can do.
come on, don't be a girl
hit the pedal, then she whispers,
from a dark place deep inside
of her, I love, I think I really
do love you. we should get
married, there's a church,
stop the car. quickly you
grab the bottle, enough is enough.

the new you

you see the light.
you turn over a new leaf.
you are reborn,
renewed. optimistic.
you have a different
point of view.
you blame it on
too much sleep
and home cooked meals,
but you aren't worried.
you'll be back to
your old self again once
work gets busy,
you're stuck in traffic,
and no longer
in a good mood.

human children


she wasn't crazy,
but with a dozen cats,
three dogs,
a sheep and a goat,
a pet raccoon
you could make a case
for that.
she liked to gather
them as close together
as she could to talk
with them.
give them a state of the yard
address.
some would listen
others would
talk among themselves.
they were her children
now that her real
children, the human
ones, were gone.
why they never called
her, or came to visit,
she didn't know.
but this was okay.
this yard full of animals.
they needed her,
and she needed them,
even the ones that
refused to obey, at
least they were here
and didn't run away.

the protest march

the protest march was thin.
a dozen, maybe less, women with
placards, bundled up so
tight, they may have been
men. it was hard to hear what
they were saying, chanting,
going on about, because
of the wind. some seemed
mad about something, others
just seemed cold,
then it started
to sleet, and the small
band of them dispersed.
they didn't make the news,
no interviews.
no police came to calm
them down, they just left
peacefully,
then gathered at
the coffee shop to plan
a new march in spring.

your blue

you paint your walls blue.
not a bird's egg
blue, but a grey blue.
a Russian blue.
a blue not unlike
the sea before a storm
arrives. a blue
like me.
it may take several coats
to cover
the white. but you have
all day, and into
the night. you find solace
in a blue like this.
a blue you can live with.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

no mail today

no real mail today.
no letters from overseas.
no postcard
from france,
nothing from California.
no word from fox island
in Washington state,
or santa fe.
just a flyer from
safeway.
the large jumbo olives
are on sale, two cans for
the price of one, but
just for tomorrow,
it starts today.

boys wil be girls

you read where the famous athlete
wants to become a woman.
he used to be an Olympian,
on the cover of the Wheatie's box.
bronzed and muscled.
what happened?
now you see him with his long
hair, his earrings and lipstick.
a purse with shoes to match.
they follow him everywhere
to get a glimpse of what's next.
the adam apple shaved,
the penis wacked?
a pair of breasts to fill out
the evening dress?
do we need to know so much
these days. let the boys be
girls, the girls be boys
and give it all a rest.

knitting a scarf

often you would ask her a question
about where you were
in your relationship.
she wouldn't answer. she'd sigh
then look away, or down,
or start knitting a scarf.
always a scarf. multi-colored.
you have nine of them now.
she talked with her knitting needles
and they were telling you
to stop asking questions, to
be quiet and enjoy this vacuum
of silence, the squeak of
her rocking chair. sometimes
you hardly know she's gone.

Monday, February 23, 2015

love me as i am

my cheeks are too low
she says, I'm becoming
old. I look like my
mother did at this age.
men have it easy, but
we need to keep it up.
to stay young and beautiful.
it's an unfair world.
so hit me up doc
a little botox here.
a lift there, some
filler everywhere.
pull it all back tighter.
I want to be young
again, just for a
few more years, then
the hell with it.
love me as I am.

the cold stone

you stay in the car while
she walks to her father's grave.
it's raining.
it's cold.
you see her touch
the stone. say something,
then stare silently
at the snow covered tomb.
the conversation is one way.
as it always was
between them.

the train will come

there is a long wait.
very long.
but you are patient.
you are a man of great
patience.
you can sit for hours
and not be bored.
you are not worried,
not pacing.
there is no where but
here to be right now.
you can sit in
the stillness of this
moment and be happy.
the train will come.
it always does.

an oval moon

the spill of you,
all long and lean,
out of your white dress
into skin, bathing
in the pooled light
of an oval moon.
it's hard to be blue
with you around, it
reminds me of a thing
called love.

equality

these ants. how small they are.
how brave and industrious
in their march towards
the spilled pyramid of sugar
that lies on the counter.
there seems to be no one
in charge, no one standing by
with a megaphone shouting
out orders. everyone
seems to be carrying their
own load equally
without complaint.
what a nice world
that would be you think
as you get the vacuum out.

there is no next time

you like to say things like
why have a business contract
for an emotion, that emotion
being love, which implies
you're not the marrying kind.
there is no for better or
for worse in your near
or distant future. no
till death do we part
vow with our ankles
shackled together. you'll
roll your dice in another
direction. there isn't enough
time, or energy to go
through that again.
to have the judge take
his chainsaw and split
all of your worldly goods
into two. no, you'll take
another road. a handshake.
a promise, a kiss on the lips.
how about a toast to love
and exclusivity the next time,
that will have to do.

apartment 1021


following the building
manager in, he with his master
key. tipped off and suspecting
illness or foul play, yells
out her name.
you are wide eyed,
the woman is not,
lying there stiff, arms crossed
on her bare chest.
her legs impossibly white
and straight
in a pink slip, her hair
down, still wet.
there is an ironing board
nearby holding a black
dress. work, perhaps.
she is a wax figure, yellowed
in the sunlight
coming through her
metal apartment blinds.
the police will come soon
and they will ask you questions.
you being a witness,
the second to see her,
with something like a smile
or grin, on her lips,
strangely sublime. her
cat green eyes staring off
into some distant place
beyond the wall.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

dog bites man

the dog, not knowing you at all,
off his leash, running free,
bites your leg as you stroll
by enjoying the morning sun.
just one bite, a growl, a snarl,
then the vise of his jaw
upon your calf.
it almost tears your pants,
but doesn't.
still there is a bruise,
no blood, just a purple
line of teeth imbedded,
in your skin.
was he hungry, angry at you?
did he disagree with your beliefs?
it's hard to know what
anyone is thinking
these days, people or dogs.

you want her near

forced to tell the truth
under duress. the torture of her
blue eyes glaring
into yours,
the bite of her teeth
on the blooms of sharp cold air,
you spill it all. you tell her
what she wants to hear.
yes. you miss her dearly
and want her near.

this fading light

at twenty you hardly had room
for another friend, straddling
childhood and manhood,
the cupboard filled. the shelves
overflowing with everyone
you knew from the beginning
of when you tied your first shoe.
then the thirties and forties
brought marriage and children.
the wheel of work.
a different crowd, the old
one fading away into their
own lives. who had the time.
and now, past the middle years,
you go to the shelves again
and see that death is a
clearing house, a broom
that sweeps away both
the present and the past
of friends. it saddens you,
this life. these empty
shelves. this fading light.

theology in the morning

she says that jesus
had some good ideas,
that he knocked it out
of the park
with that sermon on the mount.
but I prefer
Buddha, she says. it fits better
into my yoga classes
for meditative purposes.
i'd like to believe
that each time we live
and die, we come back
at a higher level
and not necessarily in
human form.
maybe we come back
as a grasshopper. but
I think I may have been
a queen, like Cleopatra
one time, she says,
turning to look at herself
in the mirror.
I have dreams about pyramids
and banana trees all the time.
do these yoga pants look
okay on me?
I should have worn
the black ones. my butt
looks too big in these.

the lost book

you can't find the book
you want to read.
you search the shelves.
the tables,
behind the couch, between
the cushions,
underneath. where could
it have gone.
perhaps angry at you
for being ignored
so long, it left.
it grew wings
and flew off. or maybe
you lent it out
to someone who now calls it
their own.
it's a sad to lose a friend,
a lover, but a book
unlike them, is rare to
turn up again.

on bald tires

on bald tires
the car spins and spins
on the cake of street,
white iced and unsalted,
no sand truck
in sight. how ambitious
to go out
into this frozen world.
what reason is good enough
to take your own life,
to venture out
on bald tires
into this unfit
for beast or human
cold night.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

angel wings

you step carefully up
the stairs, snow covered,
ice under that.
you grab the rail,
once black, now coated
translucent, an icicle
in your hand. gingerly
you move your boots.
no longer are you dashing
through the snow
in leaps and bounds.
those days are gone.
instead, when you reach
the top, you stop and catch
your breath. you take
a picture to remember
where you've been.
the children on the hill
sliding along
in sleds, red cheeked
with joy, angels
making wings.

let it snow

she's amorous when it snows.
the second a flake
falls from the clouds,
she rises like a cat
from whatever she's doing
and moves towards you, her
back arched, her lips
in a pout, her meow
and purr as loud
as it ever gets. there
is no digging out.
you're in for the night.

Friday, February 20, 2015

you might have bread

you skip a stone across
the blue
mirrored pond.
this makes the ducks, fat
and black
in their slow swim
to rise
and flutter harshly
their lazy wings.
they look at you,
measuring you up,
then swim towards where
you are standing.
they paddle quickly their
orange webbed feet, beaks
honking. they think you
might have bread.
it reminds of you of
how the phone rings
everyday at six p.m.
they too thinking
you might have bread.

your mother, marie


it looks like it wants to rain,
she says, lying in bed,
her gray hair against a pale
blue pillow. she points past
the curtains, out the window.
you look. the sky is low and grey.
I feel it in my bones, she says.
when the leaves lift up
like they do,
and cup themselves
it's a sign,
you can feel the breeze
as the front passes through.
I remember before
your father died, the time
we got caught in a storm.
you were a baby,
I held you in my arms.
it rained and rained
that whole week.
we couldn't go anywhere,
the roads were flooded.
the power out.
he loved me then. she turns
her head to look at you.
did I tell you this story,
she says. no, you say.
you get up to open
the window and pull back
the curtain. it's raining
now, you tell her, go on.
I want to hear more.

slightly off

some days there is a feeling,
a vague notion
that something is off,
slightly wrong, the way your shoe
feels when you slip
into it before work.
the sock not right,
a small stone.
the shirt with its loose
button. was the door
locked before you drove
away? and the stove,
is the burner now an
orange red about to set
the house on fire.
there are the bills you
stamped and set on the table
ready for the mail.
they sit there all day.
it's a day of uncrossed
t's, undotted i's.
of saying things you almost
mean, but don't.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

black and white

late into the night,
when nothing else was on,
she'd lie next to you on the couch
and watch an old movie,
black and white.
the films were classic,
full of people who always
dressed properly and were
polite. they had manners
and seemed more civilized
than we are.
the men wore hats, the women
wore gloves. they were always
on a train with nice luggage.
you knew who the villain was,
the hero, the heroine.
the love interest, the scorned,
the lost and trapped.
sometimes she'd fall asleep
with her head against your chest.
you'd let her sleep as
the movie played on.
the obvious plot, the music
too strong and leading,
the one or two cameras
that kept the shots concise
and clean. the endings were
satisfying, as they were with
her. always good and wanting more,
wanting to see her again
when the time was right.

your dead aunt

your aunt in a casket,
is finally quiet,
still as a single pale
pear in an otherwise
empty bowl. she's dressed
in what looks like
a lace shawl over
a black pilgrim's dress.
you question her religion,
if she had one.
her eyes are closed. thank god.
her hands are folded
on her chest. you see a green
stone ring on her finger.
someone has pressed a few
stems of flowers into the nook
of her fists. she may rise
and put them in a vase
any minute now.
she looks baked.
white, with powdery skin,
a pastry display item
in a store window.
no one is crying. she's ninety,
so anyone that would have
cried is dead too.
there is small talk that she
may have had an affair
with john kennedy which someone
quickly corrects and whispers,
joe. she was a looker in her day.
but you can't remember
any of those days, she's
always looked like this
to you. her face pinched
with lemon.
always sweeping her stoop
with a straw broom
and yelling out curses
in Italian. sometimes she'd
throw candy into the street
to make the kids go away.
some would, some wouldn't.

the blonde joke

you tell your father a blonde joke
on the phone. he says, wait. I need to
write this one down, hold on.
you hear him getting his magnifying
glass, his pad of paper, his pen.
then settling back into his chair,
okay, he says i'm ready. go.
okay you say, speaking slowly
into the phone, his hearing
nearly as bad as his vision.
what do you call a blonde standing
on her head, you ask him.
there is a pause, as you hear
him write it down, then
he laughs, and laughs,
and laughs. he doesn't even care
about he punch line. the question
is good enough. that's good, he says.
got anymore?

skeletons

you clean out the closet
one skeleton at a time.
you put them all on the couch
together. their bones are
bleached white and dusty,
brittle with age. maybe
they aren't skeletons at all
anymore. maybe they are just
reminders of a life lived,
for better or for worse.
it's not like you're running
for congress anytime soon.
maybe it's time to bag them,
and toss them to the curb
for Thursdays pick up.
it's time. it's way over due.

i want you to meet joyce

your friend wants you to meet joyce.
but you don't want to meet
joyce. you are tired of women.
of love and affection,
of pain and distraction. but,
he says, she loves all the things
that you do. books, and movies,
poetry and art. she has red hair.
cake? you say, does she love cake?
can she bake me a cake and jump
out of it in her skimpy underwear.
if she can do that, I'll meet her,
otherwise, I don't want to meet joyce.
i'll ask her, he says. i'll see
what she says and get back to you.
do that and let me know.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

under the ice

the boy is under the ice.
he's gone.
they can't find him.
he's under there somewhere
blue as blue can be.
his eyes are open.
as if still looking
for air. the cold
has crept into his bones,
the weight of his filled
lungs sending him
to the bottom,
no longer
laughing like he did
while he skipped
across the deep pond
for others to see.
his fingers bled,
they will say later
this spring,
as he scratched at
crystal roof of white
trying to get out,
trying to get back
his life. people will
come back in time, lean
against the new fence
and point, and say
there.

a yellow moon

walking below the yellow moon.
the autumn is warm.
no longer hand in hand,
she is ahead of you
in leaving. her dog,
blonde as brush in summer
on the edge of woods
looking back.
it is too dark to go
further, she waits for
us to catch up, you
not far behind. how love
ends so gently, sometimes.

drinking with strangers

you didn't get a cake
this year for your birthday,
nor did you make one.
you've lost count of
the candles needed anyway.
maybe tomorrow, you'll
find a bowl, some eggs,
a boxed mix to swirl
together and bake one,
paste on a sweet icing
with a spatula.
give yourself a party.
some balloons perhaps.
maybe you'll sing
then blow out
whatever candles you
can find, or maybe you'll
go around the corner
and have drink or two
with strangers,
think about better times.

good morning

you try to force your neighbor to say hello
after six months of him ignoring
your existence. his wife being even
worse, never stepping out the door
when you or anyone else is around.
good morning you say cheerfully
as he scrapes ice off the windshield
of his car. he stares down at the white
glass chipping away and nods. sure is
cold out, you say, giving a vocal
shiver and stamping your boots
on the sidewalk. he nods some more,
almost looking at you, but doesn't.
he goes to the back of the car
to work on that window. have a great
day you say, as you walk away to your
truck, whistling on the salted street.
he has no idea what he's up against.
you will be friendly and neighborly
despite him, until the day he moves.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

the empty beach

this stretch of winter sand.
roughed with shards
of shells, the bones
of fish, the dark gravel
the sea gives up when no one
is around. you walk this
land, changing with each wave
that falls upon itself,
then again. it's an
empty beach, the beach
where you once had her heart,
held her hand.


your kind of love

her birthday slips your mind.
the day goes by.
no gift or card was bought.
no flowers.
the calendar page turned.
you gave her no whisper,
no cake for that day,
no extra kiss on the lips
or hugs, but she forgives you.
she's beyond your kind
of love.

nothing to laugh about

no circus ever made you laugh.
no clown. no elephant in a dress,
or midget on a unicycle.
you get no joy
from the fat lady, or the monkey
with the organ.
the man on stilts does nothing
for you, or the human
cannonball flying through
the air. yawn.
your laughter comes from
a darker place, let's start
with a woman scorned.

winter love

when the snow melts.
the ice recedes, when the sun
is higher in the sky.
when the trees begin
to fill once more
with green, then i'll
begin to plow the field
and plant once more.
but for now. you'll do.
stay put and keep
me warm.

the silver tongue

he bends words
with his silver tongue,
evades, slips in and out
of a conversation
never quite there,
never answering
or giving a hint
as to who he is,
what he's all about.
always selling something
or himself,
but you love
him just the same,
this friend of yours,
who can't find
his way through one
talk without a sprinkling
of white lies,
or deception. it's a
constant game. you've
learned to keep
your distance, staying
away at arms length out.

we'll see

someone you used to know
and love
is at the door. you can see
the top of her head
through the peep hole.
you see nothing in her
hands, no plate of cookies,
no gun. so you open
the door and say
hi, what are you doing
here. I've come to make
amends, she says,
may I come in. sure,
sure, you say. come in.
an hour later, after making
love in the bedroom, she
says. I better leave
now. I just had to know
for sure, if we should
truly end things, or
begin again. you say, and?
i'm not sure she says.
we'll see. we'll see.


enjoy today

the gypsy waves you in.
come, come she says.
you look troubled.
let me take your coat,
get you a cup
of tea.
what do you need to know.
your future?
not really, you say.
but go ahead, make
something up, I could
use a lift, two sweet
and lows and half
and half, please.
give me your hand, she
says, unfolding it in
hers. she traces the lines,
nodding, smiling,
her eyes light up, brown
and bright.
I see good things, she says.
good things for you
in the days to come.
drink your tea, relax.
this one's on me.
and what about tomorrow,
you ask, as you sip
your tea. tell me.
no, she says, you
don't want to know.
enjoy today.

adventure

a crust of snow
across the arc of a cold
earth, you travel
uneasily on the unmarked
road, your tires
spinning slow.
your wipers slapping
in a smear
the melt of the salt
the sand
that cakes your car.
you need nothing of importance,
you just want to see
how far you can go
to get coffee, a sandwich,
a newspaper with day
old news. everything
you have at home.

Monday, February 16, 2015

monday

at the sink,
standing in her work
clothes, with shoes
off, she takes her meal
from the microwave,
a bowl of soup, too hot
to hold, she spoons it
into her mouth. blowing
on the steam. it's dark
already. she pours
a glass of wine.
goes through her mail.
the day is done,
a bath, a book,
the dog goes out,
comes back in.
the television goes
on, then off.
she does a load
of laundry, carries
a basket up the stairs.
she sits on the couch
and folds. there was
something on her mind,
something she wanted
to say to someone,
but it's too late now,
nearly ten, it's lost.

nearly home

as he tumbles
into the snow
after a few drinks,
of old scotch
poured friendly from
the tilted bottle,
he finds a soft spot
on the street
to lie on, a pillowed
drift to rest his
head upon, to look
up at the cluster
of stars under
the pink of a lamp
lights glow,
he's nearly home.

across the bay

the time your father
rowed his children, all five
across cape cod bay
in the leaky wooden
rowboat, with no life
jackets, comes to mind.
the grey rough water,
the sunless day, the power
of his arms pulling
pulling, as you hung on,
unaware of drowning,
or what might lie
below. was he proving
something to himself,
was he crazy, who's
to know. but he did row,
he did get to
the other shore then
back again. no one died,
and when you see him now,
at eighty-six, he fondly
remembers that, smiling.

small candles

they are candles.
low lights in the window.
in the shade.
burning away what wax
is left
in a strange place,
not home. they are
gathered like
a flock of wingless
birds together,
around the shimmering
pool or squared light,
the sound up, the channel
never changed,
the lunch being cooked
in the other room,
the few visitors,
looking at their watches
after signing in.
a flicker of eyes when
the doorbell rings.

polite applause

after the play
the applause is soft
and polite as the actors come
out to take a bow.
they stand together
and hold hands,
genuflecting as they do
to the already
departing crowd, slipping
into coats, and hats,
scarves and gloves.
you know that feeling,
that lukewarm
acceptance. you've been
on that stage, bowing
before, knowing
that things are just
not right, but you move on,
you care, but you don't
care. there is always
another show to prepare for
tomorrow night.

february


the room has a wind of its own.
a cold draft
seeping in from the edges
of the old wooden windows.
it's a ribbon of winter air
across your legs, your back,
your body without clothes.
you see the frost on the ground,
outside, the white iced tips
of short grass, the cars,
the sidewalk, dusted with
winters mist. it reminds you of
other winters, other mornings,
other Februaries,
all different, but all similar
to this.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

going somewhere

the wind takes you,
sends you spinning
in the air.
rolling down
the sidewalk.
you are a human tumble
weed, floating
and falling, caught
up in the gusts,
rising and dropping,
going somewhere
you hadn't planned,
once more.

say that again

you can stop now, she says.
you can stop writing.
you've said everything
there is to say
about everything, twice
now. you are becoming
repetitious and boring.
put the pen down, turn
the machine off, go out
and get some fresh air.
have a drink, have a good
meal, fall in love.
take a trip, but get out
of the house and do
something different
for a change.
slow down, you tell her,
repeat that last part,
word for word, i'm typing
as fast as i can.
I like how it sounds.

insured

you are insured for
fire, and theft,
auto and life.
your electronics too.
all are under
some umbrella policy.
if a flood should rise
and soak
your world, it's fine,
if the wind should
blow a tree upon
your roof, it's okay.
everything is safe,
and easily replaced,
well almost everything,
of course there is you.

the ghost of her

she is a ghost.
the woman who emptied her soul
with children.
this mother of yours.
this brown eyed girl
with black hair.
this muscled woman
of laundry and meals,
of scrubbing floors.
she is pale and weak.
marbled
in her chair, half
awake, half asleep.
hardly breathing as you
approach her and say
your name.
she is a sheet of paper
about to fly away
and disappear, her blood
no longer red,
now clear.

how we felt

your sister once chased
your brother around
the living room
with a carving knife.
would she have stabbed him
and cut him up, fileted him
like a sea bass, who's to know
these things. but whenever
you are in the same room
together with them, you
think back on those days,
how things were more clear
and defined about how we
felt about one another,
not like today.

you wait for rain

the bucket falls to the bottom.
there is no splash.
there is the sound of metal
against bricks
against the soft mud
at the end, a cold
slap. this love has dried
up. there is not a cup
left, not even a teaspoon
of affection to bring
up, and sip from. you wait
for rain. you are always
looking up at the sky
and waiting for more rain.

her list of lovers

she made a list of all her
lovers. numbering them on a sheet
of white paper.
grading them with one
or four stars.
you find your name
somewhere near the middle.
two stars, beside it.
this disappoints you,
and if she were still alive
you'd ask for a second chance,
a third chance, a way
to improve your
mediocre rating. maybe you
were having a bad day,
a bad year or two. but no,
there is nothing you can do
now, she's gone. you'll
burn the list, and move
on, try to do better,
try for once in your life
to not make everything
about you.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

eggs are okay

you read where you can eat
eggs now. the surgeon general
is on tv eating three boiled
extra large free range brown
ones. he puts a whole one
into his mouth. eggs are okay.
coffee too, apparently.
you break three or four eggs
into a bowl, scramble
them up with cheese.
you light a cigarette
and throw a half a pound
of bacon into the pan.
you are getting ahead
of the curve, a trail blazer
of good health.

recess

these children, in colored
duffle bags of clothing
spinning like pool balls
across the field
after the table is broken.
winter means nothing to them,
as they enjoy their recess.
they are getting the most
out of the most important
years of their lives,
being children, something
that will soon fade
into sweet memory.

one more thing

the were other things to say.
there always are,
perfect words or phrases
that come to you as you
drive away, but it's too far
to turn your car around,
to go back. too late
in the game. what you said
was enough, what she didn't
say or do to keep you there
was plenty, nothing
would change.

that mountain over there

you could, you could if
you wanted to. climb that mountain
over there. the one
in the distance, the one
snow capped and treeless
once it rises into
the clouds. you could,
you could easily get up
off this couch and put
your boots on, buy
a burrow and some climbing
gear and go up
that mountain, scale
the rocky peak, but you
are a wiser man now, so
you'll leave it alone.
venture out,
get coffee, something
to eat.

Friday, February 13, 2015

run away bride

in her gown,
crying, she ran out of her
own wedding
down the middle of king
street,
her white dress flowing
behind her.
she was chased
by her friends her
mother, even the priest
took chase.
only the groom stayed
behind, standing
at the altar,
giddy and relieved,
the look of reprieve
on his smiling face.

she changed her mind

they find her
in the white tub,
water cresting at the top,
now cold.
her body pale and limp,
nearly grey,
her arms draped
over the sides.
the blood from her wrists
has turned the water
pink, in taffy swirls,
it has pooled
in one puddle on the black
and white tile.
there is no note.
nothing can be found.
there is food in the oven,
still warm. the table set,
the t.v. on.
her clothes are on the bed
ready to be worn.
she seems to have just
changed her mind,
about many things
and moved on.

cold snap

with your blue lips
and shiver,
your body curled
onto itself,
you stand on the corner
and wait for the bus
to arrive. it's late.
the world is a white
ball of frost.
there must be a better
way to make
a dollar or two, to
keep the home
fire burning
and the cupboards full.

we're moving

after the divorce
she moves again.
she has a system.
boxes marked.
clothes in the car.
what goes first,
what leaves last.
the post office is
notified.
the water off,
the doors locked
the floors
swept one last time.
she moves again.
the kids in the car,
the dog, the cat,
the last look back.
everyone waves,
then sinks into their
seats looking
glumly forward,
to what's next
in this merry go round
life they lead.
she no longer
tells everyone
this will be fun or
it's the last time.
because she knows it's
not.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

the heart shaped box

at twelve,
the heart shaped box
you gave her
with nothing in it
but the poem
you wrote.
your mother
still has it somewhere,
she reads it out loud
every year on the phone,
it makes her cry.
your valentine.

fair and unfair

this hawk, wide winged
and swift, swoops
down, his open claws
as sharp as nails,
snatches the life
of a grey mouse from
the ground.
hardly a sound, just
the wings in air.
the quiet movement
of life and death
doing what it does
through the ages,
neither fair
or unfair.

the key

the key sticks in the door,
it won't come out.
you pull, you twist,
but it doesn't turn.
no gentle persuasion
will help.
it wants to be where
it wants to be.
you know how that goes,
being stuck so often
yourself.

yard work

give her a ball of yarn,
her needles, a bottle
of white wine,
her cat, the big chair by
the window
where the bird feeder
would swing in a gaiety
of yellow finches,
blue birds, cardinals,
some sparrows,
browned, their black eyes
pellets in the sun,
give her all that
and you were just a man
in her yard moving dirt,
fixing the fence,
moving bricks from
the front of the driveway
to the yard,
that she would one day
move back.

the weather report

you turn the sound down.
the weather, as you can see
by the map is blue and white,
is cold, and wet.
no need to hear him say it
with his sympathetic
words, his plea for you
to stay warm, to be careful
on the roads. to bring the cat in.
you are wise enough now
to wear a coat,
to drive slower,
to look into the sky
and know what's coming.
no need to hear his
apologies for the storm
about to come.
you wish you could tell
him, it's fine, everything
will be okay. don't worry.

your valentine

she was your valentine.
wasn't she?
didn't you give her
roses from
safeway, the last dozen
in a vase,
a card signed love
with your name below
the hallmark script.
not a cheap card either.
it made music
when opened.
and what about the broche,
that silver sea horse
with ruby like pieces
of glass imbedded
in its curves. what about
the milk chocolates?
wasn't that enough for
another year,
to express your vague
and fading love?

keeping things

there is something to be
said kindly
about hoarders, those who keep
and keep
what comes into their
hands, their lives,
forever. they have feelings
for that plastic bag
holding more bags,
that chair with the stuffing
out, that ski pole, bent in two.
each piece an orphan,
unglued unused.
they need to be saved,
we all do.

fenders

the crash is a small one.
fenders mostly, a dent.
a scrape of paint
off the side.
no one is hurt. nothing
to write home about,
as they say.
in the rain, they stand
huddled, while the blue
light of a police car
spins and spins.
it's early. everyone is
late. it's a small accident,
and everyone will
go on with their
day. no friends are made.
no one's fault,
no epiphanies other than
wishing one had left
earlier, or later, or
gone a different way.

miscellaneous

you see the note
on the table. bread, milk,
butter.
then lower, in a column
with numbers.
gas, electric. insurance.
rent. phone
and miscellaneous.
even now, at this age,
past work, sleeping in,
the count goes on.
and at night, on his
balcony, with or without
the stars or moon,
he drinks and pours
from a bottle of gin
miscellaneous.

nothing more to be said


how different it is
now that we have
gone away from one another.
how strange the light
is, the empty chair,
your pillow, the bed sheets
unrumpled. how quiet
the world is, your hairbrush
on the sink,
your shoes on the steps.
a ring, a pair of eyeglasses
that were left,
the book turned over,
half read.
how strange the world
is, with us apart, with
nothing more to be said.

confession

your confession is weak,
half lies
half truth, on reluctant
knees.
but you belly up
to the bar of God and say
your piece, explaining
in vague details.
the whys and hows
of how things got to be.
just silence.
just silence.
which you will accept
as forgiveness,
the other option
too hard to bear.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

the empty shelves

your brother would take
his turn,

then each skinny sister,
then you,

all going to the kitchen
to open

the refrigerator door
to see what wasn't there.

an hour later,
quietly in the cold light,

you tried again,
hoping with hunger

that something was missed,
or would eventually appear.

twice around

-
it hurts, this rub, this pulled
tag of skin
on your heel. you've
walked too far
in these new shoes,
tied tight and hard.
it stings, this pink
blister burst
and bloodied on your sock.
but you had to get around
the lake, once more,
to do less would mean
age is winning, so
you had to walk.
a price paid,
and will be paid again,
once healed.

picking berries

you knew better, eating those
berries in the field
as you wandered alone
near the woods, near the water,
not far from home.
plucking them off the tangled vines.
you knew it might be a bad
idea. you weren't even
hungry. but the berries
were red, some blue. they
seemed to be bright with
sweetness, happy in their
own fat way to be picked.
you knew, and you still do,
but you keep eating them,
despite what comes next.

letting go

when it was time
for your dog to be put down.
to be let go,
put asleep, are there
any words or phrases
that lessen
the loss? none come
to mind. but how you held
him in your arms
as the needle was gently
slipped into a vein
of his grey paw,
how you found his
heart beat with your
hand upon his warm chest,
how he stared at you,
remembering, being sad,
being mournful, probably not.
but for you, yes.
a thousand times yes.

it's her life

it's her life, this life,
this one she's had, now in
a crinkled bag
of skin and bones,
brown eyes, and smiles
that are safety nets
to let others in.
she remembers nothing
of what you said
ten minutes ago, or what'll
say ten minutes from
now, again.
the moments slip out
of her hands like fish
caught, then let go.
but it's fine. fine for
now. she's here, she's
alive, she's clean
and in the hands of others
more skilled than you
at keeping her death at bay.

behind the walls

your fence is now a wall.
the wall
a house, a building.
your windows are shuttered.
the doors
of steel locked tight.
there is no way in,
no way out.
only the smoke from
the chimney of your
mind lets me know you
might still be alive,
the grey swirl
of your burn disappearing
into the rain bent sky.

our moon

there are moons
yet to appear in the sky
for your eyes
and hers.
celestial objects
for you to share,
balloons of silver
and white,
moons to be stared at,
to you make you call
her late into the night
and ask, can you
see that. can you see
our moon, how bright.

warm bread

she bakes
you bread. it's warm
when she hands it to you.
a plate, a gift,
something she took
the time to make.
just bread,
but so much more.
already
she knows what
you adore.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

a place for you

a place for everything.
a shelf,
a closet, a box
or bowl.
an attic,
a basement or a
shed out in the cold.
an empty space
to put things
you no longer want,
to hold,
finding that place
for you
has been harder
than I thought.

seven children

her children,
of every age
are weeds growing
awkwardly out of the ground.
patches of them
in the yard,
under the sun and rain,
in another room,
on the streets.
so many kids,
so many weeds.
she can't pull them
out and rake them away,
they're her own,
but how she longs
sometimes for a green
freshly mowed,
trimmed wide lawn.

the dark ages

the power goes out.
you find a candle.
the matches.
a flashlight.
you open a bottle
of wine.
you find two glasses
on the shelf.
there is nothing
blinking, no beeps,
no stove,
no television.
it's the dark ages.
the age of talking
and making love,
without an
interruption.

in your hand

in asking Chekov
where he got his ideas
for short stories,
the story goes
that he picked up
an ashtray, held
it in the air,
then said, here,
here is a story.
what i hold in my
hand is a tale
waiting to be told.
so it goes with us,
as i take your hand.

in all good time

with only one wing
working, the bird spins
in the grass,
unable to fly.
the snakes
approach, an owl
with his wings
wide, casting a band
of shadow, circles
down,
a cat is hunched
nearby ready to pounce.
a dog too,
in the window
waits his chance.
vultures are in the trees.
the world doing what
it does in all
good time.

the burn

you burn your fingers
on the hot stove
of her heart.
blisters form.
no matter how hard
you blow on them,
it still hurts,
not even dropping
your hands into
a bucket of ice
water can relieve
the pain, but it
doesn't stop you
from going back
for more of her,
again and again.

the whisper

you thought you heard
her whisper kindly
to you in your sleep,
but it was the wind
coming through
a crease in the old
wooden windows.
but it was good
enough to get you
through the night.
you'll listen again,
and wait patiently
for another whisper
or two when you
lie back down
at the end of light.

Monday, February 9, 2015

green sea

this sea, this green
swaying
drink of memory
and shipwrecks,
of waves and fish that
will never be seen,
dark in their brooding
caves, not tinseled
or golden, but the color
of rust, the color of
beams held
in the grip of salt
and sand, lying on the mud
floor with bleached bones
where the earth ends.
so much of what we don't
know, we can't see,
or ever will.
this sea is where we
come to drown,
to renew, a place to
fall in love or accept
loves end, a place
to sail upon and pretend
to escape
from where we've been.

breaking the chain

you don't know what hard
times are, you tell your
son, as your father once
told you. you don't know what
hunger is, what being cold is,
what being afraid and lonely
is. you don't know what
it's like to be unloved,
to work as hard as I do,
every day, every year,
to fall into bed after a days
job and have your bones ache.
you don't know what's it
like you tell him
to hold onto the wall
as you go down the stairs
in the morning.
he agrees, smiling,
wondering what he'll say
to his son, when
the time is right.

the animal kingdom

your seeing eye dog
is here with you,
along with your hearing
cat, and your whistling
bird. these animals
do for you what
you can no longer do
for yourself. the chimp
cooks for you in the kitchen,
a banana in every dish,
and the fish,
how they swim and dance,
like you used to,
the lion with his roar,
how loud you once
could roar.
and the rabbits, in their cage,
doing what rabbits do.

a new sorrow

you have a new sorrow.
it's fresh
and dark, a wound so deep
that you can see the bone.
the blood runs
cold onto the street,
it pools around your shoes.
it makes you sit
down on the curb
and exhale, pondering
your next move,
if there is one.
you have a new sorrow.
you gather yourself
and limp home. you'll put
it with the others
that wait for you
when you get there.

her name

a small man in a black cap
is standing alone
at the edge of the river.
the river is green,
the sky is grey.
he is in no hurry to leave,
or go back
to from where he came.
he taps his cane against
the walkway sending
gulls into the air.
he leans with elbows resting
on the rail.
he has all day, all
the rest of his life
to come here, to remember
her and to say
quietly her name.

don't lose my number

she writes you a note
and tells you, I've found
someone new
so I can't come over
anymore and be your
part time lover.
he's rich, not that it
matters, and please
don't take this the wrong
way, but you aren't
and never will be.
I need to eat something
other than pizza, and
drink beer with you
while we watch the game.
I wish you all the best
though, i'm sure you'll
find the love of your life
at some point. i'm just
not her. but don't lose my
number, who knows how
long these things last.

the scrub bush

there is a bush beside
your porch that you hate.
if one can hate a bush.
it's a scrub brush,
green, the kind of plant
you see in the woods.
it makes you sneeze
just to look at it.
why it was planted
there, you don't know.
tonight you will
pull it out by it's roots
and toss it over
the fence. you're in
that kind of a mood,
with people and bushes.

maybe

it looks like rain.
maybe,
maybe later in the day.
maybe it will
pass and the sun will
come out before it sets.
who's to know.
maybe a lot of things.
like us, for example.
maybe we'll fall in love,
real love, the kind
that lasts forever.
the kind you read about
in the paper when they
die. how they were
together for so long,
in love.
It looks like rain,
maybe. maybe later
in the day.

she's the one

a woman in a red
hat passes by your window.
she's not afraid
to wear red.
she's very strong
in her stride, her shoes
clicking on the sidewalk
as she hurries
towards her job.
she's a beauty, but
tight lipped with chin up.
she is a red person,
you think to yourself,
watching her disappear
around the block
to where the trains
are. she seems
ambitious and strong,
you imagine she'd
be very hard to live
with. you see a
woman in a blue hat
approaching, she's
talking to herself,
maybe she's reciting
poetry she knows by heart,
she's stopping
to pet a dog. she sees
a hopscotch pattern
chalked in the sidewalk
and beings to hop
her way through
the numbers. she's the one.

sharing the moment

the car won't start.
so you can't get the frost off
the windows.
not even the radio
will turn on.
the battery, the alternator,
who the hell knows.
you sit there for a few
moments, breathing
in the cold air.
tapping the steering wheel.
it's been a long day,
you think, staring at your watch.
8 a.m. already.
it's very quiet, kind of nice
in a strange igloo
kind of way. the light
coming in pleasantly,
blue gray through
the sealed windows.
you wish there was someone
there to join you,
to share this moment
in the car that won't start.
maybe you could make love
and melt the windows
clean. maybe after a while,
with the sun coming
up and the heat from
your bodies the car would
start. maybe. you turn
the key again. nothing.

questions and answers

tell me your story, she asks.
who are you.
family, life, work?
are you happy?
where is your faith?
do you pray, do you floss.
do you dye your hair,
do you separate
the plastic from the paper
and glass?
what is your five year
plan. your goals.
where do you see yourself
living when you retire.
how come you never visit?
I don't know mom, you
tell her. I don't know.

cellophane

the cellophane
of life is ripped
and torn. crumbled
on the lawn, blowing
madly in the wind.
the wrapping is off.
the shine is dulled.
sometimes you find
out early that things
aren't what they seem,
sometimes
you never find out
at all.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

into the dryer

deep into the night,
into the call,
the discussion goes to God,
what do you believe,
is there life
after death, life
after living
this life.
you say, I hope so.
i'm planning on it,
but I haven't packed
any bags yet.
maybe it's like sleep,
she says.
we drift off into a black
void of nothing.
or maybe it's the most
amazing colorful
and joyful place you
can imagine, you suggest.
then you look at your
watch and tell her
you have to hang up
now. you have a load
of wet clothes in
the washer that need
to go into the dryer.
okay, she says. goodnight.

queen of the diner

in a fur coat,
white as snow, with pearls
around her thick neck,
the woman eats at the bar.
drinking a mimosa,
her white Cadillac
out front.
a stack of real estate
cards next to her
pack of cigarettes.
she is the queen
of the breakfast buffet,
mixing business
with pleasure, saying
hello, good morning,
how are you to anyone
that passes her way.

love like that

they are a married couple.
these two women.
strong willed
and in love.
sitting side by
side in the booth
as you sit across
from them. they eat
off each other's plate.
are you going to eat
that bacon,
one says to the other,
it's yours, the other
answers. take it.
have my potato and eggs
too. toast? here,
let me pour you more
coffee. how you long
for love like that.

the mirror

the mirror
shows her face.
aging,
growing older as
we all do
if lucky enough
to live that long,
but her poems
show her soul,
as young and vibrant
as the day
she first put pen
to paper.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

so are you

the baby next door,
crying. you hear the man
go in. saying something.
he sings sweetly to the child,
you hear the chimes
of the mobile
over the crib.
the baby stops crying
while the father
keeps singing. he has
a beautiful voice.
it surprises you.
you lie in your bed
against the shared wall
and listen.
the baby is now quiet.
so are you.


spin the wheel

you could cash it all in.
take all your money
out of the banck,
put it all in a bag
and fly to vegas. you could
throw it all down on black,
or red. let the wheel
spin and spin.
why not, you trust in
God. why wouldn't God
want you to double
your money?
He likes you, in fact,
people keep telling you
that he loves you.
This will give him
a chance to prove it
once and for all.

the cost of things

it was three point four miles
to the liquor store.
he told you that while
sipping on a can of red
white and blue beer.
I can be at the senior home
in fifteen minutes
where they keep your mother.
there's hardly any traffic
if I leave at ten
and get home by noon.
you nod, you acknowledge
his calculations and say,
that's good.
a mouse runs across the room
in front of the television,
then another,
then three more.
you stand up and point
them out as they scurry
behind the couch.
I know, I know he says.
I caught seven yesterday,
thirteen last week.
I don't want to put any
poison down, because of
the dog. do you know what
milk costs these days,
he asks, shaking his head,
his eyebrows covering
his eyes.

Friday, February 6, 2015

waiting for the light

in the crowd you are no one.
another face,

another man making his
way from point A to B.

living in your head.
walking, walking, waiting

for the light to change.
you are an army of men

and women. you obey the world,
and do what it takes

to stay alive.
in the crowd you are no

one, another face, waiting,
waiting for your life to change,

vanilla cake

she is a fine vanilla cake.
three tiered,
with white icing
dripping down the sides.
full of candles
burning on the sweet lake.
you can hear her whisper
deep inside.
take a knife and cut
into me, she says. i'm ready.
don't let another year go by.

stolen lines

you borrow lines
that you read, that you come
across in an old
book, plath or bishop,
strand or frost,
it doesn't matter.
it just takes a word
or a thought,
to light your little
fire, to get your fingers
moving again
across this worn
and fading keyboard.
you imagine they don't
mind, having stolen
from others, themselves.
making the pilfered
lines their own.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

the antique


with a collar of fur
around her small shoulders,
a necklace of pearls,
against the ruffled blouse,
rings, a cluster of stars
on her married hand,
she eats a spoon
of scrambled eggs,
careful not to spill
as a child would.
sitting as still as a
powdered pastry in a window.
her face is lineless,
her eyes cat blue.
there is no frown or
smile upon her as she
eats, slowly. her
man, her help, leans
over and whispers
in her ear. she nods
yes. he pours her coffee,
adjusts her wheelchair
moving it closer
to the tables edge.
she stares at you across
the room, as you stare
at her. she is an antique
clock, still ticking.

the old foot bridge

the foot bridge across
the Occoquan is splintered
and rebuilt. a sign tells you
how it was used during
the civil war.
the rush of water
is strong
after so much rain and snow
up north.
you see the new wood
over the old wood.
you see the new nails.
new screws.
the mesh fence where
it's shiny now
next to the rusted
fence.
you are new to this path
too. finding it
in this winter, of walking.
you could easily
climb over the short
wall and be in the water.
swept away. forgotten.
but you don't. you just bought
this five dollar cup
of coffee and it looks
cold down there.
you keep walking.

hold on

hold on to your hat,
grab a pole,
lean forward with your
weight into this wind.
it wants to pick you
up and take you
high into the air.
it wants to show
you how small you really are.
how light and fragile
your life is.
hold on to something,
or someone. the short
meaning of a good life.

marching orders

her pills.
bottles lined up
in the medicine cabinet.
little soldiers
with white caps
and brown suits
awaiting their marching
orders
to go forth and make
the world right.
each stamped
and dated, ready
and willing to win
the day, to bring on
the night.

wrestling bears

you wrestle bears for a living.
but it's not fair.
they are fat and full
of fish and steak,
declawed. in fact,
they like you. at night
in their cages you'll
sit next to them
and scratch their bellies.
you'll read to them as if they
were children, and could
understand every word
you are saying.
they are old bears,
they have no growl or malice
in them. they pretend
and you pretend, sometimes
they'll even let you win.
you could do worse than
friends like them.

i understand

I understand. I do.
I really do get it.
but i'll play it out just
the same
as if I don't know. i'll dumb
myself down
and forget everything I've
ever learned about heartache.
i'll act as if this
is the first time.
i'll stop eating, i'll
toss in my sleep.
i'll stare endlessly
into the woods as I walk
with my grief.
i'll send random cards
and leave messages on
her phone. i'll do all of
this, as I've done since
day one.
I understand. I do.
just let me get on with it.

he's not there

it's not the news
you seek, not the headline
or scores.
no weather is of interest.
it's the obituaries
you turn to. the thin
pages at the back
of the D section
where the black and white
photos stare out
into the living world.
it's here you find his name.
your friend.
a photo of his face, unsmiling,
his beard, his nose.
his pensive lips,
hardly him at all.
an etching of his life.
his children, his brothers,
his wife.
but what is there to say.
is there mention of how
he sang, or played
his guitar. the beret
set just so, tilted on
his head. is there mention of his
fiat that he was always
under with a wrench,
hands in grease,
or the way he took a shot,
smooth and silky
from the top of the key.
is there the nod
of laughter,
the gentle handshake,
the love he had for
any stray crossing any street.
there is no mention
of the music he loved,
of lennon or cat stevens,
the women he loved,
the way he went on for hours
on the phone,
the two of you beyond
sleep. none of that is there.
that you carry with you,
until it's your turn.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

tireless

unlike you,
the fish are tireless.
their lives
know nothing of sleep,
of closing their
eyes, there is no
blink in them.
no nap under a dark
set rock in the weeds.
they must keep going,
they know no other
way. they are awake
and moving always.

mary at ninety two

she said when she fell
in the garage
that she was too weak
to pull herself
up to walk out, so she
lay there. then managed
to sit up against
the tire of her car
in the cold. in the dirt.
but she had a bag
of groceries, so she
opened up a box of cookies
and ate one, then two. she knew
that someone would be
along eventually.
there was nothing to worry
about. then she made
a sandwich of lunch meat
and bread, spreading mustard
from a small jar
with her fingers.
she drank some milk from
the quart jug.
this was fine, she thought
to herself. this is fine.
she stared at her shoes,
she could use a new pair
she thought, then
she took out her magazine
and read the gossip news.

the black coat

she leaves a coat behind.
a small black coat
that wouldn't keep a cat
warm. it's that small
and thin. you hold it up
and stretch the arms out.
pull off some lint.
you straighten the collar
then fold it neatly,
setting it on the stool
where she left it.
she might be back again.

afternoon coffee

the waitress seems
especially kind to you,
almost sympathetic.
smiling with daughter
like eyes.
she's so young.
and you, eating alone
in the late afternoon,
with your paper,
your open phone
next to the salt
and pepper, a tin
of napkins. sugar.
she has made a
story for you. she's
put you in a place
as she leans over to pour
more coffee.
she has said to herself
where you have come from
to get here this day.
she's at least half right.

don't leave

these legs of yours.
so long
and lean, against mine
as we lie
here in the summer heat.
we are in the white
of everything.
the sunlight,
the sheets, our skin.
there is no where to
go because we are there
already, the place
we want to be. let's
stay a little longer
in love, don't leave.

the same place

it's all connected.
these words,
this feeling of despair,
the clap of joy.
the love you find
and lose.
it's all part of it.
you are never
lost, all the roads
lead to the same place.
you just haven't
realized it yet.
you will though.
you will.

what i know

i know you.
i know the likes of you.
i know who are
when it's dark and raining.
i know who you are when
things are good
with the sun out and bright.
i know what you eat,
and wear. i know the color
of your eyes,
how you like to stand
and brush your hair.
i know what you want when
we make love.
i know when you want to be alone.
i know that look on your face.
i know everything there is
to know about you, but i don't
know if it's love. do you?

a new day

I need a new way of thinking.
a new face, a new body.
I want my voice
to sound different when
I speak. i want a new name.
I want new clothes,
new shoes.
give me a new set of hands
to work with.
a new job.
a new family, a new dog,
i want a new house to live in.
I want a new everything.
well almost. I still want you.

stop the car

I know it's raining, but
you can drop me off here.
this corner is good.
I don't live far,
I can walk from this point
on. really, it's not a
problem. you go on.
go on with your life.
go on without me. I can
walk from here. I
can walk even farther
if I had to. I'm used
to walking. this is good.
stop the car.
don't say a word.
I like the rain. I like
how this is ending.

the empty wind

there is no one home.
the lights are off.
no candles in the window.
no dog barking.
no car in the driveway.
she's gone.
you can see the tracks
of the truck
that took her and everything
away.
she's gone back to Kansas
you imagine.
that's where her heart
has always been, back to
the farm. the wheat,
the endless fields below
a flat blue sky.
the empty wind.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

the whistle

the water boils
making the pot whistle.
this is how
you feel
when you see her
coming towards you
on a Saturday night.

wonderful

this scrap of paper
circling above
the cracked cement
of the playground,
twirling, rising
in a small
cyclone of wind.
this tells
you something
about the world.
something strange
and dark,
and possibly
wonderful.

help is on the way


the belt won't move.
the machine won't take the cash.
the salad won't weigh
and the tuna cans won't scan.
the help light blinks and the robotic
voice says someone is on
the way to help you.
every time you go it's the same.
you expect it now, you wait
to wait, it's the way things
are. no easy pass
with machines in our way.
how you miss the sullen
clerk with his tired eyes
the droop in his seventies
mustache.

a candy moon

beautiful moon.
cut clean and hung
against a black sky,
candied white,
as pure and round
as it can be.
this night is ours.
this moon
is ours. i'll watch
it from the window
with you, as we
make love, then fall
into sleep.

she could dance

she loved to dance.
your old girlfriend.
she would put on boots
up to her knees
and turn the stereo on.
she'd give you
a show. twisting her hips,
gyrating and prancing
across the floor.
drinking was involved.
she could dance though,
before the second
or third drink
went down.
after that, it was
madness and you had
to slow her down
by joining in.

cut grass

cut grass
reminds you of your
summers,
your heavy push
mower, with thick
unsharpened blades,
you could hardly shove
it through
the tangle of
tall grass.
five dollars a yard.
raking too.
the wheels would flatten
out the tall field,
hardly anything
cut.
you'd see the man
in the window
shaking his head.
offering nothing,
not even a glass
of water, as you
gave up on the mower
and used your hand
clippers
to cut what you could.
you could almost
feel the five dollars
in your hand.
even today.

luxury seats

you sink into the deep
seats of the movie theater.
they let you bring
in drinks now, and food.
there is a tray
to put your dishes on,
and silverware.
the leather recliners
lean back into a lying
position. you could
almost fall asleep
there, or make love,
if the movie was bad.
the seats are reserved.
it says so on your ticket.
no need to rush in, no need
to hurry. your seats
are ready and empty
awaiting your body. so you
sit, you sip your martini
and await for the film
to start. Aliens six,
or seven, you aren't quite
sure.

Monday, February 2, 2015

let's go

reverse is a gear
you're not fond of.
the rear view mirror
is smudged
and blurred, unused.
you aren't going
that way anymore.
your foot is on the gas.
forward is your
permanent direction.
get in or get out,
let's go.

the matinee

there are killers
in the street right now.
but you can't see them.
they don't even know yet
who they are. one day though
they'll strike.
something or someone
will push them over the edge.
in the dark
they'll buy bullets
or sharpen a knife.
you'll see their names
in the paper, you'll see
their photos,
the short compact story
of their normal lives.
you'll nod and say,
he was quiet, or loud,
or angry, but I never thought
it would to come to this,
then you'll shrug and go get
coffee, you'll call
your friend betty
and maybe go to a movie.

the net of crazy love

persuade me,
you whisper into
her mouth,
tell me
what I need to know,
what I want to hear.
find me,
don't lose me.
capture me in the net
of crazy
love.
kill me in my day sleep
and waken
me to what's real,
what the world could be
with you.

the owl

the owl
with a grey mouse caught in his
claws
swung down
with broad brown wings.
it soared
without trying.
the tilt of his shadow
casting an omen
upon you and this thing
you assumed
was love.
but it wasn't love.
and it wasn't an omen.
it was just a bird
eating
what he could.

the cellar bed

you slept, or rather you
dozed on the cold slab
of a futon
in the cellar of her
split level home.
it was deep in the woods.
but not deep enough
to not see the rusted stove
and washing machine
in the neighbor's yard.
sometimes a dog would
bark, sometimes a dog
would shriek in pain
after barking.
but you lay there in
the cold night,
a numbed fish on ice,
head tilted on the hard rock
bed beside the saddle
and hair blanket, the stacks
of discarded clothes
and magazines.
you shivered in your aloneness.
far from home, as far
from love and affection
as you had ever been.
and in the morning you would
see the red balloon
face of the boy next door
jumping madly on
his trampoline, staring
with crazed blue eyes
and tombstone teeth
into the room
where you could never sleep.

road kill



how many vultures are there now.
they are thick
in the sky,
floating in their strange
slow way, circling
the death that lies
along the highway. they are
bunched up at the side of the road
like judges in black
robes and dark eyes.
hunched in quiet
deliberation, yellowed
claws flecked with
yesterdays meal of blood
and gore. how many vultures are
there.
plenty it seems, enough
to go around.
enough for you and me.

taking a walk

you carve your initials into the tree
along the path where you walk
to get away from people.
although occasionally people
will pass by. but it's okay,
they never wave, or say hello,
or try to talk. they are from
around here, and so it's impolite
to be friendly around these
parts. if they were from the south,
or west, well, that's a
different story. you'd be standing
there all day talking
about the weather and God.
so, you carve your initials into a tree
with a swiss army knife
someone gave you for Christmas.
you put a plus sign under the letters.
then stop. you don't put the date.
the rest will come later.
everything is still undecided.
everything. you continue on your walk.

down to the lake

you are reminded of the time
you went down the hill to the lake.
how still it was.
how cold and close to ice
the water was.
you remember how the sand
took your shoe,
making it sink deep into the muck
leaving an imprint of where
you stood.
you were there. do you remember?
do you remember
the white of the day.
the vagueness of our
relationship. the awkwardness
of holding hands.
how hard it was to get back
up the hill to where the car
was parked, slipping,
and slipping. not a single
laugh to be found.

together

the wind picks up.
the cans
in the alley fly against
one another.
shutters bang.
hats go off like pinwheels
into the sky.
everyone holds on,
the tiles on the roof
come unhinged.
I grab a hold of you,
together,
anchored we can survive.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

under water

you hear the phone ring
as you lie
as best can in your small tub,
the hot water
emptied into the basin
where your naked body
rests, bent knees, and
neck against a washcloth.
a stack of books
and magazines, you won't
get to nearby. teetering
on falling in.
but the phone downstairs
keeps ringing. is death
calling. is trouble on
the other end. your son,
a far away love, a needy
and forgotten friend?
or someone selling windows?
you let it ring, and ring.
you need to stay here a little
while longer.
in the quiet, in the silence
of water and steam,
that's most important now.

love and milk

like human loaves
of old bread,
staled by time and age,
they lie on the grates
across the city, huddled
together. day or night
makes no difference,
the steam rising into
the crust of torn blankets.
seeping into
the soles of boots,
keeping the dying
alive through another
February night. they
are impossibly removed
from the cribs they once
slept in, the babies
they once were, held close
to their mother's breast
for love and milk.

the long form

you itemize
your taxes. food clothing shelter.
martinis.
you have property too.
most of it is at
your old girlfriend's
house though.
a pair of pants,
dress shoes. maybe a brown
leather belt.
you throw another handful
of change into the bowl,
your retirement donation,
and mark that
down on the form.
you claim several
dependents. your brother
for one, who you listen
to on the phone
complain and complain.
what would he do without you.
you figure there
might be children
out there too, somewhere.
so you take a wild
guess and round off to
eight. close enough.
you sign the paper,
you put it an envelope,
you hope to get a refund
again this year, you could
use it, but all you
can do is sit by the
window and wait.

just a head cold

it's just a head cold
you say, shaking your head,
bending over
to cough out a lung.
i'm fine. I have some lemon
and tea, cinnamon toast
i'm going to make later.
I just need to mop
up this blood
and crawl over to
the bed to get back in
for a few minutes.
no need to worry.
really, i'm fine. I've
been worse than this.
if I pass out for a while,
don't panic,
it happens all the time,
just clear my
mouth with a spoon,
and prop my feet up.
just in case I don't
wake up, there's
a will I drew up last
night and signed.
it's in the top drawer
next to a bottle
of boones farm apple wine.
I left you the dog.
I know how much you love
him, he's in the yard,
outside.

almost you

someone steals
your wife. he drives
your kids to school.
takes your watch too.
he shows up at your
job
and takes your desk.
he's wearing
your coat and tie,
your shoes.
he walks your dog.
he has become almost
you.
he's doing a fine
job though, better
than you ever could.
this makes you happy
being relieved
of the life you
led,
free at last to become
the person
who you were supposed
to be.

shipped out

all day she yells at you.
get a job.
get a life.
pick up your pants
and shoes.
walk the dog, go to
the store,
we're out of milk
and cheese,
booze.
but you no longer hear
her.
you have shipped out.
you are far away.
you are on an island
with
palm trees and women
wearing
coconuts for lingerie.

transistor radio


late at night,
with the world asleep,
even your brother in the bunk
below you, your sisters
in another room,
your mother and father
on an island of their own,
you hold the radio
in your hand, pressing
the bee hived speaker
to your ear, searching
for strange and exotic
stations far away.
you listen for a lone voice
on the plains
of Kansas, or texas, tangier,
the garbled static of music
you've never heard before.
all of it fades in and out,
as you spin the dial softly
like a safe cracker
under the tented sheets
of your bed, lulling
you to sleep
with possibility.