Tuesday, March 31, 2015

the next time

the bride will be unhappy
later. they always are
in the new white dress,
the first time around.
something was cold.
the cake, too soft,
too sweet or hard,
the drunk uncle who stumbled
and fell on
the dance floor.
the husband she would later
scold.
the blurred photo,
the ones who never showed,
so much food
and drink, not gone to waste,
but eaten.
the music, how the band
forgot the words to the song
she picked.
a windy toast that went
on and on.
but it's just a wedding,
the first of several, yet
to come. she'll remember this
practice session and try
to do better the next time.

the english teacher

at first it appears to be a bird,
a swallow, or sparrow,
a small dove
with frenetic wings,
caught inside your house,
searching for a way out.
but it's darker than that,
you can see the spiked
thin canvas wings,
of a blackened bat.
hardly the weight of a mouse,
it crouches in
the folds of the hemmed
curtains, hiding, biding
time, perhaps. thinking
its way through this trap
he's flown into.
with all the doors
and windows open,
you find the long broom
and tease him violently
out into the air, into
the light. you will later,
think of this and connect
your days, and what you
do for a living, teaching,
as not so undifferent.

the oil rainbow

the oil in the water is lovely
on this sun filled day,
a greased pool of colors.

an amoeba of a rainbow,
caught in the swells of lake.
a discharge perhaps from a boat

passing by, or a can
of ten w thirty tossed in,
to float like a gold lily pad

on its side. the fish are less
amused, you assume. floating below,
unable, without arms or legs

to pull themselves to shore,
evolution, unlike us,
having left them far behind.

the end is near

clearly the store, the franchise,
the business had to go under.
how could it survive.
but it was where your mother
took you to buy
the yellow shirt for easter.
brown shoes.
your father went there
for tires and tools, topsoil,
lawnmowers and rakes.
another hammer to hang beside
the ones he never used.
but these were new,
different in some way,
marked down, improved.
a couch was bought there,
plaid like a lumberjack's
shirt. a coffee table
that Martha Washington
would have loved to put
her boots upon.
but here you are, decades later,
standing in line to return
a microwave oven that never
once worked. never blinked
never offered up a cough
of radiant heat. you carried
it from the store
to your kitchen and back again.
all within an hours time,
and as the clerk,
with his plain, unlived face,
politely asks you if you
wanted to have it repaired,
not exchanged, you understood
that yes. the business
had to end.

the good suit

he tries on the black suit.
it still fits.
inside is the program from
the funeral he went to
last spring, and next to
that is the wedding invitation
in june.
there are tickets too
to the theater.
guys and dolls, the wild duck.
king lear.
he stuffs all of them back
into the pocket, it's a good suit.
he straightens the collar
in the mirror, turns
around and checks
for lint and wrinkles.
it looks good for
another year.

the horse

you're afraid of horses.
they are too big. too mysterious
with those eyes
black and brown.
those whip tails, the hooves,
stomping the ground. all that hay.
all that noise and breathing.
snorting.
the fear of being kicked
makes you nervous which
in turn makes the horse nervous.
together you do a dance
of fear as you move around
the stable, looking for
a safe place to stand.
meanwhile, she calmly
brushes his mane, feeding
him carrots and cubes
of sugar from her open hand.

broken glass


as the window breaks
in your hand, held over
your head, the shards showering
down upon you.
the glass a melodic tinkling
of crisp broken
pieces, hitting brick,
then ground. you look for blood,
but there is none.
you've lived through it
somehow. again.

at the counter

it's the light and the dark
of the hopper
painting. the starkness
of the diner, the nighthawk.
the coffee poured.
the whispered words between
the man and woman.
the counter man
silent as he goes about
his work.
and the stranger.
which one are you,
you think, as you place
yourself inside the room.
which will you
be tomorrow, or the next
day.

your pill box hat

why do you write about cold
hearted women
with guns in their
hands. knives in their
brassieres.
stiletto heels and cherry
red lips.
don't you know any good
women. women who
bake you muffins, make
the bed, and scratch
your back while singing
you lullabyes to sleep?
yes, you tell her,
but those women seem
more interesting, than
you, as calm and normal
as you can be in your
leopard skin pill box hat.

Monday, March 30, 2015

on your knees

you try a new product to rid
your self of that awful
bathtub ring.
the soap build up
around the faucets,
the sink.
it's humbling being
on your knees, being
the scholar and poet
that you are
scrubbing the tiles,
spraying bleach.
you understand the need
for prayer
when on your knees.
the world is dirty
and you seem to make
your share.

the third planet

all these planets,
and just us.
hard to imagine,
but it seems so.
which is fine,
good to be alone
cozy and neat
just the right
distance from the sun.
we've got a moon
to play with.
animals and plants.
it's not so bad.
except for the people.

the stones

she took the diamonds
out of her engagement ring
when he left
for his younger cliché love,
and made earrings out of them.
they sit like fat stars
on the lobes of her pink
fleshy ears.
she often touches them,
feeling the cold stones,
checking to be sure
they are still snug
and in place, still there.

the queen of fox island

she lives with seven cats
three dogs,
a goat, a chicken
and a rooster.
but claims that all the birds
in the trees,
the gulls and ospreys
are hers too.
not to mention the fish.
the sturgeon
and whales, the bottle
nose dolphins.
it's her kingdom and she's
the queen
of fox island.
each mouse and lion
bowing to her.
how she longs sometimes
that her king was gone though,
and that she was alone
awaiting your return
with sword in hand.

something called life

she loves the zombie show
on tv. calls you when a character
she likes gets eaten
and dies. you talk about them
as if they are real people.
sometimes she'll come over
and bring a pizza
and a bottle of wine.
together you talk about what
you would do
to live in a world full
of zombies and survive.
what would be your weapon
of choice,
the gun, the stick, a knife.
in the morning, you both get
up early to go to work.
driving numbly to your jobs,
unbitten, but infected
with something called life.

date night

she set a glass of water
on the table
beside where you slept.
ice and a wedge of lemon.
she had a light
plugged in on the nightstand.
a stack of magazines,
books, such as
old man and the sea
were set at arms length
on the floor.
it was eight p.m.
on a saturday
and she was soon fast
asleep.

new york yellow cab

you ask the cab driver
going eighty miles an hour
down broadway how
many people has he killed today.
he stops eating his lamb
kabob, and laughs,
spitting green onions
and sour cream
onto his windshield.
never, he says, I've never
killed anyone in my cab
before. he wipes his mouth
with his long sleeved
pajama top and goes back
to eating. no, you say.
not passengers, but pedestrians,
oh, he says, that's
different. he takes a sip
of his goat milk from
a thermos and starts
counting in farsi
with his fingers.

the living will

my living will is vague.
don't pull the plug
if some parts of me are working
and I might miraculously
recover.
this to be determined
by an objective person
with a rational mind
and a cold and yet compassionate
heart.
two of my sisters will not
be involved in this decision.
a stranger perhaps
might work better.
even though i'm completely
frozen in a semi-conscious
state, don't give up
on me. there's no rush.
I might just be visiting heaven
accumulating evidence
and information for a book
or more poems. so, what i'm
saying is that if i'm
lying there in a vegetative
state, say that of
an eggplant, be cautious,
be patient, there might be
a glimmer of hope that
i'll come around.

the early days

the gentle pull of her hand
taking you into the antique store
to buy something
you don't want or understand
is fine.
you've been led astray before.
and now, you'll buy a vase,
an ashtray, a painting, something
for your house that she
adores. it's the early phase
of possible love, and you
do crazy things like this.
even eating Ethiopian food
at her request, going to the opera.
and for her, you even open doors.

ice water

you see the angry brother
on the street, he turns his back.
you wave before he turns,
honk the horn, but to no avail.
blood is not thicker than
water. blood is just a liquid
passing through your veins
keeping you alive. his has
turned to ice.

the lunar pull

sometimes the lunar pull
is such that you can't get out
of bed.
the gravity of your life
making your feet
and arms feel like lead.
sure it's Monday. sure it's cold
and rainy
and the accounts are low,
but it's more than that.
your way of thinking has to change.
you have to let her go.

knowing when

the cat, tail up,
perched and walking
softly along the top
of the narrow fence
is not fearless,
just confident in what
he can and cannot do.
the dog barking is ignored,
the thunder in
the sky. he knows when
to leap towards the soft grass,
when to flee and not die.

no lesson here

you look for a moral,
a lesson, something to learn
from what's happened.
but there is none.
you could make something up
to ease the pain.
to lighten the moment
with understanding, but
you can't. you just have
to walk away.
let the fog drift and lift
and forget about it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

the unfilling

the dead horse in the field,
well loved, a history of love
behind him,
out by the fence,
grey and white, leaning
heavy on the soft
wet earth. unsaddled and
silent as the birds
in the trees still
clatter. as the wind
keeps moving, swirling,
unfilling the empty
spaces of your life.

the human touch

there was no public
display of affection.

no private display either,
so how was one to know

what went through her
mind other than the wind

from ear to ear,
the human touch being

essential when it comes
to love.

come home

the woman at the bridge
who held a sign
is gone now.
for years she stood
wrapped in blankets,
holding the large lettered
piece of cardboard,
pointing it to the cars
going by.
she was a mystery.
unknown. she was waiting
for someone to return,
perhaps.
for someone to come home.
maybe he did.
maybe she died.
maybe she changed her mind.

for granted

you assume there is water
before you turn the knob,
light, before you hit
the switch.
you take for granted
that there will be food,
and shelter,
clothes and shoes.
that the roof will keep
out the rain.
the lock on the door
will keep
strangers at bay.
you assume that when
finding love, and falling
hard, that it will be
mutual, the feelings
will be the same.
the mistakes you make
are constant. some things
never change.

there is trouble

there is trouble.
the girl with bleeding arms.
the boy, dark
eyed and leaning
on the bridge spitting
into the water
down below.
there is trouble.
the man holding
a sign, talking madly
to someone
who isn't there.
there is trouble.
the hand on a gun.
the knife.
the pen about to sign
someone's life
away.
there is trouble.
the dog barking,
pulling at his chain.

in the room

every morning. she pulls
the blinds open
to let the sun in.
she makes her bed.
she folds her clothes.
each into a drawer,
or on a hanger,
arranged neatly, just so.
she pours water into the plant
on the sill. starts coffee
in the kitchen. it's Saturday
and the world is moving
along slowly. there is a book
to get to, calls to make.
lunch at some point, but her
mind is on someone she used
to know. the quiet of her
life puts him in the room.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

saturday at the circus

you sat a few rows behind
them at the old Washington Coliseum.
Jackie and Carolyn,
john john.
the circus was in town.
barnum and bailey.
nearby stood the dark men
in glasses.
stiff and alert, looking
everywhere, but at
the elephants, the trapeze
artists, the clowns.
the big tent which wasn't a tent
was filled with cigar
smoke and beer.
the joyful stares of children
gazing across the sawdust.
this was before everything.
before dallas, before
the world changed to never
to get back to where
it was.
your life would change too,
in so many ways.
for better and worse,
different than theirs
and yet the same.

mimi and jimmy

she writes to you that she
can't talk on the phone.
her name is mimi.
she might be from Croatia,
but she hasn't asked
you for money yet.
she just had a benign tumor
removed from her throat
and it might give you
the wrong impression.
but she sends you photos
of her, lying on the beach
in Miami, dripping wet,
sunglasses on. a hat the size
of cuba covering her
bleached hair.
you don't know what to make
of her. she asks you if
you want to Skype.
to meet that way.
she says that her boyfriend
jimmy wants to be there
too. you close the file
on mimi.
click repeatedly on delete
and block.
you fill the tub
up with hot water, you
take a new bar of soap
and try to scrub yourself
whole again.

black eels

as a kid you used to pull
the slimy whip like
eels out of the Potomac
river at the end of your
fishing line. how strong
they were, bending the pole.
stretching the filament
to the point of breaking.
a lean muscle of dark
black struggling to return
to the muddy bottom.
you were hoping for perch,
or a rockfish, carp,
or even a catfish,
with whiskers, soft
and without scales.
a ring of teeth in it's
clutching mouth.
even that would be better
than an eel. there was
nothing else you could
do, but cut the line
and start again. what
lies beneath is not always
what you want.

the urge

a simple cup of hot
coffee
is enough
sitting here on this
cold morning
to still
the urge to run
over that hill,
through the blue green
field of tall grass
and find her
once again.

namaste

you see them
on Saturday,
angry with their pastel
colored
yoga mats, marching
like penguins
towards the studio,
lithe soldiers of the morning
in tight pants,
the hair pulled back.
going to stretch
and let out a week
of angst.
breathing in and
breathing out, unable
to lose the world
that grips them.

red sauce

it's almost Italian food
they serve here,
on the slick red and white
checkered table cloths,
below the fluorescent
blinking signs.
it looks similar,
the long strands of pasta
the red sauce,
the sausage and meats,
the hint of spices,
and baskets of bread.
the olive oil,
but it's not. it's a good
try though, a nice effort,
and the wine helps
it all go down.

she wore black

she wore black,
not because she was sad
or going
to a funeral, but because
she liked
the absence of color.
the quiet of no one
around,
the darkness
of night, her favorite
time of day
when no one needed
her to speak, to be touched,
to be listened to,
her life was better
this way,
in black, always.

Friday, March 27, 2015

let me in

she questions your
sad poems, your dark
musings, the lightless
tunnel of your
words. another one,
she says, while peeling
an orange
at her kitchen
table in florida.
the sun rising just
over a bed of white
sand.
come here, and let me
soothe your dark soul.
your bruised heart.
let me rub oil
into your pale white
skin. let me understand
who you are. what's
wrong, what's right.
let me in.

room number five

the boarding house
with its five rooms
each locked with its own key,
each with a bed
a dresser, a set of blinds
broken and pulled tight,
the shared toilet
and shower down the hall.
this is where your lost
brother stayed.
unbusy in the fog of his
crumbled life.
the woman who owned
the house, peered out
her window, suspicious,
reluctant to answer
the big door to let
anyone inside. protective
of her tenant's rights,
finally coming to answer
the knock in curlers,
a toothbrush scrubbing
at her teeth. a blue robe
the color of an april sky,
half untied.
what, she'd say, can
I help you. inching
the door open just enough
so that you could smell cabbage,
or a cat box,
the fumes of cigarettes,
or bread burning in a
toaster. I haven't seen him,
she'd say, but I assume
he's still alive.
he got his mail yesterday.
try again tomorrow.
i'll let him know you
stopped by.

the search

she was always searching,
opening drawers to find
what she was looking for.
and what that was, she
wasn't sure. sometimes
you'd come home early from
work and find her
at your desk pulling
the drawers open,
lifting papers, sifting
through the piles
of your own debris,
moving things aside,
and you'd ask her if
she'd found it yet,
whatever it was she was
searching for, and she'd
look at you and say
without smiling,
no, not yet. but I will
one day. you wonder,
these years later,
as she kisses her new husband
goodbye, as he goes
off to work, if she's
doing the same now.
pulling at the handles
of drawers, searching
for something she isn't
sure of.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

big numbers

stiffly you rise.
knees locked.
shoulders hunched.
a stitch
in your side.
you've finally
become your age,
maybe more, you think,
as you browse ads
in the aarp magazine
for big numbered
phones, or a glass
to magnify.

the rain

there is madness
in this rain.
the harsh ping of its
soft lips
on the roof.
the frantic rush
of water collected
in the gutters,
the downspouts.
puddling back into
the earth of mud
and green.
the table rising,
the overflow
of streams.
you can't reason
with nature, talk it out
of anything.

paper sails

you see each other in the street.
you hug, you smile,
you exchange looks and hellos.
your lives in brief.
the sun is in her eyes.
she tells you about her last
boyfriend. you tell her about
your last love as well.
you say with a kiss
on each cheek, goodbye
for now. you are not ships
passing, but more like corks
in the sea bobbing along
with paper sails.

the long shade

the living are unsure
as to what to do
with their lives.
whereas the dead
have no such problem.
their days and nights are over
such as we know them.
no questions
about where to eat, or what
to do, who to see.
no gripes, no worries,
no should I order fish,
or just a salad,
should I order meat.
the dead are happy in
their own quiet way. content
to be stuck in one place,
finally free of the clock,
some in the sun, some
under trees, cool in
the long shade.

the crying

at one end of the train
a baby is crying.
there is nothing
the mother can do
to make it stop.
it's late at night.
anyone asleep is now
awake, the car is
nearly dark as it rolls
in its seesaw motion
down the tracks. outside
the lights of the world
flash by in white streaks,
the red and yellow
dots of signs, the blue
smudges of commerce.
the low rises of houses
bunched in rows,
the beaten fields of
cars abandoned. stray dogs.
you want to think
the baby is crying for
a reason, but how
would he, or she,
at this young age know.

crescent moon

the crescent moon.
a finger nail clipping
of white
stuck to the glue
of the blackboard
night.
there are no stars
to wish upon,
no pointing out of
distant
constellations.
it's just a sliver
of rock,
holding sunlight.
not a romantic
notion in mind
as you pull gently
at the string,
closing the blinds.

no salt

no salt, no pepper,
no spice at all goes into the dish.
no cheese
or onion. no melted
pad of butter.
no pinch of that, or this.
it's plain. as plain
as her face.
unhappy, at fixing dinner
once again.

over board

the boat can no longer
hold the two of us.
someone has
to swim to shore.
there are no volunteers.
the water is cold.
there may be sharks
lingering for legs
and arms to appear.
no one wants things
to end this way.
no one wants to jump
into the high swells
of high tide and chop
their way towards land.
but someone has to go
when love ends, so you
stand on the bow
and jack knife in.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

the shamrock run

you see her pictures
on the race website,
in green, green windbreaker,
green socks,
a green shamrock sticker
on her cheek.
her black irish hair
pulled back, arms
raised as she crosses
the finish line, happy
to be done with the half
marathon. smiling
in the march wind and sun.
she looks well. strong
and as beautiful as
the day you met her,
before your feet and hers
went in different
directions.

the edges

somehow your spam box
has become more interesting
than your mailbox.
the junk mail
more intriguing than
the bills, the occasional
hallmark card,
signed love, or like,
or get well soon.
the edges of your life
are more rich
than the center.
you chew around each
chocolate never getting
to the nut lying
hard in the middle, or
the sweet goo
of some berry going
untouched, or bitten
into.

black cherries

that cherry tree,
full of sweet black cherries
and flies, and children
scrambling like monkeys
when no one was home
to strip it bare, and fill
their pained stomach
with stolen fruit is gone
now. the man took an axe
one morning, and in heavy
swings chopped at its trunk
until it tilted and fell.
you can still see,
decades later,
the rot of its stump
in the squared green yard.
he's been dead for years,
the joy of his tree
also long gone.

the quiet bird

the bird stops singing
one morning.
he's quiet on the branch
outside your window.
something has happened,
gone wrong.
there is no happy chirp,
no sweet song.
he stares in, you stare
out. you understand
his silence as you rise
to face the day.

the dry land

the farmer prays for rain.
down on his denim knees.
his hands crumbled
in one another, the callouses
going soft.
it's a selfish prayer
involving money
and what he needs,
but so what, what's the point
of god, if you
can't beg and plead
when the farm is dry
and barren.

the long drive home

there was no pillow talk
after sex,
there was no sex,
there was lazy motion
against one another,
then a shower, but that's it.
there was no breakfast
conversation.
no honey, i'm making
coffee, do you want some.
no discussion of the news,
sharing the sunday post.
those happy days were gone.
she couldn't wait
for you to leave,
and you couldn't wait
to pull your car out
of the driveway
and drive home.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

it goes fast

there is no
worry in the age you've
become.
no sadness, or sorrow.
no regrets.
the memories are still
fresh.
the friends you made
them with are for the most
part alive
and well.
and when together, new
sets of memories
expand the life
you live in.
the world spins fast.
this you know.
this you know so well.

i'm depressed

i'm depressed, she says.
men have it easy.
no one cares what they look
like. but look at me,
i'm fat and old. my fortieth
high school reunion is
coming up and I don't have
the money for botox or fillers.
I've got varicose
veins, and liver spots.
just take me out back
like and old cow and shoot me.
what? you say, flipping
through an enquirer
magazine with an anonymous
large butt on the front.
who does this look
like? you ask her, turning
the photo to her. I don't know.
me? she says, it looks
like me.
oh stop, you look great.
we all could use
to lose a few pounds here
and there.
she takes a bite of
her scone, brushing the crumbs
off her green
reflective running vest.
even this stupid vest is tight.
it's chaffing my breasts.
I need to join a gym
maybe. start doing some
hot yoga, get someone to hold
my feet while I do some crunches.
she sets her scone down,
then picks it up again.
here, she says, do you
want this, sure you say.
grabbing it from
her hand. cinnamon?

two for one, half price


everyone is selling something.
the minister,
the thief, each
has a bag
of tricks. a box of fresh
fruit,
or fish, an engine rebuilt,
something up
their sleeve, property
on the ocean.
salvation.
a house in the burbs
with
willow trees.
even she, with her leg
stuck out
in stockings, band aids
on her knees,
has a price
to go with the pleasure
of knowing her.

piano legs

her mother
told her at a young age,
that she had piano legs.
this did not sit well.
she carried it with everywhere
she went, like
a note pinned to her blouse.
but she was beautiful.
her dark eyes
matching her hair.
the lean lines of her face,
the twist and turn
of her dance.
a life of joy in spite
of what her mother said
about her legs,
still those words sat
in her ears.
even standing at her mother's
grave having finally
died, they were there,
whispering
that she wasn't quite
good enough.

the barrel of fire

the gathering of
wood, dead branches,
sticks, and sleeves
of dry paper
all tossed into the barrel
by his children,
your father, blue eyed
and uniformed, home on leave,
unangry for the moment. he
would drop a match
into the cylinder
of leaves, sending flames
into the air.
you can smell it burning
now if you close your eyes,
feel the shimmer of heat
off the metal can
as you place your hands
as close to it
and him as possible.

Monday, March 23, 2015

the money gone

the money gone.
even the trees know,
climbing into the wires,
the shrubs, the flowers
now bedded with weeds
and long grass.
the peeling paint,
the unhinged shutter,
the broken pane all speak
of its absence.
the money gone.
you hear it in the voices,
at the table,
sharing thin meals,
of rail booze
and fish.
the sigh before sleep.
the alarm clock unset,
with nowhere to go.
the money gone.
even love is thinned,
with lips unkissed.
it too knows.

the boy next door

the father, who looked like a man who was perpetually
about to go hunting, bearded and tattooed,
did what he could for the boy. building a tree house
in the wedge of pines along the yard.
the trampoline tethered and staked
so as not to move, the above ground pool,
three feet deep, up to the boy's chin,
the blue plastic crimped and full, always
having the near appearance of bursting.
he did what he could for the boy
before leaving in his truck with a cross
bow or a slew of fishing rods and coolers.
the boy seemed neither grateful or ungrateful
for his father's efforts, swimming quietly
alone or bouncing, his fiery blue eyes unblinking,
on the black tight pond of the trampoline.
from the window, you could see him staring
at you, steady in his pogo bounce, his arms
stuck to his side like a toy soldier,
occasionally doing a flip to amuse not
him, but you, perhaps. so when cats and dogs
began to go missing in the neighborhood
he was not a suspect at first, but in time,
the small mounds of dirt and tied crosses
that laid in rows along the chicken wire fence,
that separated you from him, made people wonder.

the closing books

the bell above the door jingles
when you enter.
books are everywhere. paperbacks
and hard backs stacked in tilted
fragile towers.
pamphlets and magazines.
most old, most worn
and read over and again,
now here in limbo
awaiting another set
of eyes and hands. everything
marked down. there is the faint
odor of dried leaves
in the air, glue for binding.
there is no rhyme or reason to order,
no attempt in putting
the mysteries here,
the slim volumes of poetry
over there. the shop keeper
at his desk in the corner no longer
looks up to wave and ask
if he can help you,
no longer talks about politics
or weather, he's outlived
the neighborhood as well.
the children are all grown,
vague with their parents faces,
the readers he used to know,
who would come in and point
to a shelf where the new Cheever
or Ludlum might go.

the show

the woman behind
your house in the eighties,
busty with long legs,
her hair in a towel,
would shower and dry herself
in the window, slowly
with the blinds open, bending
to and fro,
the shades up, lights
on. you often wondered
if she cared or even knew
who was watching her,
going to their own windows
at exactly six forty
five each day.

her cigarettes

the cigarette was a prop
in her hand, as it was for
movie stars in old movies,
a way of dismissing
someone,
or in making a point.
gesturing with the burning
white stick,
blowing smoke,
tapping an ash off into
the air. having one
after breakfast or dinner.
bending towards a lit match
from a stranger
or friend, standing outside
of bars, with others,
like orphans in the wind.
outcasts now in this day.
she didn't like smoking,
she would say to herself
in a rare moment
of self awareness
and honesty, the taste,
the stain of it on fingers
and clothes,
but what else was there to do
with her hands,
and everyone else she knew
and loved smoked too.
no one she had ever known
had died of cancer,
except for one or two,
or any of the other awful
diseases printed now
so clearly on the side
of each package. besides she
smoked menthols and what do
they know anyway.
one day milk is healthy for
you the next day it's not.
smoking made her feel good.
the rise of its blue haze
twisting into her eyes.
the tap tap of a new package
against a table.
the tear of the cellophane.
the draw of the first
hot breath of nicotine, giving
her that warm familiar buzz.
why stop now, at this age.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

home

it's the vase
in its place on the mantle,
the lamp
in the corner,
the plant on the sill,
the pictures
centered and hung
just so.
the carpet stretched
even across the floor.
it's here that you
come and go
each day, to return,
with nothing
having changed, but
you.

point b to point a

you list and lean
hand
against the wall,
a cut of wind
up your pant leg
a slice
of cold between
the buttons
of your shirt
and coat.
the bus is on
the way.
you pray, looking
up and down
the empty boulevard.
your life seems at
times to be a series
of getting from
point b, to point a,
staying warm,
arriving safely
into someone's arms.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

call that love

her word, her handshake,
her diploma of affection
nailed to the wall,
a certificate blessed
by law and god,
the ring on her finger,
scripted vows,
all of it, or any of it
means next to nothing
in the long haul.
sit and watch and care
for the dying. find a vein,
spoon a lick of food
between parched lips.
take a sponge and clean,
then call it what you
will, but stay forever
before you call that love.

the weathered man

the weathered man,
sits on the bench, facing
more sun,
unafraid of dying, living
haven taken that fear away.
his mapped face neither scowled
or bitter, just soft
in ravines of resignation.
which seems fine, as he moves
his lips
to move his teeth
to allow a smile
to crease open.
there is no end to life,
you hope, for him,
and you, just new beginnings,
as one turns off this light.

farm girl


the picture shows her with
hands on her aproned waist,
elbows out, squared against
her lean body,
she's wearing boots.
high laced and brown
nearly reaching her
knobby knees
where the white apron
hangs down. beside her is
the tractor, red as
an apple, it sits above
the ridge, before the field
that will be plowed.
she is all sunshine
and blue eyes, gleaming
in her sturdy youth,
so many seasons within
her, yet to see harvest.

the polished car

the man waxing his car,
bent over in the sun,

polishing each inch
with something akin to love,

or worship.
made her think from

the window, watching him,
how kind he could be

with metal, with leather,
the panes of glass,

giving even the tires
a sheen of gloss.

this strangely,
gave her hope.

letting it go

she could sit there for awhile
and say nothing.
let the silence, which wasn't silence
at all, fill the air.
there was the clock,
its ominous tick. water boiling
on the stove about to become
a whistle, there was
the wag of trees against
the window, growing soft
in anticipation of
spring. her heart,
his breathing.
but why fight, why on
this glorious Saturday
without snow falling find
umbrage with what he said.
he's said meaner
and more thoughtless
things. perhaps she'll
book mark this page,
set it aside, let it rest
until a colder, more grey
day arrived.

the black dog

you see the dog,
black and heavy, maybe old,
but still
wanting to chase the ball,
fall through
the wafer of ice.
the ball skimming
too far out to the center
of the pond.
he can't climb back
on, it's too thin
to hold him,
the ball too far away,
but he tries, he wants to
please his owner
who waits at the waters
edge, clapping his hands.
dry.

taking suggestions

it's a good day for a hot bowl
of soup,
the woman says, sitting near
you at the counter.
i'm having clam
chowder. you nod and say,
nice. I love clam chowder.
is it good here.
it's not bad, she says.
not like at home, but it's
okay. I suggest you try it.
so you do.
you order a bowl of clam
chowder. it warms you
to think how easily
things can go when you
listen to the wisdom
of others. taking
their suggestions,
but it's cold, and it's
too thin, hardly any clams
can be found with your
searching spoon. she looks over
at you and smiles, says
good isn't it, add some
crackers, I like mine
with crackers.

i'm over him

he lied, he cheated, he had a second
wife and family, one that no one knew
about, and of course not me. but i'm
over that, over him. over that life
we had, such as it was. she tapped
the bar and another drink arrived.
she clinked your glass with hers,
sipped, then nodded her head, yes.
i'm over him. it's been twelve years.
twelve years and two months,
thirteen days. I hardly ever think
about him. she drank some more.
still nodding. you have to move on,
she says. you can't let the past
weigh you down. what people do to you.
I can forgive, but i'll never forget.
I don't want to make the mistake
I made before. but i'm over him.
that bastard. did I tell you about
the time he forgot my birthday,
or the time he called me by another name?

the longing

why is it so hard to throw
these things away, he thought,
counting the twenty seven long
sleeved white t-shirts,
stacking them like thin worn
cakes of cotton on the bed.
people, lovers, seem to be more
easily disposed of than
these shirts, those brown shoes.
a dozen pairs, all alike,
all worn in the same way,
along the edges
from the way that you walk.
the new Yorker magazines, crumpled
from being wet in the tub,
as you read and read,
skipping the parts you never
read, here they are.
a year's worth in a soft pile
expanding on the end table.
the socks, the belts, all beyond
their use, and yet
in drawers or hanging, with
neck ties, never to be
worn on a wheel in the closet.
nothing would be missed if they
were all gone when you came home.
there would be no longing,
at all, not like there is for you.

Friday, March 20, 2015

the gate

the gate to the gravel driveway
leading to her house in the woods
would never latch properly.
you had to jiggle the lock, letting
the bolt slide down, just right,
holding the heavy slats up an inch or two
to make the warped boards flush
enough to allow the bolt
to slide into or out of place.
this was every day, every time
he visited her and pulled his car
around, left it running, got out
in the rain, or wind, often in dark,
and fooled with the damn gate
to either open it or close it,
depending on his arrival
or departure. it was a small thing,
a very small thing in a world
of much larger issues in their
relationship, but it was a thing.
a constant reminder of something
he couldn't articulate just yet,
but it settled in his shoe like a tiny
pebble, stuck in the crease
of the sole. there, but not there
as the day wore on.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

around the lake

the walk around the lake was a mere five miles,
but she often thought of it as a mirror
to her own life, the optimism of the first
mile, the quick strides and arms
in that held fashion to signal exercise
beyond just walking. it didn't matter if the sun
was out, or if it was a grey day, the sky
solid above the harsh blue lake.
as long as the path wasn't too muddy,
or the wind blowing so hard that it
tilted trees, making them groan
like old men and women at the end
of the long corridors of the senior
home where she had just put her mother.
the walk was brisk at first, her new
balance shoes, striking heel and toe
against the dirt, then gravel, then
paved path. at some point, she tired though,
nearing the middle, the sudden curve
of hills, sweat beading on her brow.
her sunglasses fogging with her own heat.
it was then she thought about her own life.
the mid life struggles. the sad
epiphanies, like the sour clichés
of peggy lee's old song. she rolled
the failed marriage around in her head
and mouth like a small stone that she
could never spit out. she pondered,
for the infinite time what was said, what
wasn't. eleven years gone by and still
she was sorting through the detailed
debris of that shipwreck, as if it
could be refloated and sailed once again.
past the mid point of the walk,
her arms would drop, and she
would slow her gait, observing more
of the woods, the woodpeckers banging
relentlessly high above on some tree.
she would pick up a stick and use it
to strike rocks, or trees along the way.
her mind would drift and she would look
across the lake to the boathouse, showing
that she was now halfway. she was halfway,
she thought, even more than that.
the more tired she became the more she
thought about her childhood, her parents.
the work she had chosen. it made her think
that if she ever walked counter clockwise,
that perhaps she could reverse this way
of thinking. that she could somehow
think and walk herself young again.
at the two thirds mark, the path was more
crowded. there was a separate entrance
here, where bikers would join the circle,
more walkers, lovers hand in hand,
almost adrift in the shuffle of their
walk, talking and holding onto to one
another, as new lovers do.
the old men with white hair in shiny
running suits would join too, jogging
nearly as slow as she walked. happy
to smile and wave with gentle curled hands.
when the trees cleared there was a damn
to cross, a hard path of stones, that
kept the lake from flooding the woods
and lots of houses that sat below the hill.
from here she could see nearly the full
expanse of the lake, how blue and deep
it seemed, how it stretched and curved
as it had for hundreds of years.
and would continue long after she was gone.
from here it was only mile to the lot
where she left her car. her knees could
feel the cold now, the tendons in
her legs felt tight, she was tired,
and listened to her heavy breathing.
she wondered if she looked old, moving
no longer straight up, but bent
as if the wind was pushing her. how many
more walks did she have in her.
this was when she thought about love.
how nice it would be to find a man
who loved her and only her. who welcomed
her in his arms everyday after work.
who ate with her, who discussed the news
and lingered on the sofa as they drank
tea and read the new York times.
making love, when the moment was right,
or wasn't. how hard it had been to find
this man. someone to walk around this lake
with, this lake of life.
finally, she saw her car. small and blue,
and shiny, like a Christmas ornament.
it beeped as she pushed the fob,
the lights flashing as if it was
happy to see her. she sighed removing
her wool hat, then went home.

lemonade

don't tell me
about how to make lemonade
out of lemons or
to put my best foot
forward,
don't tell me that
the glass is half full.
don't tell me
that the sun will come
out tomorrow or that there
is a silver lining
in each dark cloud, or
that there's light at the end
of the tunnel.
stuff it. stick it in your ear.
let me suffer for a day
or two. sink
into the black hole of despair
and then come up and join
the rest of the world,
and you.

the dance

you once danced with a girl
in high school,
slow danced in her basement
while her parents smoked cigarettes
and watched art linkletter
upstairs. slowly the album
spun around on the turn table
at 33 rpm. over and over
the same songs, again and again.
other young couples were
there, you could hear
the smacking of lips,
the huffing of young lust
searching for buttons
and clips, clasps that
wouldn't come undone.
and you, chewing a wad
of pink bubble gum, dropping
it into her long black hair.
trying to get it out
with your guppy mouth,
her screaming, the lights
going on, the parents
rushing down. everyone staring
at you, asking you,
what have you done.
when you saw her on Monday
in school, her hair was short,
all the gum gone.
as well as you.

listen to me

sometimes you listen
to a story, even when it holds
no interest, you might be quizzed
later. so, you tune in
to get the vague details,
ready for when she says,
remember when I told you about
so and so, how she rammed her
car into the bank
and stole a million dollars,
and you'll say yes.
of course I do. what happened
to her. and she'll say,
you don't even listen to me.
I just made that up.
you never do. why do I
even talk to you.

the postcard

you miss the postcard,
with art on front.
a carousel, or bird in flight,
the letter, with words formed
in ink by your own hand.
the blotted spots
of blue as you dotted an I,
or swung a comma around
to continue on another line.
the crossed out words,
what were they, now
darkened in tight squares.
the postage stamp licked
and pressed to the corner.
the salutation, farewell,
or love, in script before
you signed your name.
such love and intent went
into it, not like this
cold keyed email, or text
we casually send.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

let it roll

the pearl
in the oyster.
the diamond found
among stones,
the shooting star,
the unexpected kiss
and fall
into something very
close to being love.
three numbers matching
on the ticket,
three cherries
on the spin
of the one armed bandit.
it's your day
to play and be paid.
let it roll.

for the children

it wasn't necessarily a break up,
she said to her friends. we more or less
dissolved our relationship.
melted it if you will, which would
have been apt, had you been there
to hear the discussion.
you would not have disagreed.
but how strange it was to be over,
and yet, still be there,
sleeping in the same house,
taking bread from the same loaf,
unspeaking, and saying more in
the cold silence than words could
ever do. it's only ten thousand
dollars more, plus the alimony, the child
support and half your retirement
and savings, equity in the house,
the lawyer would say.
the owl in her black suit, behind
her too large desk. smiling benignly
as if to say, everything will be
fine. let's end this today. strike
the deal for the children.
you corrected her and said,
but we only have one child,
unless you count her,
the ex in the other room as two,
crying falsely like a spigot
that no one can turn off.

no children, no pets, no guns

i put a help wanted sign
in the window.
cooking, cleaning, occasional
reading me to sleep.
back scratching is essential
as are kissing skills.
prefer someone who is kind
and compassionate.
willing to grow old with me,
but not too old.
someone in shape, who can
stand on her toes in a pair
of red high heels
and get the cobwebs
in the corner,
dust the shelves. shake
the rugs off the back porch.
she must know how to fold
fitted sheets, and bake
cookies on cold winter days.
English does not have to be
her first language, in fact,
a minimalist in the talking
department would be okay.
the hours would be flexible,
as I hope she would be too.
the pay, not much, but it could
be fun. no children, no pets.
no guns.

the kitchen knife

you never trusted her
with a kitchen knife.
it wasn't that she showed any
signs of insanity, or violence,
but there was a hint
of crazy in her eyes.
sometimes when she talked
she went in circles,
like a dog chasing her
tail. sometimes she stopped
and said I don't even know
what i'm talking about,
do you? this made you
tell her to sit down and
relax. i'll get dinner ready.
hand me the knife.

those vampire nights

the vampires, that you see,
out late at night,
pale, almost unseen,
are not unkind, or different
than you or me.
they are fighting the light
of youth fading.
there was a time
when you were one of them.
hair spiked and green,
drinking and dancing until
the sun came up.
wanting not only the clock
to stop, but the world too.
it was fun biting into
the perfumed necks of strangers,
women that you danced with
in the smoke filled rooms,
woke up beside,
neither knowing who was who.

the last lap

despite hearing the bell
for the last lap,
you don't sprint,
you don't beat the horse
you are on with a whip,
or pick up the pace,
in fact, you do the opposite.
you relax as you make
the turn towards home,
skipping in lollygag fashion
down the long stretch
to the finish line.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

leave the table

when they stop serving
what you want, meat and potatoes
fresh greens,
when the bread is stale,
when they stop
pouring martinis, and bringing
out a tray of sweet
desserts, when the service
breaks down, gets rude
when they don't care anymore
if you're around,
you don't go back.
this holds true for you
as well.

the opium sky

the opium sky,
this white field of clouds
stuck motionless
before you
as drive and drive
along the blue ribbon
of road.
you could drive forever
going nowhere,
or somewhere, it
wouldn't matter
with this view.
how kind the world
seems with a sky
like this.

the white dress

the whole pig, on the spit,
no longer pink, but a soft
crusted brown
was cooked too long, the sun
was out.
flies were everywhere.
the wedding cake and desserts
were under a tent,
melting, getting soft
and runny, like broken eggs.
the salads, warming
in bowls, were sealed with plastic wrap,
ladles stuck inside.
the bride and groom were happy though,
glimmering with hope,
despite their ages,
their children from other marriages
rolling their dark eyes.
the sun was too high.
they couldn't get the music to play.
the cord too short from the house.
people were drinking too fast,
refilling their glasses
with wine and gin. shooing flies
with napkins
and rolled up programs from the church.
you wanted it to rain,
you wanted it too pour
in biblical proportions,
but there was nothing but blue
in the sky, expect for
the white sun beaming down
on the white tent,
the dried out pig, spinning slowly
over a wood fire, which
everyone, hungry now,
had gathered around, and
the white dress of the bride.

drugstore breakfast

he's in uniform, a white cap
of some sort with a black brim,
hard to tell if he's a captain
in the navy, or working the door
at the plaza hotel.
there are gold buttons down
his black jacket,
a rope brocade, also gold,
draped fancily
around his shoulder.
his shirt is white,
the cuffs sticking out
of his arms.
he's wearing boots. slick
and shiny. he's sitting next
to you at the drugstore
counter. he asks you if
you could pass the ketchup,
while he strokes his dark goatee.
he takes the bottle from you,
then pours it on his eggs.
all over them
in a crisscross pattern.
you try to ignore this,
but you can't, disgusted,
you push your plate aside,
finish your coffee, then pay.
you can't believe what
he's done to his eggs.

what if it rained

when she threw herself off
the bridge,
in midflight, she thought
about the note she forgot
to write, saying goodbye
to those she loved, and
those who loved her.
she wondered if the dog
would be okay,
who would feed her tomorrow
when she didn't come home,
or tonight. and as the wind
lifted her dress that she
had pressed over
her eyes, her hair,
and the wind rushed into her ears,
before her body
struck the rocks,
she thought about the wash
left in the dryer,
her bed unmade, what would
they think? did she leave
a window open,
what if it rained.

try again next year

it's a kind note
you receive, open and unfold
beneath the desk lamp.
your poem has not been selected
as a finalist,
we're sorry, but please try
again. next year there will
be new judges who
might deem you worthy, as
opposed to the ones we
have now, who have thrown
you to the curb.
fret not my poetic friend,
keep at it and one day,
maybe you too will be allowed
in this unreadable magazine,
join us in a class,
in a reading, or send a donation
or two. let's get to know
you and then, maybe then
we'll let you in.

compromise

let's rearrange this furniture,
paint the walls neutral,
change the color of the carpet.
set a vase by the window.
hang a picture
over the mantle, a mirror
too. let's make it ours not
yours, not mine,
let's compromise
and die to ourselves in love.
let's see how long
it lasts being here,
being blue.

the deli dream

you dream about a sandwich.
it's wrapped in wax paper.
there might be cheese on it.
a pickle too.
ham, a variety of deli meats.
lettuce and a sliced tomato.
they have a name for the sandwich.
which you call out
to the woman behind the counter.
she yells it out to someone
else. it takes a long time
to come. too long.
you ask where is your sandwich.
no one seems to know.
you're hungry. it's crowded
and hot in the small room.
no one seems to be leaving,
the bell above the door
jingles as more people come
in. you are pressed against
the counter. the crowd moving
as one from side to side.
you realize that it's only a dream,
but you are hungry.
you can taste the bite of bread
and meat in your open mouth.
it's a long night. you want
a different dream. one about
love perhaps, you want
to wake up, but you are
patient, you are not leaving
without your sandwich.

Monday, March 16, 2015

slow sand

it's not quick
this sand. this day
you choose to live in.
quite the opposite.
it's slow and deliberate,
letting you slide
almost pleasantly down.
it takes your feet,
before you know it
your knees and legs
are gone. each day
you slip down
a little deeper,
each breath gets a little
harder to take as your
lungs get pressed,
your heart squeezed
tight within your chest,
but you can't get out.
the world as it is,
offers no helping hand.

the drowning

you can hear the rain
falling on some people.
see the blue bruise
of clouds over their
downcast heads.
you can smell defeat,
the mold of giving
up. the dampness
of worry. they try
to pull you into
their weather pattern.
grabbing at your
heart, clutching
your hand. you have
to run from these
people. you have to
sprint in another
direction as fast
as you can. there is
nothing you can do,
but drown with them
if you stay.

the same old

her old boyfriend
wants back
in. he wants sex
and affection.
but doesn't care
to hear about
the bills, the sick
cat, the tuition, or
where she's been.
he wants sex. then he
wants to leave,
and in a week or two,
or three, maybe
sooner if his girlfriend
is out of town,
come back again.
it was this way
thirty years ago,
and nothing has changed.

two women

are you asleep
she says, tapping
your shoulder,
whispering into your ear.
I hear someone downstairs
in the kitchen.
it's fine, you say
the house is haunted,
the last two
tenants died in this
house, in fact in
this room, right here.
sometimes
they get up in the middle
the night for a bite
to eat, a snack.
I hear them talking
at the table.
but they clean up,
leaving hardly a crumb
or dish in the sink.
it's fine. they're
very nice and polite,
it's really okay.
go back to sleep.

the hawk

tumbling down the steps,
slipping on ice,
you see the sky, the cloud
of trees,
you see a hawk with a grey
mouse struggling
still alive
in the clutch of a sharp
beak.
you tumble some more,
reaching the bottom.
nothing seems broken,
you stand up and shake off
the dust, the debris.
you look back up into the sky.
the hawk is gone.
you go home, thinking of
dinner.

are the tomatoes local?

she can't decide
on fish, or chicken.
vinaigrette or French
dressing.
bread or no bread,
water with lemon,
or tea unsweetened.
maybe an appetizer
of crab dip, or cheese,
what do you have
farm fresh,
free range and gluten free,
she asks,
are the tomatoes local?
meanwhile you finish
your steak and order
another drink, ask for
the dessert menu.

be the lion

the mouse under hypnosis,
his eyes half mast
as the clock ticks and swings
before his eyes,
believes that he was a cat
in another life.
the bird, a snake
stealing eggs from a soft
nest. the small fish a shark.
the ant a fly.
the slave a king.
only the lion refuses
to believe he was something
else in a life
before this one.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

hope to see you there

the woman down the street,
let's call her becky,
squared shoulders,
with small tombstone teeth,
doesn't like you.
she looks at you
with evil old eyes
and is quick to reprimand
you for putting the trash
out too early,
or not picking up
after your dog, or for
driving too fast
in the cul de sac.
your parking pass needs
to hang from your mirror
she would often tell you,
shaking her head
of bristled grey hair.
so it surprises you when
you read the note she
slipped under your door
inviting you for an afternoon
of yoga, tea and cookies.
this sunday.
Namaste, hope to see
you there.

you miss her

sometimes you miss how she used
to yell at you,
the crumbs on your shirt.
the dirty bathroom, with
the seat up,
the laundry on the floor.
she said, what's that smell,
nearly every day.
or you are the epitome
of laziness. I've never
known a man with such a lack
of ambition than you.
those were the good days,
the days of wine
and stuffy noses.
blow your nose, she'd say,
offering you
a box of Kleenex.
where's the cork screw.
I need a drink. oh, how
you miss her and wonder
what she's up to.

contagious

carefully, the girl with the pink eye,
stares up into the bathroom light
and squeezes the prescription bottle
of medicine into her eyes. she blinks
and blinks as if crying. then she
stares into the mirror to see if it's
any better than before. she marks
her calendar with a big x, then makes
herself a cup of tea. I wonder, she
thinks, if wait he'll until
I'm no longer contagious,
to go out with me.

nothing said

as a child
you saw your grandmother,
lina, wring a chicken's neck
in the bricked yard
behind her row house
in south philly.
it happened so quickly
and with such ease
that it startled you,
standing there with
a handful of seed
to give the noisy bird,
clucking and running
fat and white a few seconds
before its death.
later that night. you
ate the chicken with
small potatoes,
and greens. nothing ever
said.

his grief

after the man's wife passed
away from complications
on the operating table
he made a sign
and stood outside on the street
near the hospital.
in bold black letters
on a white board it read
this hospital killed my wife,
the love of my life.
he held the sign up
wit his shorts arms
in his worn brown suit
as the cars drove by.
day after day.
month into month. in time
the sign faded, the board
crumpled in the rain
and finally he was no longer
there with his grief.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

you understand

just a little cream,
she says. just a little sugar.
please heat
the biscuit up,
a pad of butter,
a dab of jam.
you can use the small
plates on the shelf.
can you get the paper
too. be a dear.
you're so good to me.
kiss me on the cheek.
I love how you know me,
and understand.

payday

when they find out you have money,
they come, they drop from the sky

from planes. they bake a cake,
ask if you've lost weight.

they call from distant lands,
they inquire about your health,

your future plans.
they tell you that florida

is a bad idea, stay close,
stay near, they say.

they smell a payday.
it's just a matter of time

they whisper
when you're in the other room

when they can cash in
on being almost friends.

nine lives

she's blue again.
a darker shade of ocean.
there are no bootstraps
to pull up
no third gear to get
going.
she's made bad choices,
all the leaves
have been turned over
again and again.
the cat is running out
of lives to break
then mend.

morning coffee

less of you is here this morning
having left so much
in dreams, at the table of sleep.
you rise and dress
go out into the rain, let
the water come and go like soft
kisses against your weary cheek.
it's nice to be nowhere
in a hurry, to linger with
coffee through a window
on the barren street.

Friday, March 13, 2015

the pink eye blues

I have pink eye
she says mournfully on the phone.
i'm at the doctor's office now.
oh, you say, conjunctivitis,
I had that once when I was twelve.
it's very contagious, so I guess
I won't be seeing you tonight,
or tomorrow.
I suppose so, she says.
i'm sorry, but maybe next weekend.
so what will you do
without me. i'm not sure,
you say, plan b, or c,
I guess. Loretta has
the whooping cough,
and mary had a migraine last month,
but I think she's feeling okay.
then there's diane, if
her plantar fasciitis
isn't flaring up or linda
if she's healed
from her hysterectomy.

into the wind

the world is full
of wind. small cups
of air, moving
into the absence
of someone
you loved, you cared
about.
the vacuum of souls,
the hollows
of porch swings,
chairs in the kitchen.
beds. the wooded cove.
you see the breeze
of her against the water,
smell her hair upon
your clothes. all
blowing away.

don't point at me

I don't want people
to point at me, at my shoe
for instance, dragging
a ribbon
of toilet paper
down the street, or
at the wheel of my
car, where someone rolls
down their window
to shout. it's flat,
your tire is flat, or
gesturing to the dollop
of shaving cream
in my ear.
leave me alone
with the spinach in
my teeth, the drool
on my chin, the missed
buttons, or zipper
down. i'll get to it.
I know these things,
I wasn't born yesterday.
i'm not, despite what
you think, a circus clown.

the plaid shirt

you return the shirt
you bought just yesterday.
you tried it on
and stood in front of the mirror.
it's plaid.
green, reds, white.
it's thick, with black buttons.
you think lumberjack
when you look at it,
you are only missing an axe
and a wool hat,
a stout woman beside
you holding a bottle of syrup
and a possum by it's nap,
but you have the receipt
so you careful fold
it back into the wrapper,
place it into
the bag, take it back.

another book of poems

she writes another book
of poems. they are okay.
just okay. some better than
others. the ones in
the front. some fillers,
some clunkers,
some written in her head
while in the shower,
some half done.
the reviews are mixed
but lean towards, don't bother,
not as good
as the others,
but it's a book, a short
book of poems, a follow
up book for her followers.
you won't find it in
any bookstore,
but it's available
at a discount
on amazon.


blood line

the line to the blood
bank is long.
you rub your arm
where the needle will
go.
you could use a few bucks,
having written
the last alimony check
and bought
a cup of coffee to go.
so you get in line.
blood you have,
a nice supply that seems
to keep coming,
at least for now.

politics

the politics
of the woods
are simple.
stronger, larger,
more swift eat
the lesser beasts.
even the worms
are in on it
to some degree.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

the reformatory

they've turned the old prison
into an art gallery,
a place for artists to paint
and carve, to sculpt out
of stone what pleases them,
to spin on a wheel red clay
into a jar.
the guards are gone.
no one is in the gun tower.
the electric fence is numb
with current.
the barbed wired torn
down. posters adorn
the high walls in spring colors
of green and gold,
blues and soft hues of brown.
hardly a thought goes
into thinking what went on
here before. at the gate
you get a map, a list
of the artists, prices
in a folded brochure.

the scratch


when you hear the song,
you remember the scratch
that caught the needle
and held the record in place,
repeating the words
again and again.
it might have been thirty
years ago when you got
up from the couch or
floor, or bed, or asked
in a smoky haze for
someone to bump the needle
just so, but now
the song moves along.
strangely though,
it's not the same.
you miss the scratch.

the gas can

out of gas, you sit for a moment
and rest your hands upon the wheel
of your stalled car.
the rush and roar of traffic
goes by. in the distance you see
the melt of sun, you see
the rise of mountains
that take away the light.
an epiphany would be nice
right now. but none comes
to mind. you get the can out
of the trunk and walk
towards the exxon sign a few
miles up the road.

this alone

the bats, nestled figs
behind the pulled shutter
surprise you as they spring
out on jagged velvet
wings. they brush
against your face
in quiet flight,
like soft strange hands
as they fly
off into the blinding
light of day.
one is holding the body
of a dead grey mouse,
this alone makes me
call you.

twenty four seven

love takes a break
and you find yourself floating
in the sea of lukewarm water
called like.
you want to change her,
but just a little,
perhaps make a slight adjustment
in the way she wears
her hair, sleeps diagonally
in the queen sized bed,
and she wants to change you,
perhaps in the way you chew
with your mouth open,
and stare when a pretty
girl walks by.
it's annoying being together
twenty four seven, what
were we thinking,
but we're almost old,
so perhaps it's time to settle
and pretend that we just
don't care about snoring,
and seats up,
a the sink full of hair.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

the black coat

your favorite coat,
is still in the closet,
the black one with the torn
pockets where
the keys and cough drops
slip out.
the one with the stain
which might be coffee,
might be tea,
or chocolate. the zipper
hardly zips, but
it's a perfect coat,
a jacket really,
for spring. it fits.
easy to drive in.
you like to flip the collar
up when a breeze hits.
you try it on and feel
through the pockets.
there are ticket stubs from
last april.
you said you hated the movie,
which made her turn
her head so that you couldn't
see that she had
cried all the way through.
you remember how her arm
was in yours
next to the coat
and then it wasn't.

daffodils

after too much brandy,
meaning
half a bottle,
your father slips in the bathroom,
crushing his ribs
against the steel tub,
ripping down the shower
curtain of anchors and
starfish, blue and white,
he calls you from bed
and says, I think I did
it this time.
you ask him if he's seen
a doctor, if he can
get up to eat,
to go to the bathroom,
to which he answers
in all the ways he knows
you want to hear.
i'll be alright he says,
just a little too much
to drink, too much
Christmas cheer.
outside his window
the daffodils are blooming,
he tells you.
the ones he planted
on his old knees last year.

together

as if tied together
in grey blue clumps
of thick overcoats,
woolen hats of stripes
and colors like stuck
Christmas candies,
they gather,
they stroll
through the park,
emptying the senior
buses as one, they
move towards the lake
tethered by invisible
strands of time,
avoiding the iced
puddles, patches of snow,
holding loaves of stale
bread for the birds.
somewhere within they'd
rather be alone,
or at least not
with strangers, but with
someone they loved
so long ago, someone
who would remember those days
when they weren't so old.

over the trestle

it's the deep wail
of the train whistle,
through the woods,
that wakes you as it crosses
the trestle. you know exactly
where it is.
you can see the long silver
cars, hear the rumble
of wheels thumping against
the rails.
you can see the people
sleeping, the reflection
of trees and sky
in the windows they no
longer look out.
three pulls of the whistle
and it's gone, you fall
back to sleep, hardly dawn,
the world pink with light.

the lost day

you drift dreamily through
the morning,
careful on the ice,
buying coffee that you could
just as easily make at home.
going somewhere, going nowhere.
there is milk to buy.
bills in a snow pile
on the table
next to the folded towels.
you ease your way through
the hours, you graze the dry
pages of paper,
stare at a book, not letting
the words take hold.
you wander through the woods,
your feet hardly
touching the ground.
someone walks by and doesn't
say hello.
it's a lost day
and it's only three p.m., so
much more to go.

the girl in the photo

there was a time
when a man could spend
an afternoon alone
polishing his car.
the hood up, doors open,
the music on.
parked in the shade.
maybe the car is
turquoise or a pearl
grey.
maybe he has a cold
beer in his hand.
maybe he's your father
and he's day dreaming
about his summers
growing up
in nova scotia,
or of a girl
he used to know, her photo
the one you've seen
on his desk,
faded and old.
maybe you watch him from
the window,
elbows on the sill,
admiring him, his car,
the way his blue eyes
twinkle in the autumn
of his youth.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

who is this?

she sends you a text message
saying, there's fifty one days
of school left, then i'm
selling everything
and heading to texas,
the gulf coast.
i'm flying solo.
who is this, you say,
staring at the phone.
michelle. she says, don't
you remember me?
oh, you say, of course.
of course I do. have we ever
met? you teach math in
Richmond. right? blonde?
no, brunette and I
teach English
in manassas. and no we've
never met. you were always
too busy. why texas,
you ask. why not, she says.
i'm tired of work, of men
and love. i'm tired of
this stinking weather.
I need a break.
we all do, you say.
send me a post card
when you get there, take
a picture. let me know
how it goes. maybe i'll
come out and visit.
i'm saving you in my phone.

when wisdom intervenes

could you love someone like that,
with her prairie dresses, and black
floppy hats, you thought, as you shivered
in the basement on the hard futon

of her guest room, that wasn't
a guest room, but a storage bin
of old clothes, diaries stuffed
under the bed, and magazines

from the nineteen eighties,
that wobbled in small towers.
your head seemed to be lower
than your body in this bed.

your stomach the peak, your legs
from the hips down, tilted
towards the floor as if in a dentist's
chair, prone and ready for the needle.

could you love this person,
in the room above you, asleep,
perhaps, as the moon shot through
the window with a surreal

vibrancy. this woman who never
seemed to let wisdom intervene
in her choices of life.
the farmer in Kansas with bad teeth,

the obese man, she called the pornographer
with his labeled movies.
threesomes, foursomes, whips
and chains. blondes and redheads.

and now you, how did you fit in.
could you love this woman
who chased intruders in the dead
of night in her pajamas,

running after them in her
bare feet with only her screams
of anger to defend her. somehow
the answer was yes.

the irish in her. the steely
eyes, neither blue or green.
the dark hair that curled around
her impish ears. how she read

and read. no radio, no t.v.
you were in a time portal.
but you knew it was short lived.
at some point you had to return

to your own century.

the other life

you used to sleep walk.
get dressed in the middle of the night
and go to a different job,
a different home,
a different set of children
a different wife.
they adored you.
how kind you were in your dreamy
trance. you gave them
all the love you were unable
to give when you were awake.
in the morning, you went home.
went back to bed and waited
for the alarm to go off
to start this other life,
the one you couldn't
escape from, except at night.

the safe heart

her heart was a steel safe.
you clicked and clicked,
turning the knob,
ear to the hard wall
trying to find
the right numbers, her
elusive combination
to open her door.
but it never swung
open, you never got
to see what was in there,
if anything at all.

tazmanian maids

you see the maids
come out of the car like
circus clowns in pink,
one by one, more than
you thought were in there.
each with a bucket,
a mop a broom.
they descend upon your
house like tazmanian devils.
the dirt and grime
being spun away into a nice
polish and shine.
no more dust, no more
stockings hanging
from the fan.
no shoes on the stove,
heels on the stairs,
pants on the floor.
the bags of trash go out
to the curb.
they make your bed,
scour the sinks, the tubs,
the toilets,
brush out the cobwebs,
pick up the wedges of lime.
they rake into a nice
pile, the watches
and ear rings, wine glasses
and bracelets from
under the bed, which you
tell them to help themselves,
take it all, none of it
is mine.

black licorice

having no bills, or change
to give to the man at the corner
with his cardboard sign
and timberland boots,
you hand him a piece of licorice.
he takes a bite as you wait
at the light, then spits it out.
what's this he says.
did they change the formula.
this isn't switzer's.
this isn't the licorice I grew
up with.
yes it is you tell him.
holding up the bag to show
him the label.
I can't eat this, he says,
it's horrible, here, take
it back. this tastes like
sugary wax. it's horrible.
please, don't be handing that
out. it's criminal.
by the way, the light
changed, you can go now.

waiting for rescue

you live on a island,
but there are no palm trees,
no coconuts
or white beaches with
warmed sand.
there is no water
surrounding you.
no boats docked
near your door. but it's
an island just the same.
one of snow
and ice, people
paddling with shovels
to get from
here to there.
tired of it all, waiting
rescue, you write
a note and curl it into
an empty bottle
of vodka and toss
it out into a snow bank.
you peel a banana and wait.

the matinee

the movie goes on too long.
the subtitles in yellow,
the sea and sky
of the Russian port
violent and bright
with postcard blues,
snow iced whites.
you close your eyes
at one point and listen
to the language,
none of it sinking
in. it's a cruel world
on the screen. you
wonder when it might end.
the women throw
fish into boxes
after slicing their heads off.
the men tip bottles
of vodka into the mouths
of their raw faces,
loading their guns.
everyone smokes rapidly.
a woman kills herself,
throwing her life
over a cliff into
the raging sea.
corruption poisons
the land, even the church
is in on it. it's a hard
movie. a hard life.
you can hardly eat your
junior mints
and popcorn.

Monday, March 9, 2015

nothing left to do

you wait for rain.
the earth waits too.

it's furrowed brow
of land, dry and dry,

nearly dust.
no green, no roots,

the seeds blown
up into the sun.

you wait for rain.
you've plowed,

you've prayed,
there's nothing left

to do.

love sick

sick of love,
tired of caring.
of saying yes when you
want to say no.
tired of being where
you don't want to be.
saying things
you don't want to say.
sick of love,
sick of who it makes
you be.
eating what you don't
want to eat.
sleeping when you don't
want to sleep.
sick of love
and all it's supposed
to be.

across the fields

the world has a way
of taking you out back
to the shed
and whipping you.
taking the raw green
branch and giving
you what for.
telling you who's in
charge, who sets the rules.
then you limp back,
pretending to be shamed
and repentant, but you're
not. you'll get out
of this somehow, get
over the fence
and run across the wide
green fields, unbroken.

slower, she says, go slower


she sits in a chair beside
you at the pool. do you mind?
is anyone sitting here?
you open your eyes,
half blind from the sun
and say, no. it's fine.
I like the way you swim,
she says, her hair, black
as any raven's, oily and thick,
wrapped now in a coned towel.
she lights a cigarette
and leans back in the yellow
lawn chair, blowing smoke
to the side.
I watch you from my window.
I can see the pool from fifteen
floors up. I see you
dive in. I watch as your arms
and legs spread and pull you
along. you are a wonderful
swimmer. how quickly you move
from side to side. where did
you learn to swim like that?
you lean over. she's your mother's
age, maybe older. you're seventeen.
she's liz taylor from the golden age.
a cluster of rings on her hand.
a necklace dripping against
her browned chest. can you put
some lotion on me, she says,
twisting her cigarette out
into the hot concrete.
would you be a dear. I won't
bite. i'm harmless she says,
dropping her sunglass down
just enough to give you a wink.
my back and legs, she says,
rolling over, pulling the straps
down on her bathing suit.
she hands you the tube of lotion.
you look around the pool to see
if anyone is watching,
then squirt a dollop into
your hand, carefully you
smooth it onto her alligator
skin. slower, she says.
go slower.

the green tiled hallway

there was a certain shine
he was after
on the green linoleum tiles
in the long hallway
that led to the pool.
he'd lean his head to the side,
take off his cap
and say, look, see that,
there's a dull spot
down there. it needs
a splash of more wax,
then i'll buff it down.
every day, every week
for years,
his hands on the machine
as it vibrated smoothly from
side to side, the shifting
of his weight easing it
along. sometimes he'd
sing, sometimes he'd
smoke, cupping the ashes
in his dark hand.
he almost seemed happy
at times, it was strange
to hear that he had died.

you remember him

you remember his face
flushed
with a bong hit, his eyes
rolling back
into his deep lined smile
framed in black hair.
the beauty of his youth
fading as the needle
found a friendly vein,
you remember his arm
tied and him sinking back
into music, giving in
to the sweet crushing wave
of no pain.
you remember him beyond that
though, on the playground.
on the fields of youth,
his hat and glove,
how gracefully he ran
under a struck fly ball
that seemed to never
come down. the sun on
all of us.

snow birds


you see a blue bird
flying into the woods.
he's carrying a suitcase.
a small overnight bag
full of twigs and worms.
there's an FLA.
sticker on the side.
key west, and cuba.
he's wearing sunglasses,
his claws are welled tanned.
this makes you smile
as you sweep away
the ice and snow,
the salt and sand.

there's a spot

it's hard to parallel park
in the snow.
the tires slipping,
the wheels
grinding hot against
a spot of dry
asphalt, but she tries
anyway.
the cars backing up
behind her
to the light and beyond.
this is who she is.
determined,
unflinching in adversity,
why she's with
the likes of you.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

see you soon

i''m tired she says, sipping
her pinot noir, I wanted to earlier,
but I'm not feeling it now.
I mean we can if you want to,
I'm not against it, I won't say
no. but it's late, I have to
work tomorrow, i have to leave
early. i have a meeting
in the morning.
so, is that okay with you?
we did it last week, I think,
didn't we. is that okay?
sure, you say, the remote in
your hand, flipping through
channels. checking scores
in your flannel pajamas. I'm
kind of tired too, maybe
tomorrow. my allergies are
acting up anyway.
let's schedule it in.
see what we can do.
okay, she says. see you
when you come to bed.
I'm going up. oh, and can
you put the dishes in the sink?
good night. see you soon..

the next parade

the stamp collection
in the attic.
the books, the postcards.
the photographs,
medals, and letters.
all the confetti of his
decorated life
that rained down
over the years.
now trash.
now forgotten, pulled
out in bags
by strangers, trying
to clean, to paint,
to make the house right
for the next parade.
of life.

everyone got out

it's not your house anymore,
but you stare in,
standing in the rain.
face pressed against the window.
the house is dark, hollowed.
the door is locked.
there is no mail in the metal box.
weeds are growing through
cracks in the sidewalk.
the yard is dirt.
the trashcans are empty with rust.
a broken car is on blocks.
the blue plastic pool out front
is collapsed,
the algae has turned into
something else.
there were children once
in this house.
there were parent making love
then bleeding, taken away
in handcuffs.
there was laughter on tv,
and crying behind closed doors.
there were unpaid bills,
and empty cupboards,
somehow though,
you found a way out.


scorpio

what's your sign
she asks as you sip on a tall
glass of vodka and tonic,
a slice of lime.
i'm on the cusp, you tell
her. pisces and aquarius.
I was born late at night.
so I pick and choose whatever
horoscope suits me for that
day. you can't do that she
says. you have to pick
one or the other.
i'm a scorpio, she says,
smiling grimly. you flinch,
remembering that your ex-wife
was a scorpio.
you prepare yourself to be
slapped, ready to block
anything she throws at
you. i'm very passionate
she say, taking your hand
in hers and pulling on a
finger until the knuckle
cracks. you say ouch,
then pull your hand away.
scorpio?
yes. do you have a problem
with that?
no, not at all. I can do a
chart for you, she says.
I can tell you who you are,
everything about your past
your future and it will
be exact. the planets are
in a good place for us
this time of the year,
this time of the millennium.
cool, you say. very cool. look,
I have to go use the bathroom,
but i'll be right back,
you tell her, getting up,
grabbing your keys,
your phone, your hat.
you finish your drink
in one long gulp. be right back.
carefully you push a trashcan
up to the window in the bathroom
and crawl out,
but there she is waiting for you,
laughing under the full moon.
did you think you were going
to leave me without a kiss
she says. not a chance.

the rose wallpaper

the man asks his wife
if she remembers when he was
in korea, during the war,
and how he wrote
her letters. love letters
you think, it's his wife, you're not
sure, but there you are
listening, not seeing a ring
on any hand,
not knowing who's crazy
or isn't. she smiles
and nods. none of this has
anything to do with why
you are there, but he goes on
and on about this war.
he brushes back his thick
grey eyebrows with a finger
as he talks more about
these letters, then stops.
no one says anything.
you go back to work.
she goes down the stairs.
he says something to you
about a dog he once had
when he was a child. he asks
if you have a dog, you say no,
as you begin to smooth out
the long sheet of roses
onto the wall,
pushing the air from
side to side. easing
the wrinkles away.

she's not there

the sun goes down.
the lights go out.
you smooth the pillow,
and lie against the bed,
you close your eyes,
but you're still awake.
you listen
to the house breathe.
the heat finding its
way through the vents.
the leaks of air,
small winds.
you hear the ice
dripping cold
outside the window.
you reach over
to touch her. to tell
her something you've
been thinking about,
this woman you love
and hold dear,
but she's not there.
you forget how easily
things change.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

future plans

you scribble on the back of an envelope
your bills.
what you need to survive on.
it might be cheaper in florida.
but you don't like snakes
or lizards, or oatmeal.
you still have teeth and can walk.
you could live out your final days
in a nice hotel perhaps.
four star with room service.
cable tv and a pool. a pool
would be nice. people would know
you at the bar, in the lobby.
they'd tip their hats at you,
calling you by name
as you slipped a dollar or two
into their outstretched hands.
or maybe a cruise ship, sail on
until the end. point out at the sun
setting, the sun rising,
look up every night into
the cluster of stars,
the unencumbered moon. or perhaps
you could buy a Winnebago
and drive across country,
eat food in every small
town you stumble upon, telling
people who are and where you
are from. you could learn
their customs, use words
like howdy when you needed to.
or maybe you could stay put
and shovel snow, stay close to you.

the slow read

you fall in love with a librarian.
always pressing a finger
to her soft lips,
whispering for you to be quiet,
tying a knot in her pulled
back hair.
you can smell the books on her,
the dry pages of
mark twain, Flaubert,
the poetry of Whitman
and Hardy, Upton Sinclair.
she bleeds the dewy decimal system,
you can hardly hear her
moving about, sliding books
onto shelves, smiling as she
counts the days of late fees,
makes lists of what is
or isn't there. she is a book
herself, a mystery, a thin novel
of love and despair. a slow read
that you can't put down.

the dark boys

the dark boy, brooding
in shadows,
leaning into the red brick,
bookless,
his fangs holding
a cigarette, his pants
unbuckled waiting
for prey. he's dangerous
and ugly in
a beautiful way. how kind
the girls are to him,
he's misunderstood, they say.
his heart is sweet,
he's really gentle, if given
a chance I can show
him another way.

take my hand

I want to grow old
with someone, she says.
you tell her it's too late.
you're already there.
we both are. but take my
hand, sweet friend.
let's take a stroll.
let's feed the ducks
at the lake.
bring bread, bring your
cane, bring a camera,
after this day, we'll
never look the same.

Friday, March 6, 2015

breakfast in bed

for breakfast you eat
her leg, it's long
and pale, she won't
keep it still. you
swallow her fingers,
nibble at her foot,
chew on her arm, you
work your way around.
tasting the curves of her.
you linger at her neck
saving her
mouth for dessert.
you devour her eyes,
her heart is warm
and sweet,
a pastry of love.
you drink the champagne
of her laughter dry.


get serious

they strangle youth
out of you.
it starts early.
never ends.
behave. don't chew gum,
sit up straight.
dot your i's, cross
your t's.
get a job, save money.
do something with your life.
don't be late.
don't waste it
on foolish things.
study study study,
play between the lines
and everything
will be fine.
punch the clock. eat carrots.
make your bed.
pray pray pray
and shovel your walk.
throw salt down.
you can do this, we're
proud of you.
we love you, we want
your life to be serious,
like we are, and shine.

priorities

don't roll your window down,
she says, sipping on her skim
soy, extra hot three pump latte.
I don't want to give that man
any money. wait, here, give him
this people magazine,
i'm done with it.
i'm tired of these bums
at every corner
on every block, why don't
they get a job.
I hardly have enough money
for my plastic surgeon. do
they have any idea what
fillers and botox costs?

fifty shades of boredom

some books bore you by line ten
no matter what the flattering blurbs
have to say, or what seductive photo
is splashed on the cover,
so you quickly skim through it,
fanning the pages, then turn to the end
to see exactly where this
thing is going. you only have so
many hours on the clock to read,
and the movie about the book
is already on cable tv.
sometimes you go and other times,
the book becomes a door stop,
or a gets shelved never
to be touched again
except when you need paper
for the bottom of your bird cage.

red candy

the woman, dragging her child
by his small hand
across the tiled floor of the giant
department store, him screaming,
her screaming,
not blood, but a red candy
stolen from a low shelf,
dripping from his mouth.
his eyes awash in tears,
heels dragging,
his life, just beginning.
his life, just ending.

your fun and mine

your idea of fun
differs from mine.
the roller coaster is
in my rear view mirror.
the fun house, the circus.
roller blading
down the boulevard.
go ahead and fly your
kite, sail across the sky
in a hot air balloon,
jump from a bridge, or
plane. go and deep
sea dive. i'm fine
with all of that.
i'll be back at the lodge
sipping on an ice cold
drink, awaiting your
return, if there is one.