Thursday, April 30, 2015

online ten things

there are ten ways
to lose body fat.
ten signs that your relationship
is doomed.
ten places to retire.
ten reasons not to eat shellfish,
ten ways
to fall in love and stay in love.
ten things your body is telling
you when you get sick
and turn green.
ten dream vacations,
ten tips to saving money.
ten signs that
you may have a heart attack.
ten ideas to increase
your libido.
ten foods you should never
eat, ten foods you should.
ten things to tell your doctor.
ten reasons not
to trust him.
there are ten
reasons for living, ten
reasons to jump
off a building.
ten things you could be
doing other than being
online and reading this.

on the water


in the morning fog,
the boat, swaying softly
on the calm river
is welcoming. it offers
you a way
out and down the sleeve
of blue water
that leads to the bay.
a road without a destination,
let's just go around
the island
the captain says.
you can fish if you want.
we can spend all day
on the river doing nothing,
going nowhere,
letting the wind and
currents define our way.
not unlike being on land
you want to say, but don't,
why spoil the fog of life
that he's in.

the yellow raincoat

the woman, striking her child
on the street,
his yellow rain coat deflecting
a hard rain,
missing the school bus,
crying with papers
in the wind, a spilled
bag of crayons, pencils,
erasers. the woman
swings and swings against
the yellow plastic
covering his body down
to his wobbly knees.
her day is ruined,
by minutes, his life
just beginning, headed
in her direction.

the apology


you saved in a steel box
with small locks,
tumblers to turn,
combinations of numbers
to swing the door
open on papers you needed
to keep safe
and unburned should a
fire engulf the world,
or a flood
should wash it all away.
marriage certificates,
divorce decrees,
licenses and insurance,
degrees of merit,
the titles to cars,
the proof of birth,
of your existence here
on earth. even the dog,
dead now for years,
had papers in the box.
a hand written letter
from a former love, it
too folded and kept
safe, an apology
addressing the end.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

the boy who could throw

with one long heave
he could throw a ball
down the entire
street called Dorchester,
from pole to pole.
the ball would spin
and spiral
and drop sweetly into
the red haired boy's
arms as he
jitterbugged his way
across the chalked
goal line.
the sky was blue then,
laced with the licorice
wires of power lines
and telephones.
the cars were thick on
the curbs, narrowing
the path of play.
the summers were long,
the street full
of us, of the boy
who taught you how to throw
a ball,
a half century away
from his trailer
in florida where he
died alone.

the night is long

it's an angry mob,
fueled by failure,
that breaks into the liquor store,
throwing a brick
through the front window,
but the anger
turns to happiness
as they carry out
their crates
of booze, bottles of fine
wine.
beer in cases.
the looters are happy now
as they lean
over the register
and pull a few dollars out.
someone lights a match,
and a cheer erupts,
they drink
and stand to admire
the flames as they roll
without mercy down the ancient
block of buildings
and homes.
the protest march goes on,
there are other stores
to loot and burn,
the night is dark,
the night is long.

more than two sides

she says there are two sides
to everyone, but I disagree
saying we are more like a prism
with light shining
through us. every color
appears depending on
the angle of the light,
or darkness that finds
its way through and dims
the soul to grey.

open heart

you find the needle,
long and sharp, gleaming
silver in the big over
head light.
you find the white thread
too, a spindle of it.
you thread the needle
biting off the end after
pulling a long string
to use, then you lie
on the dining room table
and proceed to stitch
your heart up, the open
wound that love has left
you with once again.

end of the world food

at some point you'll throw
away those cans
that line your shelves.
chicken noodle soup,
chili, beef stews,
canned ham that isn't ham.
all of them bought so long
ago and never touched.
years have gone by
and there they sit
collecting dust,
nudged by grey mice
that shake their heads
and laugh.
it's your end of the world
cupboard, the high
shelf, deep with boxes
too. pancake mix.
noodles, dried like sticks,
packages of mystery soups
and gravy, both chicken
and turkey flavored.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

smaller pieces

the choking boy,
blue in the face,
a piece of food
lodged in this narrow
throat, throws his
arms into the air.
his blue eyes bulge.
you see the mother
get up
and reach around
his small chest
and squeeze him tightly
where a group of ducks
swim.
out goes the food.
the boy can breathe again.
she's very calm
as she sits down
to wipe his face.
she then reaches over
with fork and knife
to cut his food into
smaller pieces.
you do the same with
yours.

the white wall

with broad strokes
you paint the wall white.
then let it dry.
you paint it over one
more time.
you stand back and admire
your work.
the absence of color
suits you.
the absence of love,
for now, feels equally
fine.
the world,
this wall, is flat
both clean, both bright.

eleven years

how emerald
the leaves are, as if they
never left.

crisp new gems
so quickly hung on branches,
filling in the grey

along the canvas
out your window.
soon you won't be able

to see the other side
of the stream.
but you can get there

stepping over stones
that winter pushed in place.
maybe you'll find the time

to carve your name, with hers
and date upon a tree,
beneath the one you did

that spring eleven years ago
after she passed away.

Monday, April 27, 2015

baseball

a swing, a miss,
a foul ball back into
the seats.
step out, adjust the gloves,
the hat,
the armor on the leg,
the crotch.
step in, and wait.
and wait. spit.
the batter calls time
to scratch and itch.
the pitcher calls time,
to twitch his eyes
and adjust his necklace.
a pitch, a swing, a foul
ball to the left.
a new ball, spit.
a change of pitchers
the batter stretches,
gets a new bat.
no outs, no hits,
no runs,
one hour in. it starts
to rain.
first inning. more spitting
and chewing. a batter
steps in and swings,
a foul ball
to the right side.
game delayed.

first apartment

you remember buying
your first couch,
a plaid monster,
pleated
with leather straps,
your first lamp and end table.
the bed, queen sized,
you were hopeful then,
the dressers.
plates and glasses,
silverware that would
bend in the sun.
a plant for the corner,
near the sliding glass
door with a broken broom
jammed in the slot
for protection. how you
struggled
with a hammer and a screw
standing on
a wobbly chair to put
the drapes up,
heavier than carpet.
you remember
the towels, one for me,
one for you. the two slotted
toaster,
the mixer, that waffle iron,
never to be used.
you remember
at the end of the day
measuring the wall
from side to side,
top to bottom to hang
the golden faux painting
of ships, galleons
sailing on some strange
yellow sea.

making amends

you steal a pen from the bank,
a lollipop too.
is it stealing?
you aren't sure,
there are so many pens
sitting there,
but tomorrow, you'll
leave a dollar
on the counter
and feel better about
what you've done.
the same goes
for those grapes
you tasted in the produce
section of the grocery store.
will they ever be sweet
again?
a penny left on the floor
might be too much.

the morning machines

at seven a.m.
they swarm, like bees
upon the grounds,
the mowers, the trimmers,
the blowers,
cutting,
moving the fallen branches
around, pushing
them towards trucks
with open mouths to grind them
down. it's never ending.
this growth and killing,
these men, with
headphones, and hats,
banditos in masks,
wearing purple shirts,
gloved and fast, they swarm,
they keep moving.
you can hardly hear the trash
truck backing up,
it's a symphony out of tune
in the courtyard.
you're awake now, no more
sleeping this Monday
morning.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

fashion statements

do you like my red dress,
she asks,
spinning around
like a top, making herself
dizzy, more
dizzy than she normally is.
I have a matching purse too.
red heels, she says,
tapping them against the floor.
my ruby slippers!
maybe you should
get ready, the show starts
in an hour.
I am ready, you tell her.
i'm always ready.
you stand up and adjust
your khaki shorts, t-shirt
and red ball cap,
spinning around to give
her the full picture.

the unread

some books, many books,
you toss across the room, unread.
many of them are by
Thomas hardy
some proust, some james joyce,
all of the 50 shades
books too. pages fit
for the bottom of a bird
cage.
you have less free time
these days to read
what you can't understand,
or want to.
like food, you know what
you like, or dislike,
the rest gets thrown
across the room.

before the worms come

your knee.
the left, or maybe it's the right
knee. one of those
knees
seems to hurt when
the weather
gets cold and you've
pushed your body
to some unreasonable limit
of exercise.
it swells, not like a grapefruit,
but more like a soft
plum.
in fact most of your body
is bruised fruit
at the end of a biking,
kayaking,
basketball and dating
weekend. you have fallen
to the ground,
ripe and ready,
hoping to be scooped
up and taken home
before the worms come.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

the spirit world

you never believed in ghosts
or apparitions
the spirit world
beyond the grave until
your dog began
to bark at a corner
of the room where you sat
and watched tv.
he stared and stared
at the empty white ceiling,
the hair bristled along
his spine, crouching
as if to run, barking,
barking. so you stood on
the couch and waved your arm
around to show him
that nothing was there.
your arm entered a cold
tunnel of air, heavy and thick,
from your hand to your shoulder.
it was like ice water.
the dog ran up the stairs,
with you not far behind.

sleep

there is sleep
and then there is a different
sleep, not
death, not that sleep,
no. the sleep of fatigue.
the slumber
of sorrow,
the sinking of the soul
and mind
into a warm depth.
the sleep of surrender
to all,
when nothing more
can be done.
it's a wonderful sleep
when you close your eyes
and let go.

i miss you

you find a card
on the rack beside the produce
section.
the card is cold,
the plastic wrap
is soft in your hand
as you pull it out
to read.
I miss you, it says.
there are birds on the front,
a couple holding
hands as they walk
through the woods.
dogs run beside them.
it's more art
than most cards allow.
pinks in the sky,
a blue stream,
the bright green of trees
and grass.
you can't see the faces,
but it doesn't matter.
you'll take it home,
sign it, address
the envelope,
then put it in a drawer
beside the others.

we all need something

you read about the vampire
bats
flying on silk wings,
under a full
white moon,
sucking on the veins
of cows
as they stand sleeping
in the pastures.
they need blood
to go on.
we all need something.

not kissing rita

you regret not kissing rita.
not grabbing her
by her black hair
and tugging her lips to yours.
you regret many
things in your life,
but this one
keeps you awake, wishing
not to make
the same mistake
should she fly once
more nearby.

the open box

you keep your lost sleep
in a box
at the foot of the bed.
there is a reason for each
hour, each minute
stared at the ceiling
and stored away.
new love, lost love,
work, of course,
bills and health.
the son, so far away.
your age, the age
and passing of so many
dear to you, the price
of nearly everything.
it's a deep box, unlocked,
with an open top.
it echoes with nights
gone by, there is room
for more.

Friday, April 24, 2015

a quick read

there are strangers
in your life. some who have
the same parents that you do.
their blood is your blood.
but your lives are silent.
hard back books against one another
on the shelf. touching, but
not knowing what each
one holds within.
at Christmas, or a wedding,
or when death intervenes
all, or some of the books
come together
for a quick read, or skim.

the year book

you find the ancient
year book in a closet,
in a box, in the basement.
buried deep beneath old
checks and bank
statements. a reunion
invite is stuck to the front
of the hard blue book.
you peel it off
and throw it towards
the trash can.
you open the book
and see the signed
greetings and farewells
of hardly friends,
no lovers, just children
thinking of clever things
to say, but there are none.
remember home room,
the parade,
the floats we made.
remember the time you pulled
the alarm
and sent us all out
into the pouring rain,
don't ever change one
reads. at seventeen such
a tall order to obey,
but you've tried.

they know you

they know you at the coffee shop.
they know your drink,
your fondness for warmed
coffee cake.
they have it ready before
you say a word,
before you take nine
dollars out of your
pocket and leave them
the change.
it's so nice to be known,
it makes the world easier
to never be different,
to never stray
from where you came.


lazy and dumb

you fall in love
with a writer. she's better
than you.
she's proficient and smart,
her imagination rivals
a field of wild flowers
of every color.
by the end of the day,
you hate her
for her beauty, jealous
of her words that come
so easily.
she is a sharp knife in
your heart, as you type
and type searching
for words that rhyme,
for alliteration, for
fresh ideas and metaphors.
you make a vow to choose
lazy and dumb next time.

brown bananas

half the fruit you purchase
goes black and sour
on the counter, or cold
and wrinkled in the crisper.
rotted so soon.
you almost throw it away
as you leave the grocery
store, saving you the trouble
of carrying it home.
you put so much hope into
eating at least two of
those four bananas you
broke off into a bunch.
now they are brown
and you have no skills
into turning them into cake.
you don't like banana
cake to begin with.
there is a metaphor in here
somewhere, perhaps the lesson
is don't waste your youth,
don't become a rotten
banana or a soft piece
of fruit that no one wants
to bite into. perhaps.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

before the sun

as a boy, you rose
before the sun, took the old
dog, the wagon
down three blocks
to the corner where you
cut the ties
of the bundles,
the newsprint hardly
dry. you bended each
into a baton, slipping
them inside a plastic
bag, then pulled
the wagon along your
route, tossing each
to a porch whose numbers
you had memorized.
sometimes you missed,
sometimes they landed
crisp and centered
so that one only had
to open a door
and bend to find
out what the world
had been up to.
at home, the wagon pushed
into the shrubs,
the dog back inside,
you stood at the kitchen
sink and soaped your
hands, watching
the black ink swirl
into the drain,
clean before
the school bus arrived.

tell me something new

come closer,
she tells you.
come here,
sit next to me.
hold my hand.
kiss my lips.
tell me something new.
something wonderful.
so you tell her
that you love her madly
and don't every
want her to go.
no, she says,
tell me something
I don't already know.

holding tight

at six, you were on a grey
ship plowing through
the vast swells,
of the atlantic.
standing at the bow,
peering between the rails,
iron and cold in your
curled hands, which barely
held you steady.
you remember your brown shoes
wet with white sprays of salt.
you were under the arms
of your mother, one child held
to her chest, too small to walk,
the others cupped
between her knees, tugging
at her long coat.
you remember thinking how
easy it would be to jump
into the sea and be gone,
so easy to disappear
from this world that for you
had hardly begun.
the thought has never left
you, even now, these decades
later, as you stand holding
tight to a different ship.

good luck to you

we found someone else to do the work,
she says in an email. we know this
is short notice, that you were going
to start on Monday.
we're very sorry, but this person
is so much lower in price, so we
had no choice. he doesn't speak
English, or have a truck, or ladders,
or a place to sleep at night,
he has no license, or insurance,
but he seems nice and he's willing
to work for food and a hundred dollars
a day. so we had no choice, but to go
with him. but thank you for coming
out three times to look at our house,
to give us a written and detailed contract,
not to mention your three excellent references
and for helping us with the colors. we appreciate
your advice. good luck to you.

going in

it's a slow day.
a long day.
lazy and hot.
the trees sag, the stream
is low,
you can see
the bare soft sand
along the edges.
nothing stirs.
people are too tired
to talk, they look
and wave
carrying in their
bags of groceries,
that's enough for now.
it's good to go in,
to be home,
to be done with the world
for awhile,
clicking the phones,
the lights,
the television off.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

sweet fatigue

you decided not to be part
of the grey shuffle
long ago.
you veered, detoured,
you threw the briefcase
into the air.
you tossed the brown
shoes and white shirts,
you burned
the nooses that wrapped
around them.
you decided not to do
what they wanted you to do.
a road less traveled,
perhaps. a longer road,
but with sunlight
on your face, and sweet
fatigue that lets
you sleep.

unbloomed

she waits within herself.
the unfolded
flower. waits for
the kiss of a warm sun,
a shower or two.
a nose against
her nose.
lips that touch.
then maybe the waiting
will be over,
and she'll bloom.

warm milk

the earth didn't move.
not an inch to the left or right.
is it you, is it her?
nothing shook.
does love need
to be a volcano. a storm.
a longing?
can't it be an after thought.
a warm glass
of milk before bed,
a good book
on the nightstand,
a kiss on the cheek
goodnight
before the light goes out.

start the day

you oil up
the joints of you,
bend this way then that,
sand some rough spots away
with a ratchet file,
put a new battery in.
clean and wipe
the windows. you take a razor
and cut away the brush,
you kick the tires.
you crank it up,
let it warm, pour coffee
into the cold tank,
then you get out of the house
to start the day.

the inheritance

she left everything to her cat.
it wasn't much, but enough
to make her children want to kill
the cat, all nine lives at once.
the cat lived for years in comfort,
never caring really about its
wealth. it was a just a cat.
but the will said so much else
about who had left and who
was left behind.

bone cold

you know it will hurt,
but still you remove your shoes
and let the ocean
fall down upon
your legs and feet.
the sting of early april
is in your bones,
the warm sun, not warm
enough for this.
but you do it anyway.
you do many things for
the same reason.
you have a handful
of them to ponder
as you walk this deserted beach.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

brown whiskey

pour me another, she says,
drifting into a sultry betty davis
way of slouching forward
with pouty lips and big eyes.
pour me another, and don't
be stingy, she says. I wish
I had a cigarette. I wish
I had a carton of cigarettes.
i'd smoke them all one after
another while we sit here
discussing our future and drinking
brown whiskey.
i'm taking off my blouse,
she says. it's hot in here.
you don't mind, do you.
and turn off that light.
what am I under interrogation?
open a window, for god's sake,
it's like a Chinese laundry
in this room.
pour me another, she says,
holding out her tumbler,
clinking the ice against
the glass, pour me another
and tell me our future.
tell me if you love me,
or if you don't. I don't care.
either way is fine. she throws
her blouse across the room.
it swims in the air
like a white bird falling
to the floor. get a glass
and have one with me. let's make
a toast. let's drink to us.
or if not us, then whoever
comes next. come on. pour
me another and one for
yourself, let's both go down
with this sinking ship.

hackers

you try to imagine
a proper punishment for
hacking.
getting into your accounts
and being malicious.
perhaps breaking the thumbs
of the guilty,
like in the movie
the hustler,
where they take paul
newman into the back
room and bend his
thumbs backwards
until they break. perhaps.
but you aren't a
violent person, at
least for now.


the lights go out

the power goes out in the storm.
the waiter brings a candle
in a red jar, the light wobbles
across the darkened room.
he sets it on the table
and asks if you'd both like
another drink. this happens
he says, smiling. it will come back.
outside, the wind picks up,
the rain pelts the windows,
now closed. lighting sears
the black horizon. the room
is silent with watching.
everything in your life it
seems, remains unknown.

the light on

the child, afraid of the dark,
crying. says it's the wind,
the thunder, the hidden that
lies outside and inside,
that can't be seen, the unknown,
that stirs his imagination.
you understand his fear.
it never truly leaves,
you want to tell him,
you learn to pretend
to be brave as time moves on.
you say none of this though,
and instead leave the hall light on
for the both of you.

Monday, April 20, 2015

coconut crazy

it's the season of coconuts.
coconut butter
and oil. it's everywhere.
the island trees are stripped
bare of this round
balled fruit, hard as nails.
there is coconut oil in nearly
everything.
these pants i'm wearing,
for instance are made
of coconut bark,
this hat, these shoes.
can you smell the sweet
white meat of coconuts
on me. that's right.
I just rubbed some on
my face after shaving.
tonight i'll fry a chicken
in coconut oil.
i'll have a glass
of coconut juice
with dinner and maybe
a splash of rum.
a big splash.

good luck

each day is a gamble.
a spin of some cosmic
wheel, a roll
of god's dice.
each day you throw
it all in the middle
on the green felt,
searching for
that lucky number,
each day
you choose black or
red, hit me, or i'll
stay. how long can you
play the odds,
keep good luck at bay.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

to be boys again

the aging men.
all sizes. all types.
thick with time,
leaning towards the end,
as we run,
and bounce the ball.
the arc of it
falling short, or
long, less and less
into the soft swish
of net.
the sun, like it was
thirty years ago
is where should it should
be, the trees along
the court are gone,
or taller. the brush
thicker, nothing changes,
but us, us men, still coming
in the summer mornings
to be boys again.

bowling shoes

you remember the soft
shoes, the bowling shoes
at the alley
across the highway,
rented for an hour or two
while you rolled balls
down the hardwood floor
to knock down the wooden
pins. you liked
the numbers on the back
and the smell of them,
powdered and sprayed
of lilac and lavender.
two toned, grey and blue.
they were nicer than any
shoes you had owned
up to that point in your
young life and here they
were, hundreds of them
lined on the shelves.
all the sizes of the world,
including yours.

the death of a family member

the sign on the deli door,
hand written in magic marker,
the same pen that writes down
large or small,
mushrooms or olives,
says that the store will be
closed on Monday due to the death
of a family member.
a bell jingles when you push
the glass door open.
you place your order at the counter
and look around to see
who might be missing.
the father and son, are there,
heavy in their white aprons,
stained with red sauce
the mother, in the back
with the salads, adjusting her
black wig,
a cousin at the oven,
a sister on the tables.
there is a quietness as
money changes hands. no
music plays. no small talk.
you leave with a blessing in
some strange way.
this hot meal being part
of the sorrow,
part of the holy ground
that sorrow is.

the feminist blues


there's something I need
to tell you, she says out loud
while you are having dinner
in a fine restaurant.
i'm a feminist, she says.
a what? you say, nibbling on
your trout and sipping
at an apple martini.
a communist? no problem
comrade. i can respect that.
no, no, no.
i'm a feminist, she says
again, taking off a high
heel and banging it on
the table like Nikita
Khrushchev. oh, right,
equal pay, and all that stuff.
yeah me too.
pass me the butter, please,
you ask, pointing at the butter
tin. can't you reach
that she says. I mean I
could get it for you,
but I think you can too.
okay. excuse my reach.
you lather a slice of bread
with some butter
and stare at her. she looks mad.
you try to think what you
might have done wrong today.
you avoided opening any doors
for her. you didn't buy her flowers.
you said nothing about her
not shaving her legs.
you never once said she looked
pretty. you did your best
to treat her like a man.
you let her make every decision
and walked behind her
as she perused the feminine
hygiene aisle. what could you
have done? are you mad at me
you say, finishing off the potatoes.
you seem mad. your face is red.
you want to say like a communist,
but you don't. her feminism
no longer includes a sense
of humor.
yes. i'm mad at you. you're a man,
aren't you. you think you
rule the world. you think women
are weak. you nod your head
in an understanding way,
thinking about dessert.
are we having dessert, you ask
her. may I suggest the flourless
chocolate cake? split it?
can't I have my own dessert?
oh, sure, sure. you slide
the menu over. she gets the key
lime pie and coffee. black.
like how a man drinks his coffee.
you think, but bite your tongue.
you finish in silence.
the waiter brings the bill out
and sets it on the table
between you. you both stare at
if for a moment or two,
and then she says. i'll be back
in a few minutes, I need to
powder my nose.




wedding on the green

the chairs, white and unfolded
sat in long rows facing
the wide blue of a slow river
dotted with sails,
a back drop of curtains was
hammered in, swaying between
the posts. a small wooden
stage barely above the grass
was centered to where the bride
and groom could stand.
the sun was warm, but not
overbearing, no hint of rain,
just a slight breeze,
no clouds, a perfect day
for a wedding on the green.
why you stopped to sit on a
bench and watch, you aren't
sure, but you did, watching
the guests arrive, the flowers,
the minister in his long
bright cloak. the tearful parents,
the small children dressed
as adults. you stayed and
watched. listening from afar
to the vows, the I do's.
the cheer from the crowd
as they rose together to the piped
in music. and as quickly as
it all came to be, it all
went away.

being used

when you were in the circus
you had many jobs
besides taming the lions.
sometimes you'd fill in for
the human cannonball,
or the trapeze artist,
but the broken bones were
piling up.
it was hard to get out
of bed in the morning.
the fat lady would come
and rattle the bell outside
your tent yelling for you
to get up. the lions were
hungry. the knife thrower
needed a target to practice
with. the sword swallower had
a sore throat and you
were to fill in tonight.
you wanted to complain,
but how could you.
it was the circus,
and you were young.

happy gum

it's hard to chew
gum
and be unhappy.
what with the bubbles
you can blow,
the smacking of it
around your mouth,
the sound it makes
as you chew and chew,
the first bite
so full of flavor.
it reminds you of childhood,
when you had so little
to worry about.
your tax lady knows this,
and has a bowl overflowing
with gum
on the counter where
you sign your forms.

settling

something's missing,
you say,
dipping a spoon
into the stew, blowing
on the boil of sauce
and tasting with your tongue
and lips. i'm not
sure what it is, what
to add or subtract,
but nothing is perfect,
we're hungry, so let's
leave it as it is.
set the table and eat.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

rehab patty

to get into her car
she had to push a series of numbers
on the pad
near the handle, on the door.
then she had to blow
into a tube
to start the engine.
do it for me, she'd say,
you had less to drink than
I did.
but you wouldn't.
you didn't want her to leave
and die in a fiery
crash along the highway.
later she called you
to thank you for being so
thoughtful and kind.
she was allowed one call a day
from the rehab center,
and she chose you. forty
days later she was out
and back with her husband.
so much for being kind.

it's simple

it's simple
really. this life.
if we could imagine
it stretched out from
beginning to end.
from above and looking
back everything
is understood,
but we worry about
the in between,
with our feet on the ground,
the fat and thin
middle
that we struggle so
hard to make right.

an apple from her hand

her trunk was full
of hay.
I think it was hay.
it looked like straw though.
I really don't know the difference.
she had apples
and bags of carrots too.
they were for her horse.
her old horse
that she couldn't ride
anymore, but would wash
and brush and talk
to like a lover
after making love.
she would take the horse
on long walks
along the canal.
you were jealous
of the horse, you realize
that now.
you too needed grooming,
need tender words
whispered in your ears.
you needed a sweet
apple from her hand.

questions

you don't like waking up
with questions.
you want answers.
why is it raining.
why are you still tired.
is there any food
in this house
that's actually edible.
what's she doing right now,
and is she thinking
of me. not bad thoughts,
but good thoughts,
like the ones she used
to have before
I left her. i wonder
if she'll call me if i
send her flowers
and a note of apology.
probably not.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

O negative

how ruby red it is,
this blood
pulled by a syringe
out into small vials
to be spun and stared
into its strange
universe of microbes.
it surprises you,
the color.
deep and rich, a small
river of it
sails under the bridges
of your bones,
seeks to fill
the tributaries reaching
the far ends
of fingers, of toes.
and now a part of it,
this liquid captured
in glass
has left you. marked
with your name
on white tape.

filling the space

with her white baker's cap
pulled down tight over a hair
net and matted black hair,
she sees only the rows
and rows of donuts she must
line up on the slant
of trays behind the glass
she just sprayed and wiped.
her hands are gloved like
a surgeons, pale white hands
at the end of short arms
reaching and moving
the glazed towards the glazed,
the jelly filled to their
own soldier rows.
she neither smiles or
acknowledges your presence
as you take one, placing it
into a bag. she waits
patiently, then opens the door
to fill the space you made.

the blue fly

the blue fly,
fat with spring,
metallic and alien
with its frenetic pulse.
how small
can a heart be, you
wonder.
it buzzes loudly,
who can tell
male or female,
and does it matter
in the long run.
it vibrates
with clear wings
as it walks
caught between glass
and screen, bouncing
again and again,
smart enough to get
in, but not out.
he needs help,
as you do when stuck like
it is, in the middle.

not always bliss

i build a fire for two.
always two.
the wood dry and cut,
the tinder crisp for
burning.
it will keep us warm,
the two of us.
it's not winter, but
we will have winter nights
my love.
my dear. not everyday
can be bliss.
rub your hands over
the fire, if they can't
hold mine.

even without you

even without you,
the weight of you,
the wind moves the swing.
i hear the hinge,
the squeak of chain
and wood, the metal pin.
I can imagine you there,
out there
on the front porch
with the pale blue ceiling,
lying with a book
in hand, eyes closed.
I can see you there
forever, if there is such
a thing as forever.
I could listen all day
to the sound the swing makes,
knowing you are there,
adrift in the gentle sway,
pushing you towards sleep
in the sighs
of summer wind.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

the poetry contest

the poetry contest
needs new meat, new words
aligned in a poetic way
to fill their empty pages.
structured and grammar
clean, no misspellings,
or clich├ęs, please.
five or six will do. no
simultaneous submissions.
send them via e mail
or in an enveloped,
with a self addressed
one enclosed. you will
be notified in six to
eight months whether
or not we've accepted your
poems. submission fee
is a flat rate of fifty
dollars. make the check
payable to the magazine
or me, my name is joe
frost, no relation of
course to the other one.
good luck to all.

the keeper

you hold the camera out,
which isn't a camera at all
but a phone,
then click the button.
you stare at the picture.
how can that be you,
this old. you try again.
moving your head towards
light to erase the wrinkles.
you suck in your chest,
pucker a little to draw
your face, but not too much
like the fish face photos
the kids do. you click
the button again. then again,
once more to the left,
the right. you stare
at the gallery of self
shot pictures of your face
while sitting in your car.
it's not good. you pull
over at a diner and buy lunch.
you take a picture of that.
a burger, fries, a pickle
on the side. a large coke.
a bottle of ketchup too.
click. it's a keeper.

say ahh

how easy these nurses are
with needles.
so deft at sticking one into
a vein, a tube of air
down the throat, massaging
a leg laced with blue
filled lanes. how fast
the doctors are to come in
and look, and poke, and peer
into eyes and mouth,
listening to the mines
of your body,
their questions seem so calm
and indifferent. how are you.
how was your day, then just
as quickly in bright white coats,
they've gone away.
and everyone writing something
down that you'll never see.
your life is an open book
to them, one they won't
let you read.

move on

it's easy to question
the wrong or right turn
after the turn has been made.
the words said, or left
unsaid, the cheek kissed,
or lips unkissed.
decisions that steer a life,
are easy to see with distance,
with narrowed hindsight.
it's best to leave those
thoughts alone, and move on.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

cold water

with good intentions
you drew the bath an hour
ago. the steam rose
and clouded the mirror.
you closed door,
letting the hot water
stand. you'll be right in,
you told yourself, but
then you answered the phone.
you made a sandwich.
you looked out the window
for a while, admiring
the full stream
and fallen trees.
the water went cold
as love sometimes does
when left unattended.
but you'll try again,
not today perhaps,
but soon.

fresh fish

you appreciate the neon sign
at the roadside restaurant
blinking brightly in red
proclaiming fresh fish.
how kind of them to serve
fresh fish, as opposed to
old fish, fish gone bad,
rotten and nibbled on by
time and mice, stray cats.
you imagine they have fresh
bread too, not stale.
and milk straight from
the cow, not soured in
the sun, or left out.

the polished shoes

in an era
of less political correctness
someone would murmur
that this courthouse
is full of low lifes and losers.
everyone here seems to know
their way around a gun
or knife, or stolen car,
or beaten wife,
the dark alleys of the world
might be safe right now,
but you are here
among them with your suit
on, your polished shoes,
hoping they make a difference
for your unpaid parking tickets.

the awkward question

she has a question for you.
she says.
saying no more.
only that it's an awkward
question.
this gives you a chill.
puts beads of warm
sweat on your brow.
already, in your mind,
you are packing
and notifying the post
office of your leaving town.
you try to imagine which
city you'll be happy
in, knowing no one.
you prefer the beach,
the long warm line of a
coast, but in the city
you can get lost easier.
just one of millions,
lost in the crowd,
who have also moved
when a woman has an
awkward question to ask.

the lost doll


you see the doll
floating aimlessly
in the brown muck
of the lake, too dismal to capture
the whiteness of any clouds,
or blue. it sways among
the cans, and cigarettes,
the tennis balls. oil slicks,
and gin bottles.
the eyes of the baby,
belly up as smooth as a pink
bean, are impossible
turquoise. inhumanly
beautiful.
one arm is to the side,
unswimming, one missing.
the legs are bent towards
one another with fat
disjointed knees. the hair,
which is not hair at all,
is blonde like thin rope,
stretched out as if by
electricity.
who knows when the doll
was tossed in, discarded,
or whether the doll was
loved and held in the arms
of some small child
who is now searching
everywhere for her.
the doll is not human,
but you know so many like her.

Monday, April 13, 2015

sweet peppers

sweet peppers off
the vine.
up from seed, from
soil turned
with old hands
and spade.
another season under
his guide
remembering
the first sweet rise
below suns
in nova scotia.
how many more
such springs to come,
then harvest
is unsure.

the bridge

this bridge, going both ways,
narrow and steep with its steel arch
is where people come to jump
when they've had enough.
leaving their cars at the peak
before they leap. keys still
in the running car.
drinking is usually involved.
a marital dispute, back taxes.
an x-ray, or a blood test
can seal the deal.
the traffic tie ups afterwards
are horrendous. sometimes they
hit the rocks, sometimes they
snag a shoe, or a pant leg,
and swing and sway for awhile
before they drop. some do
wonderful swan dives, or back
flips into the stone blue bay.
it takes some time, hours, or
even a day, but the bodies
are found, washed up on shore
or floating with gulls riding
them like California surfers
across the waves.

the figurines

her figurines, from the 5th century,
or was it the 7th, who knows,
are lined up like Chinese soldiers
in her glass box. she has a hundred of them
carved from bones. painted in detail,
black eyes and silver swords.
she thinks they may be carved from
whale bones, or camel bones.
she's not sure, but she doesn't
want you to touch them, or hold
them. they are priceless she says.
we traveled all the way to Richmond
Virginia to buy these at a flea
market. my husband found a used
mower too. A toro, no less.

another day

your friend, eaten with
cancer, now burdened with
an experimental battery pack
of thirty pounds,
the wires attached
to his shaved skull
by wide strips of adhesive,
is still alive.
still with bite in his
talk. still funny. still winking
at the pretty girl,
eating the second slice of cake,
shaking his head, bemused
with this world,
he's heroic in his want
to continue.

melt away

you could lie on the beach
all day and eat fruit.
mangoes and oranges,
bananas and kiwi.
you could sip on a nice
tropical drink,
just me and you wearing
next to nothing, but our smiles,
remembering distant memories
of work and winter,
letting the palm trees
sway, the sand get hotter,
and the days and days
just melt away.

graduation notices

in june they come.
the notices in the mail
for graduation.
your brother's and sister's
daughters and sons.
most of whom you haven't
seen since they were
two or three.
but now, the years have
passed and they want
you to come or at least
send a check to be placed
within the self addressed
return envelope.
how much is up to you,
what is the right and proper
sum. you lean towards none,
but you wish them well.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

the tide of you

how close
the sun is. positioned
in the sky
just so.
just right, to keep
us warm,
keep us alive.
and the moon, so
kind of it to pull
the oceans from
side to side.
at times it almost
seems like
it was planned that
way, as I feel
about meeting you.

in with the new

you had a sweet tooth for her.
she was a semi-sweet bar
of deep dark chocolate,
full of almonds and caramel.
your teeth hurt every time
you kissed her.
you couldn't get enough of
her, at first, but in time.
you grew tired of the same bar,
the same wrapper, the heat
of her melting in your open
hand. you needed something
different. something just as
sweet, but less sticky.
maybe a cone of custard.
maybe you could put her
on ice for awhile, the old
candy bar.

biding time

she was biding time.
everything was temporary.
this house,
this boyfriend she was seeing,
this car, even this broken
watch on her wrist
was something soon
to be tossed aside.
the ten pounds she
gained over winter
would soon melt away when
she got around to it.
she could almost see
over that hill
she was constantly climbing.
she just had to get through
this rough spot,
these rough waters
and come out the other
side. but for now,
just for now, she
was biding time.

fun guy

remember the time
he walked into a plate glass window
someone says.
he was so drunk that night.
he was in the emergency
room for three hours
as they picked the glass
out of his legs. then we
went dancing.
fun times, someone says. fun times.
we'll miss him. and the time
he jumped from the balcony
into the pool, four floors up,
almost killing himself.
crazy. he was crazy
and so much fun. if you needed
drugs he had them, always
a drink in his hand,
and when he jumped
the white house fence
with no clothes on. what
a mad man he was. laughing
as they tazed him.
we'll miss him now that
he's gone, someone says,
but he still owes me money.

tomorrow you walk

there comes a point
when you can't run anymore.
when you put the shoes
on, the shorts, and layered
shirts, when you check
your watch, stretch,
then head out into
the wind and cold and cringe.
after a mile you ask yourself
why. what am I doing
this for. you count up
the injuries, to foot
and knee, to hip
and back. you're no longer
twenty or even fifty
and yet you persist, not to
turn back a clock, but
to keep it still,
keep it from ticking
forward. tomorrow you walk.


limping towards paradise

limping towards paradise.
dragging
the bad foot behind you,
you head towards
the gate. up the hills.
so many friends
have already checked
in, some are close
to going, their bags
packed having tied up
the loose ends.
you'll see them when
you see them, not a
second too late or too
soon. what a fine time
you'll have then
behind those pearly gates,
and mended.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

you need air to breathe

without air
it's very hard to breathe.
you find this out
early when a fat kid
punches you in
the gut on the playground,
calling you a dweeb.
you stare up into the blue
sky, with bulging eyes,
as birds fly over,
as the red faced kid comes closer
before a teacher yanks
him by his ear.
later, it's love
that knocks the air
out of you.
similar in many ways,
but different.

from start to end

there are no straight lines.
everything is curved.
broken, or bent
in small ways that you can't
imagine.
there is no linear
path to success or love,
or even death.
you get there as best
you can, taking short
cuts, going around
the detours, fast or slow,
finding a way from start
to the end.

over easy

she cracks an egg
into the skillet, black
and thick,
already hot from
the bacon.
one or two she yells
up the stairs.
toast?
yes and yes, you yell
down, still
in bed.
it's the sweet spot
of a new relationship.
the sleepy and kind point
that makes
you believe in
love again.
over easy, you yell
down,
the covers up to your
chin,
thinking of another
round.

the wine stain

red wine spilled
will come out.
some effort will be involved
on hands and knees
a cold cloth,
club soda,
that squirt bottle
of remover
you got for Christmas
five years
ago.
the wine will disappear,
be gone
from memory, but
not your scream and anger
towards me.
that will stain for a very
long time
and might
be permanent.

the new house

the new house
is new. not new with loving
care.
it's more practical
than that.
the new floors
and tiles. the sink
that gleams,
the chandelier
lit up.
the windows that slide
and keep
the heat in,
the cold out.
that rug that matches
the walls.
it even smells new,
crisp like a lemon.
nothing used.
there's not a memory
to be found.

the jewel box

she keeps her kisses
in a box. a jewel box
on her dresser, if you're
careful not to undo things,
you might get
one or two tonight.
we'll see how it goes.
anything could happen.
even love, or something
close to that, I suppose.

the spinning ball

with one hand
you could lift the world
and spin it like a ball,
when young.
in time it took two hands,
two arms
and sturdy legs
to keep it aloft.
now you've set it in
the corner, and let it
rest with the other
toys you've
discarded.

be kind

the blister will heal
in time. give it time. be
gentle with your wounds.
be kind
to one another, and self.
go easy in the new shoe,
walk carefully,
give it time.
be gentle with your wounds,
be kind.

a different sea

how different the sea is
without you.
how indifferent the waves
are.
paying no mind
to your absence, when once
they were full
of joy at seeing you,
seeing you with me,
embracing you
with their long soft
arms. whispering in
that way they do.
how different the sea is
without you,
just me collecting shells
that i have no
reason to keep.

Friday, April 10, 2015

apple pie

sure, you could easily
slip to the floor, on that soft
shag carpet and knock
off a hundred sit ups,
or you could go the kitchen
and cut a slice of apple
pie, heat it up in the oven,
then put a scoop of vanilla
ice cream on top of it.
the choices in your life
get easier and easier
over time.

silver honda

the man who changes your oil
looks sad as he stands at the door
holding your greasy filter
in his hands.
he shakes his head and calls
out your last name, then the year
and make of your car.
you approach him, put your hand
on the shoulder of his pin striped
overalls, and say it's okay.
please, change it.
you're making the right decision,
he says, looking into your
eyes, oh and by the way.
your wipers are frayed.
they're old. i'm very sorry,
but they should also
should be replaced. how much?
you say.

the same

she says she wishes
that she believed
in god,
as she cries
on the phone,
telling you
that her brother
has died.
I wish I had faith
and wasn't such an atheist,
she says.
maybe I wouldn't
feel so bad.
not true you tell her.
it would be the same.

billable hours

the lawyers in the park
are litigating while
they eat their sandwiches,
drink their cups of coffee.
phones pressed to their
ears as they bill even
for this hour.
it never stops while
the pigeons stroll around
in their own grey blue suits
that fit perfectly,
twitching, as you do
around lawyers,
waiting for a crumb of
good news to drop.

her reading voice

she could read a grocery list
and make it sound
like poetry.
pausing just so between
lettuce and tomato. or
a menu from a Chinese
restaurant, or a laundry
list of weekend chores,
you are wary of her
voice making what you
written seem poetic and
forever engraved in stone.
you could listen
all night, all day
when she chooses a few
of what you've written
and reads them perfectly
over the long distance
of a phone.

the renters

the renters don't care
too much, if the spigot drips,
the door is hard
to latch, or the heat
is weak in winter,
they manage, staying
low under
the radar to keep
the rent down.
they can forgo the peeling
paint, and rusted
knob, the loose tile
on the kitchen floor.
the groan of pipes,
they are only adamant on
one thing from
the absent landlord,
to not let the cat out
when coming in the door
to set mice traps down.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

save and be saved

you pin your hopes
on money.
it's a green balloon afloat
in a magical sky
of numbers.
work, work, work.
save
and be saved.
have enough to eat,
to keep you warm,
to keep you in good health
on wobbled bones
until it's time to
lay you into
the well dug grave.

building a wall

in the morning, as you drive by,
you see the wall go
up, the bricklayers
moving their arms, from side
to side, in silence,
the mortar iced
into place, each bricked tapped
level. it takes all day,
sometimes a lifetime to build
a wall as strong as what
we've done.

desire

the field, long and wide,
with stakes gummed
with tar,
the birds are called
in with a siren whistle.
an enticing melody of mating.
hurriedly they break
off from the flock
and swoop down,
their claws landing
and sticking on each post,
unable to fly away.
delicacies for the chefs
who wait nearby
with forks and knives.
what trouble unbridled
desires can bring us.

useless and pointless knowledge

does it matter
that the earth is round,
that we orbit the sun,
that we know why an apple
falls to the ground.
does it make a difference,
this math, this science,
the knowledge of the sea,
the stars
telling us which way
to go.
is there a point to any
of it
when you have a broken
heart.

tie a knot

i don't beg,
or roll over and play dead.
i don't heel,
or jump or fetch.
i don't bark on
command, or
stay in the yard
when off the leash.
there are no tricks,
new or old
that I can learn.
I am untrainable,
just telling you
this now,
so you know before
we tie a knot.

shrimp shells

these dirty dishes in the sink,
this bag of trash
that smells of shrimp shells,
this table full of unpaid
bills. all of it means nothing
under the burned out light bulbs
in every room.
it's not a sign of laziness
or disrepair. not at all.
you'll pick up the laundry too.
you're just taking a break
until Saturday nights date
comes over. you have three
days and nights to make it right.
to make it all look like new.

you miss her

you miss her sometimes,
her anger. her riding her broom,
writing your name across the sky,
and over that the word
surrender. you can almost hear
her high pitched cackle.
she was fun in that way.
leaving no question about
her true feelings.
honest to the bone
about you.

when stress arrives

the wall, holding up other
walls, floors
and ceilings, the weight
of people
and beds, dogs,
is cracked. a lone
fissure runs from one corner
to the next.
it's a stress fracture
i say, trying to explain
to the owner of the house,
and it will come
back again no matter
how much plaster I smooth
in the crevice.
you could move, i tell her,
you could quit
this house, this neighborhood.
it's what i do
when stress arrives
and cant' be fixed.

the gourmet market

they've installed benches
and floor lamps
in the new gourmet market
down the street
to accommodate the readers
of labels.
unclogging the aisles for
the likes of you,
who just want a head
of lettuce, a block of
cheddar cheese, a half pound
of genoa salami and
a loaf of wonder bread.
you don't need the story
of meat, the sodium content,
or how much sugar is imbedded
in its swirl of fat.
you prefer not to read
the tale of the free
range chicken, his long
journey from the egg to death,
the Charles dickens like saga
that reveals the care
and tenderness
that went into growing
those hot house tomatoes.
you don't want a happy
checker either in a flowery shirt,
a big ginsberg beard,
winking and asking if you are
going to make a sandwich
later for dinner. you just want
out of their as soon as you can,
as soon as you locate
the pickles, finding
the sweet gherkins among
the other nineteen brands.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

the early call

your sister calls.
you see her name
on the phone. it can't be good.
nine a.m.,
you let it ring
in a long played out
passive aggressive move
you both have mastered.
finally, you pick it up
and say hello.
it isn't good, nothing
over the years,
has changed for
either of you.

your heart

your heart is not made
of rubber, or plastic,
or some sort of silicon space
age material,
and yet, it seems to do
fine after all these years
of broken hearts,
hash browns and bacon.
of course you say this now,
but one more fried egg,
or a girl with long legs
and kissing skills
could put you on a slab
in no time.

day laborer

he tells you that
he had a good day today.
his probation officer said
he only had three more
months left
and then he was free to roam
the earth in any direction
he wanted to.
you're afraid to ask
what the charge was, but
you do anyway.
I stabbed someone he says,
they were trying to rob
me coming out of a bar,
so I put a knife in him.
did eleven months on that,
in county jail.
malicious wounding.
you take a deep breath
and exhale. you don't know
what to say.
so how was your easter,
you ask him.
ham, potatoes? go anywhere?
do anything fun?

brown bagged

she used to pack her clothes
in a brown
grocery bag.
shoes, a skirt,
socks, maybe a light
jacket. a hat.
a book of poems.
luggage was too serious
for her,
too permanent a gesture.
a bag, a used bag
at that,
seemed more appropriate
for a one night
sleep over, easy to
discard, or fold
neatly away, to be
used again when
she left and went back.

after dinner walk

you used to see him,
the old man up the street,
walking, hands behind him,
as if cuffed,
a slow gait
to the end of the corner,
then back again.
his glasses,
wire rimmed and round,
his brown bald
head shining
in the dusky sunlight.
he seemed to be thinking
of something.
the past, the future,
but still nodding hello,
breaking the trance
that he was in.
he never stopped to chat,
you never knew his name.
but you missed him
when he no longer
passed by your window.

the swim

she likes to swim.
slowly dipping her big toe
into the cool
still water
of the pool. slipping
a leg down, then the other,
finally all of her
is in.
from there she aligns
herself
on the side before
launching
into a free style stroke,
arm over arm,
feet splashing as
she kicks them again,
and again.
she's more at home, more
herself,
when she's swimming.
breathing
large gulps of air
as her head turns.
no words going out,
no words
coming in.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

the new art center

driving by the prison
you see the men
staring out through mesh wire,
iron bars, a fence
electrified. the guards
are in the tower. this is what
you imagine, but now
it's an art center,
where gum drop shaped ladies
in large flowing dresses
carry their baskets,
and canvases, pallets
of paint into the empty
cells to paint pictures
of flowers, not unlike
the ones that are growing
strangely out of
the concrete patios
where hangings took place.

beyond that

all day, sunday, easter sunday,
the man next door
bangs his hammer. nail after nail
into wood. you have no clue
as to what he's doing, building.
no idea what makes him work
from sunrise until dinner
in his house. it's beyond reason
for you, as you listen to each
nail get driven hard, as if
with an angry arm, down into
the wood. it's more than building,
it goes beyond that.

the red barn

the red barn is empty
for now.
though it's held many horses.
many cats
and mice. the saddles hang
on the hooks,
the reins,
the buckets and brushes,
the empty pails
of water, the oats
gone. the hay matted
and brittle.
the red barn is empty
for now.
filling through its
cracks, sharp lines of
light, the grass field
outside, long
and lush in waiting.

the deep blue

not everyone can be helped.
not every
hand can be held,
every stray led by leash
to a shelter.
there is only so much
time in a life
to save
everyone you meet.
and you, as well, must
swim alone, find shore,
sometimes when cast
aside into the deep blue.

Monday, April 6, 2015

who's next

the wide wings
of a fluid owl, whip
against the air.
he sees what can't be
seen from the ground,
the scurry of a grey
field mouse.
death comes naturally
and quickly
as he dives down.
no tears shed, no
remorse. just life
devouring life.
who's next?

i'm here

you never come by anymore,
your mother says
on easter, handing you a chocolate
egg with a card scotch taped
to it, with your name.
no flowers? she says.
shaking her head.
no one buys flowers anymore.
you boys know better, I didn't
raise you like that.
happy easter, you say to her
handing her a card
you bought on the way over.
she reads it out loud so
that everyone can hear, then
cries and hugs you.
why don't you come more often,
she says, sobbing. it's not
that far a drive.
you shake your head,
you hold her. you say.
i'm here. i'm here.

time to eat

your appetite for scalloped potatoes
and spiral ham
has not diminished over the years
you think while holding the paper
plate which bends as you add
a scoop of pureed squash
and green beans.
you find a chair and slowly
carve with the clear plastic
fork and knife into the pink
slabs of meat.
one of the four dogs that roam
the house approaches you with
a wagging tail and grin
on his drooling open mouth.
someone drags him away by his
collar, out the door.
you hear it slam, then dig in.
no grace, no togetherness
or toast, no nothing, but the food,
and let's eat. you turn towards
the television for company,
sinking back into the lawn chair
brought in for an extra seat.

the void

the mattress in the dead
child's room
has been stripped of sheets
and pillows, it sits bare
on the iron railed frame,
hardly used, it seems.
the toy box with a name
engraved is closed.
a ball, a bat lie
in the corner, a small
hat. the sister tells you
that her brother is
fifteen years old now
in heaven,
then shrugs, and says,
it's partly the reason
we have to move.

your island

you don't want much.
a place to sleep
a modicum of money.
affection.
a light with which
to read
and write.
paper, pen,
coffee, a plate
of hours with which
to wile away.
a warm sun.
you make your own
island
with sand and palm
trees to survive on
and hide in
when help comes.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

for sale sign

the for sale sign is there
when you wake up.
a wooden post hammered
squarely on the fringe
of your yard.
you heard the truck
and the man mumbling
numbers into his phone
early this morning,
before digging the hole.
apparently you are moving.
this is news to you.
you just now have felt at
home. felt at ease with
the way the sun
swings around in the afternoon
no longer blocked
by a cloud of trees.
you like how the pipes
exhale, the way
the attic breathes,
the floors at certain points
creak. the house next door is empty.
perhaps you could move
there. so close.
a fresh start. maybe
the neighbors will stop
by to welcome you,
bring a casserole, or two.

that one

the children,
happy in their childhood,
with reddened cheeks,
full, and fat, words
tumbling from their mouths
of spaced teeth,
fingers touching
the glass windows,
squared off for
cats and dogs, rabbits even.
that one the little girl
says. pulling on a strand
of pink gum from her
mouth. that one.
with the long ears.
the white tail. I want him.
how nice to have a living,
toy to play with.
unknowing of what
lies ahead. the shoebox
and the shovel.
the shallow hole dug
deep at the far end
of the yard
under a shady tree.

holiday

what isn't seen or said
is often the most truthful
thing or thought
in the stuffy room,
overcast with a cloud
of murmur,
about to rain.
politeness takes over,
as it often does
at the long dinner table.
so you ask to please
pass this or that
or say things like
how lovely these
peas and carrots are.
those flowers in the vase,
Conklyn's?
your fingers touching
the petals
to see if they are real.
there are no questions about,
when did he or she
escape, or be released,
and did everyone take
their happy pills today.
the lost job, the failed
marriage, the unexpected
pregnancy, are words
unsaid on the bitten tongue.
at some point you rise
to go open a window
to let in the cold,
let out the heat.

wait wait don't bore me

when you were young, much younger
than you are now,
the idea of listening to car talk,
or the prairie home
companion, or wait wait don't bore
me, was impossible.
npr, in general with its quiet
subversive ways bothered you.
how quickly you changed the channel
to find led zeppelin, or
bruce, or Dylan, or Costello,
but now, these are the things
you search for. taking notes
as the splendid table host
tells you how to cook the perfect
pot roast, make a cake from scratch.

the new leaf again

you make a conscious effort
to be good.
to be the boy your mother
always wanted you to be,
to turn over that proverbial
new leaf, but
it's harder than it looks.
the opportunities
to be bad keep showing up,
and you have the willpower
of a small child.
you can resist everything
except temptation, as
Oscar wilde once said.
you'll try again tomorrow.

the corner house

when the house burned down
everyone gathered
at the corner, held back
by police tape.
with hands on their mouths
they watched as the bodies
were brought out.
they thought about their own
house. the greased stove,
the frayed wires.
the gasoline can
in the basement. was every
cigarette stamped out.
they wanted to know why.
how could this happen
on such a nice night, with
the moon so full.
spring filling the trees
with green buds, soon
to be leaves.

in line

it's hard to not stare
at a person crying.
you want to place a hand
on their shoulder.
not to say anything dumb,
like it will be okay,
because you don't know that.
you've been there, on
both sides. breaking down
in tears while standing
in line for groceries.
it's hard to stop once
you start. it's not just
minor weeping either.
it's bone rattling.
wrenching. a shiver of
a cry. in time though,
over weeks, or months,
you can get back in line,
dry eyed, not fine,
but having survived.

like they used to

they don't make licorice like
they used to, she says, gnawing off
a black twirl of plastic
looking candy. I can't even chew it,
she says, spitting some out
into the air. this is junk.
I want the licorice from my
childhood, not this stuff,
then she points at her shoes.
look at these shoes. how
worn they are after a week.
when I was a kid shoes lasted
months, maybe a year. but not
anymore. men, she then says.
don't get me started on men.

the kind thief

the thief was kind.
she told the police.
putting a bowl of milk down
for the cat.
resetting the clocks
for when the time
changed, careful
as he filled
with silver and rings,
phones and cash into
his leather sack.
how nice he was to set
the plate
into the sink after
having a slice of lemon
cake she made
for tomorrows dessert.
the glass too from which
he drank. red wine,
uncorked with
a slight of hand.
so quiet was he,
hardly a sound he made
with his gloved fingers,
his soft shoed feet.
she wondered what he looked
like this gentle
thief, hoping perhaps
one day he might return
to steal her away,
as well.

Friday, April 3, 2015

number seventeen, no msg

at 3 p.m. the china kitchen
is empty.
it's just you and the woman sitting
near the front folding
menus. she's wearing a red
kimono and nike tennis shoes.
there is a fish tank with one
white fish swimming
in a green broth of bubbling water.
he comes to the glass
to look at you. you take out
your phone and take his picture.
there is no reason
for doing so, but it's something
that you do anyway.
he turns to the side like a
soft hand, swimming away,
which is only a foot
in either direction.
the woman tells you
the specials, while you point
at number seventeen
and say no msg.
she nods and shuffles
towards the kitchen.
it's just you and the fish now,
your lives are so alike.

fifty-five and over

it's a gated community.
nine buildings, all twenty stories
high. a light tanned colored
brick. to each a balcony
facing the north side.
in the distance there is water.
beyond that the scattering
of light telling of commerce.
below are walking paths,
a putting green.
a tennis court with a board
to sign your name.
a pool, kidney shaped
without a diving board.
they are not tombstones,
these buildings, so much
as pyramids with the dead
still living inside.
it's not over, but it's close.

one brother died

the girl, maybe nine or ten,
says easily without
looking away that she has
two brothers and one sister
although one brother died.
then her phone rings
and she tells you that she
has to take this call.
she turns her back
in her green pajamas,
whispering into her pink phone.
when she hangs up she says.
they want me to go out
and play now, so i'll see
you later if you're still
here working.

someone like you

there is someone like you
out there.
not exactly, of course.
maybe kinder
with long dark hair.
someone
who wears a ribbon like
you used to do
to hold it back.
someone with green eyes
and freckles
along her nose and cheeks.
someone with your
style, and panache,
the way you walked,
the way you held your head
up high in the summer
air. someone like that,
but different.
someone who cares.

a basket of candy

you try to connect
the dots between jelly beans
and rabbits.
baskets full of candy,
and the resurrection.
but you can't.
you like dark chocolate,
which your mother never
seem to remember as she
made your basket sealed
in blue plastic,
a cellophane tent.
you think about this now
as you watch the lot fill
across the street.
there are extra cops
on duty at st. Bernadette's
for the overflow
of sinners and the saved,
as they dress in their
easter best to kneel,
confess and repent.
you ponder getting dressed.
finding a pew to sit in.

i didn't even like him

you ask your friend missy
how the date went.
she shrugs and sighs.
okay, she says. but
he didn't even try to kiss
me. he didn't make
one move on me, not
even a hand on my knee,
a kiss on the cheek.
nothing, but a warm
hug and a handshake
goodbye. did you want
him to, you ask her,
not really, she says.
I don't even like him,
not even sure why I agreed
to go out with him,
but it would have been
nice if he had tried
something, anything.

unwised

age does not beget wisdom,
there are plenty
of unwise old people walking
around. they have been
that way for most
of their lives.
unaware, unquestioning
of how they speak, how
they drive, how they
hate anyone different,
whether, skin, or
religion, the shape of
one's eyes. sometimes
age just means you are
getting old and decrepit
without having learned anything
worth knowing before you die.

i'll be back in a week

he shows her how to feed
the fish.
how many sprinkles of this
and that.
how to net the dead
ones out, god forbid.
each has a name.
they like music, he says.
but low.
he gives her a list.
which plant needs light,
which needs water.
don't worry about the cat,
he says.
a small bowl
of food, water.
i'll be back in a week.
meanwhile the cat
stares into
the glass box of fish
and licks
his lips.

something in the air

with her pink eye healed,
she schedules a date
and buys a new dress,
a new pair shoes to match.
it's been awhile, but
it's springtime,
there is pollen
in the air.
she glides a tube of
lipstick across her lips.
she feels giddy about
something. something she
can't quite remember,
or forget.

the future

a singing girl
no larger than a sparrow,
with pink wings
and ballet shoes
is skittering up
the grassy hill
with a basket of plastic
eggs she found
tucked in the knobs
of trees,
under rocks on
the ground.
her mother is pleased
and clapping,
her father, broods,
worries about
her future, how
to keep her safe
from this world.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

this makes you smile

they love each other.
the new lovers.
they tell you this over
and over.
looking into each other's eyes,
then at you,
they seemed surprised,
each a gold coin
they've stumbled upon,
taking it out
of their pocket to hold
it, feel and stare
at its brightness,
making sure it's still
there. hardly a day
goes by
without them telling you
and others
how lucky they are
to have found one another,
how they never fight.
this makes you smile.

the traveler

you like to see people
at the train station going
home. the heavy bag
pulled behind them
on wheels, a satchel
in hand. the weariness
of travel on them.
the spark of arrival
dimmed, the visit over,
the memory not yet warmed
or sunk in.
the window seat will
be a good place
to sleep and ponder
if one can do this again.

the blue building

the glass building
with its deep blue panes,
holding images of
clouds and sun,
does not break
as each bird, sees
himself
and wings into
the glass.
in the morning they
sweep the lives
away, was it love,
or something else
that steered them
into themselves.

the new orange

despite how bright
and round
and freshly picked
the orange is
that you hold,
from seed to ground,
to tree, to truck,
then you,
finding its way into
your hand, you still
don't know if it's
sour or sweet until
it's peeled
and you a take a bite.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

finding the middle

he likes to talk politics
having listened
to the radio all day,
with the dial turned
to the right.
he doesn't read books
or magazines, or
newspapers. he doesn't
need to, he just listens
and agrees and now
he wants you
to join his side,
to march for his cause,
to see the light.
but you are not amused,
straddling the middle,
believing neither
left or right.

a new friend

you hear the helicopters
above the tree line
searching for the madman
who escaped from the mental
hospital. he got loose
and ran in his blue
pajamas, a name and number
around his wrist.
how far could he run
in bare feet, looking like
this. hiding in the woods,
crawling through
the trenches until he
found a house with the door
open. you ask him, as
he sits there on your couch
if he'd like a cup of tea
perhaps a cinnamon roll,
surely he must he hungry.
being mad and on the run.
thank you, he says, thank you.
so what do you do, you ask
him politely, when not
incarcerated. not much,
he says. I'm misunderstood.
I write poetry.

the stranger

now that she's a stranger,
you understand her better.
the core of her is gone,
but it's more clear now
than ever, of who your
mother was, at this age,
or when you were young.
she is without bitterness,
or sorrow. she just is.
soft in body and mind,
with a heart
finding time to keep
beating until it gives.
if you could, you'd give
her back her memories.
salvage something of her
life to make her smile
and say your name,
to know your face,
your voice.