Sunday, May 31, 2015

getting in the mood

let's take a separate vacation
this year, your sweetheart
says to you over morning coffee.
you look up over the edge
of the paper trying to gauge
her seriousness. okay, you say,
going back to the sports page.
I think we have more fun now
when we aren't together. you
have your friends and I have
mine and since we don't fool
around much anymore, well,
why not. it doesn't mean we
don't still love each other,
right? sounds good to me,
you tell her, already thinking
in your mind where you might
go. I can't believe you agreed
with me so quickly, she says,
banging her hand against
the table. I really
didn't mean that, I was just
testing you. I know, you
tell her. and I was testing
you. so we're even. by the way,
we fooled around last week,
I think it was sunday, so
it's not true what you were
saying about that. maybe we
can do it again tonight if you want.
after I cut the grass and
take a shower. before our
show comes on. okay, she says.
that sounds good, i'll shave
my legs later. I know how
you like that. I can hardly wait,
you say, turning to the metro
section.

i parked over there, i think

because you can't find
your car
you believe that it's been
stolen.
you walk and walk,
clicking your fob, no horn
no lights flashing.
you stare at your phone
and think about calling
the police.
maybe it's been towed
for some reason.
you shake your head
in the hot sun and wipe
your brow.
back and forth you go.
no car.
you switch the bag you
are carrying from hand to hand.
you swear and shake
your head.
has it come to this,
so soon. you flag down
a rent a cop
in a little buggy
to drive you around.
you compliment him on how
cozy his little ride his
and how nice and cool
the air conditioning feels.
what color is it, he says.
it's black you tell him
sheepishly, sort of new.
I think I parked it right
over there. maybe.
get closer.
it looks sort of like that one.
wait, let me out.
I think I that's it.

rehab patty

you miss your friend
rehab patty.
her energy and spunk.
her crazy talk
and chiding.
you miss the roar of
her Harley
as it pulled up
in front of starbucks
for another
vanilla skim latte,
all ninety pounds
of her
blowing in the wind.
you miss her
and wish she hadn't
reconciled with
her marriage,
her children, her
work and her life.

we want you

the networking group
is not a cult
but it feels that way.
the fees,
the recruiting,
the early morning weekly
meeting.
there is no sacrificing
of animals
that you know of,
but they are persistent
and tempting
with their invitations.
we have picked you,
yes you, out of thousands
of others who do what
you do to join, to be
a part of our group.
we want a special
relationship with you.
your business will grow.
life will become wonderful
once more.
bring your check book,
bring a friend, bring
an open mind and join us.
please come. we want you.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

a different life

the parents gather at the edge
of the fence.
leaning against the rail
as the summer sun lingers
in the blue sky turning dark.
a new season has begun.
the children are on the field,
small and wild in their red
jerseys, red hats, the other
team in white and green. cleats
and gloves, everything new.
the ping of metal bats
against a ball is rare, though
the parents scream and encourage
them with cheers and applause.
some kids, just a few,
have wandered away
into the woods where a cold
stream moves, full of rocks,
fish and frogs, turtles
hoping not to be seen. they
have found a quiet place
where their parents ambitions
have no part in who they
might become.

each thing a place

each thing
having its own place.
each picture
a hook, centered against
a wall
balanced
from ceiling to floor.
each lamp,
each table neatly
pushed to the edge
of the carpet.
that vase centered
on the mantle.
the curtains pulled
and tied back
just so.
a pale shade of paint
in the room, maybe blue,
a white ceiling, white
trim. a mirror
that catches sunlight
and the trees
in fall.
it's the house your
mother dreamed of
not the hurricane
you lived in.

so nice of you to leave

so nice of you to come.
to spend the long weekend
with me.
asleep in the guest room,
up before dawn.
I can hear you cracking
your knuckles at night,
but that's okay.
and I don't really mind
that you've left
the milk out on the counter,
or the dog out in
the yard. no problem.
looking through my bills,
and personal papers is fine
too. I have nothing to hide
from anyone, especially
not you. we're friends, old
friends from so long
ago, it's hard to remember
why or when that happened.
here, let me help you with
your suitcase.
I can fold those clothes.
what time is your train
coming, I can drive you
there. perhaps a little early
if you want, just to make
sure you get a window seat.
let me hop in the shower first
if you've left me any
hot water.
so nice of you to come,
but now it's time to go.

her new bike

her bike.
pink and small.
ribbons coming out
of the handle bars,
a white basket
in the front
for flowers, for a
baguette and bottle
of wine, or dog,
is perfect for her.
she's in no hurry,
she wears no biking
costume,
she's not taking her
pulse or blood pressure,
she's not plugged in,
or looking at her
watch, she's just
rolling along,
taking it all in stride,
going for a ride,
perhaps once around the lake,
she's coming to see you,
once again.

have a good one

be safe, someone says
in parting,
how wise and thoughtful
we have all become.
stay healthy,
have a nice day,
a good one,
a nice trip,
stay out of the rain,
be careful.
keep your eyes on the road.
watch where you step.
don't talk to strangers,
hide your money.
save. put something
away for a rainy day.
look before you leap.
remember, there's more
fish in the sea.
have fun. enjoy your day.

anywhere but here

there is no air
no water
no place to get a cup
of hot coffee.
no sandwich shop.
no hotel, or place to browse
a book, or
trinket on a shelf.
no place to sit down
and rest,
except maybe on
the precipice of an
ancient volcano,
or crater made when
something hit.
there is nothing there but
rocks.
it might take nine months
of silent travel
through the stars
to arrive,
and yet the pull to get
there persists.
I understand the thought
though, of wanting
to be anywhere but here.

Friday, May 29, 2015

hurry

you want the water to boil,
the light to change,
you want the clouds
to pass taking with it
this oncoming rain.
you want the lines to move,
you want your turn at the counter,
for the waiter to bring your food,
you are in hurry with
your life, why
is a wonder.

the new day

the red triangular face
of a fox
peers from the woods.
his soft ears up,
panting,
he sees you and let's his
heart beat slower,
unmoving, still in his stance.
not knowing which
way to go with his world
cut short and narrow.
you say nothing, but slowly
move towards your car
understanding completely
his hesitation with
the new day.

separate plans

her summer plans don't include you
this year.
nor yours hers.
that trip to new York,
the week at the shore,
the boat trip down the bay.
all things we did
together, summers before.
we'll do them again,
but not hand in hand.
we will be separated by
miles, by the curve
of the earth.
the ocean, the distance
of changed hearts, of sand.

off the road

it was easy back then
to get from point a to point b.
it was a matter
of sticking out
one's thumb and standing
on the side of a busy
street. a few dollars
in your pocket, a sleeping bag,
a pair boots strapped
to your young and eager feet.
everything was reachable
then. strangers were
easily thought of as friends.
but now, the thought of
leaving on a whim
is gone. who would water
the flowers, tend to the garden,
walk the dog,
bring the mail in. who
would do the work
you were supposed to do,
how could you explain your
absence to those who asked.
better to stay put, remember
how you free you were
back then, pour the water
on the roses, accepting
this end.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

the stray

the orange, a stray
having rolled out from the bag,
cornered on a shelf,
cold from a week alone
with no one to talk to.
no lettuce, no grape,
no stalks of corn still sealed
in their green jackets.
how easy it is to peel
this soft orange,
to take it away from
its seclusion, tasting
its sweet juices, despite
being older, still
relevant and giving,
not unlike ourselves.

nothing left to know

they wander, these souls,
these bones
in clothes and shoes.
disheveled
and confused, life is not
over, not yet.
but it seems that way
as they stagger march
off the bus.
how many times
around the lake can
they go.
how many ducks can be fed
with bread broken
and thrown
onto the shore. how many
days can go by
without a visit from
a loved one, making marks
in their soft minds,
they gaze across
the water, there seems nothing
left to know.

diamonds are forever

you see the rings
in the classified section
of the neighbor hood
rag magazine
that falls through
the slot of your door.
your ex wife
has put them up for sale.
a small diamond.
a silver band.
how short a time ago
it was when you stood
in the mall
and had a teenager
behind the counter, never
knowing love herself,
help you select it
for her hand.

this half moon

just half a moon
is enough this evening,
a shaded lamp,
the shredded clouds off
to one side. how busy
the heavens are this night
with wind and stars
while you walk
a bag of trash out
to the curb. it makes
you stand motionless
as if it was all something
you had never seen before.

her dark poems

she wrote in blocks
of hard pressed black ink
her somber poems.
some typed harshly
onto paper, others written
by hand, the pages
nearly torn by pressure.
how little did you
know of her, what had
occurred, what light had
been doused to make
her write what she did.
how quickly you retreated
and swallowed your
criticism when learning
what a child's death does
to the human soul.
your narrow mind, and
youth giving you little
room to be wise and quiet,
unlike today.

in time

every soup
or plate of food,
once hot and on
the table
in time grows cold.
can the same be
said of love?
let's pray
not, and see
where this
meal will go.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

not so crazy

the small man behind you
in line at the coffee shop
is doing a jig, he's
having a conversation
with someone not there,
laughing, half singing,
responding to a voice
that only he can hear.
there is no phone, only
his feet shuffling
to some distant beat.
he's a foot behind you.
which makes you nervous
as you inch forward.
he's bothering no one,
just lost in his own
mind, reliving or inventing
his life, who's to know
these things, but
when it's his turn
to order his coffee
he says clearly in a firm
voice, grande skim
vanilla latte, no foam.
he's pulled himself
together when he needed to,
how similar we all are
at times, to him.

coconut bath

you ask her how her legs
got so smooth and soft.
you take your hand and starting
at the ankle go dangerously
close to where her short
dress ends. but she
doesn't slap you, in fact
this makes her smile
and say the words
coconut oil. that's my secret.
I need some of that,
you tell her. my legs
are rough, my arms,
my hands, my feet.
go ahead and feel my elbows.
elephants have softer skin.
I need to dip my head
into a bucket of coconut oil
to smooth out the years
of sun and work.
let's take a coconut
bath together sometime,
you tell her. maybe have a
pina colada too,
to which she says.
you're pretty crazy
aren't you?

other work

the hangman
is busy. but he has life
outside his work.
he has a wife,
a child, a small dog
that he throws a stick to.
he fixes coffee
in the morning, kisses
his wife goodbye
then goes to work.
he doesn't think much about
what he does.
how could he.
he's not a jury,
not a judge, it's just
a job. he needs money
to pay his bills.
he's there for purpose.
he's loved at
home. he's not a bad
person. but he wonders
sometimes,
about other work he
could do.

burning both ends

the candle,
as millay
so sweetly states
in poetic form
burns bright at both ends.
not lasting long,
but what a glow
it brings
to a short
and happy life.

the mirror reads old

his identity is money.
how much saved,
how much earned, how much
everyone else has
in comparison.
whose stack is higher.
whose car is nicer.
whose home has more
fireplaces, bathrooms,
and windows.
new friends never become
old friends.
they don't last long.
relatives are images
in photo albums.
no longer flesh and blood,
but distant, almost
dead relations.
the parents are bumps
on his road.
children too. ex wives
and lovers discarded,
deleted and tossed
and thrown into a cold
wind. once young,
once alive, once
penniless, now rich,
the mirror reads old.

the birch tree

the tree
a river birch
peeling gracefully
in white strips of parchment,
planted long after seed,
for the new owner
in front of the new house,
on the clean
black street
is coming down. the roots
too deep and invasive,
it has a mind
of its own.
taking no care for pipes
or brick.
it does what it wants
as best it can,
being mindless,
being heartless, but
not corrupt, just saying
to itself, this is who I am.

catch and release

tired of catch and release.
you'd like
to filet one of these
rainbow trouts at some point.
take it home
and fry it in a pan.
maybe some butter,
some seasoning, bread
crumbs come to mind.
you want to inhale
this fish, this life
taken from the cold
river, the world
below our own lives.
this is not a poem
about love, though it
was meant to be, it's
more about just fish.
being tired of
catch and release
and going home
empty handed.

the long parade

the parade surprises you.
stuck at the crossroads,
the cop stretches out
his arms to keep you from
going any further.
you have to sit and watch.
you roll down the windows
and turn the car off.
you hear the band,
you hear the marching
of boots. the roll
of pink and white floats,
you see the queen
waving. smiling. waving.
she's wearing a chiffon dress.
she looks like a flower.
then someone important
in a black suit rides by,
he sits in a car with other
important men and women.
all waving, and smiling.
the kids on the side of
the road, watching are bored.
you can see their faces
saying what a lame
and stupid parade.
something that looks like
a giant wedge of cheese
rides by, then a cow,
then fake cowboys on horses.
a clown sweeps up
behind them. you look at
your watch. you look at
your phone. it's a long
a parade. you take a picture
of a man on stilts
juggling, as he goes by
in the hot sun.

try the crab cakes

a woman with tall
blue hair
blue eyes and a blue
apron
says come this way.
I have a table
for you.
she's tired.
the change in her
pocket jangles as
she walks. hips heavy
and wide,
the menus held
in front of her,
a pen in her hair.
her gait is slow
and deliberate
navigating the sea
of tables like
an old sailor
looking for home,
for a port
to sail to and be
done with this.
enjoy your meal
she says, then waves
to the front,
putting up two
fingers towards
the maître de.
try the crab cakes,
she says and smiles.
they're famous around here.

Monday, May 25, 2015

new money

they come into money.
somehow. a lawsuit,
the lottery, inheritance,
no one knows for sure,
but it's millions.
dozens of millions.
he quits his job
as a barista and she
stops being a nanny.
they sell their double wide.
they buy a house, a large
house, with a hot
tub, a pool, tennis
courts and a four
car garage.
they buy four cars.
they think about adopting
children
from a variety of
countries. she gets
some work done. goes
to the dentist.
some lipo, some
lifting, some trimming
of an unfortunate nose.
she takes a French class.
he goes back to
community college
to read a book or two.
the parties they hold
are extravagant and
generous, the food
and drinks, everything
overflows.
they lend money.
they give money away.
they burn money in the fireplace
and laugh.
they start drinking,
doing some social drugs.
people say they've changed,
maybe. just a little.

the snooze button

you've pressed the snooze
button many times.
sometimes for years
at a time.
months or days.
you just don't want
to get up on a rainy
day, a snow
filled icy day.
a work day.
a too hot day.
a go down to the dmv
day. a wedding day.
the let's have a talk
day and decide where
this relationship is going
day. so you hit the button
again and again,
just ten more minutes.
ten more blissful minutes,
and then i'll get up.

a new well

with bucket in hand,
the sun
a yellow egg just rising
over patches of green
on a ragged brown hill,
you lean towards
the well, pushing
your tired legs,
and dry bones forward.
the well is dry.
the bucket strikes
the bottom
and sends you a loud
clang of metal onto stone.
it's the bluest sky
you've ever seen.
not a wisp of white.
how easy it is
to let things go
and find a different
way to live your life.

invitations

you don't attend
to things much anymore.
the weddings
of nieces and nephews,
the graduations,
the parties
and barbeques, all
disinterest you.
the rsvp's tossed aside.
stop by someone says,
for dinner, for
drinks, and your reply
is i'll try,
maybe, what time?
you seem to be full
to the brim of going
places you don't want
to attend.
only the funerals have
some interest, where
mostly out of respect
and guilt you have free time
to spend.

cleaning up

the debris of your life
is different now
you think as you sweep
up the floor
from last night.
so different from married
life.
hardly a crumb to be found,
but now lemon wedges
and glitter,
glitter? from where,
from who?
the broken martini
glass. the single shoe.
whose ring is that,
those glasses,
when did a cat get
into the house?
plates of cheese
and warm shrimp
still in their shells
on the counter,
and the stranger in
the shower yelling
for soap and a towel.
things are different now.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

losing

I love the slot machines,
she says.
though I miss the old days.
the one armed
bandits, the bucket
of coins, the smoky
casino, and drinking
as I pulled the levers
waiting, waiting for
the dials to roll
and show me what
I've won or didn't win.
and then the clang
and dinging of coins
as they spilled
like a silver fountain
out the small mouth
of the metal box
that I adored. I could
play all night,
if it let me, if it
didn't always take
it all. every coin,
swallowed whole, as
was the long hours
of my nights alone.

the ten pound cake

the plate is beautiful.
gleaming in stitched colors
of yellow and green,
but it's not about the plate,
it's the cake, heavy
and frosted, thick
and round, symmetrically
baked by caring hands,
it must weigh at least
ten pounds. her arms bend
as she carries in laughing.
I baked you a caked
she says, leaning over
it to kiss your cheek
and enter. by evenings
end, there is still nine
pounds left, at least.
you are filled with the batter
of vanilla and eggs,
flour and sugar, butter.
hot water is the secret
she says. don't tell anyone.
your lips are iced
with it, crumbs line
your shirt. you are happy
with this cake, and full.
the world, sometimes, is
a decadent place to live in.

small things

it's the little things,
the small
things, the seemingly
benign and insignificant
things, that in
the end make it work
or sinks everything.
the pin hole seeping air,
the love note
left behind. the smudge
of a kiss,
the tender touch
hello or farewell. these
things you remember.
the glare, the mumbled
words of despair,
the impatience, or curse.
small things,
small words, and thoughts.
that linger, even now
that you aren't here.

Friday, May 22, 2015

practicing for the test

you see them
at the county park
in cars and vans, small
trucks on the gravel lot
at the far end
where no one goes
practicing the art of driving.
rolling slowly around
the bends. parking
between cones.
the man shaking his head.
saying something
in another language.
children are in the backseat.
sometimes a dog.
you watch the abrupt stops
and starts,
the wrong turn signal,
the horn and wipers
being pushed. sometimes
the woman is crying.
you see the man drinking
a beer, turning
the bottle up
to his mouth as
the woman tries to do
a three point
turn around.

the guru

he's a guru now
in California.
he has a white beard
and wears
white robes, sandals.
he's charging a hundred
dollars a session.
ten or twelve people
per session.
do the math, she
says.
he's doing fine.
no longer acting,
well, at least
not on stage or
in film.
he sells seaweed too.
not exactly
seaweed, but
an extract in liquid
form. you rub it on.
it heals, it soothes,
it makes you
young again. I can
get you a case
at cost. no overhead.
I know him personally.
he's really made
something of himself.
he did commercials
before that, and had bit parts
on a few t.v. shows.
he's dating a woman who
used to be on Baywatch.
he did okay with the acting,
but nothing big,
but now. well now. he's hit
the jackpot.


keeping records

your bin
of papers. unsorted, unfiled.
page after page
of bills,
and documents.
bank statements. renewals,
expired this and that's.
signed and unsigned.
your invisible life in numbers.
what's going out,
what's coming in.
the records of your existence.
all stacked aimlessly
in plastic bins.
when the year is up
you'll carry it to
the cellar.
stack it on the shelf
with the others,
then buy a new one.
begin again. when your life
is up someone
will carry it all to
the curb for a final
filing.

the foot race

once, coming out of a bar,
after several drinks,
maybe a lot of drinks
and devouring potato skins
loaded with cheese
and bacon and sour cream,
and flirting with every
woman within earshot
of our youthful swagger,
and after singing most
of the bruce springsteen
catalog, from greetings
from Asbury park
to dancing in the dark,
howling to thunder road,
we left the bar together,
forced out into the world
by closing time.
he said let's race, I feel
fast tonight, he said.
we were both in our
dress shoes, our coats
and ties, sweating from
the long happy five hours,
we were young with heads
full of hair, anything
was possible.
so we pointed towards
a tree at the far end
of the parking lot
where the pavement ended
and the woods began,
someone said go
and we ran. we ran, we ran.
sprinting into the warm
darkness of a summer night.
i'll remember this night.
i'll remember many
nights as we carry him now
to his grave.

the other road

it's a long drive.
this road. black and hot.
crowded and hurried.
everyone needing
to be somewhere
fast, maybe home.
you pick the right lane.
the slow lane.
you've done
the others, you lived
in those lanes
for most of your life.
the shoulder
of the road
looks nice now,
the gravel and the dust.
so does that dirt
path along
the corn field.
the trail leading
to the river
in the soft grass.
you can take your shoes
off there
and take all day.
even stop and lie
down between the rows
of corn and stare
upwards at the glorious
blue of a cloudless
sky.

soon to be missing

I saw you the other day,
she says on the phone.
I saw you walking,
I waved, called your name,
but you didn't see me or
hear me. are you okay?
then I saw you in the post
office, your picture
on a poster. not wanted, it said,
below your shadowy face,
your name.
then I poured some
milk into my cereal
this morning,
and there you were again,
your picture, of what
you'll look like twenty years
from now. it said missing,
or soon to be, and a number
to call if seen.
is there something you want
to tell me? even now,
I can hardly hear you.
your voice is soft
and fading, your image
of who you were is slipping.

pins in the air

she reviews her list of lovers,
former and current,
and pending.
each with their own merits
and problems,
each with a foot in the door,
a shoe under
the bed.
each with a bouquet
of flowers, a bottle of wine,
and an itch that needs
scratching.
she juggles them all like
bowling pins,
flipping them high into
the air, each waiting their
turn to be held.

shelf life

you can tell when it's over
long before it's over.
the cheese
on the shelf of the ice
box. hard as bricks, the milk
in the carton.
a sour froth when poured.
that slab of red meat
gone grey
before the plastic
is ripped off.
you know when it's time
to leave,
when every sink
is dripping, the roof
is leaking,
the neighbors have three
dogs that won't
stop barking, they've asked
you to paint
your door a green, not
red. you know it's over
when she wants to read,
or sleep, or not talk
and she wears the oldest
t-shirt she owns
to bed.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

rest

there's too much to do
to sleep in.
and who can sleep anyway
these days.
hardly a soul
is resting. the world
is busy being busy.
the hammocks unused,
the beach towels
empty. the beds made
and forgotten.
there are buttons
to be pushed, no time
for naps,
no time to close
one's eyes and let
everything that seems
important, but isn't,
pass and go bye.

the grey

it would be simpler
if there were no
angels.
no devil
or God to contend
with. no demons
to fight.
the grey would be gone
from this world
and the next.
you would rise each
day for work
and sleep
soundly at night,
having done all
that you could do
to make
your life right.

flood

the cold room
full of cold feet.
the unspeakable has
happened.
lightning has struck.
the river
rises and takes what
it wants.
the dead will rise
again,
but not today,
today they go back
into the sea.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

travel plans

she's been everywhere.
give her five minutes
and she'll tell you where
she's been,
where she's going next.
my passport is filled,
she says.
you should see my
luggage
covered in stickers.
I've been on every continent
and all but one state,
Wyoming.
she opens her phone to
scroll through
the memories.
france and Germany.
key west
and new Orleans.
that's me on the balcony
catching beads.
I love to travel.
love to be anywhere
but here.
what about you?
what's your favorite
destination spot.
you tell her
about your back yard.
the garden hose
with a sprinkler.
the ice tea you made,
setting the jar
out in the sun.

tepid tuesday

it's the beer,
the bar,
the pretzels,
the conversation,
the smell,
the sound of trivia
on a Tuesday
night,
the sun still up
and burning.
the lazy bartender,
the tepid
world.
the mumble and
murmur of disinterested
small talk.
it's the social
clock you've
punched into while
thinking about home
and the quiet
you adore.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

ghosts

sometimes you'd rather not
know who died.
who's sick.
who's out of luck
or money.
you'd rather not know
what they look like
now, how their lives
have gone.
where they live
and who they know.
you miss the old days
when people came
and went, there was
no lingering on
at the touch of a button,
all present
on the screen.
they were names in a yearbook,
numbers written
down, you'd rather too,
sometimes, yourself,
not to be seen.

you do and you don't

you do and you don't
miss her.
it's not unlike the moon,
if you don't
see it in the sky
for awhile,
you don't think of it.
but the idea of never
seeing it again
bothers you,
remembering all
her phases and colors.

jumpy

you feel jumpy.
nervous.
maybe it's the coffee,
or the weather.
the news. but
you're on edge.
that door that just banged
shut
makes you flinch.
the mail
dropping through
the slot
causes you to look
over
in fear.
that tea kettle whistling,
the bird
on the feeder
angrily eating,
everything seems out
of order,
and yet nothing's
wrong.
you just feel jumpy.

on the shelf

you stop lending books.
they never come back.
almost never,
and if they do
there is jelly on
the pages,
or coffee stains,
or the cover is
wrinkled from being
wet and read
in the tub.
you keep your mouth
shut now about what
you're reading
and when finished slide
it onto the shelf
where it's in easy
reach to be read
and savored again.
no one needs to know.

the icing

licking the spoon
of icing
is almost
like a first kiss,
a portent of things
to come,
sweet and brief,
with the hope
of what cools
on the shelf
will be even better
as it awaits fork
and knife, and plate.

when she retires

she wants to buy a Winnebago
when she retires
and travel to akron
ohio to see the biggest
ball of yarn,
then to the grand canyon,
before setting off
to see the geysers
at Yellowstone.
down to mexico,
up to Canada, then to
new Orleans for gumbo.
she wants to criss
cross the country
taking the blue roads,
the roads less traveled.
eat greasy and spicy
all the way, washing
it down with tequila
or chardonnay.
she wants to put a pin
in the map
of all the places
she's ever been. revisit
all the men she's ever
slept with
and sleep with them again.
she wants to start over.
be a child, then grow up,
but never grow old again.

Monday, May 18, 2015

you are cordially invited


you are cordially invited
to our annual holiday barbeque.
your presence will be
greatly appreciated.
please bring with you whatever
beverage you might
be drinking, and ice, and cups,
as well as a prepared dish
with which to share
with our many guests,
not to mention anything
that you might desire
to put on the grille to eat.
a clean dish or two, cutlery,
and any condiments you
might need, as well as napkins,
the thick white ones are preferred.
please keep in mind the many
special dietary needs of
our other guests.
so keep things gluten
and lactose free,
and the poultry
or meats should be
free range and without anti-biotics.
if you are bringing shrimp
or lobsters, please take the shells
off beforehand.
there will be limited access
to a garden hose behind the shed.
we look forward to your arrival
with open arms.
oh, and one more thing,
the parking is around the block,
and there is a small twenty-five
dollar fee of which a portion
will be given to our favorite charity.
cats without tails. cash only.
hope to see you soon, my friends.
don't forget your folding chairs,
your bug spray,
and small tray tables too.
and a bag of charcoal,
the self start kind. matches
will be provided.
please remember to take off
your shoes if you need to enter
the house for some reason.
no pets or children.

die young

corralled
they sit in front
of the screen, the sound up,
too high,
but no matter, it doesn't
drown out
the woman singing.
the woman speaking, having
a conversation with someone
not in the room,
someone from her past,
now walking through
the corridors of her
mirrored mind.
the price is right is on.
and the birds on the edges
of chairs
and sofas, wheelchairs,
some soiled, some sleeping,
all stare at the pictures
moving like fish in
an aquarium.
die young you want to yell
when you leave.
when you unbolt the door
to go back to your world,
the smell of sweat and sickness
on your hands,
your sleeve.
die young, before this.
die young.

without time

if amnesia was a color
it would be the color of my
mother's face.
pale white and washed
of memory.
the eyes would be tea
brown, as close to tears
as tears can be without
falling, held in
by her mind, a clock ticking
without time.

the twist of words

you believe, you trust,
you accept
as true what's said
as truth, until
the lies begin to leak
out.
the twisting
of words, that look away
tell.
the measured tale,
being formed
with anxious lips.
you believe and trust
until
deceived, and wronged,
then it's hard
to go back
and trust again, but
you try,
though blood once thicker
than water,
has begun to thin.

going home

weary travelers, half asleep
in their seats,
rolling towards a setting sun.
the rumble of the train
a lullaby
of wheels and steel,
the whistle,
the bump of track,
the slowing at another station,
the push of doors
that open then close,
the tipped hat to shade
the eyes,
the window and what's outside
no longer of interest.
stuffed luggage waiting below
to be unpacked.
how nice to go somewhere,
take photographs,
have a new memory, be tired
and come back.

black and white

the old tv was
in the corner. the one
your father
could hit with his shoe
from across the room
and adjust
the horizontal.
the crackling speakers,
the glued
wood cabinet.
the plant your mother
placed on top,
with a lace doily.
the rabbit ears,
with wads of foil at
the tips
for better reception.
all four channels
at the twist of a wrist.
black and white.
it took you places
you could never go.
it was your young world
in a box, giving hope
to a different life.

the kid

there was a kid
in the neighborhood,
the kid who threw bricks through windows.
the kid
who dropped firecrackers
into coke bottles.
the kid with lighter
fluid and matches
setting Halloween bags on fire.
the kid with fists.
red faced and angry.
the kid who went to the creek
with a nail in the end of a stick
hunting frogs or fish.
the kid who darkened
the eyes of other kids
on the playground.
a strange kid with a cigarette
and a broken tooth.
an unloved kid, perhaps.
a kid you can't forget,
nor the fear he instilled
in everyone.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

bonfire

it's a good fire.
this fire
in the field.
people have gathered
to watch it burn.
to add wood,
to drag limbs, or
to throw logs
into the yellow flames.
it's a good fire.
it will burn all night
and be seen for miles
around.
people will talk about
it for months,
how large it was,
how tall it rose into
the night sky.
how everyone gathered
to stare into the roar,
how they felt the heat.
there is something
primitive about the fire,
something beyond
reason that brings
people to it.
it means something you
don't quite understand.
this fire we
gather around.

a pair of shoes

I don't love him
but, he's nice.
perhaps a little quiet
and evasive, but still
I want him to call me,
especially
after what happened
last night.
would it be that
difficult to pick
up the phone
and dial my number
and say hello.
why won't he do that?
for the last
three months he wouldn't
leave me alone.
the calls, the texts.
the flirting.
was it something I said,
or did, or didn't
do?
i'll give him
until nine tonight
and then i'll call him,
I think I may
have left some things
in his house,
specifically a pair
of shoes.


call it even

you fall in love with a stranger,
whatever it is we call love
these days, and
aren't we all strangers
at first you think to yourself.
even more so, as time goes by.
never quite knowing the true
soul, the heart and mind,
what lies inside.
you get glimpse every now
and then, but for the most
part she doesn't know you,
you don't know her, but
let's call it love
and call it even.

lettuce lover

she's easily excited by lettuce
in a large bowl,
crisp and green,
hearts of romaine,
even ice berg
melts her proverbial
butter.
throw in some chives
and tomatoes,
cucumbers cut and skinned,
a red onion
bared clean and trimmed.
some shredded carrots,
olives too,
not your canned, but
the expensive ones
by the gourmet food.
bring her a bowl of lettuce,
call it a salad
and she's yours until
the sun goes down
when she staggers home,
starving, wishing
she had that grilled
and greasy quarter pound.

her flight

on a whim
she puts on a helmet,
ties on boots,
straps a parachute
around her
thin frame of
bones and flesh,
pulls back
her hair, her fears,
and leaps out
of a plane
as it steadies over
a patchwork quilt
of green
and grey.
she even lives
to tell you on the way
home from orange
county,
empowered by flight
or falling,
and surviving
fright.
if only land
was that easy to
conquer.

adjustments

at times she worries you
when she says things like
I felt like jumping off
the Philip Sousa bridge
the other day.
I think my meds need to
adjusted. i'm either
Mary Poppins or Sylvia
Plath from moment to moment,
not knowing who will
show up and be me. i'm
in here, somewhere
she says. do you remember
me. I do, you tell her.
I certainly do, that's
why i'm still here.

the waiting home

how kind a home
can be, waiting for your
return, leaving
everything as it was
when you left it.
the cushions, just so,
pressed in where you sat,
and leaned.
the flowers
in a vase, tilted
towards the window.
the drips of the sink
still at it.
the broken screen,
nothing touched on the shelves,
or the ice box
still holding what
you'll eat or drink.
how kind of the house
to wait for you.
the bed, unmade,
with open sheeted arms.

the feeding

the brown puff of a bird.
frenetic and bold
flying in so close
to where you sit
and eat
outside,
under an umbrella
on the bricked patio.
hardly a thimble
full
of feathers, ragged
yellow claws,
and black speck eyes,
its persistence
and courage wins.
you toss a crouton
into the air,
against the wind.
you feel strangely
good about this until
minutes go by
and you are surrounded
by its friends.

turning one

in muted voice,
not an unshy one present,
they sing
happy birthday to someone,
whether wife
or husband, or baby
you aren't sure.
it comes from the yard
up to your window.
it's almost a lullabye
in tone, so you
suspect the baby.
then mild clapping follows.
there is no call
to open the presents
or blow out the candles.
so it must be
the baby, turning one.
so much cake
and candles ahead of her,
how well you
remember that song.

other's poems

it's hard to be a critic,
to say yes
or no to someone's poem,
going line by line down
the page.
what can be said, as friend
or foe,
to right the ship,
to bring it hope,
or praise.
time and time again,
you try, but fail, thinking
selfishly only of your
own collected words,
not theirs.
the images are fine,
you like
the metaphors and rhythm
of each stanza,
each line. it's done
you say, don't change a
thing.
send it and see what
this masterpiece brings.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

the blue fish

a blue fish
out of water is a marvelous
thing to see.
on the line,
fighting for air
or on ice.
born to die
it swims without
conscience or worry,
such a happy
place to be, in
the cold bay,
until now, photographed
by you,
for me.

the hangman

you don't want to be the hang man.
the man who
releases the guillotine
down upon a neck.
you don't want to flip
the switch on the hot chair,
or hit the button
to release the gas.
you don't want to be near
such a killing
as any of that,
but you can see reason
for it and won't argue
the facts.

the quiet of her

she's layered
in mystery. in non response,
in silky silence,
a cat
on the sill staring out.
you can hardly hear
her breathing.
not a note of her
heart is played.
she could be anywhere.
she could even be
here now, with you, lying
in bed, not asleep,
but thinking
of turning over
to say what you want
to hear.

yard work

yard work bores you.
the sight of a rake makes
you bend over
to catch your breath.
you have no quarrel with weeds.
a lawn mower gives you
a headache.
the shears, the broom,
the seeds and mulch
makes you cringe with
despair. the garden hose
brings you to tears.
how you long
for the unkempt beach.
the sea of sand, so
not needing your helping
hand.

the cage

he can't keep up.
the wheel
keeps spinning so quickly
and his little
feet keep
churning as he stares
out the bars
of his small cage.
he's trying so hard
to get there,
to a place
he never will end up.

train going nowhere

things you'll never do again
includes buying a black car.
drink tequila under
a full moon.
have a dog, a cat,
a bird, or plant that
needs attention.
you'll never touch
Ethiopian food again,
or drink out of a creek.
you'll never wear
a green shirt,
or blue pants,
you'll never buy a boat,
or wear a wedding
ring, or listen and agree
when someone is wrong.
you'll never again
get on a train going nowhere.

Friday, May 15, 2015

what is meant to be

how smart
the world is without
books.
without words.
each animal
knowing its way.
taking flight or
diving deep,
never questioning
why.
how is that?
where is the learning.
where is
the struggle to become
what one is meant to be.
only we
do that.

the last act

the magician, heartbroken
over his lover leaving
in the middle of the act
loses control, drops
the hat, the rabbits run
wild, the doves fly off
into the sky.
he saws a woman in half,
and leaves her bleeding.
his sleeve empties coins
onto the floor, the deck
of cards scatters.
he's lost his way
without her, and no matter
how many times he taps
his magic wand, he can't
bring her back.

if love is bread

if bread is love
i'd like
a loaf, a warm
slice out of the oven,
the steam rising
off its doughy center.
melt some butter
on it. spread
some berry jam.
a cup of tea
beside it.
if love is bread,
i'm pulling up a chair
to the table.
i'm ready.

the salad

you point at her mouth and say,
spinach, you have spinach
in your teeth. a big leaf.
you point at your own teeth
to give her an indication
of where it is.
she does something with
her tongue,
then holds a spoon up
to see her teeth
reflected in the curve.
did I get it all.
no, you say. there's
some onion too, I think
it's onion, it might
be a water chestnut,
or celery.
okay, she says,
working her gums and
mouth around. how about now.
ummm. you're making progress,
but I still see some arugula,
and maybe the skin
of a cherry tomato
stuck in there, right
in the front.
and in the back, it
looks like romaine
lettuce with some shredded
carrots. she takes a gulp
of wine and swishes
it around, then opens
her mouth. how about now?
well. it's good enough.
you got most of it.
should we get dessert?

the lost wallet

someone returns your wallet
that you've dropped out of your car
because you had books, and groceries,
keys and a phone to hold
and cradle as you tried
to get home.
you see the wallet
in a plastic bag the next
morning on your porch.
there is nothing missing.
not even the strip of cardboard
with the measurements
of the air furnace filter size.
you don't keep money in your
wallet.
what if you lost it,
or if it was stolen.
your library card is still there.
so is your
macy's card and penny's,
and book club,
the shoe store card,
firestone, and a small torn
sheet of paper,
folded with someone's
phone number written
down in smudged ink. you are
grateful for that.
maybe you'll call her
sometime, see what's going on.

night blindness

her night blindness
keeps her close to home,
unable to drive
in your direction.
you ask her if she has
a seeing eye dog,
a cane, if she writes
and reads in braille
when the sun goes down.
does she eat with a spoon.
this questioning makes
her angry, makes
her slam down the big
numbered phone
as she feels
her way around
her padded room.

walk in the park

her suitcase,
which weighs nearly
what you do
is ready to burst.
her three day visit
has arrived
and she's prepared
for every event
known to man, woman
or child.
shoes of every kind.
robes,
and dresses.
pants and blouses.
sweaters for the cold,
sun dresses
for the mild.
you can hardly get it
out of the trunk
of your car
and roll it through
the door.
your plans involve
pizza and television.
maybe a walk
through the park.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

so long cosa

it's not easy.
the needle going into the dog.
the history
of you and your life
with her.
a blink of both your eyes.
the world betrays us
with illness
and death.
the sun is no longer
the sun.
the blue is wrenched
out of the sky.
each breath
is a reminder
of what was, and now
what is.
the absence of love,
a love that was so sweet
is gone.

the worker

I need a half day
he says. I need to go down
to the courthouse
to fight my eviction. you nod,
and say okay.
okay. okay again to the courthouse,
okay to the doctor,
to the toothache,
to the hangover,
to the failing memory
and ex wives.
okay to the head cold,
the sore foot,
the robbery, the traffic
cop. the full moon.
okay to the mice in your apartment,
the broken lock,
the cracked window,
the tire flat on your car.
okay to all of it, you tell
him. good luck. good luck.
see you soon
when you have some time
to work.

her reading

how softly she reads,
and reads
her poetry,
checking her watch, not
wanting to exceed
her time at the dais.
she opens her
book of poems and lets
them fall
out of her lips
with a soft cadence,
a walk in slippers
across the room
to all ears.
her voice is of more
interest than the words.
what brought her
here, and here again
as the years
increase.
what joy she finds
in this, at eighty-nine,
so proud of what she's
written and you, captive,
having known her
from start to finish.

hungry and cold

it was a cheap steak
on your plate.
hardly able to cut it
you nibbled at
the edges.
this bone
this gristle,
this mess of meat
was nothing you should
be eating.
it smelled so good
wafting out
of the big window
restaurant on broadway,
and your son,
hardly ten,
said here, dad.
let's eat here. he
insisted as we shivered
on the sidewalk.
it was nineteen degrees
out and the wind
was white
off the Hudson.
you wanted to please him.
both of you learned
something different
at the same time.

daddy dearest

she's attracted
to men in uniform.
strict men like daddy.
military men, or policemen.
men in trucks
with sirens
and ladders.
she likes the discipline
of the whistle,
the gun on a hip,
the club,
a pair of cuffs
and a badge.
she goes limp at
the sight of a blue
state trooper's light
spinning behind
her, asking her to pull
over.
for Halloween she
plays a felon
on the run, wanting
to be captured.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

the wind and the ladder

the wind catches
the ladder.
you see it about to fall
and run towards
it, grabbing the base
to hold it steady,
but it's too late.
it's going down
with you under it.
striking your head,
as your arms
brace what's left
of it in the air.
it's an awkward slamming
of metal against
the pavement.
but no one dies,
so it's a good day.
no damage done.
it's just a ladder
falling. and the blood
running out from
under your hat
is surprisingly warm.

fear and worry

your mother would take
the throw rugs
out to the yard and drape
them across the chain
link fence. she'd take
a broom, or a bat
and proceed to beat
the rugs with purpose.
it seemed more than
just relieving carpet
of dirt and dust.
there seemed to be much
more going on as she
worked up a lather
taking heavy swings
again and again
against the faux oriental
rugs. sometimes
it made you feel
that it had something
to do with your father,
or perhaps you kids
as you sat at the edge
of the couch watching
her out the window with
something akin
to fear and worry.

the rising tide

she drinks alone.
sneaks a cigarette
in the bathroom, sometimes
she goes
online anonymously
to see what you're up to.
she's got a dark
side.
not unlike the moon,
aloof and far away.
stone white
and cold, distant
in her lunar ways.
your blood though
can feel her pull,
the tide inside of you
rising at the thought
of her, that midnight
glow.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

rescue dog

the dog,
beaten shy.
now timid and kneeling,
waiting to
be struck not
petted.
how quickly we
learn to live
without affection
and love.
finding a shadow
to back into
and hide.

the dashboard Jesus

your mother put a glow
in the dark Jesus
in everyone's room.
there was one stuck
on the dashboard
of your father's chevy imapla
too. that one went
flying through the windshield
when his head hit
the window one rainy
night after drinking
with his sailor buddies
in barcelona. you can still see
the soft yellow hue
of light on His robe.
His eyes staring,
His hands, with nail
wounds held out for
you to touch. you remember
the policemen
bringing your father's Jesus
to the door after finding
it on the road.

a good day

it was a good day.
like Christmas,
but happy.
everyone was there.
no gifts were
given, or taken.
no disappointments.
no blood spilled,
no unkind word
spoken.
even the birthday
girl who blew
out the candles
made a wish that did
come true.
it was a good day.

bon appetit

you stumble upon
a show
on how to cook road kill.
it's an annual
festival
up in the hills,
where the paved
roads
turn to dirt and gravel.
squirrel stew,
possum cakes,
and deer on a stick
are all being offered
as entries
into the all day
contest.
there is even a queen
for the day.
a young woman in a blue
dress and red sash.
a tilted silver crown
on her head.
you almost turn the channel,
but it's gotten
the best of you,
you want to see who
wins. will it be green
turtle soup or snake poppers,
with small potato
sized gophers
on the side.


nothing to add

it's dear abby day
on the phone.
everyone having a bone
to pick,
a complaint to file,
an issue
with the world,
their world, small,
nearly thimble
sized. but i listen.
i almost
always listen.
but my advice is vague
and cliché,
there's hardly
anything they don't
really know, no
words of wisdom
that I can say.
take off the shoe
and shake the pebble out,
you offer.
turn the other cheek,
or you're bigger
than that.
take the higher road.
life is short so,
so....but you having
nothing to add to that.

the puzzle


it's a puzzle
fifty two across wanting
a four letter
word
for deep affection
and adoration.
it begins with L
and ends
in E.
why is that so
difficult, knowing
that word
and completing
this jig sawed
grid
of black and white,
with smudges
and erasures.

Monday, May 11, 2015

trapped inside

you take a number
and sit.
your paperwork in hand.
the plastic chairs
are in rows
ten deep.
there is no talking,
just the shuffling
of shoes,
boots, heels, sandaled
feet.
it's early in the morning,
the loud speaker
repeats another
number, not yours,
not even close.
people stare into
their phones, tapping
out messages waiting.
waiting their turn,
to explain
as best they can
why they are here,
trapped inside the dmv.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

they move away

they move away
to the country,
feeling the need for space.
now retired
and done with work,
the grind of so much
of their lives.
the money saved.
but the moon, after
a season or two
has lost its luster.
that stream
no longer holds an
interest, the sound
of it on the rocks,
the woods, dark and full.
how nice, how
picturesque, the leaves
so colorful
in autumn.
but soon, they lie
in bed in the early
evening
and wish to hear
a car horn,
an ambulance, something
beyond the crickets
that never sleep.

her farm figurines

the porcelain
figurines, small pink pigs
delicate in color
and detail,
chickens too,
ponies and goats.
a virtual farm land
of animals she's collected
through the years
on the shelf,
the mantle, any flat
space
a rooster could crow,
where a cow
could moo. her collection,
she says, pointing,
adding in
that she needs a cat
to keep the mice
out of the barn.
kind of crazy, and
it's not your cup of tea,
but you get it
and smile approvingly.

together

how different this morning
is, with you here.
the trees full
of birds, the push of limbs
against one another,
like us in bed.
how different the coffee
tastes, the breakfast
we make
together, the talk of
news, as we share
and unfold the morning
paper.
how different life is
when two people
find ground
to live as one, as best
they know how.

each road

each road, at this point,
has been traveled on
in this city, this city
that isn't yours at all.
but you know them
just the same, through
the early years of
rambling with friends
in search of love,
or something similar
in vein. and work,
your truck winding
through the narrowed
streets in search of
parking, access,
to earn a day of pay.
and then there's nights
like this, going home
slowly, an eye out
for place to sit
and drink coffee,
to spend a quiet moment
alone, watching people
in their current stage.

the poetry reading

in her boot, her foot,
her toes, broken and set,
stitched and mangled
right again, she walks
leaning against you,
you into her towards
the crumbled steps of
the writer's center.
you see the paint peeling
on the wood, the rails
rusted, a window where
a bird tried
to fly through leaving
a puncture, beak
sized, in the pane.
art has no money for maintenance,
it appears.
the poets are there,
with their chapbooks,
their poems on printed
paper, not nervous in
their small spotlight,
but happy to be heard
by an audience of ten,
in a room that sits a
hundred. there is applause
and signings.
a reception follows.
crackers and yellow cheese,
a bottle of wine,
the top screwed off again,
paper cups,
and a stack of napkins
of a lesser brand.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

she wants a dog

she wants a dog.
it's been a while since
her last dog.
the memory
of fleas is no longer
with her.
the walks in
the rain, the chewed
boot.
the howls and barks
at the mailman.
she's forgotten
about the trips to vet
to remove a mouse,
or rancid bird
it swallowed whole.
she doesn't remember
the teeth falling
out as the dog grew old.
nor the pain
and sorrow of letting
it go. she wants a dog.
and so do you,
but you remember
everything, so don't.

table with a view

a table by the window
you tell the waitress
will be fine, but she wants
to steer you
towards the kitchen
near the alley
where the bathrooms are.
no, you say.
by the window with a view,
you repeat.
she smiles and says,
but there's only one of
you. is someone else coming.
maybe, you say.
but it doesn't matter,
I want that table,
that one over there, you
say, pointing at the table
by the window where
no one is sitting.
did you call ahead, she
says, do you have
reservations? those tables
are for call ahead
customers. I can sit
you right here, if you'd
like. but you have to be
careful, the waiters
come through carrying their
trays of food.
so lean in.
and I still think you
can see that empty table
by the window with a view.

a good listener

you don't want to interrupt
so you hold onto
your thoughts
and let her ramble.
you put her on speaker
phone
while you fold laundry,
you make dinner.
you do some push ups.
then you go back
to the phone and say
ah ha. yup.
you clean out the refrigerator,
mop the floor.
you go outside for
awhile to mow the lawn,
then come back in
to take a chicken out
of the oven,
you go to the phone
on the table
and say, you are so right.
after an hour or two
of this, she says she has
to go, she has things to do,
but she enjoys talking
to you. you are such a good
listener.

five cats

her five cats
want out. want in.
they don't know what
they want.
food, water, affection.
that fly caught
in the screen.
they move and wander
between your legs,
the chair, the bed,
a table,
between anything
that a space allows
their plump bodies
to fit through.
they nose the stacked
cans of food
on the floor, next
to the twenty pound
bag of litter.
each with his own
scratch box
to dig his claws in.
her five cats
want in, want out.
they don't know what
they want.

Friday, May 8, 2015

the twitch

your eyebrow twitches
when you think of her,
when you hear her voice,
or see her name
on your phone.
it's a small tremor
along a strangled thin
nerve, a nerve she found
in you. when the phone
rings and it's her,
the eyebrow bristles
and jumps like a caterpillar
trying to become
a butterfly. she's found
a way to get under
your skin and stay there.

the arrow

with anything,
the arrow, truly shows
you how
to live your life,
it's not the straight
line, the shortest route
from bow to target.
there has to be an arc.
a process of learning
in which direction
to go. you have to know
the wind. you have
to be still
and breathe, you have
to shoot after exhaling,
listening to your heart,
then the moment
is right.

the seventy chevy

the worst car you ever
owned comes to mind.
how it rumbled and roared
when new,
before the battery
died, before
the oil pump blew.
it leaked, leaving
puddles of green,
of gold.
wet spots of unknown
origin everywhere it went.
when it rained the trunk
filled with water,
but it looked good
when clean
and polished
the fender shining
in the sun, sitting parked
under an oak tree
with the for sale
sign inked and hung.

someone you used to know

slowly you run the vacuum
over the rug
picking up the crumbs,
the loose ends, vague
pieces of someone
you used to know,
remnants of romance
long gone, the dust
and dirt that comes
and goes
in your gypsy life.
the bag fills to the brim
which you empty
as quickly as you can
into the wind,
then move on.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

at night

liquid you are
slipping into bed,
pulling the blinds shut,
feeling the cool
sheets, the sinking
of the pillow
as you lay down
your head.
out goes the light.
how grateful you
are for days,
how blessed you are
for nights
where days come to
rest.

reading

you would read to your son
before he'd go to sleep.
book after book.
in time, you stopped
reading and made
up stories that he could
be a part of.
adventures he could
be in.
each night a different
tale to wet
his appetite for dreams.
one more, he'd say, one more.
and now as he stands
on a stage, or
faces a camera,
rehearsing his lines,
you wonder if he remembers
his father, sitting at
his bedside, making
the world up in stories
before he went to sleep.

the fishermen

these fishermen,
have found meaning.
their rods and reels, their
buckets,
the tackle boxes full
of shiny lures,
sharp hooks, and lead
weights.
they have found a way to
lose themselves
in something.
patient on the water,
waiting for the unseen
to be seen
and felt in the pull
of line.
all else is gone,
there is just this.
this moment, no tomorrow
or yesterday
to dwell upon.

on the river

your small boat,
peacock blue,
plastic, eight feet long,
but long enough
for you to sit in
with legs
extended. your carbon
oars, your
life jacket,
your compartment
to keep things dry.
you push off into the river.
no map, no plan.
the sun is low
in the morning.
your day is before you
as you leave everything
you know on dry land,
each stroke you row
belongs to you,
your life is just
beginning, again.

firsts

there is the memory
of firsts.
of melons, sweet
off the vine, cut
into quarters,
held wet to your lips.
the memory
of a kiss too,
but full of mystery
that makes you unable
to sleep,
knowing that this is
what it's all
about, isn't it.

the loud talker

you need to read more,
your school teacher
love interest tells you,
reprimands you.
you need to read
the Russians,
broaden your horizon,
proust and james,
Tolstoy and Chekov.
what about Thomas Hardy?
jane austen.
what about saul bellow
and t.s. Elliot.
the junk you consume
is not helping your
creative efforts. do you
hear me she says,
throwing a copy
of sylivia plath's
collected works at your
head. turn off that
tv for an hour and read.
how many more times can
you watch that stupid
Seinfeld show.



into the wounds

it's hard to imagine
a place
without death
and disease.
hate and injustice.
so do you blame the plagues
of mankind
on God,
on his steadfastness
in keeping
his hands off.
are prayers answered
or is it luck.
is the pain relieved
or increased
depending on
faith and pleading.
you tend to bend towards
the later, but
there are days when
you'd like to put
your fingers
into the wounds and know
for sure.

she's not there

your mother's birthday
comes.
but she's not there.
she's locked
in a place of staring
at her hands.
of lifting her head
at noise
or light, smiling
in a perplexed way
the way a small child
might. she's in there,
somewhere. she's young,
her hair is black.
she's strong
and funny.
she's covered in the joy
of her children,
she's playing
music on her stereo
in the small living room,
she's folding clothes,
she's washing dishes,
she's making dinner
for her seven children.
but not today, not
on this birthday,
she's not there.

beats me

why do these men disappear
she says out loud,
pondering a small bird
that has courageously
landed on the table
eyeing her cinnamon scone.
why do these men all
fly away after I give
them a bite of me,
not just a crumb, but
half or more of who
I am. she breaks off
a piece of her scone
and tosses it in the air.
the brown, thimble of
a bird flies off to find
it. what's wrong with
me, she says. can you
be honest and tell me
the truth, am I doing
something wrong, is it
how I look, my age,
my hair. why can't I
find a man and be done
with all of this dating?
I don't know, you tell her.
beats me. i'm going in
to have this coffee refilled,
can I get you anything?
another vanilla bean
frapaccino with extra whip?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

the blue shirt

after months of emails
and texting, phone calls
and flirting.
you finally meet.
she brings you a cupcake
she baked herself.
you put on a clean shirt,
a new one, one you've
never worn before.
it's blue.
you shave. you brush
your teeth.
at the end of a pleasant
evening
of food and small talk,
agreeing on nearly everything
you walk her to her car
in the mall parking lot.
you try to kiss her,
but she turns her cheek
just in time,
avoiding any lip contact.
she gives you a hug,
a friendly pat
on the back, then shakes
your hand limply.
thank you for dinner
and drinks, she says.
you're a gentleman.
let's stay in touch.
you drive home and think
about what happened.
it's the shirt, it
must be the shirt,
you think. slowly you
unbutton it,
you ball it up and toss
towards the trash can
in the corner.

sandwich money

half asleep on
the park bench,
the man
you gave a dollar to
the other day
has a bottle of wine
in his hand.
he's curled
in a grey ball
of hand me downs
from the shelter.
he squints and rises
when he sees you
walk by. he nods,
pushing
the bottle into
his coat.
good day kind sir,
he says,
can i trouble you
for sandwich money
just a dollar or two?

the sister

the sister, her tongue
in a knot
can't tell you anything.
it's a code
of silence
punishable by death,
I guess.
but it's fine. you are
just being nice,
stopping by,
being neighborly
being kind.
you only want a general
idea of how
she is since
the break up.
that's all you want.
nothing more, nothing less.
just hello. goodbye,
then move on
to the next.

the ceiing crack

he greets you with a smile,
adjusting his false teeth
which protrude out
under his mustache circa
nineteen seventy five.
cigarette, he says, tapping
on his pack, then points
to the ceiling
where the water leak has been.
the hippies upstairs
over flowed the tub, he says,
and shakes his head.
all night they practice
their banjos and guitars,
never playing a single song.
just picking and practicing.
how much, he says, lighting
his cigarette and blowing smoke
towards the yellow crack
that crosses his ceiling.
how much to fix and repair
that? I can do the painting.
I think they had a party
in the tub, the other night.
I saw them come over carrying
in their wine. I was
out on the patio
grilling meat, which they
hate. but it's too bad.
I like to eat meat. I like
to grill my meat. too
bad if they can smell it
up there hell, I can
smell the dope they're
smoking, so it's only fair.
so what do you think?
can you fix the crack, make
it go away? I can do
the painting.

the rainbow

a sweep of color
across the backside of rain
and clouds,
the sun
is out,
painting an arc
across the sky
in luminous lanes.
how easy is that you
think
racing towards
the end
to finally find what
you've been
looking for.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

you should have a cat

someone says you need a cat.
usually it's someone that has
a cat.
cats are easy they say,
brushing of strands of hair
from their black coat.
once they know where their
box is,
they're good to go.
you hardly smell them
after a while.
sometimes they'll curl
in your lap like a dog.
cats are easy, maybe get two.
one to keep the other one
company when you come
and go. get a collar with
a little bell on it.
you need a cat, they say.
something to care of other
than yourself.
what about plants, you ask.
how hard are they?

slipping away

he leans on a cane,
on a shoulder,
a wall, he braces himself
to climb a curb,
grabbing the rail
to be helped up
a flight of stairs.
he goes in for more juice
to be shot
into his arms.
more x-rays, more
prodding and poking
of his brain.
someone hands him
a drink. looks into
his sleepy eyes. there is little
anyone can do or say
as he slips away
from this world
and dies.

when we get the big house

she says
the big house will make them happy.
a dream house.
the kids too. both his and hers.
a car. two cars.
a dog. a trained dog.
perhaps a boat, big enough
for everyone.
a garden.
a fence, white, of course.
a long drive way.
let's make it a circular
driveway,
to get in and out easier.
a chimney would be
nice too, a mantle.
who doesn't want a mantle.
there can be a painting
done, or a photograph
to be hung
of everyone that's loved
in their lives.
maybe there are woods
behind the house
and a stream. maybe at night
they can hear the water
after a hard rain,
rushing across the rocks.
maybe there are rose bushes
along the walkway
where neighbors come to call
welcoming them
with open arms and hearts.
maybe nothing bad will ever
happen in this big house.
maybe it will make them happy.



tomorrow

you check your calendar,
your wallet,
your box of safe keepings,
your back pack
and box in the attic.
you check everywhere
that you've placed a tomorrow.
all the excuses
that you've spread out
over the years
and saved, are there.
tomorrow. always tomorrow.
you're running
out of places to put them.
even your mouth
can't utter the word
anymore, having no room
left to speak it.

but that's it

you meet the girl
of your dreams.
but she doesn't feel the same
way.
you would go to battle
for her.
you would
lie down in the muddy
street and let her
cross over
you in your light blue
seer sucker suit.
you would pull a chair
out. rub her shoulders,
feed her grapes
with your fingers, dropping
them seductively
into her open mouth.
you would listen all night
to her
as she told you about her
job, her mother, her kids,
her dog,
her friends,
even her female issues.
you are devoted to her
that much.
she thinks you're swell,
but that's it.

iced knees

you nurse the knee
with ice.
ice is your friend.
this cold bag
of peas,
or gel, or plastic
wrap of cubes.
you can't get
the knee cold enough,
but soon
it's numb, and you
can almost walk
without a limp.
you swallow two pills
to help it along.
it's not exactly hell
getting old,
but maybe a few level
up.

the new roof

all day the workers
are on the house.
some tied by ropes
to the chimney.
the ladders
lean against the slant
of the tall roof.
the shingles
go up in stacks,
the hammers hammer.
there is no talking
that you can hear.
bottles are tilted
to dry mouths.
the sun bristles,
the steam rises.
boards are nailed down.
by early evening
everyone is gone
as if they were never
there. only the new
roof is any proof
of what went on here.

Monday, May 4, 2015

team work

god has been my gardener
for many years now.
in the back yard.
the front yard is handled
by the condo
association.
but god brings in
whatever he feels
like, on the wind,
I suppose. vines on the fence.
the weeds, the ground
cover, it may be clover.
a strange bush, and even a tree
it seems has begun to grow,
planted near the fence.
not where I would have
put it, but what
do I know.
on a whim last year.
I bought some packets
of wild flower seeds
to help god out,
spreading them generously
like confetti in the yard.
finally they have sprung
into view.
splotches of yellow,
of violet,
red and blue. we're
a team now. me and god.
you should visit and see
what we've done.


what's next

the wind decides to close
the door.
not you. but you accept
it. it's a hard
slam, wood against wood,
but nothing is broken.
you understand.
you see the rain rise
in a blue grey layer
of clouds, then fall.
the wind knows what
its doing, so rare
that you do. you watch
it rain and listen,
and wait for what's next.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

fifth of may

you hear the woman up the street
screaming. at first you think that someone
is beating her
with a stick.
but no, she's being sprayed
with cold water
from a hose.
she might be drunk, they all
might be drunk.
it's a party of some sort.
it must be tequila.
someone yells areeba. then again,
areeba.
the music gets louder.
there's more screaming. laughing.
the party lights go on.
a string, of red blue and green.
you peek out the window.
you see dancing. sombreros on.
arms in the air.
everyone is in a bathing suit.
you can't believe that you weren't
invited.
it might be time to meet
these neighbors.


the curve

the curve ball
is hard to hit. it looks
like it's coming
in straight and true,
but drops before it
reaches the plate.
you hardly know what
to do, backing up,
or ducking, swinging
in self defense.
she throws you a lot
of curves. and you're
down for the count
at strike two.

her hammock

she needs everything
having moved into a new house.
the divorce done.
the rebound boyfriend
in the rearview mirror,
a bee buzzing in her ear.
it echoes when she walks
through. shoes striking the floor.
there's yogurt and nuts
in refrigerator. merlot.
clothes in the closet.
shoes. of course the shoes
and handbags.
she's an accessory girl
if nothing else.
she has a bed, she has
a mirror.
linens and towels, but
it's time for more.
the rest of the house is
bare. which is nice in its
own way. a fresh canvas.
then it comes to her, what
her first purchase should
be, a green hammock that she
can stretch out across
the backyard and swing on
as the season slips into
summer. from there she
can decide on what's next
with everything.

baked

you like her cupcakes.
all dozen of them.
each iced perfectly,
both vanilla and chocolate,
how warm and nice
they are in their
soft little paper cups.
baked just for you.
she knows you already.
what sweets you like,
with a smile and an oven
she's baked you into
her life.

the late call



it's the midnight phone call
that gives you chills.
makes you sit up straight in bed,
startled by the harsh ring
of the phone.
it can only mean trouble,
disaster or death.
you stagger towards the line
and pick it up, say a soft
hello and wait. you are
happy to not hear your son's voice,
or anyone that you know,
or the word officer being
followed by a serious name,
you exhale and say no,
but thank you for calling,
you're not in the market for
new windows, especially at this
hour of three a.m.

breaking even

you used to count
your money
when it disappeared
like water
down a stream. your ex wife
opening the faucet
daily. you'd
make a list of all your
needs, food, shelter,
clothing, miscellaneous,
whatever it took to keep
everyone happy,
minus what comes in,
but things have
changed. now you
count the years that you
have left to spend it.
you like the idea of breaking
even.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

how simple

you see your father
stretched out on the plaid
couch, a cold beer
in a brown bottle
sweating in his hand.
the ball game on,
the car in the driveway
washed and clean,
the grass cut,
your mother in the kitchen
over the stove,
an estate of laundry
drying on the line.
how simple it seemed,
them buying into
the dream. pretending
all along
that this was what they
wanted.

the tandem boat

we tried.
her in the back plastic
seat inside,
me in the front of
the lime green kayak,
afloat in the rough tributary
of the patuxent river.
the cross winds,
the swells and waves
from power boats
pushed us sideways
towards shore again
and again, coming close
to rocks and piers.
I pulled in one direction,
she with a different
stroke, a different
weight and set of muscles
took us the other way.
sometimes we'd circle
heading back to from
where we came.
we were not a team.
she was angry, but silent,
as people are when
early in a relationship,
not wanting to ruin things.
I was perplexed and tired,
wanting her to rest
her oars and let
me steer. let me take us
where we needed to go.

dinner theater

the dinner theater,
showing west side story
was full.
the buses lined the parking
lot, parked sideways
next to one other.
some with jersey plates,
Pennsylvania too.
Maryland and west Virginia.
everyone who got off was old.
the actors were waiters.
all slender and raw.
bringing drinks, and bread,
salads and Salisbury steaks
to the tables.
then the lights would go down
and the acting would
begin, singing
and dancing, the sharks
against the jets. the tension
was minimal.
a beautiful young woman
with enormous eyes
sang Maria. she got the most
applause. at intermission,
the actors would bring
coffee cake and coffee
to the tables, before
going back onstage to
finish the play. you could
hear people saying
that their steaks were
undercooked, or stringy, or that
they couldn't find
their glasses. my coffee's
cold. do we pay now?
then lights would go up,
the actors, faces sweaty, smeared
with makeup would bow.
the place would empty,
the buses loaded. they'd
pull away in a blue cloud
of diesel fumes going back
to from where they came.

pillow talk

she kept
a loaded gun
under her pillow.
this made you
a little nervous.
more nervous
than usual.

try again

there was no vacancy.
the red sign said no.
so i kept driving.
and driving.
i was tired.
the road was wet,
the sky dark and full
of lightning.
i kept driving.
listening to the tires,
the wipers slapping,
slinging rain off the glass.
the static of am
radio. dawn was so far
off, i was low on
gas, hungry.
there was no place
to pull over.
so i kept driving,
and driving.
my eyes burned,
I could hardly keep
them open. I had
no maps, no phone.
that's the reason
that i'm here, at
3 in the morning,
knocking at your door.
I had to turn around
and try again.

rained out

at dawn there will
be an execution of all
the weathermen who have
gotten the forecast wrong,
again. hardly ever right.
they have everything but
a window. when it's raining
they don't know.
when it's windy, they have
no clue. they are in
the bunker staring at
radar screens, at dials
and graphs, buttons,
trying desperately to
know what my knees and
joints could tell them
if only they'd call us
old people to tell them
when the sky will be grey
or blue.


black and white cat

she is a black and white cat
slinking towards
you in the night.
her tail is up,
her lips
are wet, her whiskers
stiff with amorous
intentions. she purrs,
she howls at your window.
she wants in.
she wants milk, she wants
you, she needs
a place to curl
and be warm, be safe.

Friday, May 1, 2015

the storm

the storm stops the clocks.
silences
the sounds within
your walls, darkens
the rooms, brings
a chill to your bones,
you have no candle
no flashlight, no hand
to hold as you ride
it out, near a window,
waiting once more
for the light of
a full moon.

new land

you row your small boat
towards the island.
the water is calm
as you drop the oar
in and pull,
one side then the other.
slowly you move towards
the middle of the lake.
it's a small parcel
of woods and sand,
a cove to land on.
you are always rowing
somewhere. someplace,
going ashore
and starting again.
this day is no different
you were born
into this, to row
and row towards
new land.

the power of prayer

on the way home from
the beach once,
she prayed for chicken.
she looked over
at me driving and said,
let's pray together,
join me in this prayer
for fried chicken.
what about potatoes,
I said. and biscuits.
okay, she agreed.
let's add that into
our prayer, she closed
her eyes as i focused
on the road ahead of us.
dear god, she said.
I don't ask for much
in this world, but
I'm really hungry
and I'd really like some
fried chicken, so please
dear god, show us a place
where we can stop
and eat. she opened her
eyes and looked over
at me. potatoes and
biscuits I added in,
to which she said,
amen. within a mile
or two we were eating
fried chicken. two years
later other prayers
went unanswered.

the lady bug tattoo

she wants to know if I like
her tattoos.
she shows me the butterfly
on her shoulder.
a golden thing with
cartoonish wings.
and then the lizard on her
ankle, lime green, crawling
up perhaps to eat
the butterfly, but there's
more. the scorpion on her thigh,
the Harley wings
above the round curves
of her back side.
someone's name
in blue, a runny blue
on the fat of her arm,
maybe Charlie, or
Jimmy, hard to tell now
in the wrinkles and sag
of wobbled skin.
I have a bug too, she says,
a lady bug strategically
placed, but I don't know
you well enough to show you
that. in time, she says.
to which you answer,
we'll see. perhaps.

off the streets

your left hand urges
your right hand to do
the right thing,
to pull the right lever
and vote
with a conscience.
it's a tug of war,
within yourself,
to be good, or indifferent,
rarely bad.
apathy seems to reign
within you
on many issues.
your political heroes
are all dead
and too much time has passed
to care deeply
about the unchangeable.
your marching days
on the street are over,
in mothballs.
in the closet with your
end the war
placards, you know now,
the folly of such
youthful desires.

a different equation

your match teacher,
all ninety nine pounds of him,
thick glasses, and hair
parted to the side
with a swath of brylcreme
was a genius,
although stuck teaching
the likes of you at Kennedy high.
you remember his pocket
protector,
his short sleeved shirt,
powder blue, his brown shoes,
dulled from the shuffle of the day.
his tuna sandwich for lunch
always with the crust removed.
an orange soda
that stained his lips
and teeth.
he twisted the end
of his short mustache
while standing at the black
board
writing equations
that you had no clue
how to solve, but there
were others in the class
who could.
you were too busy staring
out the window at the girl's
gym class
as they ran with pony tails
swinging to and fro,
field hockey sticks held
in their slender arms.
it was different kind of equation
you were trying to solve.

perscription

the doctor, weary
with his world of illness.
only so much
magic in
his bag, stares into
the patient's eyes
and says you're fine.
everyone is fine.
we are all dying yes.
some slower than others.
but we are all
going in the same
direction.
try to have some fun
along the way.
take this for the pain.
find love,
be kind, see you in
a week, be careful
in the rain.

in circles

you go down to the frozen
pond, a circled arc of blue,
to watch the people skate.
the graceful ones,
the ones that fall,
the beginners holding on
to air with arms,
like wobbly wings
stretched out.
by winters end, most have
got it down, sliding
easily in circles,
some hand in hand.
some finding love this
way, while others,
hands behind their backs,
trying to forget
as they skate, the past.

the poet next door

when you lived next door
to grumpy old
Robert frost he was always
in his yard
building another wall,
mending a fence while
mumbling to himself
about the road not
taken, the deep dark woods,
fire and ice.
so you baked him a cake
one day and knocked
on his door, which he wouldn't
answer.
leave it he yelled out
the window, leave it
and go, to which you replied
but i'm a poet too,
we should talk. this made
him cackle and close
his window.
the next day the empty plate
that held the cake
was on your porch
with a note saying
give it up, give it up.