Friday, July 31, 2015

sail away

I can still see her
with a telescope.
she's out to sea on a small
sail boat.
the white sails
are almost dots against
the darkening
horizon. she is nearly
over the curve
of the earth, almost
to the other side
where she will finally
be out of sight,
out mind.
I've followed her
journey away from me.
watching and waiting
as the wind crept into
the sails,
blowing them full
and steady, taking
her to someone else.

you seem tired

you seem tired,
she tells you, rubbing your shoulders,
massaging oil into the tight
muscles that you've used all day
to make a living.
you seem weary.
you need some time off,
a vacation.
somewhere tropical perhaps.
blue water, white sand.
cold drinks and brought food.
you need to relax for a while.
but you don't hear her.
you fell asleep at
the words, you seem tired.

the new world

barbed wire
and brick, cinder
blocks.
steel bars.
an electric fence,
armed guards.
cameras perched
on each corner.
it's everywhere now,
each finger
on nine and one
and one,
lips on the whistle.
no corner safe,
no piece of art,
no statue,
no living thing
can breathe easily
in this strange world
we live in.

the big white hat

from my window, nine floors
up, I could see her at the pool
in a big white hat,
several books on
the small table, one in
her hands, one more in her lap.
her legs were long.
she looked elegant
and quiet. I imagined
smart too.
maybe she was a school
teacher, or a scientist
working on global warming.
maybe she was
a waitress at I hop.
I wouldn't mind that at all.
sometimes she'd walk over
to the pool
and dip a foot into the water,
letting the water curl
around her ankle,
but never going in.
i wanted to yell out the window
hey I like your hat,
but that might draw the attention
of everyone else
wearing hats at the pool,
not just women, but men too.
so i kept quiet and thought
about how our lives
would progress together
if we ever did actually meet.

the race track

it was a small
apartment that backed up to woods.
beyond the woods
was the racetrack.
at night you could
see the bloom of lights
and hear the rumble of horses,
the race being called
excitedly by a man's voice.
you would slide the glass
door to one side
and imagine you were there,
you were on a horse,
wearing shiny silks of
blue and green, your googles
down, your whip in motion
urging your steed
to the finish line.
you were younger than,
much younger,
at an age when you
could imagine
just about anything.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

let's stop at two

two parts
tequila
three parts sweet
mix
a cold glass
pressed down into
a bed of salt,
crushed ice
and a lime twist.
two of these and I
say something like
I love you,
three and I offer
my hand in marriage,
four, I'm
asking for a divorce.
let's stop
at two.
no need for more.

around and around

before the merry go round
can finish its ride,
the girl has grown
and is gone.
she's in the wind,
having moved off into her
own life.
part of him, part of her,
the parents,
standing at the side
waving,
as the horse takes her
around and around again,
until its time
to end, then begin.

ravioli

the ravioli is so rich
and thick
with cheese and meat
that you bend
with the weight of it
as it goes down.
you loosen your belt a
notch, add bread,
some salad, a sip of
red wine. more raviolis.
it's a sin to leave
food on your plate.
and if there is one thing
you don't want to be,
that's a sinner, so you
eat that last one
with no regret, not one
left to be found.

passwords

your life is full of passwords.
keys
and numbers, locks,
dials to be turned,
names punched into keyboards
to let you in. symbols.
your mother's maiden name,
your first dog.
date of birth, where you
were born, all stirred and mixed
into a bowl of false
security.
you can hardly remember most
of them,
repeating the ones you know
over and over,
making it easier not just
for you, but for someone
who is out there
doing the same, wanting what
you have.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

the collector

you are a collector
of condiments.
the narrow bottles of ketchup,
two on the shelf. both
near empty.
mayo in a fat jar,
wasabi mayo
in a smaller jar
with a green label.
then there are the hot
sauces.
texas pete, tabasco,
some others, random gifts,
from some hot sauce
lovers.
the names obscured by
smudges of red.
mustard.
yes. there is mustard.
spicy, yellow, dark.
one now with blue cheese
infused in its
brine based mix. what were
you thinking?
we must talk about he pickles
too.
a lovely collection
of sweet gherkins,
butter pickles.
the fat dills,
the sour ones in a yellow
broth, cold
on the lower rack, sitting
next to the jellies
and jams.
how many berries are there
in the world?
you've only just begun
with them.
then there are the squat
soldiers of soy sauce.
some in bottles,
others saved from ancient
chinese deliveries in small clear
packets. safe and sound with
their hot mustard friends
in the place
where butter should be.
but the main collection
is of salad dressings.
pear vinaigrette, French,
blue cheese, oil and vinegar,
ranch and honey mustard, just
to name a few. some new,
some used, some never
to be opened by anyone.


carving a path

you bare
the yard of weeds,
vines,
poison ivy.
wildflowers.
something trying to become
a tree.
random bushes
overgrown,
the crawl of leaves,
the spines
of greenery
undefined, or known
to you.
you chop and cut,
pull with your bare hands,
spin
the wire across the yard
in broad strokes.
you even break out
in a whistle at some point,
hardly breaking a sweat
in the shadow
of your house,
carving a path from door
to gate.

the big winner

the small indian man
behind the counter
kisses your lotto ticket
as he punches it out on
the machine and says
you will win. I have
blessed your ticket.
I have a good feeling
about these numbers, mister.
you say something like,
yuck, and try not to touch
the spittle
he's left across your
numbers.
thanks, you tell him,
thanks a lot
and no, I don't want a spicy
bite today or a big gulp,
you take the ticket outside
holding it by a corner,
then set it on
a curb to let it dry
in the sun,
fortunately you have
some surgical gloves with
you that you put on
to pick it up once sufficiently
free of goo.
you take the ticket home
and wait
for the drawing.

together

the glue
is strange. what makes
us stick
to one another.
unable
to get free again.
two skins, two souls,
bonded by time,
by house and home.
not moving, one without
the other,
together tilting
as new winds blow.

the medicine cabinet

you are shocked when you open
her medicine cabinet.
quietly pulling
the door open so that it
doesn't squeak.
there are no brown bottles of pills.
no mysterious packets reading
take one daily.
no crazy meds. not a single
capsule to help her sleep
or wake up.
no medicated lotions,
no tubes
of creams with which to heal
a wound, a blister,
a sore or cut.
there is only toothpaste,
and mouth wash. a bar of soap.
she's got nothing in there
to keep her from going
insane.
how does she do it?

it comes too soon

her mother died
in the smoke filled room.
the condo
overlooking the pool.
two bedrooms,
two baths, plenty
of space
for her tea pots and cups,
her three cats,
her sewing machine
and loom.
you can still smell
and touch
the residue
of cigarettes on
everything. a gloomy
yellow.
they took her out
on a stretcher.
three men. down the stairway,
four flights of
steps out to the ambulance
and into the yellow
sun. the blue sky.
everything comes to soon.


that's my car

that's my car, she says.
pointing out the window
to a new red
lexus.
it shines like an apple
in the lot.
leather seats,
and everything, she says.
it tells me when to go,
when to slow, or stop.
I could live in that car,
it's so wonderful.
what do you drive?
I like to walk,
you tell her.
or skate board,
sometimes I strap on
a pair of roller skates
tighten them with a key,
and just head off
to work.
I hitch hiked here,
as a matter of fact.
I see, she says.
we'll it's getting late,
maybe I should go.

the wheel

the day gets away from you.
the morning
a blur, the afternoon
a wash
of work.
before long you're home
in the big
chair
with a drink,
a plate of food,
a stack of mail,
a basket of laundry
beside you.
the squeak of the wheel
still
bleating in your ear.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

elevator baby

the baby delivered
in the elevator
doesn't know
where she is.
just that it is in the world.
arms and legs
kicking, eyes
squinting suddenly
in the dashboard
of lights
above and to the side.
fresh pink lungs
gulping air.
the mother
on the floor, a small
crowd gathered
helping
this new life out
and into
the up and down
compartment she
is born into.

the daily run

I remember running
in the rain,
the ice and snow.
the roads hard
and slippery.
my feet swinging wide
to stay upright.
how the wind
cut through my layered
clothes,
I felt the burn
of winter on my face.
I had to run. i
had to find a way
to go three miles,
or more.
now, these years later
when I see the bent
souls running
against the wind,
bone thin
and churning
towards some end,
I understand.

a moment of truce

at times
she would want what I wanted.
and we would
put down the forks,
the knives,
shelve the words
that hurt
and have a moment
of truce,
a temporary ban
on anger and mistrust.
we would find a way
to dim the lights
on the reality
of our life
and have sex.

Monday, July 27, 2015

the falling star

not every wish
upon a falling star
is granted.
not every prayer
no matter how sincere
or heartfelt
is answered.
not every coin dropped
into a fountain,
or rainbow
at the end provides
the pot of gold
or furnished dream.
it doesn't work like
that, but it's
nice to think so.

full to the brim

i can listen.
i can sit for minutes,
sometimes ten
whole minutes at a time
and listen
to something that bores
me.
but then i'm done,
I've left
the room,
i'm floating high
above the table,
no longer
aware of what's being said.
it's not your fault,
it's me.
i'm full to the brim
of useless
information that I've
allowed in.
my cup runneth over
with nonsense.

fresh wounds

I rub a finger
against the old scar.
the one
on the knee, the one
above the eye,
the arm
where the cut healed
and smooth over
into a soft worm
of a line.
I look at the new
cut,
the fresh wound in
the mirror, touch
it's raw
edge, applying a swab
of medicine,
but this too
will heal,
most do. most do.

suggestions

the world makes suggestions
all day.
what to wear,
to eat, to buy, and slowly
and slyly
we at some point obey.
our journey
carved out with hardly
a thought or
disagreement by our
sleepy minds.
what love is,
what work to do,
what should make us sad,
or happy.
the world tells us
in small large ways
how to be and so
we follow.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

get off the rope

the life guard,
blowing his whistle,
yells for you to get off the rope,
and you yell back
but i'm not touching
the rope.
and what's the deal
on that rope anyway.
why can't I hang on the rope.
is it some special
golden string made by the gods,
untouchable by man?
what if I was
drowning, could I grab
the rope then.
he shakes his head,
says nothing and goes
back to talking
to a teenage girl
in a red bikini.


there must be some way out of here

you lose contact with earth,
but it's fine.
you're sort of tired
of the chatter
from mission control.
the static is so annoying.
and if there was really
a problem
there's little they
could do to help you
anyway. we are all in some
version of outer space
to begin with.
no need to be in a capsule
hurtling towards
the moon, hoping
to sling shot back
to the only livable
planet in the universe.
we are all walking around
in space suits,
breathing, eating,
trying our best to survive
on this strange ball
orbiting the sun.
finally they reach you.
are you still there?
but you don't answer,
you've got no blah blah blah
in you for the moment. so
you put some music on,
a little Dylan.
all along the watchtower,
for starters, maybe some
cream to follow,
sunshine of your love.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

produce stand

fresh fish
the sign reads in bright
red letters
on the peeling board
that leans
against the road side
shack. trout, perch, cats.
crabs by the bushel
or dozen.
sweet corn, and melons.
lopes.
it's just a shack
with a front door,
two windows open to the porch
that allows you to see
straight through
to the back
where a woman pins wet
clothes to a line.
a fat man in a cap,
suspenders
and a white shirt
sits and rocks.
he doesn't get up.
you go over
and do your business
in the shade.
there's some negotiating
by the people
with new York and jersey
plates, but most
folks, buy as it is,
cash only, then get back
on the highway.

three shots of tequila

after three shots
of tequila
she tends to speak entirely
in Spanish.
she snaps her fingers
and spins around
throwing her dress
into the air.
tossing her long black
hair into the air.
sometimes she'll stamp
her heels on the floor
or hop onto the coffee
table
and say something like
areeba, areeba.
she's different after
drinking tequila,
which makes for a fun
evening. one that she
doesn't remember
the next day.

the line is moving

I felt his cane
tap me on the shoulder
and heard him say,
sonny boy, move up.
the line is moving.
quit looking at your
stupid phone and pay
attention.
I turned around
and said sorry,
to which he shook
his head and mumbled
something
i couldn't quite
understand. it
sounded like
whippersnapper. one
of my favorite words
of all time.
I said, hello,
how are you, to which
he replied,
what are you a doctor?
now move up.

turn around and go back

we always had to turn around
after driving a few miles from her
house because she thought she left
a candle burning.
she had a candle in every room,
even the bathrooms,
all lit, sitting on saucers
her mother gave her.
it was more for ambiance and that
vanilla smell that she was going for
and less about saving on electricity.
holidays and birthdays were easy.
you bought her candles all the time.
fat ones with scents like cinnamon
and lilac. long skinny ones, red,
and fancy. they smelled like
Christmas.
you can't remember one time when
she actually did leave a candle
on though, but you'd head back
just the same, before she even
mentioned it and just say the word.
candles. she wasn't trying to torture
you, from what you remember,
but it felt that way at times.

the empty wallet

you lose your wallet
on the train.
but it's okay.
you have no money in it.
no credit cards, no
photos of loved ones,
past or present,
no id, nothing but
a phone number, yours
in case you lose
it and someone else
finds it and wants
to return it to you.
it was a gift.
leather, with a little
window for the license.
plenty of slots
for credit cards
and all the other cards
you need. you just
never got around
to putting things in
there. it was something
you were going to do
soon. but you didn't.
finally someone does
call. they tell you
the wallet is empty,
that they are sorry
for that. you tell them
it's okay. you'll live.
keep it, keep the wallet
it's my gift to you
for finding it.

see you later?

it's too hot to go outside,
let's stay inside
today. do nothing. find something
on tv or a book to read.
let's order food in
or scramble an egg or two,
lie around on the couch
or the bed, talk. just talk,
just me and you, about
what could be, our future,
how we both fit in, how we
can't live without one another.
what? she says, I didn't hear
you. i'm going shopping
with betty. Nordstrom's
is having a sale today.
gotta run, they're serving
mimosas from nine to twelve.
see you later?

Friday, July 24, 2015

the early years

she always had a chicken
in the oven.
potatoes and corn
on the stove.
canned corn, a pad
of butter, some salt
and pepper. she called
it cooking. a package
of gravy.
we sat at the small
table her mother gave us,
in the narrow kitchen,
our backs against the wall
where the flowered
paper was worn and split
at the seams.
out the window we could
see the fenced in yard,
the other yards,
left to right.
their laundry on the line,
a rusted grille.
bicycles and shovels.
chicken was easy, cheap.
it made the house smell
nice, the smell of hope,
perhaps. sometimes
she'd put dandelions
in a vase, light a candle,
turn the lights
down. she meant well,
even if there wasn't love,
not true love. not the kind
of love we had for
one another. we had already
drifted apart, already
set sail for other ports
of interest.

the dry spell

there are dry spells.
times when it won't rain.
no cloud in the sky.
when the words won't come.
when every lover has
said no, not this again,
we're done. there are long stretches
of empty cupboards, empty bottles,
empty hearts. periods of silence
as if the world had gone
dumb. you've been around
this desert, you and moses,
you and the coyote,
you and other lost souls,
the jack rabbits finding any shadow
to wait it out,
to breathe heavily in,
the tumbleweeds blowing about.

the wet spot

she is almost there.
the money is right,
the handshakes made.
the movers signed on
for Saturday.
the old apartment pro rated
for that one extra day.
the loan, the paint,
the rummage sale to extract
all that won't go with her,
all checked off her list.
the new house
has been examined
and gone over, one more
time.
it's just this one spot
of water
on the ceiling
holding up everything.
a circle of wetness
that she can't ignore,
a portent of things
to come, she's not
sure. is there anything
without doubt in this life?

the new machine

you started with a pen,
a loose leaf notebook,
spiral with the blue lined
paper, filling the lines
with teenage angst,
speaking of things you
could only imagine,
then came the typewriter
with its tapping
keys, the clang and pull
of the bell return,
the smudged ink and stuck
letters. the electric
followed that. cartridges
slipped in and out
of the humming machine
plugged in tight to an outlet,
white out nearby for
every mistake along
the way. still you knew
nothing, hardly nothing.
but continued to imagine
what it must be
to live this life. you
imitated the writers
you loved and worshiped,
wondering what to write about,
pretending still to know
more than what you knew.
breathing words and life
into stick figures.
and then one day you knew,
or at least thought you
knew and now you can't stop
your fingers from moving
on this new machine,
this beam of light.

the straight line

eventually we are all
about four feet tall,
gravity and age taking
its inevitable toll
until we are horizontal,
retreating back to
dust and bones,
into the dirt of earth
to which we were
born. it's not really
the circle of life.
it's more of a straight
line with a few detours.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

i didn't do nothing

the police
are busy down the street.
three squad
cars have arrived,
their blue and white
party lights
are all aglow.
i can hear the crackle
of their radios
from my open window
as they place
their free hand on their
black guns
which stay holstered.
I can see
my neighbor, amber, holding her eye,
where her boyfriend jimmy
has clocked her again.
their little girl, blonde
and in pig tails, is spinning
a pink hula hoop
around and around
as they take jimmy away,
his hands
behind his thick muscled
back. I can hear
him saying over and over
again, I didn't do nothing.
I didn't do nothing.
I want to yell out my window
the word 'anything',
I didn't do anything,
to correct his grammar,
but think better of it.

death trap

my knuckles would
be white, gripping the dashboard
as she tried
to make every light.
sometimes the lights turned red
before she was
halfway through.
the rattle trap of a car
on bald tires,
no horn, no radio, no
air conditioning still had
power. she proved
it with her wide
heavy foot, always seeking
the floor board
as she pressed on,
driving angrily.
my foot hit the imaginary
brake on my side
with every stop sign,
and turn of a corner,
tires screeching madly.
the wind beat our faces
from the windows that wouldn't
roll shut.
every drive was a race to
somewhere.
you buckled in, said a prayer
and closed your eyes
as she passed trucks
along the highway
on our way to a farmer's
market to get fresh tomatoes
and sweet corn.

we can get that later


the time she kicked off her
high heel
and knocked over a full
glass of red
wine
onto yout brand new white
shag rug, comes
to mind, as you stare at
the outline
of remembrance.
it's a shadowy pink
shaped mark, oblong
and wide.
the splattered tear drops
of pinot noir go further,
beyond the coffee table
which she rested her
bare feet upon
after saying oops, my bad.
we can get
tbat later, right?
later is a year later,
but she's no where to be
found.

coming up short

there's not enough
wallpaper to go around.
someone has mismeasured.
you come up short.
a full roll, three sheets
to drop
from ceiling to floor.
flowers and birds,
yellow and red,
blue.
it's almost done, but
not quite.
the table goes away,
the blades,
the scissors,
the drop cloth.
the sponge and seam
roller,
the bucket of paste.
you drive away.
no one is very happy.
especially you.
spinning your wheels
for others.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

such a thing as karma

he wasn't fond
of those of a different color.
he used
the worst of names
for anyone
not born where he was
born.
his heart was stingy
with love,
not a flicker of light
shone
for compassion
or kindness,
and now as he sits
in his house,
alone,
being the last one of
his kind
within twenty miles
you can't help
but think that there is
such a thing
as karma.

start again

the new house.
freshly buffed and stained
floors.
the new windows,
all sliding and locking
with plastic ease.
new locks,
new stove,
a push button
machine to do the clothes.
new carpet for the basement.
a new wife,
a new husband.
a puppy.
a pack of seeds to toss
into the yard
for flowers to grow.
start again.
it's what we do before
we grow old.

the summer job

he decided to never
eat chicken again,
or eggs.
no egg drop soup
for him. no more,
not since he spent
a sweltering summer
working on a chicken
farm where they packed
them into crates,
strung from the wires
electrocuted them,
then slit their
throats, letting
let the blood
seep out into metal
bins. every day
a million chickens.
every day, all the chicken
he could eat
at lunch,
which became less and less
until none.

down to one lane

all the roads are down
to one lane.
a line of orange cones
dot the horizon
as far as the eye
can see. there is no
other way to go.
a man in a green
fluorescent vest
lazily waves his flag.
everyone is late.
metal against metal.
blinkers on, space
begrudgingly
surrendered. too many
people. too many
cars. too many
going in the same
direction. the future
has arrived.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

the lettuce lunch

you have a wonderful aura
about you, she tells you
upon meeting for the first time.
oh, no, I tell her, that's
my phone, it got wet and
it won't turn off, it's here
in my shirt pocket.
see the light. I point
at the phone shining
brightly and beeping,
throwing a cloud of blue light
on my face. oh, she says.
we'll still, it's a nice
color for you. sometimes
when I meditate I see
the color blue. it's a calming
color. give me your hands,
she says, so I do.
she turns them over and touches
the lines along the palm.
very interesting, she says.
you are an interesting person.
have you ever done kitchen work.
I almost feel that you may
have worked in the food industry
in another life, perhaps as
a bus boy, or dishwasher.
I do like to do dishes, I tell
her, but lately it's been paper
plates. I believe in saving
as much water as possible.
this planet is the only one
we've got, right?
i'm falling in love, she says,
smiling brightly, I too
believe in being kind to this
planet we live on.
to the animals and plants.
it is our duty.
hungry? I ask her staring at
the menu, searching for a steak
sandwich that I can't order now.
i am she says.
I had yogurt for breakfast
and an organic grape. I
could use a good salad.
what kind of lettuces do they
have here? but no ice berg,
I read how horribly the field
workers are treated in harvesting
that lettuce.
I agree, I tell her, shaking
my head with disdain,
no ice berg for me either.
what are the other kinds?

Monday, July 20, 2015

it would take time

in time it seemed that there wasn't much
to say anymore.
everything had been said.
quiet held enough conversation
in itself to get them through a day.
it took time, him being home from work,
retired now, and she
no longer teaching at the school.
no longer having to drive
an hour straight down route 4,
then back home at 3 p.m. that afternoon.
it was hard now
to be together with so much time.
so much space needing to be filled
with things to do.
they found it was easier to sleep
in separate rooms, take walks alone,
or make trips to the store for things
they didn't need.
only the holidays felt normal.
the ritual of trees and lights
to be hung, the talk of food,
the size of the turkey to be bought,
who was coming, or where they
would travel, to her relatives
or his. even the dog sensed
this awkward new stage of life.
he seemed to be uncertain who to
go to for a walk, whose bed
to sleep in. they didn't see any
of this coming. there was love
there, but somehow the shine of life,
was diminished without struggle,
without the worry of money,
or in having to work.
there was love there, to be sure,
but this new life would take time.

the last day of summer

on the last day of summer
the girl
in the ice cream shop
loaded up your cone.
she no longer feared losing
her job
by flirting and over
serving her
favorite customers, which
was you and your
derelict friends
fresh off the beach
all burned, or tanned.
she wore a pink apron,
her hair back
in a pony tail with a name
tag that read
amy, though who's to know
for sure what her
real name was.
brown eyed and impossibly young.
you wonder if she remembers
that last day
of summer, leaving the beach
and going off
to her own life,
of school and marriage,
children, all of which
must be older
than she was back then,
on that day when with joy
she did her best to
empty the cartons
of cold ice cream
for you and your friends.

the missing plate

once upon a time
when your mother was young,
younger than you are
now, you remember
the cast on her arm,
the bruise on her cheek bone,
the broken glasses
tapped together
at the bridge
of her nose,
a small white bandage,
and her sitting
on the front porch
crying, her long
hands covering her face.
you remember how hard
she cried,
and then how she came
in to make dinner
for the seven of you.
not putting a plate
out for him.

it's down to this

it's down
to this. unmoved in his chair
by the window.
a t.v. on,
a nurse
near by staring into
her phone
waiting for a tap
or bell
to ring to tell her that
he needs something.
a drink,
food, a trip to
a far away room,
a book
or photo to hold
in his lap
while the sun hanging
ominously in the sky
refuses to move.
it's slow dying
with these machines
and pills,
the lot is cast.
he's underwater and sinking,
almost to the bottom
of this old life.

waiting for what's next

as she waited at the small table
by the door, the large plate glass
window at her shoulder, she pondered
the moment. how things moved so quickly
getting here, now. there was
so much behind her and nothing
but mystery in front. she was
wrung free of verve
and optimism. divorce and moving
had brought her out of a happy
shell, a life protected
with sameness. home and family.
fence and dog. a garden.
this was a new path. this apartment
with a balcony, three floors
up with laundry down the hall.
her feet hurt from the new heels,
the dress felt too tight.
she checked her face in
the mirrored reflection of
the stenciled window reading
restaurant. she waited.
he was late, this stranger.
this date which wasn't a date
at all, but a spin of some
online roulette wheel of faces
and people seeking love
so late in life. she waited,
for what else was there to do?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

community pool

the pool is quiet
and serene today, not one child
with a band aid on their skin
is around.
no floating rings,
no water wings,
no screaming or yelling
marco polo
incessantly while
they beat the water
with their hands.
the lifeguard's whistle
is silent,
the words don't run,
get off the rope
and no diving are
unspoken from his mouth.
there are no children in
the shallow end
with that vacant look in
their eyes
as they relieve themselves
of apple juice.
you peer through
the chain link fence
and think, maybe today.
maybe this is the day
after ten years of living
here to go take a swim,
to lounge in the blue
cool water
of your community pool,
diving swan like
into the deep end. maybe.

pull the plug, please

you hear about
the man who bumped his head
on his bathroom sink
and is now
incapacitated to the point
of being spoon
fed oat meal by a nurse
in a home
that costs him five thousand
dollars a month.
it's the econ lodge of
such places too.
so you decide to make
a living will stressing that
the plug be pulled
for just about anything
more than a paper cut
or a hangover or
indigestion resulting
from eating indian food.
this makes your son very
happy
as he pursues his acting
career in sunny
California.

locking up

the door won't close.
the heat
has warped
the wood to a point
of it being too tight
to shut
and lock.
you push and push,
but to no avail,
the heat
is too much.
the world is expanding
and getting
more dangerous
as you sweat
and put the chain on
to keep out
whatever might
try to get in. you
remember as a child
leaving the windows open,
the doors unlocked,
the screen door
free and easy
for the dog and cat
to come and go
as they pleased,
no more.

fork and spoon

the borrowed cup
of sugar
is not coming back,
you know that,
nor the olive oil
in a tumbler,
the stick of butter,
or broom,
not the bottle of
wine,
or liter of rum,
not the roasting pan
or mixer that she
needed
to make a cake,
nor the ladder
to change a bulb,
the yard full of leaves
that needed
a bag,
your rake,
none of it
will be returned any
time soon.
she is a borrower
not a returner.
you understand this clearly
as you slowly furnish
her house with both
fork and spoon.

the white suv

behind the large
car, almost a truck
with blinking lights,
and stickers on the bumper
proclaiming honor
students and how far
they've run
you wait as it tries
to in reverse parallel
park into a spot too
small to fit.
but she tries. you see
the head going back
and forth,
her face in the mirror.
a phone at her ear,
a cup of coffee in
the other hand
as she turns and turns
the wheel. there is no
room to go around,
no way to back up
and find another route.
you pull out the newspaper
and catch up on yesterdays
news. it could be awhile.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

letting go

the boy could not believe how hard
the fish pulled at his
bending rod, stretching
the clear line to a point
that he thought it might break.
he braced his soggy sneaker
against a rock and held his
ground. no one else was there.
it was early morning and he
he had wandered away from the cottage
with his tackle box, his rod, his
small jar of worms.
patiently he casted
into the calm bay his hook
and sinker with bait attached.
he wanted to yell for help
as the fish yanked twisting
his slender wrists, but
they'd be sleeping. they might
think that he was in trouble,
perhaps drowning, wading out
into the water as he had done
the summer before, nearly
disappearing as a gold flat
sunfish swam casually before
his panicked eyes. no, he'd
bring this fish in. he'd
catch it and take the hook out
on his own, put the fish into
a bucket then carry it to the house.
but the fish pulled again and again,
fighting hard to go deeper
and farther out into the blue
stretch of water.
already the story was forming
in his mind, the tale
he'd tell around the table,
how large the fish was
if it got away, how it
sparkled in the sunlight
as it rose and jumped
snapping clean the line, but
it wasn't over yet. he pulled
and reeled in some line,
more line, more. it was still
fighting but it seemed
to tire, this fish he had
caught. it wearied and now as
it came towards shore as if giving
up the boy almost felt sorry for
it, seeing the ripple of its fins
swirling, breaking the surface.
slowly it swam in to the rocks,
the fish in the cool air as the boy
lifted the line,
holding the heavy fish up and free
from the water.
it was magnificent. he had never
seen a fish quite so beautiful.
he readied the bucket to drop
him into, but then thought
differently and slid the hook
out from the hardened lip.
he grasped the thick wet fish
in his small hands, then
he let it go. let the fish,
glimmering silver and white,
flecks of blue and green tinsel
along it's scales, slip back
into the early morning water. he
would never speak of it again.
saving this moment his whole life.
remembering this fish and how he
let it go.


my mayan ruins

the jungle encroaches.
I can't stop it.
I see the vines
and wild flowers, the trees
and bushes
sprouting madly in the small
postage stamp
of a yard.
it will soon engulf
my house not unlike
the mayan ruins.
I suspect the neighbors on
either side
are not thrilled with
my jungle, barbequing
with their propane fires,
out on their bricked
patios and pristine
decks, but what do they
know about temples,
about the nature
that I embrace. one day
they will uncover
my humble abode and wonder
what was going on here
and who was sacrificed
at the altar of my
weber grille.

invention


i'm tired of working for the man
you tell your friend Lydia.
me too, she says, maybe
if we invent something
we can be rich. she throws
a crouton at a small
gathering of sparrows
at a table outside of Balducci's.
like what you say,
biting into your twelve dollar
chicken sandwich.
oh, I don't know.
something easy, something fun,
something everyone will say
oh wow, that's cool,
I want one.
you know, like a pet rock,
or a slinky. the hula hoop.
hmm. okay. let's brain storm
then, and get rich.
a few minutes pass as she eats
her enormous salad
and you bite into your sandwich.
more birds gather.
i'm getting a head ache
you tell her. I think they put
too much salt in this chicken.
I got nothing, she says.
me either you say
and open the sandwich to take
a look at what you're eating.

i'm listening

I can't talk now.
it's very late, i'm very tired.
i'm beat
exhausted by the week.
but i'll listen
if you want to ramble
and fill my ear
with words.
I might not remember
anything you say, but go
ahead and tell me,
tell me anything,
tell me all the things
you need for me to hear,
just don't expect
a reply, or little more
than a yes or no.
go ahead, i'm here,
go fast, go slow.
i'm listening, my dear.

to be found

these missing things
are where you left them,
to be found
when you aren't looking.
a key, a ring,
a phone,
your copy of a book
she gave to you.
and her too,
now lost somewhere in
a dark room.
not hiding, not visible,
but there
awaiting your hand
to find her, not later,
but soon.

Friday, July 17, 2015

it's kind of late

at first I resisted taking
her recipe for squirrel stew,
thinking when am I ever going
to make such a dish, but
then she said that you can
substitute possum, or road
kill, raccoon and deer meat.
so, I said why not, and read
through the hand written
smudged paper. you have to
slow cook it, she said, slow
real slow, baby, you can't
rush this recipe and don't
over season this dish,
too much salt will kill
the flavor, lots of them
squirrels are pretty salty
anyway. so i made a note
of that at the bottom of
the paper to go easy on
the salt. I have some squirrels
now wrapped and skinned
in my fridge if you want
to come on over for a
cocktail on the front porch
swing. it's kind of late,
I said, but hey, rain check?

deep in the heart of texas

it was hard to get the texas
out of her.
the white cowgirl hat,
the rope
she used to throw around
my dog, hog tying him
to the ground, throwing
her arms up and yelling
time?
yippie kie ay
she'd yell out
when it was a romantic
evening with just the two
of you, the candles
lit, a bottle of chardonnay.
i'll go fire up the grille,
she'd say with
her jeans painted on,
those pointed boots,
that stack of tall blonde hair.
she had that twang in her voice
that made everyone ask,
where you from exactly lady,
to which she'd answer
Texas, proudly,
then display her texas
flag tattooed on her long
tanned leg.

the important list

I make a list
of things to do,
places to be,
etc. etc. etc.
it's a long list.
already crumpled
and coffee stained.
folded and placed
next to my keys. i'll
slide it into a back
pocket though
and forget it about
for most of the day.
when work is over
and the debris
of change and dollars,
keys and crumbs
and emptied i'll
see the list and read
it, then once more
set it in a place
where I won't
forget it tomorrow.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

three squares

mostly, he talked about the food
at the shelter, not
the noise, or danger. nor
the top bunk where he slept.
he talked about
the three squares per day.
his eyes, as blue and murky
as any low water
along the river, darted as
he said the words
Salisbury steak, potatoes,
green beans, and pie,
rhubarb pie for dessert
with vanilla ice cream.
he couldn't wait for the day
to end to get to the table
where he was served and
waited upon as if he was
a king, not a man with
one suitcase and all he
owned inside.

on planet earth

she was a mathematician
by trade. you met her on
the plaza by the big fountain,
throwing bread
to pigeons.
she seemed distant and aloof,
quiet in her thoughts
as you walked by.
you said hello,
having seen each other before.
she mumbled something
about how far
the moon was away
from the earth,
the orbit of the sun.
it was as if she was solving
an equation of time
and space,
distance and the speed
of light, all at once.
hello, she finally said,
as you were almost out
of range to hear her
voice. how are you?
sometimes love occurs
when there is nothing in
common but being alive
and breathing the same
air, at the same time
on planet earth.

let's begin

the analyst likes to start
with your mother,
that witch, you mumble,
your father, loser, you whisper,
your childhood, those formative
years that have gotten
where you are today.
afraid of one day
living in a card board box
behind the liquor store.
she digs deep
into your angst, using
the sharp blade of her
educated knowledge.
she wants to fix you.
repair the flat tire of
your soul. weld the broken
metal pieces of your bones.
she wants to shave your
head and cut open
your skull, get into
that soft bubble of grey matter
and poke around, see what
the problem is.
she hands you a box of
tissues, but you push it
away and ask for a beach
towel.

the clean house

when the house is clean
after a team
of uniformed maids
has swept through,
shining each knob
and window.
all counters wiped,
all shelves dusted,
steps
and floors vacuumed.
when the air has that
springtime
scent of Lysol in it,
and the beds are made,
the pillows fluffed,
the dishes put away,
the laundry done,
you tip toe through it
for a few days,
and try not to go back
to your carefree ways.

the six week plan

it takes a long time,
she tells you
to get over a broken heart.
years, in fact.
it's been nine years
since I've gone out
on another date.
I have my dog, my cat,
my knitting
and my friends.
we watch tv together
and heal
our wounds, we talk it over.
what went wrong.
but I think i'm ready now
to get back out there
and find my next
soul mate. and you,
she says, how long does
it take you to recover
and be whole again.
six weeks you tell her,
give or take a week or two.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

everything the same

having not seen one another
for years.
you both catch up.
the illnesses, the past
loves, work
and more work. getting
the small talk
out of the way about
children and pets.
moving and staying put.
she points at her scar,
a small ragged line
on her neck. you pull
up your pant leg
and show her
where a dog bit you.
she laughs, you drink.
you go back to her small
apartment, everything looks
the same. you make
love then leave
before the morning comes.
nothing has really
changed.

lighter than air

your thinness
over grief attracted stares.
people that knew you
asked if you were okay.
you had lost your appetite
for nearly everything.
water seemed to fill you up.
a piece of fruit
being enough.
you gulped air,
exhaled and went on,
finding a new loop
in your belt to buckle.
gazing at the low sky.
walking dazed,
lighter than air
in the absence of her love.

the expatriate

if I see another tortilla,
she writes
in her sauce smudged
postcard,
I might cut my wrists
with a taco shell
or dip my head into
the largest glass
of margarita I can find.
i'm sort of done
with south of the border.
yesterday there was
a traffic jam
of a truck carrying
chickens and a wagon
full of limes
going to market.
I had to wait over
a minute to cross the road
to the cantina
for a teacher's meeting.
i'm no longer wearing
clothes,
I just get up and put
a poncho over my
body and go to work.
I miss soap and water,
my bed. I wonder how my
plants are doing
on the balcony,
and my cat. my little
black gato sitting
on the sill wondering
when i'll come back.

a new dog

she ponders a new dog.
a replacement
dog.
but how do you replace
those years
that are missing too.
what dog
can do that. maybe
two.
two might fill the house
with new barking,
new fur
shedded everywhere,
but still
it might not be enough.
she might
have to live in quiet
and grieve
a little longer.
as she once did for
love.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

table for one

you wake up wanting
eggs.
bacon. potatoes.
she's left you
strangely hungry
for a meal.
toast and jam.
juice and coffee.
it's still dark out,
just past
the hour of five.
you think about finding
a diner on the side
of the road
to work.
or maybe you'll skip
work and drive
somewhere you haven't
been in awhile,
Baltimore,
or ocean city,
or south to Richmond.
any place will do.
no need to pack a bag,
just go.
follow some empty road,
then eat,
table for one, not two.

it's raining here

she sends you a short note
via the phone.
you hear the bell
ring at four a.m.
down in the kitchen
where it sits.
I have an itch
that needs scratching,
she writes,
but she's there,
and you're here,
so there is little
you can do to help
her.
you say me too.
in a week, she might
write back,
and say that it's
raining here, or
something along the lines
of, I miss you.

the yellow mg

his mg,
bug yellow,
was often at the end
of a tow trucks hook,
being pulled
off a highway, or back
road to any garage
that could work
on such a beast.
he was tall, so he folded
himself into
the leather seats
to shift and speed
along, a cap upon his
head, the wind
buffering against
the sides of the tight
british boat.
the top always down.
it was always a gamble
taking a ride.
you knew it was going
to be short,
not sweet and that you'd
be walking
and walking at some
point when once again
the engine died.

things to use

this was something he could use.
the man falling on his steps
now shipwrecked in his own body
unable to move. the woman
with packing boxes, writing
kitchen, bedroom, basement
on the soft tops after taping
them closed. the boy sleeping
in his mother's arms, his mouth
open, as the bus stopped
and went along the route.
her leg, white and shapely
outside the boundary of a
blanket and sheet, her arms
above her head, as if captured
in some dream, unmoved.
the three lights above
the mirror, holding his image,
one burned out, the other
two showing the absence
of his youth.

Monday, July 13, 2015

the dancer

he stumbled
with words, awkward
in dress, not handsome
by a worlds view,
his hair a bush
full of wind
uncombed,
the stubbled chin,
two old brown shoes,
but when
the music started
he was suave
and debonair
as his two feet danced
with style,
swift and smooth.

becoming we


she liked to eat
dessert in bed afterwards.
ice cream
usually, with cherries
and whipped
cream, hot fudge sauce
and pecans
a cold pyramid
of sweets
a bowl for her
a bowl for me
two spoons agreeing
to live
side by side,
becoming we.

inside the stone

inside the stone
a man is chipped
into view.
smoothed
and rounded, sharp
and muscled where
he needs to be,
posed and poised
on a pedestal
for any passerby
to see.
how life
and the world sculpts
us into being,
whereas as the inside
is left up to something
else entirely.

the break out

the tunnel
is nice. paved and lighted.
fresh air blown in.
there is a coffee
kiosk at
each half mile,
a rest stop with a massage
chair to take a break
from breaking
out of a Mexican prison.
at the end
of the tunnel a car
awaits,
and a bouquet of flowers,
a small band
and a parade
with a banner saying
welcome home.
we missed you.

the new map

the new map
is different.
new roads, new ways
to get from here to there.
it's freshly printed
as if it happened over night.
you can't take the old
ways, through the woods,
around,
the new map shows
how things have
changed.
how life will never
be the same.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

section eight

the cracked door,
where a fist, or boot may
have struck it,
the steps, broken, a dark
hole in the concrete
where it sags. a paper cup
full of cigarette butts
on the ledge.
the jammed lock with half
a key. the unchained dog
scratching at the door.
the pots and pans
on the stove, each stuck
with food
from some morning or
night, cooked then
left to stand.
the debris of paper,
unopened bills,
boxes. the smell of sinks
overflowing, something
wet and slippery
on the matted rug,
once red, now a faded
pinkish color. coral
under a green sea.
everything is sticky.
the heavy curtains keep
the light out,
the darkness in.
and on the wall a plaque
reads home sweet home.
blessed be this house
we dwell in.

no parking between 7 a.m and 9 p.m.

how lonely the meter
maid is
in her small truck like
car, an upright box
painted white and blue
with flashing lights.
not quite the police
not quite in charge
of anything, but this,
her yellow pad and pen,
writing tickets
and sticking them under
the wipers of cars
who have stayed too long
again. how strong she
must be to be disliked,
and yelled at,
abused by those who
don't understand her
job, they don't know
that she really is a nice
person beneath the badge
the blue shirt
and black hat.
she's sorry to be writing
you a ticket. deep inside
she's sorry despite ignoring
your pleas for forgiveness.

there was a time

there was time in your life
when you would wash
and wax your car
on a Saturday afternoon,
lift the hood, change
the oil, clean the windows
until they sparkled.
rub each bumper with
a chamois cloth until
they mirrored the sun
and blue sky. there was a
time when you put a shine
on your car, tenderly
cleaning, wiping,
getting the air pressure
right, opening the doors,
the trunk, getting ready
to pick her up for a drive
on a moon lit night.
there was a time.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

are we almost home?

i could see it in the road
up ahead on shore drive
along the coast, between
the alley of dark trees
and sand. the road curved
at certain points, bent
in the lightless night.
the possum was in
the middle, hardly moving,
he seemed to sway,
teetering on his clawed feet,
his red eyes in the headlights.
it happened so quickly,
the thump of his body
beneath the carriage
of the car, the feel
of his roll beneath my
feet. i looked in the rear
view mirror to see what
was left of him, but
it was too dark to see
anything behind me.
i shook my friend awake
and said hey, i think
we hit something in the
road, maybe a possum,
to which he replied.
I'm hungry. are we almost
home?

the fourth marriage

her third marriage
didn't stick, but she
had high hopes
for the next one.
the children had high
hopes. everyone had
high hopes.
the next guy had
no chance. but he tried.
he tried so hard
to be liked by her
children, her friends
her parents, her dog.
the fourth marriage
was in the dining room.
reduced to ten or so
friends. the gifts
were small. the cake,
home made. there was
no confetti or rice
thrown. no grand toasts.
when it was over, they
went upstairs to bed
after letting the dog
out and waving goodbye
to those who came.

the special

it's the special
at twenty seven fifty,
the bow tie pasta
the red sauce ground beef.
some spice,
all in an oversized bowl,
with bread
and olive oil.
not so special
though. you could make
it in twenty minutes,
the same meal
at a tenth of the cost.
but you have paper
napkins
and the ambiance
is lacking.
the tv is on and the dog
is begging.
the phone rings
and there is no one to pour
the wine but you.

Friday, July 10, 2015

the living room

it's a lawn of blue carpet.
a sturdy couch, blue too,
but darker,
penny's perhaps, those
drapes, flowered
and pulled back
to greet the morning
off the apartment patio.
the t.v. where it should
be, front and center
against the wide wall.
a table to either side
with a jar lamp
to hold the electric light.
pictures of grandchildren,
who haven't been that
small in years.
the coffee table, for
legs, for cups,
for a flowered center
piece that will never
die. it is the way
they like it, Francine
and Wallace,
and will be this way
when ten years
or more go by.

be done with her

it's best to disregard
the dream,
the uneasy nightmare
that haunts
your bed, your tired
mind.
the dark of her,
the gloom
of love, the bloom
off the rose,
the petals
black
and fallen
in bare grass,
now mud. it's best
to not linger
at the point
of departure, not
stay
against the knife
of words, but
leave the night for
sleeping, be done
with her.

your shadow

your shadow,
tired in the heat,
takes a break,
you look back and see
it on a bench, resting,
leaning the way shadows do
angular and bent, almost
the shape of you.
you wave it on, say, hey
let's go, we have places
to be, but it doesn't budge,
it stays put, stays quiet
under the dappled light
of a summer sun dancing
through the trees.

the first time

it's not the first time,
though you clearly remember
firsts so well.
it's not about
the first kiss, or car,
or house,
or love, was it love?
it made you sick,
the butterflies, the wind
in and out of your sails
on a daily basis. so maybe
it was love.
okay. let's call it love
and move on.
but it's not about
the first time of anything.
no matter how stitched
it is into the fabric
of your memory
and life.
no, it's the next one,
or the one you're in now
that counts.

page ten

I struggle with this new book.
this biography.
it's thick
and full of words.
very detailed.
it takes an hour to get
someone across
the room. he ate only
hard boiled eggs.
he wore brown shoes.
death is a relief
for some of these characters
getting them out of the story.
I look at the page
number, then turn to the back.
only three hundred
and seventy-nine more
pages to go.
I flip through the book
looking for pictures.
where are the pictures?
the boy in his youth.
his middle years.
his dog, something, even
a map will do,
something to break up
the monotony of this man's
life that is now part
of mine.

what's fifteen per cent


the doorman
needs a dollar or two.
a small tip to see him
through the next ten minutes
before he has
to open the door for
someone else.
the cab driver,
pulling your bags from
the trunk,
the skycap getting
you from the curb to
a counter.
there's a man in the bathroom
handing you a paper
towel to dry your hands.
what's the proper tip
for that.
and the bartender,
the waiter,
the bell hop
the maid.
even your son, your wife,
as you travel,
have a hand out,
waiting to be paid.

alone star state

it's not her home,
her town,
not even her state.
but she settles in with
a gin and tonic,
her feet up
on the apartment balcony
railing. she stares out
across the cactus
laden land, wipes the sweat
from her brow.
somewhere she hears a cow
mooing,
she hears a cowboy
saying something to his horse,
chickens clucking.
it might be time
to get out
the blonde hair dye,
puff the locks up to the ceiling,
put on the denim and
make the most
of this erroneous move.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

her new house

she can see herself
in the new house. where the bookcase
will go,
the long soft couch.
a tv for the corner.
a green plant, tall and wide
near the window.
she can feel her feet
upon the floors, long planks of
wood, buffed and oiled clean.
she smells the food she will
cook at the new stove,
the sink where her dishes
will go, she can hear
the swing of the cabinet
doors
as she shops and fills
each one up.
she sees her bed in the large
room with windows.
the spin of the fan
on hot summer nights,
the light coming in
as she wakes up early
before her run.
she sees a long string of
tomorrows in this new house.
it's been too long
to have waited for change.

yellow bird

the tiny bird,
strangely yellow.
as bright as any bird
has a right to be,
the size of
nothing,
round as a cotton
ball on
jetted wings. how
unusual and hopeful
to see
such a bird
among the brown
and green.

teacher on a burro

she sends me a picture
of her on a burro, it's a brown
beast, stocky
and low, a thick tail,
its ears up, plowing along.
she's on her notepad
typing, grading papers, while the burro
slowly moves across the dusty
ridge overlooking
the mountains.
she's wearing a poncho
striped yellow and red,
a thin line
of jagged green diamonds.
her sombrero blocks the sun.
you imagine that
the burro smells like coffee.
the ground smells
like coffee. those green mountains
also, smell like fresh beans
of coffee.
she gives the animal
a firm strike from her
booted heel, but it goes
no quicker down the hill.

just a taste

the boy, still a boy,
leaning back, half asleep,
the needle still in his hand,
nearby the rubber wrap
untied, snaked
beside his crumpled
legs, his bare feet.
a dot of blood where the point
went into his arm
stretched out.
the smile of sleep
is on his lips, the face
lineless and serene.
his veins are full
for now of heaven,
hell will come tomorrow.

basting in the sun

the colors fade
from the fabric over time.
the angle of the sun
coming through
the windows.
the carpet too,
the reds and blues,
losing their vibrant hues.
the sun does
many things you wish
it wouldn't do.
take a look at us,
on this beach,
basking in the yellow
blaze
of summer, aging us
before we're due.
here, take this oil
and rub some more on me,
then i'll do you.

the fallen man

there is an orange red
iodine drool on his chin
his lips,
across his shirt.
he's leaning on the front
stoop, the bare concrete steps,
holding his knee
where his tube socks
rise tightly over the blue
roped veins.
his daughter, something
from the golden age,
right off the set
of whatever happened
to baby jane,
says, can you help us
get him in.
he needs to go upstairs.
her head is wrapped in a peacock
blue scarf,
her robe is open,
showing her pale skin,
a rash.
you turn away, not so much
from the smell, but you don't
want this memory etched
into your mind.
with the help of a passing
neighbor, everyone
tries to lift the old man.
but to no avail.
his blue eyes wander
fearfully, his white hair
are feathers under his soiled
cap.
someone calls 911.
a team of men come, they
put him on a stretcher and
drive him off.
his daughter, hand over mouth
keeps saying,
what now, what now.
her arms out stretched
to hot july sun.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

tell me about your mother

she listens all day
to their problems.
their issues their unresolved
childhood angsts.
unloved by parents,
small slights by peers that still
bleed after decades
have passed bye.
the wounds are deep, but
to others they seem like mere
scratches,
tiny pricks of skin.
it's a long day of listening
and listening,
never quite getting
to a solution, to an
end.
the cure is had to come by.
only breathing, the stopping
of it, takes
it all away.

to each his art

each to his own
piece of art. the cubist
leaning
awkwardly against
the triangle of a bull's
set of horns,
love hurts.
the abstract
splatter of Pollack
is me
some nights, some long
nights, either out
or alone.
the bend of time,
clocks dripping with hours
along the bare branches of Dali's
trees.
hooper's diner, who hasn't
had their elbows
up on a long
counter sipping coffee
after a night of revelry
at 3.
and wharol's silly cans
of soup,
who doesn't want
to kick them all down
a long deserted street.
but give me black and white.
give me
the bloodless image
of a camera held still
on a building,
an empty boulevard, on
a lover asleep on white
sheets throughout
a winters night.


the torture chamber

you feared your dentist.
dr. deklebaum.
the navy corpsman
with fat sausage fingers
delving into your
tiny mouth on a hunt
for cavities.
his clumsy way with
the needle and drill,
the silvery sharp
weapons,
your legs trembling as
his large head
with black glasses
loomed in with a gap
toothed smile, mumbling
something, about
staying still,
pulling the overhead
heat lamp closer,
grabbing your chin
to steady you as you
grimaced at the smell
of onions and garlic
that he just had
for lunch.

run boys run

i remember the man
in the field with a shotgun.
the workers
in overalls, orange
and dirty
all of them bending
as one, picking melons
along the ripe
rows. handing them
in a line to one another
then onto a flat bed
truck.
i remember as we, the three
friends
each twisting one off
the vine, running.
laughing.
waiting to hear or feel
the blast of
the guard's gun.
he wouldn't shoot
mere children stealing
watermelons from the prison
farm, would he?
and today, i can still
hear the prisoners
yelling out,
run boys, run.

whiskey sour

your father
liked to drink.
brown whiskey for the most
part.
tumblers of whiskey
sours, manhattans,
scotch on the rocks,
that sort of thing.
he worked part time as
a bartender, which didn't
help matters
for his wife and seven
children.
you could smell the sour
breeze of cigarettes
and booze on his
stiff bearded cheeks.
the whiskey making him
either happy
or angry, depending on
which way
the wind blew
in his life that day.
but now, so many years
of being dry
later.
you see something else
in him.
regret, perhaps, remorse,
even compassion, a rare
event. but
forgiveness is a difficult
thing in life.
forgiving oneself
being the hardest.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

the land line

they call and ask
politely for money.
they are the only calls you
get now on your land line.
firemen
policemen
hospitals and shelters,
good causes,
shady causes, dialing
you up for dollars,
donations of clothing,
cars
and anything else you
don't need or want
anymore. they ask if they
can verify your google
listing, which
confuses you to no end.
or to refinance,
or for prescription
drugs that you can buy
without a prescription.
you always say, thank you
for calling,
but not today, not tomorrow
either, but it doesn't
matter. they'll call
again in about an hour.

until next year

the table is covered in newspapers.
mallets and pliers. tools that appear
to be dental tools are scattered about.
there are small ponds of melted
butter in shallow plastic
cups aligned next to tin shakers
of seasonings
of an orange color,
jars of vinegar are clear
enough to see straight through.
in the middle of the table
are dozens of reddish freshly
steamed crabs, once blue, dead now
from the boil of water
and steam. they are crusted
with a brown salted sand
of herbs and spices. the mound
is a foot or two high.
a secret mix someone says
as he brings out a plate
of corn on the cob
and sets the wobbling dish to
the side.
there is beer too. tall
pitchers of yellow beer
being poured into red cups.
suddenly everyone is seated
and together, like machines,
with quick fingers,
the experts dig, pound, and suck
the sweet white meat out of claws
and shells. at some point
the sun goes down. the crabs
disappear. what's left of
the beer goes warm and is tossed
out into the lawn. the newspapers
are folded together with the empty
shells. the cars drive away. the red
tail lights disappear
down the winding road until next year.

her red hair

she has red hair now.
which is fine.
but not rust red, or
cherry red, or even
candy apple red.
it's not orange either.
it's more of a deep
burgundy.
she tosses it around,
holding her shoulders
back. it's nice
you tell her. I think
you should keep it
for awhile.
I wish I could do
something with mine
you say, feeling the
stiff grey stubbles
that stand on the widening
field of your head.

do you know a welder?

the note asks
if you know of a welder
nearby, perhaps a friend,
or someone
in your line of work
who does welding on
the side. she has a lamp
that needs to be fixed.
a pipe that covers the wire
has broken. it's a small
job, the note says.
very small, perhaps
a five or ten minute
job if you know what you're
doing and have
a welding torch
and the tools needed
to complete the job.
you write her back
and slip the note
under her door.
is this really about
the broken lamp, you ask,
or is it something else
you want to talk about?

Monday, July 6, 2015

frozen peas

you place a bag
of frozen peas under your right
eye where an errant
elbow struck you in a game
of pick up
hoops at your neighborhood
black top court.
it's a nice little mouse,
blue and grey,
fat on the cheek bone.
no blood, no splitting of skin,
no broken bones,
just a welt, a friendly
reminder of how
fragile we are, win or lose.
you embellish the story,
say how high you were
in the air,
going up to snatch a ball
or throw it down
into the chained rim
with a resounding growl,
you make up a story saying how
someone swung and missed
the ball striking you.
when the peas get warm,
you grab the carrots,
and place that bag firmly
upon your face. the Asian
medley is next.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

the insurance man

the insurance man wore a grey suit
with a white shirt pressed from the dry
cleaners. it held that processed smell
which made his nose itch. a blue tie
dotted with anchors along its wide
fabric was knotted around his thick
neck. he carried a brown briefcase
in his left hand while he rang the door
bell with his right hand, a finger pressing
on the warm dot of white light.
he then knocked, but there was no answer.
he looked at the card he kept in the pocket
of his suit coat, and read the name
and the address to himself.
it wasn't a cold call, the woman had called
him, inquiring about life insurance.
term life to be exact.
he knocked again and leaned off the porch
to peek into the living room.
the curtain was pulled back just
enough that he could see inside.
the lights were off now, which weren't
when he pulled up in his car.
he knocked again, then looked once
more inside. he saw a woman
crawling on her hands and knees,
away from the window, across
the floor and out of sight, heading
towards what he thought might be
the kitchen. she seemed to be wearing
a costume of some sort. black,
with a cape. boots. he couldn't quite
make the rest of it out.
it began to rain. it was the end of
the month and he wanted this sale.
it would round out nicely his paycheck.
he put his hand up to shield his
eyes, and stared up into the sky.
the rain came down harder. he thought
about waiting in his car,
or going around back to knock on
the kitchen door. he paused, tapping
his brown shoes against the concrete
porch, then rang the door bell once
more. he called out her name. miss
taylor, he said. Deena Taylor? it's me,
the insurance man.
you called me about insurance.
then he heard a door close from the back
of the house. a dog barked
and he heard the rattle of a chain link fence.
he went down the steps and looked
towards the alley that ran dark
and long beside the clapboard houses.
he could see the woman in the black
cape and boots, running away in the rain.

the quiet before

i'd rather shoot myself, she said, than
live here, whispering at the young couple
who had just moved in and now stood
behind their new home, staring at the stream
that moved a stones throw away.
they think it's Shangri la, she said.
here happened to be your house,
your neighborhood, but she didn't
understand or think that such words
could sting, or hurt someone. I wanted
to say, I feel the same way about where
you live, in a run down patch
of houses, deep in the woods, snakes,
rusted washing machines in every other yard,
the ancient cars on blocks,
not even a paved road, the falling
trees every time it rained or the wind blew.
driving ten miles to get a quart
of milk, or a cup of coffee. you bit
your bloodied tongue and moved on.
silence seemed to be the best
choice of communication between you two.
nothing was ever discussed. not the issues
with sex, or money, tomorrow, if there
was to be a tomorrow.
less communication was the glue that
stuck you both together, a quiet
before a storm that never quite arrived.

the morning

she didn't want to stir him
as he slept. his arms long
and hairy across the white sheets.
his dark hair a tangle
on the pillow. she didn't
want to awaken him so she slipped
carefully out of bed,
and crept down the stairs,
putting on her robe as she tip toed
towards the kitchen.
she put coffee on, poured a bowl
of milk for the cat
who was already on the counter
waiting. she rinsed a cup
in the sink, then stared out the window
at the thin layer of snow
that had fallen while they slept.
she remembered her mother standing
at the sink when she was a child.
always washing a dish, a glass,
something for someone that needed it.
but here she was, alone,
unmarried, no children, a man
in her bed she hardly knew.
nothing seemed to have gone wrong.
the choices were all the right
choices, she believed, but
it was hard to catch her breath
at moments like these, wondering
what was next. she wanted him to sleep,
to sleep, and be gone
without a word. she wanted her
life to begin again, start over.
she set the two cups, two spoons,
to dry on the counter,
beside one another and quietly waited
for the water to boil.

mirrors

it was a short walk for the old man,
leaving his three story walk up not
far from the park. his bench, the bench
he thought of as his, was near the lake,
which wasn't much of a lake at all.
the water poured in from the overflows
of neighborhood drains that lay just beyond
the thin barrier of trees, pines
and oaks, scrub brush and chain link
fences if you looked hard enough, or
it was winter, and the trees bare of leaves.
but it was a short walk with his cane,
down the steps, down the slope of sidewalk,
his bag of bread in one hand, his hat
tight, the brim pulled down, his overcoat
loose, but the collar up now
that he felt the wind.
the spring was still cold enough to keep
people away, especially in the early
morning, having it all to himself,
to walk the gravel sand, to throw bread
to the gathering geese, the stray gulls
who had wandered far from the bay,
or sea, he had this shallow pond to himself,
to remember the loves of his life,
those women, that loved him, those
that had passed on, those that
he let slip through his hands.
but he had forgiven himself, as one must
do with age, not staying in the nether
world of what ifs, not wondering
what could have been. it was good enough
now to be alive, to be here, to be
tossing bread into the air, gone before
hitting the mirrored circle of water.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

two small boys

the sky sure looks religious today,
the boy said to his mother
as she drove the yellow ford pick up
down the narrow band of dirt road
between high corn on both sides.
I can almost see angels he said,
leaning his bony elbow on
the window. can you see what
I see, momma, he said, pushing
up in his seat, craning his skinny
neck out as the car bounced along
towards the church
at the bend of the road where
the field flattened without crop
this season. don't fall out,
she said. we don't need two dead
boys on our hands today, now do we?
she adjusted her sunday crown
of dark blue ribbons and pointed
to her handbag on the floor
where the boy's polished
buster browns almost
touched the rubber mat. hand
me a cigarette, she said.
then pushed the metal lighter
into the dashboard. sit down son
and be still. tuck your shirt in
and say a prayer,
or better yet, sing me a song.
sing me any old song. it'll make
the day seem brighter. so the boy,
in his high pitched voice,
sang a song he learned in school
all the way
to the other boy's funeral.

the egg

the egg is perfect,
so neatly lined
in rows in the cardboard
box, each one oblong
and wobbly
hard enough to roll
and not break
full of unformed
life, now cold,
soon to be scrambled
or fried,
over easy, perhaps
boiled hard,
or poached,
white or brown,
the shell holding
in its sheen
the soft kitchen light.

the other side

the woman told me
on the phone that she could
channel the dead.
have a word or two
with the dearly departed.
I said, how much,
is it a long distance
call, or will
you Skype, or text,
perhaps e mail
your beloved friend.
she said I have my ways.
credit card number
and expiration date?
your friend is fine,
she said. we just had a nice
long chat.
she says hello and that
it's wonderful up here.
I miss you and don't worry.
what else?
that's about it, she
said. oh, and she said
that you need to get some
food in your refrigerator.
really, she said that.
no, she laughed.
I just made that part
up. she can't really see
you or anything.
it's not like they have
a glass floor up there.
let me know if you want to
talk to her again though.
we're open all night
and day.

the new born

the groundskeeper
who lived
with his family below
your house
in spain
was tall and lean,
polite,
a beret, black and soft
upon his head.
one by one
he'd bend over and snatch
each new born
kitten from the box
where his cat
would lie and place
them into a burlap
bag, he'd then walk
to the sea
as green as glass
to drown them.

the roman candle

your roman candle
is wet.
it won't fire, bring flames
and sparkles
high into the air.
it's soggy
and cold, sitting out
in the yard
awaiting a match
to bring it back
to life.
its reluctance to be
happy is a curious thing,
but will pass
in time. not every day
or night
can be a holiday.

cleaning out

the hired men come
in a box truck. white
but beaten
and dirty.
they come to haul away
the things
that have gathered
in your basement
your garage,
up the fold out steps
to your attic.
the tread mill, a zebra rug
rolled and standing,
the old TV's now
useless and too large
for anywhere. snow tires.
golf clubs and skis,
fishing rods,
all things you've used
throughout
your life, collecting
dust, leaning against
the walls, encyclopedias
stacked and forgotten.
you want to say no,
leave this or that,
but resist, letting go.
that thing in life
that is so hard to do
with all things,
even you.

Friday, July 3, 2015

finding gold

the years you spent
panning for gold,
sifting through the cold
water
as it rolled off
the mountain,
the melting of snow.
your eyes searching
for that one smooth
nugget, the one that
will get you home,
the one that will
end this madness,
this waiting with arms
stretched
into the water
that moves faster
than time, as you bend
and grow old.

bacon lust

I can smell
bacon cooking somewhere
in my zip code.
it's been so long since
I've had any.
my mouth waters
and I want some. I
want six or seven strips.
I don't care
how fatty and full
of nitrates
it is. I want some
bacon and I want it
now. who's cooking
it, in what pan is it
sizzling
in its own grease?
where can I get some
bacon. thick long
strips fried and fatty
plucked from a gurgling
black pan.
who opens their kitchen
window and cooks bacon,
what kind of a world
are we living in now?

the new you

the new sixty
is fifty,
the new red is orange,
the new beef
is buffalo.
the new shirt is
a poncho.
the new way of thinking
is the old way
with a twist.
the new kiss is a bite.
an hour is now a minute.
a day a week.
a year, forever.
the new shoe is a loafer.
the new breakfast
is eggs with turkey
bacon.
the new you is an old you,
with a limp
and without hair.

the glue factory

I know I shouldn't have said
that, as soon as the words left my
mouth, I wanted to grab
each word, and stuff
them back into my slightly
inebriated mind, but
it was too late,
the comment about, have
you gained weight, or sorry
about your son's
incarceration, but I bet
he looks good in stripes.
so what do you have now, three
cats, or four. don't they
make your house smell.
and so how is the old horse.
time for the glue factory, or
what?

an above average phone

if you were a phone,
not necessarily
a new
smart phone, but perhaps
an above average phone,
you'd roll over in the morning
and plug yourself
into a wall,
recharge those tired bones,
those weary muscles.
you'd scroll your list
of things to do today,
your calendar of
where to go, who to see.
with your eyes
you'd take a picture
of the sky about to rain.
if you were a phone
this morning, you'd
stare at the list of
contacts, some new, some
old, some never to used again,
and delete her name.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

late night snack

she calls from Guatemala
at two in the morning eastern
standard time
forgetting that you are not
on the same clock.
what are you doing
she says, making a crunching
noise over the phone line.
i'm eating a corn
tortilla with cheese
and hot tamale sauce, she says.
and having a margarita,
salted.
you'd love it. I have a blender
in my room
hooked up the generator
out by the chicken coop.
were you sleeping?
yes, you tell her. but I am
hungry and wish I was
there with you.
I could use a margarita
and a tortilla right about now.

water to boil

not unlike waiting
for water to boil
that never does,
you stand
in the reflection
of your own life,
and wait for things
to get done,
to be just right.

barking

I think about a new dog.
then think about
picking up after him
in the rain, the heat,
snow, sleet. him wandering
about for an hour
looking for the one
perfect spot, as i beg
him to go. I think about
the plastic bag,
the bending over, then
think no. maybe i'm
not ready quite yet
for the barking and chewing
of shoes and furniture.
of fleas and shedding,
of vet bills, of his short
life, then dying.
I think about his barking,
I may have just mentioned that.
I think about a new dog,
for a moment or two,
but quickly let it pass.

the hot dog contest

you decide not to enter
the hot dog eating contest this year
at the company picnic.
the long night
at the hospital last 4th of july,
has cured you of that idea.
sure, it made you a star
in the office,
how the women swooned
at the sight of your enormous
pale belly, gurgling
with beef franks, hardly
chewed. your star spangled
shirt pulled up, stretched
to its polyester limit.
how they pointed at the pictures
on the bulletin board that monday
of you in your mustard
and relish covered
t-shirt. a piece of art
that would make Jackson Pollock
proud. you on the gurney being
rolled away into
the ambulance, your hand
up giving the victory sign with
a smile creased across
your bloated face.
a piece of bun stuck
to your cheek.

the red dress

they steal her car,
the white BMW that she left
running in front of
a 7-11 as she ran in to get coffee
and a Danish before work.
they use her car
to rob a bank and be chased
throughout the day,
being shot at and cornered
outside of town where
the woods meet the river.
she hears it all on the radio,
calling her sister
to tell her that her car
is in a high speed chase
with bank robbers at the wheel.
I have my favorite dress
in the back seat, she says.
the red one that I love.
I just picked it up from
the dry cleaners.
the robbers are never found,
but her car is. the engine
still running, not worse
for wear, no bullet holes,
no signs of who was there.
only the dress is gone, these
two men, these bank robbers
have decided that perhaps one
of their wives or girfriends
might look nice in a red
dress like the one
they found.

king's highway

he tells you, embarrassed,
but not too much.
about the three meals,
the chores.
the room he shares
with a stranger, both
trying hard to find
a way out, and back into
the world of commerce
and independence.
it's a bus stop,
a shelter for ninety days.
walking the straight
and narrow line of sobriety.
he tells you, with a whisper,
about being strong,
being still a man, but
losing, losing so much,
so often to bad luck,
bad turns,
decision made too often
with no lessons learned.
he takes his bag,
and wanders back into his
own life. a pocket full
of cash, a slow gait
up king's highway.

an old love

the necks turned upwards
to the settled
sky of receding light.
the wait, the wait.
the dogs on short leashes,
the children on
tired shoulders.
then the spark and spring
of booms,
of colored light
in star flowered
blues and reds,
pinks and whites.
the spray of patterns
across the darkening sky.
each year, since childhood,
you've stood
and watched with someone.
your son, your wife,
a new love, an old love
who has returned,
for just one night.