Tuesday, June 30, 2015

what distant planet

i smell chicken on the grille.
seasoned just right,
filling the summer air
with burnt meat.
my quiet neighbors
are standing together,
holding hands, like no one does.
the baby is on the picnic
table, her pink arms wiggle
in the smoke, but happy
in her portable crib.
they love to cook out.
they love
to stand over the fire
and watch the coals grow hot
and white. they poke at the chicken
legs and wings,
the breasts, turning them
together.
hardly a word passes between
them. the baby never cries.
i wonder sometimes where they
might be from,
what distant planet.

salad dressings

the condiments, of which you have
dozens, are taking over
the shelves,
the bins, the places
where real food and drinks
should go.
how many ketchup bottles,
salad dressings, and oils
do I need. three mustards,
wasabi and mayonnaise.
hot sauce, two different kinds.
texas pete being one,
tabasco the other.
my son used to count them,
to mock me in the way he learned
so well.
thirty six, he'd say, shaking
his tangled head of hair.
it's time to purge. it's always
a good time to purge
for just about anything.

the west coast

you almost made it
to California.
she was waiting for you
at Huntington beach,
come, come soon, bring
nothing, just you.
she was the sun,
she was the ocean, she
was everything
you heard in a song.
all you had to do was get there.
but you never made it.
the car broke down
ten miles outside of town.
you almost made
it to California,
it would have changed everything.
almost,
but in some dreams you did,
and have never left.

frozen pizza

i'm not sure how long
that frozen pizza
has been in the freezer.
maybe a month, maybe
longer. I remember
placing it into the shopping
cart along with
eggs and bread,
potatoes, and apples,
thinking that it might
come in handy one
hungry night. a last resort.
but that night hasn't
come. a lot of nights haven't
come. but there is
always hope. always pizza,
frozen and waiting.

against your will

born into this,
you push on, your day
is your day
then onto the next
and further
into your life
calendar. each page
not torn away,
but slowly peeled
and sent off,
released into the wind
of each new season.
you are born into this,
against your will,
as you will die
at your appointed time,
also, against your will.

old phones

why I don't throw away
the old phones,
the dozen or so dead
phones in the kitchen
drawer, I don't know.
perhaps, there is a part
of me that believes
that nothing truly ends.
that love is forever.
that voices once heard
will be heard from again.

the early ocean

the ocean is too cold.
you can't
enjoy the water.
the heaving of salted waves.
the glass green
of the shallows.
you can hardly touch it
with your feet.
it's too early for this visit.
for remembering
the past, for making
new memories, captured
now in a cradled
phone.
it's too early in the day,
in the summer
for this ocean.
you'll have to come back.

she waits

in a blue dress
the color of cold,
with dark eyes,
her lips striped red,
her legs a color
not unlike
the color white.
unhurried, she waits
for you
at the platform
and smiles.
fresh off a plane.
a black bag
of small things
at her feet.
you can hardly breathe
this close
to her. it's more
than just a kiss,
more than an embrace.
it's something else,
something beyond words,
beyond friendship
and for now it fills
an empty shared
space.

her velvet rope

her life
was bordered by a velvet
rope.
you could look in,
stand at the edge
of her grand room
and see
the chandelier,
the long sofa, the side
chair,
a mirror, a vase of fresh
flowers, a table with
eight chairs.
the thick carpet
and oil paintings
centered and lit.
but you were never getting
in, never going past
her velvet rope to know
how she really lived.

the biography


a new book about
a writer you adored
when you were younger
is in your hands.
it's thick and hard covered.
he was famous for drinking
and short stories.
his smoking.
his life was shorter
than the tales he carved
out with a small
sharp knife.
and now you read another
biography of his.
detailed and full
of every misstep he ever
made. his wives.
his booze. his wandering,
trying to find his way.
but always writing, always
writing, trying to make
sense of it all.
the dead is an industry
all its own these days.
shining up those
that have come and gone,
or turning on the light
so bright, that you
have to turn away.

pieces of herself

i'm tired of leaving pieces
of myself
all over town. there's
more to me than this,
she says,
standing in the night
light, her pale skin aglow.
these men,
these men, she sobs,
they want just one thing.
why can't they get
to know me,
leave that part of me
alone. what's wrong
with people these days,
she says, as she gets
dressed at the side
of the bed,
putting her clothes
on.

a small thing

a inch left or right
can make
all the difference,
the turn,
the decision to go
or not go.
to call
or leave it alone
and move on. each day
there is something
small done,
that changes everything
at some point
along the way.

Monday, June 29, 2015

that's nothing

cancer you tell your friend,
as you sit in the late
afternoon sun sipping vodka
tonics.
cancer, the worst kind.
inoperable, there is nothing
anyone can do. she won't make
it through the year.
oh, that's nothing suzie
says, shaking her head.
my cousin lucy had cancer
and she was blind.
she had a seeing eye dog
and a white cane to find
her way around.
not only that, her husband
left her for another man.
oh, you say. that must have
been horrible.
tell me about, she says.
a nightmare, and then she
died.

someone's knocking

you hear someone knocking at
your door,
but you're upstairs
and don't feel like going down.
it's never good
when someone knocks at your
door these days.
they want something,
your time, your money,
or they want to tell you about
God, as they believe in
God. but you're upstairs
in your underwear,
drawing a bath, almost
ready to sink into the water
with a new issue of
the new Yorker.
you could go to the window
and peer out, but they
might see you and knock even
harder. if it was someone
who knew you, wouldn't
they call first?

sushi order

they are intense, these
men behind the counter in white
uniforms,
red bandanas wrapped around
their spiked black hair.
they look more ready for war
than making sushi.
you can't see their hands,
but their shoulders
and arms keep moving from
side to side, angry it seems
at these fish, these shrimp
and avocados,
cutting, dicing, rolling
seaweed and rice.
you don't even know what
you ordered, but made a point
to say no eel.
something spicy would be nice,
you told the waitress,
something no longer
wiggling with life.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

a little hungry

there is always
the threat of sharks
at the beach.
grey skinned, smooth
and wet, the dorsal
fin cutting quickly
through the blue swim
of water, hungry
with rows of sharpened,
eon aged teeth.
they mean no harm.
they are just being who
they are. for what else can
they be but sharks,
and aren't we all
a little bit hungry.

the waiter

the waiter is too happy.
too nice,
too friendly. too chatty
and present.
he brings you more
water, always with the pouring
of water.
butter, bread.
how's the bread, he asks.
isn't it good.
we make it here.
he gives you his suggestions,
and says that whatever
you have chosen
is his favorite.
he's a nice person.
he's trying so hard
as he interrupts your
conversation, your mouths
full of food.
there is nothing he won't
do for your table,
except leave you alone.
you understand though.
you've been that young
and eager. you like him
and know that he will learn.

a kind word

a kind word
is all it takes sometimes
to change
things.
a light touch,
a gentle tug
at the heart.
an apology, or even
silent listening
can put the fire
out,
melt the trouble
and restart,
but not always.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

the girl in her

she is an easy bake
oven.
she's a Barbie doll.
she's a small
red car. a bike
with training wheels
and streamers
flying from
the handle bars.
she's a girl, still,
at this age, in pink,
in ribbons and bows,
not a sign of grey.
she'll never ever,
she promises, grow old.
so you hold her to it,
and say I do.

paying bills

you settle in
at the big table.
the bills, the check book.
a pen,
stamps, envelopes.
it's a small stack
of correspondence
not quite over due
but leaning in that direction.
you make coffee.
you turn on the light,
you sit
in the quiet of your
house and do
this simple thing, this
ritual
of life, listening
to rain, your heart
beat.
the pen across paper,
sending them out
like crisp
paper kites.

other things to do

you don't mind the rain.
the rain
gives you other plans.
it's okay
for a day or two
to go without sunshine,
or blue
skies. you need the grey.
the cool dampness
of a long
wet storm.
you make other plans.
you make
room for other things
to do.

the consequence

there is a price.
but it's unmarked. no
tag,
no stamp or bar code.
there is no way
of telling
what any of this costs.
but you press on regardless,
fulfilling your needs.
perhaps you'll
find out
in the end,
as you leave the store
holding on
to what you think
is worth
the consequence.

just listed

your real estate agent
shows you a house. you can
hardly hear her because
of the dogs barking next door,
but she points out
the new kitchen stove.
they replaced everything
after the fire,
the counters,
the linoleum floor.
she shows you the bathroom
on every level,
flushing each toilet
behind her.
look, she says, surprise,
another bathroom.
she opens a closet door,
then steps inside.
it's a walk in, she says
loudly, spinning
around, her head
almost hitting the light.
check this out, she says,
pulling up the blinds
in the master
bedroom with its view
of the street, a tree
in bloom, a dunkin donuts
sign blinking in the near distance.
I hope you like donuts
she says. I sure do.
I hear a target is going
up soon.
she takes you to the basement
with the unfinished walls
and slab floor, she points at the hot
water heater. next to the chalk
mark outline of a body.
that's the hot water heater
she says.
then smiles and says,
isn't this a great room.
the possibilities
are endless.

bring a dish

someone bring potato salad
in a big yellow bowl.
someone brings
cold chicken
on a cold plate.
there's one shrimp left
on another table, the red
shell still in tact.
there's coleslaw
and small crispy things,
wraps of some sort,
might be carrots inside,
leeks?
another person brings
more potato salad
covered in foil.
a woman carries in a tray
of deviled eggs
sprinkled with paprika.
there's a tossed salad
on the table
with two giant wooden
spoons stuck into the leafs.
in comes a tray of pasta
salad, a home made
recipe, her arms buckle
with the weight.
finally a man carries in
a bucket of
potato salad and sets
it on the floor
next to a cooler of beer.
you wander with your clear
plastic fork,
searching, searching
for something to eat.

suitable for framing

you need to write
a sweet and sappy poem
she says.
something without a bit
of cynicism
or sarcasm, one
that doesn't criticize
or complain.
you need to write something
light, something
kind and thoughtful,
from the heart
with compassion, something
I can print off
and frame. you can do this,
she says,
think of me,
just think of me, then write.

Friday, June 26, 2015

the distant shore

the fast day
swallows you whole.
into the whirlpool
of hours.
hardly a moment
to ponder or stare
into your navel.
just the labor of your job.
which is a good thing.
no mirror to look
into. no guilt
or sorrow, no
remorse, no regret.
just the deep swim
of work work work.
the churning of arms,
the legs kicking
to get to the other side
of the day.
that distant shore.
and now, finally
you are home.
closing your eyes
to everything, to rest.

the body shop

they're giving out
new hips
and knee caps
down the block.
tendons, and metal
plates
for the heads
that need them.
it's a body shop.
all sizes, all ages.
hearts and livers,
kidneys, first come
first serve.
take a number,
have a seat, put
your feet up
and get your paperwork
ready. we can sand
off those worry lines,
fatten up those lips,
we can shave off those
unsightly blemishes,
narrow the focus
of your vision,
lop off a few pounds
around
the waist.
have you every thought
of having that turkey
neck taken
care of. well here's
the place.
take a number, have
a seat, we'll be with
you before the sun
goes down.

no one's to blame

I see no point
in blaming anyone for what has
happened.
there is no reason
to point fingers
or thumbs,
or give anyone
a swift kick
out the door. it's no
one's fault here.
it's just
the way the earth
has turned,
the orbit, its rotation,
the revolution
around an
ambivalent sun.

the loan officer

so, you want to finance your new
vehicle for 72 months, right.
no. 36, like I told you, like
I wrote it down on that slip
of paper and put it in front of
you, that paper, the piece of
paper under your hand. okay, okay.
and you don't want to put anything,
down, right, and you
have no trade in, is this
correct? no, I traded in
my other vehicle and the dealer,
the dealer that you work for
gave me five thousand dollars
for it. and i'm putting another
eight thousand down. just like
it says on that piece of
paper you just rolled up into
a ball and tossed in the trash can.
okay. I see. and so, let me
figure up your monthly payments
after fees. interest, no down payment,
no trade in and for 72 months.
let's see your monthly payments
will be 879 dollars per month
due on the 15th.
no, no no. why aren't you
listening to me. this is not
the deal we agreed upon.
thank you for coming in
and doing business with us.
we are so happy to help you.
have a nice summer, we hope
to see you again when you
purchase another new vehicle.

party animal

in woods behind your house,
before it rained
there seemed to be an animal
party going on.
music and dancing.
drinking to excess.
you could see the red fox
darting nervously about
from one spot to another,
the deer, languid
and quiet, drinking
martinis. the chatter
of raccoons, bossy in their
striped suits.
the fat owl in the tree,
shaking it's head.
it was a long night
of chatter, and rustling
in the bushes.
it seemed to be a fun
party despite the occasional
scream of what
kind of an osprey do you
think I am, take
your paws off of me.

out of context

you clean up well,
she says,
running into one of
your clients in
a bar, she looks
you over from
shoe to head.
she has never seen you
without a bucket
and brush, a pole,
a spackling knife
in your hand.
caulking stuck to
your arm, your pants.
your face speckled
with fresh white
paint. she hardly knows
what to say,
thinking he might
actually be human.

shoes

you have too many shoes.
brown, black,
loafers, tie ups,
and wing tips.
tennis shoes, basketball
shoes.
some new, some old,
some never worn
the soles still
clean, hardly out
of the box. dress shoes
for a wedding
or funeral.
you understand this shoe
thing.
even the sandals,
even the slippers.
you can't have enough
shoes, remembering those
early years
of patching the one
pair that you owned,
slipping cardboard
into the bottom where
the round hole grew.

the wide blue sky

there were the family
vacations.
your family. your wife,
your son.
the dog put in the kennel.
the week long
stay at an ocean side
hotel.
the umbrellas and blankets,
towels,
and toys.
the setting up of camp
near the shore.
sandwiches made,
cold drinks in the cooler.
the digging in.
the lotions spread.
everyone happy
and warm in their
unfolded chairs beside
the ocean roar.
a book in each lap,
read slowly, ever so
slowly as a plane pulled
a banner
across the wide blue sky.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

we're friends, right?

you can't make the party,
so she unfriends you.
you don't take a call,
busy with work,
so they unfriend you.
you fail to like or comment
on a cake they baked
and posted, so you get
unfriended.
someone moves, someone
dies. someone forgets why
you're friends in the first
place, they all unfriend
you. you are losing ground
with your social network.
you need a new team of
people you don't really
know, or care too much about.

survival

the power goes
out in the middle
of roasting a chicken.
so you go to survival
food.
pouring milk
before it spoils.
spreading
a knife full of peanut
butter onto
a small dinner roll.
you take out
the jelly too, you
hope it's jelly,
you hold the label
to the light your
phone provides.
yes. it's jelly.

the rules committee

they keep the grass
cut. the leaves blown
and bagged,
the dead branches
tied and towed away.
they trim
the hedges.
plant the flowers
at the entrance.
they give the road
a washing.
they make it seem
quite wonderful
to live there
as the president
of the board in her
hip boots,
with her clip board
marches
towards you house.
quickly you try
to muzzle your barking
dog and plead for him
to be quiet.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

the enduring silence

you never had the talk
with her.
the relationship talk.
that anxiety ridden discussion
where you both
ask each other
painful questions about
where this is going.
she never wanted
to discuss things, put
the cards on the table.
she liked the quiet of it all.
not knowing, or perhaps
not caring
how it ended or moved forward.
which made it odd
when it did end.
not having raised a voice,
or thrown a book,
no slamming of a door.
or keys tossed down.
there was just the gentle
roll of tires
as she pulled away,
and the enduring silence
from that point on.

the man in the grey car

you say hello
to the old man who sleeps
in his car
outside his house,
you pass him everyday
going home.
the window half cranked
down.
you see the sweat on his
dark brow
as his bald head leans
against the window.
the radio on.
he nods and holds
up a hand,
he seems to be hardly
breathing in his sweat
box of a car.
you want to ask him why,
why are you sitting in
your car alone
on such a hot day. at
least turn the engine on
and let the ac blow.
but you say nothing.
he says nothing.
you leave each other
alone, which is really
what you both want.

the single woman

the lighter shade
is better, you tell her
as she hold it up to a window,
casting more
sun onto the swatch
which overlays
the fabric and the paper
she wants
pasted to the walls.
but what about this one,
or this one here,
she says, dancing around
with her palette of colors,
going from
shadow to light
changing everything with
motion.
can you do each wall slightly
less dark
than the adjoining wall
she asks,
her eyes flickering
with a crazed look of
home decorating without a
husband
to make her compromise.

the slow snake

you barely avoid
the long slow snake.
a copper head
as you ride
your bike along the path.
the rain has
brought him out
from hiding.
he hardly moves
across the paved
trail,
his perfectly
stitched and diamonded
back.
brown and beige,
soft in the late
afternoon light.
he's in no hurry,
it seems.
one side of the woods
being no
different from
the other. he'll
there when he gets
there.

bird in a cage

she has a bird
that talks.
repeats everything
it hears. he's so sweet
and smart, she tells you.
it says hello. says goodbye.
says curse words
when you least
expect them.
it's grey and red,
a rainbow
of feathers, yellow
and green.
it will bite your thumb
off if you
stick it between the bars,
she warns you,
but it's too late,
you need something now
to stop
the bleeding.

keepting it afloat

everyone you know
is tired.
the long hours,
the kids,
the bills, the car
and house
all needing attention.
they are worn
to the bone with life.
they can barely
speak
of fun, or relaxation.
their eyes are flat
and red,
thinking forward
about what's to be
done next
to keep the whole
thing afloat.
wine helps. sleep, when
it comes helps too.
but they see no escape,
no way out,
it's just another day
with no beginning,
no end.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

side of the road

the flat tire gives you
a lonely feeling.
a feeling of regret
and remorse, what for
you have no idea. you can
only sit on the side of the road
waiting for
a good Samaritan or
truck
who might help you out,
or give
you a tow. your triple
A card expired
just yesterday.
your cell phone is dead.
it's hot. blistering
in the sun.
but you sit and wait
against your metal car,
your punctured tire,
sunglasses, and hat
screwed on. sometimes
the world
takes a turn you don't
see, making you stop
everything along
some desolate road,
a deserted highway.
it's just you and a small
lizard that keeps
popping his head
out from under a nearby
rock, his shadowed home.

the half marathon

when she ran,
it was a slow plod,
shoulders rounded,
hands in front, limp
and open fisted.
her focus was narrow,
a small point
in front of her,
where the next foot
might go.
with her number
pinned to her jersey,
her long dark hair
behind her,
she ran, she ran
through the march wind,
the march cold.
along the coast,
never stopping, never
wavering.
the same pace, the even
breaths.
and this is how
she lived, always
going forward, never
stopping or looking back
to see where you
might be.

these angels

you try to keep
your religious beliefs
and faith
to yourself most times.
not mentioning
certain impossible
to understand
occurrences that
have taken place
over your life time.
no need to mention
angels, or narrow
escapes of death
or injury. who would
believe such things.
coincidence or luck
most people would say.
it's better to keep
such tales
of that other world
to your self, to be quiet
about your visits
to the holy ground of sorrow.
best to save
those tales until
someone needs them,
and they will.

the dark spot

it's a small spot
on your white shirt.
it's a smudge, dark
and dry to the touch.
you have no idea how
it got there, but
it won't come out.
the shirt is fine
otherwise.
all the buttons work,
no tears, or rips,
no thread unraveled.
it's just a spot, a
dark spot
that won't come out.
sometimes that's all it
takes to find a new
one.

when she whistled

the girl kid
in the old neighborhood.
part girl
part boy.
pony tail with muscles.
legs of steel,
could whistle.
two fingers
in her mouth and she'd
let out a shriek
across the hot
summer street where
our Olympic games would
begin. kick ball
stick ball.
football, hide and
seek.
sometimes we'd
hide together and never
be found.

not on the same page

we're not on the same
page she tells you tersely.
were not in the same book
on the same shelf.
we're not even in the same
library or bookstore,
not even in same kindle.
in fact we're not even
in the same pyramind
inscribing hieroglyphics
on the walls.
not even in the same cave
scratching bison
and wolves onto stone.
okay, okay, you tell her.
I get it, i'm going,
but love how
you've thought this out.


maybe you

something new
is needed.
you aren't sure what.
a lamp,
a painting, a rug.
something fresh
and different
to adorn
the room.
a vase full of flowers,
a new table,
round
with chairs
all shades of blue.
something new
is needed.
maybe you.

Monday, June 22, 2015

more now than then

the dead are with you.
awake
while you're asleep.
they keep moving
staying alive
in dreams,
walking through
the quiet halls
on soft shoeless
feet. they are not
ghostly, not wan
or pale
no skeleton souls
without skin,
they are more than
me or you, they have
lived and have
come back
more real now
than then.

the last train

the train you were waiting
for has already come and gone.
you missed it.
the platform is empty.
your bag sits beside you.
you turn up your collar,
button your long
coat and look up the bend
of the empty rails
that disappear
into the woods.
the morning is quiet
and cold.
you stamp your feet
you look up to the white
winter sun that is hardly
a sun a all, just a pale
wafer, a reminder
of time gone by.
you could walk home
from here, but you'll
stay a little longer,
why not pretend, and wait
some more.

from the same tree

how different each child is.
the same blood,
the same father
the same mother. but as
different as the seasons
are, running hot or cold.
each blowing
in different directions.
each finding, or not
finding a way to live
to make life
easier on them and others
around them.
how different each child
is. each sister,
each brother.
all from the same tree,
the same ground.

the broken wrist

when pulling her up
from the chair where she's
been for hours.
after breakfast
then lunch, then sleeping
with the circle
of others
in front of the loud
tv, her wrist breaks.
she's heavy, she's a lead
weight for the women
that work there,
trying to get her to a
bathroom.
they know her scream.
they've heard this cry before.
so the women, now
two or three, get her
to her feet and call
the first number on the list,
her husband, and then
of children
that must come and take
her to the emergency
room.
the cast is new, white,
molded hard around her thumb.
it wraps around
her sting of purple veins.
the old tendons,
the brittle bones
that served her well
through all these years,
but now fail, having lost
the memory
of what needs to be done.


undone

she spills
sometimes. the tears.
the words.
the glass of her tilts
and out she comes.
all wet and soft,
unglued, undone.
wondering as everyone
does at some point,
what went wrong,
but it passes
and before long she's
back to being
an angel in white.
with wings.
flying strong.

summer plans

when I get back from china,
she says,
maybe we could have dinner
and catch up.
i'll be travelling all
summer through asia,
then japan, and maybe
a brief stop in Australia.
I should be gone for
several months.
then i'll be in cuba
for awhile. just to visit.
a short stop in
brazil and Venezuela.
but then i'll be back.
and you, what summer
plans do you have?
the beach you say. just
got a new suit and a new
chair, a new umbrella, last
years blew away.
might stay three nights.
love those boardwalk fries.

the baby garden

the garden
is behind a long glass
window.
this is where the babies
are.
growing in small boxes.
all colors
and sizes. quiet and loud.
a chorus of
squeaks and squeals.
eyes finding light,
fingers and arms
twirling, sprouting
free.
one by one they
come in, they leave
into the hands
of perplexed owners
wondering, what have
we done.

commerce

it's the push and shove
of the world
from door to door,
day until night
that keeps us moving.
the business of living,
the commerce
of life.
each sun
each moon a small mark
of a day gone by,
of a dollar earned
a dollar spent.
somewhere in between
there is more.
so you've heard.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

God's Will

under the bridge
you see them. canvas
stretches out
in make shift tents.
a small
fire, a gathering
of grey wool,
bundles of belongings.
a dog or two.
they rise
in the morning
and take their signs
and cups
to the road where
the traffic stops.
it's another world,
so different from me,
from you,
but not so far
that you couldn't join
them one day
God's will or not
set upon you.

fast forward

it is an instant
world
these days.
the express line,
the quick
mart,
the one stop
shop,
no delay.
instagram,
instant coffee,
instant love online,
no looking back,
no regrets,
no pondering the past.
it's all about
the now
and tomorrow.
we are trains
speeding along
on one way tracks.
we need to be places
in a hurry.
we have no time
to spare or lose.
the clock keeps
ticking.
our bags are forever
packed.

just one oyster

the last time
you ate a raw oyster,
just one slippery
inch long oyster
with lemon,
letting it slide
so easily down
your throat
you were in the intensive
care section
of your tiled
black and white
bathroom floor.
you made yourself
comfy, with towels
and water,
keeping the light off
while you whimpered
at the cold seat,
hugging it weakly,
making vows to God to never
eat anything like
that again.

remember

you remember
that there is something
you need to remember.
but what is it?
work, house, car,
someone you're supposed
to meet
at 7 or was it 8.
a list would be nice.
maybe that's what
you forget, you forget
to write a list
of things not to forget.
you tie a string
around your finger
maybe that will help.
but you doubt it.

the dark skies

the children
in the rain, shoeless,
their skinny
arms
waving to the sky,
running
through the steam
of the street
onto the green
lawn. how happy
they are being soaked
to their
young bones.
how breathless they
become
under the thunder,
part scared
part full of youthful
wonder,
but almost happy
to be called
in by parents who stare
differently
at the dark skies.

red wine

someone begins to talk
about wine.
red wine specifically.
the grapes,
the vines, the wineries
from here to napa county.
he pushes his glasses
up on his nose,
inhales his chest then
begins to teach.
you start to doze,
your mind wanders,
you stare at a lamb chop
on a plate
with other lamb chops
across the room.
you wonder if it's
better warm
or cold. is there
mint jelly?
how can you become
invisible
and move towards the food.

the party lights

in the almost dark,
the lights out,
candles are lit
and we move gently
through the house,
holding drinks and plates.
the blue darkness
of night
is illuminated
in the bloom
of lightning
crooked and silver
across the sky.
there is no hurry
for power to go on,
there is soft
resistance to it all,
making the night
easier adding
mysterious wonder
to the party
of poetry and prose.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

the parking prayer

you pray for work.
for love.
for wisdom.
you pray for others.
health
and wealth,
you ask for forgiveness,
you pray for mercy.
you pray for your child,
the children
of others.
your prayers are thoughts
flying up
out of your imagination.
so many prayers
are given.
some answered, some ignored.
but right now you pray
for a parking
spot so that you don't
have to walk
ten blocks to where
you're going.

in her lemon dress

in her lemon shoes
and matching
handbag,
her summer dress
aglow
ripples in
the breeze, that yellow
too.
she is a citrus
drink but sweetened,
stirred pretty,
a clear glass of cool.

a better idea

the tilt a whirl
goes round and round
with screaming
children,
i can hardly look at it
without getting
dizzy and feeling grey
butterflies in my stomach
wanting to fly out.
the same goes for the ferris
wheel, the roller coaster
and scrambler.
all rides i wore out
when young
and more adventurous.
but now, i like to stare
at the ocean. both feet
planted firmly in the sand.
that's enough
excitement and motion
for the most part
that i need, unless
you have a better idea.

shining shoes

you haven't shined
a shoe
in ages, although you used to.
taking the little
leather bag out
with polish, a brush
and rag going at it
hard and long
holding the shoe up to
the light
to see how well
you've done.
you don't shine shoes
anymore.
one of many things on your
growing list
of things you no
longer do, such as chase
and worry,
wonder what's become
of you.

baker park

she lived
in old baker park.
where the church bells
on sunday morning would wake
us up. loud clangs of metal
echoing through
the square,
one after the other.
they'd rattle the windows,
vibrating
the old house.
shaking plaster free
from the ceiling.
stirring
us both towards each
other, to a different
kind of music.

sleeping in

how quickly morning comes.
the birds outside
the window
noisy in their winged way.
busy already
with what they need to do
with their
unscheduled day.
how nice it is to lie
here and do nothing, but
lie here.
staring at the circle
the ceiling fan takes.
letting the light rise
and come through the blinds,
the parted curtain.

Friday, June 19, 2015

some books

some books you can't put down,
savoring each word,
each turn of plot. you don't
want them to end.
others, no matter what the high
praise blurbs read
you can hardly hold
them in your hand, drag your
eyes across another line.
these books are quicksand.
heavy and thick, good for one
thing, holding the door open
when the wind picks up
and swings.

the italian vase

when the vase hits the floor,
after moving the wobbled leg
of its stand, it misses
the corner of the thick
oriental rug and strikes
the floor with a thud.
it doesn't crack into pieces,
no shards, no corners or curves,
instead, it turns to dust.
a cloud rises like a small
bomb of ancient clay
in the dining room.
this makes her laugh and say
don't worry about it.
i'm going to Italy next month.
i'll get another one.

saying goodbye

I want to go home,
she cries, gripping your arm.
I've been here
too long.
how long though, she doesn't
really know.
each day has melted
into the next,
weeks becoming months.
her body has curled into
the chair she sits on.
she can't remember much.
your name, her name,
but very little more.
you lie to her when you leave.
you tell her that you'll
work on getting her
back home, back to her
kitchen, her yard,
her blue parakeets
in their cage.
you tell her you'll be
right back. right back,
you say, then kiss
her on the cheek and leave
turning around once more,
to see her wave.

riding away

you dream about her horse.
you are riding it
despite having no riding
skills whatsoever.
she's surprised when she
sees you coming up the path.
her hair is pulled down
and flows around
her shoulders, black
and shiny in the sunlight.
her face is smooth
and young, her eyes clear.
you offer her a kiss as
you dismount and hand
her the reins, to which she
replies no, then slides
onto the horse, and rides
slowly away. it's a bittersweet
dream, one you'll think about
all day.

the tomato garden

you try to think of how
many times
you've moved in your life
time.
maybe eighteen or nineteen.
maybe less,
maybe more.
your parents are to blame
for most of those
moves, but the last
few are all yours, moving
for someone you fell in
love with for an hour
or two. but you're done
with that. this feels like
a good stopping place.
you may even plant tomatoes
at some point.

the going away party

your ex wife moves
to texas with her husband
who is no longer her new husband
after six years, for
who can be new after
that stretch of time.
her friends throw her a
going away party
with cake and food,
drinks. small parting
gifts. a farewell banner
stretches from
one yellow kitchen wall
to the other.
the photos are on facebook,
for how else would you know.
strangely they
all are wearing small cowboy hats
and large black
mustaches, stuck to their
upper lips. men, the women too.
this may be
politically incorrect
on some level,
but they look like they
are having fun.
many of them used to be
your friends, but they
chose a side as people
are prone to do when a marriage ends,
but that's fine and dandy partner,
for everyone, including you.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

giving blood

the nurse taps the crook
of your out stretched arm
and says,
you have good veins.
they're easy to find.
she wraps a tight band
around your arm, above
the elbow, then brings
the hidden syringe around,
you don't have to look
if you don't want to,
she says with a smile.
but look you do.
the silver needle goes
in with a small pinch,
and you see the ruby cloud
of blood
being pulled from you
into the glass tube.
when you wake up,
you're on a white cot,
there is a glass of
orange juice on the tray
and three oatmeal cookies
with raisons.
you feel the small lump
on your head,
then take a bite of
a cookie wishing they
were chocolate chip.

seven miles away

if the rain stops
you'll go out.
you'll take a ride
on your bike.
if not, you'll stay in
and eat
too much lemon pie.
it all depends
on the weather
what you do in this life.
if it's cold
and icy, you won't take
her to the movies.
you'll stay
home and watch again,
the big lebowski, you
might even take
the time to write about it.
it's times like these,
bad weather days
when your mother would
call and say,
is it raining there.
it's pouring here, hailstones
are coming down
like ice cubes,
always thinking there
was a thousand
miles between us,
when she was only seven
miles away.

ginger bread

you wonder at times what ginger
is doing.
where is she.
is she back with her lover,
is she working,
appraising furniture
and art, sliding her long
hand across
an old piece of wood,
or porcelain vase,
or is she asleep
in her new hammock
that stretches across
her yard, is she
dressing herself to the nines,
because she can.
you wonder about her
walks, alone, around the lake,
through the woods.
what is she thinking?
does she imagine her life
being different
than it is now. does she
wonder about you?

the conversation

they made you nervous,
these people on the street
having conversations
with someone not there.
but not anymore.
you understand
their isolation.
their desire, their
longing to be heard.
when you had a dog
you often spoke to him
in thoughtful ways,
sometimes asking questions,
to which he looked
at you with love
and understanding, replying
in the best way
he knew how, with a loud
bark, or wise silence.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

the red scar

she shows you her
scar. lifting her white
blouse.
a straight red line
where they went in.
they being
doctors, surgeons
all masked
and smart
making things right
again.
sleepily she lay
there, away in a dream
as they stitched her back up.
good as new,
she remembers someone
saying, as
she blinked her eyes
and came to.

south of north

this summer peach,
all fuzz
and pink
in her new shoes,
her new dress
a smile
akin to a smirk,
something she
knows or thinks
of you,
you guess.
you hear the Carolina
in her voice,
in the lilt
of lips
as the words
spill out, soft
and sultry.
she's the pale
blue ceiling
on the wide front
porch, somewhere
south of your north.

stewed tomatoes

you remember the Dixie cups
of stewed tomatoes
in the school cafeteria.
it was warm like thick
soup, just a ladle full
of the reddish congealed goo
splashed into the cups
then lined in rows.
nearly every day
there they were.
you never saw a single
kid take one and put it on
his tray.
but the netted food
nurses behind
the counter,
in the bright hot
kitchen with oversized
stoves
kept stirring and
setting more out.
what became of any of it,
who knows.
but till this day, not
once have you asked
anyone anywhere for
a Dixie cup full of
tomatoes pureed.

no roars

the zoo
is not a pleasant place
to visit.
despite
the black and white
rolly polly
pandas,
in reality they'd tear
your eyes out
with those claws
if given half a chance,
they'd be on the bus
or train
if they could find a way out.
the lions have lost
their bite,
the battle is over.
you get no roar from them.
and the screeching monkeys
deep down inside
know that it's all
for show, swinging
from bar to bar
and back again.
there are no frightened
children. they walk
along bored,
licking their wands of cotton
candy and move on
to the snakes, who lazily
curl and slither
below the soft straw
in their cage, needing therapy
for what's become
of them.

the acceptance

you get an acceptance notice
in the mail.
we'd like to print your
poem, The Parents Below,
in an upcoming issue
of the new York magazine.
you begin to sweat
and walk around the house.
you tell no one.
you look at the poem again.
every word needs to be
changed,
the punctuation is horrible.
the topic bizarre and easily
misconstrued.
is that word spelled correctly.
how could you possibly
send such a bad poem out
into the world.
you hardly sleep that night.
you place the notice
on the nightstand
far away from the glass of wine.
weeks go by. months go by.
you browse the magazine
at the bookstore.
your poem never appears.
finally one day you open
up the obituaries in the new
York times
and you see his picture.
the editor who accepted
your poem has died.
you are saved.

rejection letters

the rejection letters
come back like a flock
of wingless doves,
crinkled and coffee
stained on cheap paper,
kind words
saying sorry, but no.
the editors eligible
smudge at the bottom.
you pin them to the wall
next to the others.
a patchwork of square
notes,
a quilted bed of sorrys,
of try agains,
it's not our type of poetry
or prose. but keep writing,
keep reading, who knows,
keep at it
and maybe one day you'll
be worthy
of seeing in print
something that you wrote.
you pay no mind
to any of it. they don't own
you, at least not yet.

in fifty feet make a u-turn

your gps keeps saying
in her lilting tone,
turn around here,
make a u-turn,
go left, go right.
take the next turn
three point two miles ahead.
it nags you the entire
way home,
as if you didn't have
a clue as to where
you were going
or coming from.
you never listen to me,
she says
in her sweet robotic voice,
you just keep
driving and ignoring
every direction I give
you. why do you even
bother turning me on?

the entree

it may be the smallest
crab cake
you've ever seen
sitting on a white plate.
it's positioned sad and lonely
next to a dollop
of something that
may be cabbage
drenched in vinegar
and pepper.
no bread, no potatoes,
no salad.
you could eat all of
it in one bite,
but that would be rude
so you nibble
at the edges
thinking of places
you can stop at
and then really
eat on the way home.

the gold wrench

your plumber in his Mercedes benz
pulls up
with his coffee, tanned
and heavy from
a long vacation
in the Caymans.
he has a gold wrench in
the deep back pocket
of his pristine
overalls.
it's just a leaky faucet
you tell him.
I could probably fix
it, but I know nothing
about plumbing.
this makes him laugh
as he heads
to the sink to twist
a valve closed.
twenty minutes later
you push in a wheel barrow
full of money
to which he says,
thanks, and wheels
it out to his car.

a good spot

there is no meter,
no sign
as to how long you can
stay
and park
your life
next to hers.
there is no yellow
curb,
or posting
telling you when
to leave.
there is only
her in a white dress
standing in
the window waving
you in, saying, that's
a good spot,
that's fine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

she's coming around

she may be coming around.
she may actually be showing
signs of affection.
a plate of cookies,
not oatmeal and without
raisons is a good start.
telling you that your shirt
is misbuttoned is another
sign that she cares.
how nice of her to point
out that you have
a green strand of spinach
in your teeth. who does that?
only someone who really cares.
this could be it.
true love at last.
she's coming around.
sometimes she'll even
text and say she's making soup
or taking the dog
for a walk, or mention
how nice the moon is tonight.
you're full of butterflies
and hope when you look
up and text back and say yes,
I see it too. both of us are
under the same moon
together.

the hour glass

this sand
in the hour glass.
trickling
through the narrow
opening, how you'd like
to turn it back
over and start
again.
each day a single
grain
taken back
and redone the way
it should have
been
from the beginning.

snakeville

she's wary of snakes
in her yard,
singing loudly to scare
them away,
using the end of a broom
to walk her way
through, swinging
it to and fro.
stepping lightly
through the weeds
and tall grass.
black snakes
and copperheads
are everywhere, under
the steps,
in folds of soft dirt
and trees gone
down from last
winters storm.
she pulls up her boots,
and gingerly
steps to the gravel
driveway where she
hops into her old car
to drive away.
it's a long summer
with a yard
full of snakes.

summer school

it's easy, but just
being there is hard.
no one cares.
the books are opened
like lead weights,
outside it's hot.
it's nice.
everyone else is running
wild.
summer school.
and these teachers
making a few extra
dollars to tide them
over. blinking
their tired eyes,
yawning
at the clock.
no one wants to be there,
but there you are
with bonehead english,
spelling and history,
math
and chemistry,
slugging it out
for a grade that lets
you pass
and move on to your
life, such as it is
or will be.

Monday, June 15, 2015

the sweetest fruit

you rap your knuckles
against the green striped
melon in the grocery store.
it sounds good, ripe
and red, hard skinned
and shiny,
sweet with black
slippery seeds.
the first melon of summer.
you split it open
with the big knife
from the kitchen drawer,
then bite into it
with messy lips
and teeth, the juices
run down your chin.
it's almost perfect,
this fruit, though not as good,
to this day,
as the ones you stole
from the long rows
and vines at St. Elizabeth's
farm, so long ago.

those days

the rain falls easily
on this summer night.
a soft patter of drops
against the roof,
the patio. no wind,
no thunder or lightning,
just a nice gentle
rain easing its way
down from grey clouds.
warm and embracing.
how it reminds of your
love and kisses. so
easy to come by in
those days.

the stepfather

he was a coupon clipper.
a light switch
miser. he set
a limit on the hot
water usage
in the shower,
turning it to cold
when the clock
ran out.
if a light was left
on he broke it with
a broom handle
leaving the glass
for you to step on.
everything was generic
from toothpaste
to bread,
to peanut butter
and red sauce.
if the trash didn't go
out, it was
in your brother's bed,
rotting garbage
between the sheets
and pillows.
no phone call was without
him on the other end.
forty years of slavery,
your mother suffered
under this second husband.
he wasn't evil, but
close to it, and now
he lives alone, alone
except for the mice he catches,
the neighbors of a different
color he despises.
caged in his own self
made world, no friends,
no children,
waiting for judgment
under the one 25 watt
bulb he keeps lit in his
bedroom. waiting
for judgment
which in many ways
has already come.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

a woman waiting

the slender
woman in a summer
dress, white
and plain,
is standing near a door
awaiting
someone to arrive.
she's cool
and patient
with her tilted hat
just so,
her hands folded
in front of her.
she seems in no hurry,
she is where
she needs to be,
there is no where else
she needs to go.
her eyes are hidden
behind dark glasses.
almost smiling,
strangely aglow.

the dying

it's easier to mend
and care
for the sick
than it is being sick
and having
to be waited upon.
it's not a bad thing
to die young,
to die suddenly
and be gone.
no lingering in bed,
prodded
and pulled in all
directions, each
one leading to a painful
elongated death.
what is there to say
to the dying
that isn't weak and full
of tomorrows,
your job, your children,
your life
is ahead of you,
all of it spilling out
in awkward words.
what is there that
the dying can say in return,
but farewell, over
and over again
with each old passing
day.

the empty chair

how different the room
looks, that empty chair,
yours, near the window.
the one dish
and setting
at the table,
the vase empty of white
roses,
the photo that you
took with you,
leaving a spot bare.
how different
the bed is with one
not there,
the extra room,
the pillows,
a blanket no longer
pulled
and bargained for,
no need to share.

two bodies

it is the body
beside another body.
the warm hip
the cold feet,
the hand or arm that
stretches casually
across another
as they sleep.
love is simple in this way.
two bodies
lying in bed, making
it work
with the soft music
of touch
and acceptance.

all winners

humility and grace
seem like ancient ideas
these days.
everyone has a horn to blow,
and blow
they do, no matter how
thin their glory
might be.
everyone a king
a queen,
there are no losers
anymore, the world is
full of winners
no matter how bad
the score becomes.

Queen Jane

the queen is unhappy.
she sits on her throne
all day and ponders
gloomily what's gone wrong.
where is my king?
where are the promises
of my once youthful beauty.
where are my suitors,
why doesn't the door bell
ring. why is the phone
silent. why am I left
with broken knights
and failed princes from
far away lands. why have all
the good men been taken
or slain on the field
of battle. court jester,
come closer, I've never
noticed how blue your
eyes are. tell me a joke,
what's your name?

protesters

let's go protest down
at the white house,
your friend laura suggests
while painting black nail polish
on her nails.
she adjusts the stick pin
in her eye brow.
come on, it'll be fun.
make some signs, walk around
and be annoying. scream and yell,
like we used to do back in the day.
we haven't been arrested
or even tear gassed in ages.
what should we protest?
I think we've done everything.
war, abortion, immigration,
jobs, the government.
animal rights. wall street.
save the whales.
I don't know, she says, there
must be something else
we can get worked up about.
how about coffee prices,
do you know what a grande
vanilla bean frappuccino is these days?
I don't know, you tell her.
it's really hot out and there's
a big game coming on tv.
plus my knee hurts.
we could go up to the store,
get some food and drinks
and come back to watch the game.
yeah, okay. I guess so.
i'm kind of tired anyway.
plus, I've got a load of clothes
in the washer,
but next weekend, let's find
a new cause and do it.
you're on, you tell her.
next weekend.


the blood test

you've never seen her this happy.
she is dancing a jig
while waving a sheet of paper
in the air,
spinning like a pin wheel
across the floor.
you've never seen her move
in a such a carefree
girlish way, her feet alive
with music only she can hear.

the hammock

the world is sleepy,
it wilts in this heat.
the shimmer on the black tar
rises like airy glass,
bodies are hot
and linger, stretched
out on the swinging
hammock, the animals
in the woods
are still too,
quiet inside the nooks
of cool shadows
of thick trees.
you find a place
to wait it out,
a cold drink sweating
in your hot hand
while you wipe wet salt
from your squinting
ocean eyes.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

turning fifty

she plans her own
party.
the milestone party
of turning fifty.
she reserves
the most expensive place
in town.
the plane tickets
for people flying in,
the seating, the menu,
each bottle of wine,
everything is planned
down to the colors
of the balloons.
she believes that this is
a turning point in her life.
that it may be down
hill from here.
it's less a celebration
of life now,
and more of one of
dreaded fear.

the good thief

the thief believes
in stealing what isn't his.
the world owes him.
the dumb stranger who
leaves a purse
unattended or a car
running in the lot
is asking for trouble,
he is teaching them
to live differently,
to lock their windows,
their doors, to hide
their valuables in a place
where he can't find
them, so few they are.
in some ways he believes
he is doing good,
as he slips inside a room
to relieve these people
of the burdens
that keep them falsely
happy and warm.

the long season

each game means something,
each game
means nothing.
it's a long season,
as it is with baseball,
and this she believes
makes it okay
for mistakes.
for lovers that shouldn't
be lovers,
for missteps
along the way towards
the real deal
the one, the forever
and ever hallmark
card keeper. an error
on the field of play,
a fat pitch
down the middle
knocked into the seats,
another string of
losses, it's all okay.
there are more games
ahead of her, this was
just one, whatever was
his name.

Friday, June 12, 2015

ocean front 1968

it's a small room,
but you can see the beach,
the long stretch of blue
against the soft warm sands
of summer. the dotted leaps
of porpoise, freighters,
plowing slowly on the horizon.
before that the beaten boards
of the board walk. splintered and warped,
the benches full of runaways
and elders who remember a cleaner
place, a better life.
the crowds pass by
between a small set of curtains
pulled back on the screenless
window, a yellow ribbon holding
the sheer panels tied
to a screw. there's a toilet
down the hall with a sign
that says out of order.
you can smell the fries,
the chicken, the pizza
through the walls,
wafting through the thin
floor, the tin roof.
it's a world floating up
into your room
as you lie back on a sheetless
mattress, striped and stained,
an ashtray on the dresser
without knobs. you can hear
a transistor radio playing
the Doors, come light my fire,
and the banging of pin ball
machines next door.
the coconut oils swim
in the air, the sun tan lotions,
the grass smoldering and brew.
it's another day, in another summer,
in a shared five dollar
ocean front room.

her moon

she's out there.
on her moon. sometimes late
at night you can see her
skipping across
the white lunar
surface, light on her feet,
kicking up moon dust,
her hair in a pony tail.
she's such a wonderful
happy person making
impossible wishes on
any falling star.
you could fall in love
with a girl like that.
if only she wasn't
so far away.

one way conversation

you fall in love
with a woman who doesn't like
to talk on the phone.
or in person,
or text, or email,
unless it concerns her,
of course.
which is fine.
you're not much of a blabber
mouth yourself.
you can listen and ask
the right questions
when given the rare brief
window to speak.
sometimes you put the phone
down and fold
a basket of clothes.
you make a pot roast,
or run up to the store.
you walk the dog.
sometimes you wonder if you
really do love her,
or maybe you're just saying
that because
you don't know what else
to say.
or you haven't been given
a chance.

your tomorrow fund


over the years
you've put a few
pennies away, here and there.
your savings,
your retirement fund.
sometimes you go look
at the jar
in the closet and rub your hand
across
the cold glass.
you lean over and kiss it
and say, hey.
then you toss in some more
change from your lint
filled pocket.
you've thrown in a few
dimes too, nickels,
the rare quarters and kennedy
half dollars.
you think about
the few days this jar
might buy you down the road,
what beach can you go visit
for a day or two.

the hairless cat

her hairless
cat sits skinny and grey
fleshed, cold
eyed on the sill.
the skin is like that
of a pale peach,
though dark, and molted.
the blue almond
eyes are too large,
the howl too rough
and full of angst,
the cat looks full of sin,
and evil. it appears
as if it may sprout
wings and join
the bats on a midnight
fly to go suck
blood from the ankle
of an unsuspecting cow.


my main man

his life
revolves around a dying
sun.
just yesterday
he was t-boned in an intersection
while drinking
a bunker
of Michelob light
from a frosted
mug.
last week his probation
ended
for malicious wounding
in a bar fight,
a misunderstanding
of political views
was how he put it.
but the recent eviction
and the sudden
move
to a shelter
are all just temporary
set backs, he says,
smiling showing
a jagged keyboard
of teeth,
then asks if you have
a cigarette, or a match.
when you see him,
he seems happy
as his legs sink
into the slow quicksand
hole he lives in.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

it can wait

there's a point
in putting things off.
maybe an hour,
a day, even next week.
what's the rush
in folding those clothes,
you know exactly where they
are, and when to put them on.
you have no
garden party planned,
let the weeds
be, let the dishes sit
in the sink
for awhile. let them
rest and not worry
about what the next meal
might be.
why make the bed when
sleep is coming in a few
hours anyway.
that fly buzzing around
the house. sure, you could
chase him, or her
and swat it with
the newspaper, but you
aren't in a killing mood.
you're more in the mood
for a nap.
that knock at the door,
Mormons, let them knock.
what's rush, you've
heard the spiel before.
that phone ringing,
let it ring, you have
nothing to give to the
purple heart this week
anyway.

half full

she says that she's a cup
half full
kind of girl.
then does a few push ups
and stretches
on the floor.
i'm getting younger
she says, as you stare
at the silver
roots protruding from
the part in her hair.
it's all about a positive
attitude. eating kale
and beans. doing yoga
and meditation.
I bet I could even help
you she says,
not quite touching
her toes, but stopping
near her knees.
here, help me up. I think
i'm done for now.
let's go get that drink.

who isn't crazy

hard to be rational
with crazy people. but who isn't
crazy these days.
who isn't on meds,
on something to clear
or numb their
heads. who isn't out
on some ledge
of work, or love gone
sour, parents
still pulling on the reins.
children unable to grow up.
it's hard to talk
to these people.
it's best to just listen,
let them rant
and rave. let them
pour out the words, empty
their heads like bee hives
struck by a stick.
just be careful
of the sting.

fade away

a slow day, compressed
in the heat. the sweat
making you melt
and disappear in pieces,
from head to soggy boot
you slip
and slide toward
quitting time.
you leave hardly a trace
of where you were,
just a drying puddle
as your shadow
fades away.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

your cloud

your cloud,
the one above you.
dark and full of yesterdays,
fat with rain
darkens the room.
it's hard to be near
you with your cloud.
your sleet and hail,
your constant
storm of self,
the wetness of regret
and angry winds,
the constant gloom.
I have no answer for it.
I can only step towards
that spot of light
like a dog
finding sun, and move.

fresh fish

the fish are cold
in rows
on ice
behind the clean
slant
of lit glass.
in muted whites
and grey
black dotted
some striped.
the flat tilt of eyes
unseeing,
the wave and bend
of bone and flesh
at rest,
the glory of life
now stilled.
you press on with
your cart
and try not to
think too much about
it.

verbs and nouns

her bags are packed.
her passport is in hand.
lipstick on.
shoes, and skirt.
her travel guide and map.
she's arranged
for her plants to be watered,
her cat fed,
her mail
taken in, and her calls
forwarded
to her cell phone.
she's even made her bed.
she takes one last look
around then goes down
the elevator to get into
the cab who waits
with the trunk open.
soon she'll be in a plane
heading south.
to another land that speaks
another language,
another world.
teaching once more.
a gunslinger with a book
of verbs and nouns.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

never mind

never mind these things.
these little things
these small
pebbles in your shoe.
shake them free
and go on.
there's time.
disregard the no
the can't, the never.
never mind these things
they say you can't
do. go on, there's
time, more years
ahead for you.

fade away

how nice
of snow to melt
taking with it winter,
for sand to smooth
out from a fresh set
of waves.
how nice
to have things fade
gently into the past,
the yellow curl
of old photographs,
hardly a scar left
on the heart or arm, or
bitter taste on the tongue.
how nice of life
and memory
to give us a way to forget
and move on.

once bitten

the garden
of eden
seems to have been
full of many
fruits.
apples
and figs,
and enough
leaves
to cover shame
once bitten
for two.

visitors

it's always a surprise
how animals
can squeeze their way
into small holes
in the roof,
the attic, the floors
and walls.
it's such a tiny
opening we like to say.
how did they get in
there, and now
that they've settled in,
they won't leave
or go away.

classy

it's a small powder room.
hardly large enough
to turn around and sit,
or really powder your nose,
if anyone really did
such a thing,
but the customer insists
on wallpaper. paper left
over from a hotel job
a dozen years ago.
a throw away bolt of thirty six
inch wide, hard as nails
vinyl paper, paper
you can't bend with a
pair of vise grips.
paper that will need
extra heavy clay based paste
to get it to adhere
and stay put, never to be
stripped down,
but she wants it on her
walls. it will look classy
she says. classy.
I have an oil painting
that will go perfect
in here.

you wait some more

the water won't boil.
you look away
for a minute or two.
still, no bubbles.
you take a walk to
the back door and throw
the dog a ball
across the yard.
he stares at you
and paws at your leg.
he wants you to get it.
you go back into
the kitchen.
still no boiling water.
you turn the heat up higher.
you look at your watch.
not a minute has passed.
you look at your
reflection in the toaster,
you brush your eyebrows
down, you look at your
teeth, that little
blemish on your chin.
finally, you hear
the water cascading over
the side of the boiling
pot. you throw
the tri-colored penne
pasta into the cauldron.
you wait some more.

the boat ride

the family.
all sizes, are standing on the pier
with their oars.
there is yelling,
and jostling for positions.
the orange life jackets
make them look
like fat bees. they stand
and wait in line from front
to finish, the mom
then dad.
the little ones, teetering
towards the water
and the wobbling canoes.
the teenage girl, bored,
sighs why are we doing this?
one by one
they are helped down
into the long boat,
the mom repeating
don't anyone stand up,
stifling the tears of
the smallest one with candy
from a plastic bag.
you watch them as the father
takes the oars, silent
as the horizon,
and pushes away, digging
deep into the shallow
water, trying to hard
to paddle to a place
he can no longer get to.

summer afternoons

as you stand at the kitchen
counter, dicing celery,
peppers and shrimp,
you look out the window.
the children are lost
in their skips and runs,
their game of tag,
circling the courtyard
like bees. the world is
full of honey at times
like these. the days are
long and warm.
their lives stretch before
them like rainbows without
ends. you listen to their
voices, hardly noticing
the blood in the sink
from the careless knife
that has cut your skin.

enlightenment

the age of enlightenment
at sixteen or seventeen,
is a strange and wonderous thing.
that sudden epiphany
of how dumb and senseless
the world is.
parents and elders,
jobs and school
is like a sudden beam
of light entering
your brain, but it fades
in times, this full knowledge
of what it all means.
you can't be holden
caufield forever, although
you never stop
from trying.
,

Monday, June 8, 2015

swimming lessons

the boy tossed
into the lake, can't swim,
but the father
says swim boy, swim,
move your arms
your legs.
this is what life is.
the boy goes under,
thrashing,
gasping for air,
gulping in the cold
brown water.
swim, he says, swim,
using the oar
to keep his small
fingers
from gripping
from the boats edge.
kick those legs boy,
move those arms,
you have to want it.
you have to want to
not drown and die,
now swim boy, swim.
you can be me,
if you try.

farm boy

you miss your farm.
your chickens.
that cow.
the horses and goats.
those pigs in their muddy
pen.
how you long to get
up at sunrise
to the rooster's crow again,
fetching eggs
from the coop,
filling the cold
bucket with milk
from the mooing cows.
how you miss the fields
of corn. the plowing
and harvesting
of potatoes and beans,
the rows and rows
of radishes
that you plucked from
the ground on bended knees,
stacking hay
until sunset in the barn.
you miss praying for rain,
then praying for it
to stop.
you miss your farm,
but this new condo
in the city is kind of
nice too with wi-fi
and a pool.

don't believe her

you asked her once
what she wanted for her birthday
to which she replied
nothing. I want nothing.
but there must be something
you desire, a watch, necklace
a new ring to wear beside
the old ring. a pair of shoes,
no, she said
I have everything I need
or want, I long for
nothing. well, what about
dinner out, or in, i'll
cook for you, whatever
meal you crave. flowers
and wine, candles, we'll
put some music on and dance.
we could have a small party.
oh no, she said, sighing,
please, don't go through any
trouble for me, it's just
another birthday, please
don't worry about it
or do a thing. i'll just
spend the day quietly,
pretend it never came.
you don't mean that, you
told her, but yes, she
said, I really do.

walking

it isn't long
before the woman has set
the baby down,
almost walking
tipping and wobbling
her way
down the long
cool sidewalk
this morning. the mother
in her work
dress not far behind
with hands on hips,
watches as
her daughter moves
slowly away, already
venturing to the side
of her own young life.

the box

a box comes in the mail.
you see the squared
brown truck pull
away, chugging up to
another street.
it's a large box
sitting on your porch
blocking your door.
you sit beside it
and read the return
address. you can't
decide whether to open
it or not, or just
send it back, whatever
it might be.
slowly you pull back
the strips of tape,
then pull the side
open. just a note,
handwritten lies inside.
the rest is empty
and dark. nothing.
this is how I feel
without you it says.

her lake, your lake

she calls you from her
lake,
as you walk around
the broad band of
gravel and paved
trails of yours.
she tells you about
the pebbled silver
of the flat
water as she turns
a bend and stares at
the warm sun
going down. you tell
her about the soft
blue lap
of waves, just ripples
melting into
one another, then
sand. separated by
miles, you walk together
on this late
afternoon in a circle,
not quite, but almost
hand in hand.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

noisy and cold

it's not the pipes
at night, groaning with
the exhale of cold air,
or the floors that creak
under the weight
of no one.
it's not the singing
of wind
through the creases
of windows
and screens, untight
doors. it's not the walls,
cracking slowly,
aching with time, holding up
it all, it's none of this
that makes the house
noisy and cold,
it's the absence of you
alone.

why now

with three of her friends
together, mourning
in mild celebration
her passing,
at the beach house,
you each wrote a note
to her,
a note of love
and friendship.
saying all the sweet things
never said when
she was alive.
you rolled the notes
and pushed them
into a bottle of
emptied white wine,
her favorite,
corked it
then tossed it out
into the sea.
in less than three minutes
the bottle was
back on shore.
with one note inside,
reading
why now are you being
so nice to me.

how love begins

a stray cat
without a collar
appears at your door.
striped boldly
in grey and black,
some white fluffed in.
green eyes
like lanterns peer
into your house,
you can hear the purr
of hunger,
of needing affection.
it wants out of the rain.
you know this cat.
so you let her in,
sometimes this is how
love begins.

can't text i'm drvng

you pocket dial.
you misword
texts. sending out
convoluted automatic
phrases, your speaker
phone is too
loud, there's a buzz.
your communication
skills
have atrophied to
the point of nearly
going mute,
you have become
quasimoto in the tower
swinging from
a bell, having
whittled words
down to thnks and k, ha
ltr, and i'm drvng.

don't go there

your curiousness gets the better
of you at times.
you can't help but click
on the page leading you to
the twenty worst plastic
surgeries gone wrong. and then
it's celebrities you will
no longer recognize,
then people in Walmart
and what they buy.
you waste an hour or two
of your life, infecting your
computer with god knows what,
it slows itself down
to a crawl, and now your brain
and eyes are full of more
useless information,
but so it goes. you hover
over a page, about to click
on something that says,
ten beauty secrets they don't
want you to know, but move on
to mug shots of the rich
and famous.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

five gallons of chicken soup

you haven't broken any
sneezing records,
but you're close.
you have your hand on
the button to notify
the authorities
when you hit the magic
number. strange to have
the hiccups too,
while sneezing and
having to rid yourself
of the two gallons
of lemon tea you've drank
in the last two hours.
but you're on the mend.
you'll be better than new
once your ribs stop aching
from coughing
and carrying up the steps
five gallons of
chicken soup.

a better place

if they want to go to mars,
let them.
let them go
and start over there.
good luck with
that no water thing,
no coffee shops,
or air.
take along some crazy
pills,
you'll need them for
those long
martian nights.
bring sunscreen and some
books to read,
after awhile, staring
at earth
will make you wish
you stayed
and tried harder there
to make it a better
place.

cakes

her cakes and pies
are metaphors.
sweet bites of pastry.
kisses?
perhaps, but
the calories add
up, and you have to move
the notch on your belt
to keep
your pants from being
too tight.

the dancing nurse

i'm only doing this to get
through nursing school
ginger tells you on her break.
I don't like doing this,
but I do like to dance,
I just wish I didn't have
to take my clothes off.
i'd like to just get up
and dance. but then you
wouldn't make as many tips
you tell her. yeah, I know.
and I really want to be a
nurse one day. maybe a
even a doctor, or a brain
surgeon. cool, you tell
her sipping on your twelve
dollar beer and looking
at the next dancer
on the podium, shaking
herself crazily to a song
you've never heard before.
she wants to be a lawyer,
divorce lawyer to be exact,
ginger says, pointing to
the girl who is slipping
out of her underwear
and now tossing it into
the air. it lands on your
head, which makes the crowd
go wild. with two fingers
you pluck it off and toss
it back towards the stage.
is there anyone here that just
wants to be a stripper?
no, not really, she says.
but hey, nice chatting.
I have to get ready for
my next set. i'll give you
a lap dance later, if you
want. it's only a hundred
dollars, but i'll give you
one for fifty. I need to buy
books for my next semester
of classes.

Friday, June 5, 2015

the robbery

you make a turn down
a dark alley
where a man appears
with a gleaming long knife
and says, give me all
of your money.
sure, you say, just
don't stab me.
I don't like pain,
and i'm not ready to die.
I faint when I see blood,
especially if it's coming
out of me.
look, I have a ten
and some ones. is
that enough to save
my life. no wallet?
he says, no cell phone?
you hand him your cell phone.
what is that, a Samsung 4,
good god man.
do you know that phone is
over two years old. I bet
you don't even have any
good apps on there, do you?
give me your car keys.
you give him everything.
he opens the wallet
and takes out your
library card.
what the hell is this
he says. who goes
to the library anymore,
ain't you heard of
the internet. yes. you
say. sure, but I like
the feel of books in my
hand. the printed words,
the ink, the hard back
copy. haven't you ever
heard of kindles? he says,
grimacing at my lack
of modern day devices.
what's wrong with you?
he puts the knife down
and shakes the wallet.
no credit cards?
no pictures of a girlfriend,
a wife, some sort of family.
not even a dog? wow.
here, take everything back.
I can't rob you.
just give me the ten.

summer bug

the summer flu
slays you.
the lungs full
and wheezing, a
headache, itchy, cold
and chills,
the ache of muscles
and bones you forgot
you had.
soup everyone says.
chicken soup
and fluids. get some
rest. take a hot bath.
do nothing, but
you have not patience
for illness,
you become an infant
in a crib crying,
stabbing at the light
with pink feet
and fingers.

At the Roosevelt

it's one squared building
L shaped and squat, nine floors
perhaps, a balcony to each
with a sliding glass
door for which
to see the splash of a
blue pool set off behind
barbed wire to the side
of a striped parking lot.
beyond that is the highway
that travels in and out of the city.
the hallways are long,
vanilla paint, scuffed flat
and scarred by incessant
moving in and moving out.
the doors are brown.
each floor the same,
with it's checked carpet
or linoleum, buffed dull
whether traveling left
or to the right.
the elevator clanks
and squeals, it strains to pull you up.
no pets allowed, but you hear
the muffled bark of
one, or two dogs, and see
curled on many sills
fat cats staring at the birds
tree high, out of paws
reach.
the laundry room is gloomy
beside the cages of bikes
and tables for outside use, umbrellas.
stray socks and discarded
blouses and shorts lie on the slab
floor, amongst the tumbleweed
of lint and dust.
the washers and dryers
are both a porcelain white,
but streaked in rust. a coke
machine is bright and colored
in the corner, its red
lights strangely odd
against the cinder block walls.
no coins, it says taped over the slot
which is bent from being
pried, not open, but in anger
perhaps. you can smell
a dozen different countries
of food seeping through
the hallways, up the dank
stairwells. cabbage and rice,
chicken and curry, things boiled
and roasted, pan fried or delivered.
all somehow making its brew,
cooking together in disharmony.
the sign outside the building
says if towed, call this number.
you take special of that.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

red white and blue

there is no one to vote for.
not one
heart, not one mind,
not one good soul
who fits your idea
of what a candidate
should be.
they're dredging the lake
for more.
lining them up
like prisoners
against the wall.
all smiles, all pinned
and painted
red white and blue,
full of nothing but air.

slipping under

the quick sand
is not so quick
when you've stepped
inside it's loose grip.
it's a slow
surrender in the muck,
taking you inch
by inch down.
you call out for a rope,
a hand,
anything to help
you out.
but the world is silent
around you.
they too
are slipping under.

what you didn't know

you waited,
all of you waited
at different windows
facing the snowy
street where his car
might pull up.
you imagined him
with an arm full
of gifts, a trunk
overflowing.
he would be wearing
his long black coat,
brushing the flakes
of snow
from his blonde
hair, his blue eyes
aglow with love
and affection for
his children.
you waited,
all of you waited
at different windows.
only your mother
refused to look.
she knew what you
did not know.

cat and mouse

how timid
the mouse is
with the cat on the floor
peering
into
the dark hole at
the foot of the baseboard.
he's patient,
he has all night
to wander
when the cat is out
seeking what he
cannot find at home.
it's a game
this cat and mouse play
each day,
needing each
other to figure
the world out.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

i'm listening

the man you are working for
is lonely.
he follows you, leaning on
his cane.
an unlit pipe in his mouth.
he asks you about
the weather.
about the traffic coming in,
the price of gas. he shows
you a scar on his hand,
but doesn't tell you how
he got it.
he tells you he might have gout.
his wife is sleeping
upstairs.
we need to be quiet, he
says. we don't want to wake
her.
how old do you think I am,
he asks you,
most people think I'm younger.
what do you think.
thirty you say,
you don't look a day over
thirty. I like you he says.
maybe i'll let you go
back to work after I tell
you this story
about a fish I once caught.
put that paint brush down.
come over and sit for awhile.
i'll make us some coffee.

let's have a baby

if we have a baby, she says
maybe it will save
our marriage.
what about a cat, you
offer. you've always
be fond of cats.
didn't you have one
once?
we still do, she says.
over there.
you look to where she's
pointing.
a black and white cat
is sitting on the windowsill
taking a bath
by licking its paws
and rubbing them against
its ears. oh, you say.
never mind, she says.

anything that's green

your thumbs
are not green. trees
shun you. turn brown
at your touch.
plants recoil
when you approach.
even the grass and weeds
in your yard
recede as you step
forward to examine
their condition.
so you leave them
alone, let them be.
never bringing them
into your house.
it's mutual this
feeling you have
for anything that's
green.

fixing things

those men.
men of whiskey and cigarettes.
they were different then.
fixing things.
pulling tubes out of the backs
of televisions.
leaning under
the hood of their cars,
their thick hands working
on a greasy engine.
saying things like
try it now.
give it gas.
they could fix everything,
the lawn mower
that sputtered, the hinge
on the door.
the leaks, the drips.
broken windows.
they could fix everything,
almost, but who
they were.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

the new car

at the car dealership
you wait. the sun moves
slowly across the sky.
the salesman needs to talk
to the manager.
they need to drive your
old car around
and then come in and beat
you with a bag of nickels.
they tell you how bad of shape
it is. they tell you
they found a chicken bone
under the front seat.
they offer you coffee
in a small styrofoam cup.
you fill out a stack of forms.
you give them a vial
of blood.
someone comes over
and says open your mouth
and say ahhh.
turn around someone says.
hop on one foot.
recite the alphabet backwards
a voice yells out
from back near the water
cooler.
are you willing today to buy
this new car,
the salesman says.
maybe you say flinching as
he barks at you.
two skinny women wearing
pencil skirts come
over and pull your shoulders
back while pouring a bucket
of water on your face.
when you catch your breath
one of them says. are you ready
to buy today?
you nod as they towel you
down and hand you a pen.
the entire sales staff circles
you. the manger too comes over
and prods you with a pitchfork.
seven hours later.
you have a new car.

city of light

while separating your black
socks from the laundry
basket, she sends you a message
from Paris, yes that Paris,
the one in France.
she sends a picture of her
climbing the Eifel Tower,
sipping wine, wearing big
sunglasses,
eating snails and baguettes,
cheese and duck.
she tells you about all
the museums she's visiting.
about how small the mona lisa
painting really is.
she says she might rent
a bicycle and just roam
the countryside with some
garcon she met last night.
she uses the word garcon.
i'm in Paris, she says,
the city of light,
what are you doing?

the rumor

it's just a rumor.
something through the grape
vine, said once,
then again,
then added onto with
embellishment. part true,
part false.
it has a life all its own,
traveling from ear
to ear, by text, by mail,
by phone. but
by the time it circles back
and reaches you again
it no longer resembles
anything you know. so you
start a new one.