Monday, August 31, 2015

deja vu

you've been there before.
this exact moment
each word spoken,
each gesture,
a familiar scenario
played out again
with the same players
saying the same
exact thing.
it's almost as if your life
is repeating itself,
over and over
again, a spool on a reel
of everything
that has happened.
not even biting
your tongue
can stop it.

the cows

it's a long day for the cows.
black
and white, brown spotted,
grazing on
grass, lingering
beyond the gated fence.
hardly moving
in the midday sun.
beyond the barn
where a red windmill spins.
not a care
within them, just the blue
sky,
the day, one not unlike
the other.
how quickly, how slowly
it all goes
until the end.

her cookies

her Christmas
cookies
are the best cookies
ever.
just sweet enough,
crispy
and thick,
no skimping
on the nuts or chocolate
chunks,
real butter,
real sugar,
each one baked without
a burn.
each one
neatly stored away
into a round red
tin. you can hardly
wait to
get them, with a note
attached,
from ginger,
merry christmas,
to my friend.

winter memories

it's the pull
of wind that makes
the trees dance
and sing.
the swirl of air
that stirs
the woods, leaving
the old branches
and limbs
close to bare.
it's the beginning
of an end,
the cusp of a season
about to begin.
it's getting
the coat out,
the boots and gloves.
it's remembering
what snow
is like, the ice
of her frozen heart
when she left, never
to return again.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

life goes on

from a distance
you can see the cow caught
up in a twister,
she's black and white.
there is a man too.
he's milking the cow
on a wooden stool,
holding the bucket
beneath the cow.
slowly he goes about
his work.
life goes on, despite
so much turbulence.

this thing called love

her number was unlisted.
you couldn't
find her anywhere.
no social media
whatsoever,
no face book or my
space,
just a large empty
space
is where she dwelled.
she hated to talk
or text on the phone,
or in person.
silence was her happy place.
no tv.
no radio in her car.
her house was in the woods,
deep
in a maze of unmarked streets,
each and every one
unpaved.
she rarely visited,
and when you went
to her house
you slept in separate
beds, in separate
rooms,
on different floors.
you hardly knew her
she hardly knew you.
but it lasted almost
three years.
strange, but true,
this thing called love.

the writing life

I plow through the thick book.
the biography
of the writer.
the drunk, the liar, the loser.
but a fine
craftsman of the written word.
the shambles
of his life goes on and on.
the ex wife, the criminal
children,
the bankruptcies and broken
down cars.
the book is thick with details.
each page submitting another
tale of woe
as he dragged his family
from one rented house
to another,
and yet, he kept writing, kept
at the key board,
stories and poems,
pushing his hand across
the pad, waiting for an angel
to save him from his madness.
finally he does find her, or
she finds him, so it has a happy
ending. fame and fortune arrives,
at least until the point
where he dies
from smoking five packs
of cigarettes a day,
and the family left behind
claws frantically
at the money left behind.

closed for business

the restaurant
was closed. I could see
that by
the sign, the darkness
inside,
the chairs and tables
scattered
and stacked.
the doors locked.
in my mind I could smell
the fresh bread,
the cooked pasta, but
no one was there.
no greeting at the door
like
the old days,
when they knew you.
said welcome, come in,
we're glad to see you
again.
let me take your coat
and hat.
is a window seat okay?
the wind
of autumn slides down my
collar, across
my back,
gives me a chill,
my faced is pressed
against the window
of many closings lately.

Friday, August 28, 2015

change your life

the book promises to change your life
in seven days.
why just seven days.
why not seven minutes.
you want it now.
you skip and skim through
the book looking for gems
of wisdom.
searching for that one
line that boils it all down
to an essential truth
that you've somehow missed
in your time here on earth.
you want the epiphany
now. but no, there is a cd
too that you must listen
to. lie down and be still
breathe. it says, close your eyes
and imagine that you are
in a safe and peaceful place.
tell yourself how wonderful
you are. who doesn't know that
you mumble to yourself.
breathe, the voice says.
inhale exhale. let it all go.
this makes you sleepy,
this makes you want to call
your friend Alice and ask
her to come over
and to brink vodka
and to wear high heels.
the dog comes over, as you
try to control your breathing,
and licks your face. he wags
his tail, liking that you are
lying on the floor.
he curls beside you
as you listen to the man on
the cd drone on about
finding your happy place.
again, you think of Alice.

yard sale

early in the morning
you see them, your neighbors
carrying out,
dragging out,
lifting, helping one
another with their odds
and ends.
blankets and coats,
stacking them
on their lawns.
a child's dress, pink
with ribbons, slightly torn.
a box full of men's ties,
all wide and striped,
some with golf balls
or fish
embroidered in the shine.
small tags are attached
by scotch tape
to things with prices,
or best offer
written with a smile.
the cracked mirror
is out there, again, along with
an old pair of boots,
clean and polished for just
this occasion.
a red dog leash, without a dog.
a dog dish. a dog bed.
a small crate of dog toys.
the landscape oil painting
with too much orange
in the sunset
is bright in the early sun.
it leans against a rocking
chair, just one,
next to a card table
with a taped leg.
gloves and umbrellas too.
most things worn, but some
that look nearly
unused. old magazines, stacked
and looking unread,
national geographic,
photo play, and tiger beat.
the yards are full.
they line the streets,
the vendors,
with coffee mugs in hand,
waving hello
to one another, ready to
sit out the whole day
for a dollar or two.

underwater

your father,
not believing in doctors,
squints
at the world through his
ocean
blue eyes and pretends
to see
what he can't see.
is the light red or green?
he'd rather swim
in this watery world
without help
never having to adjust
the distance
of a book, a paper,
incoming mail,
the wobble of his
ancient t.v.

what lies before you

these cob webs
in the high corners
the low
baseboards
under the bed.
soft tumble weeds
of dust
and air
caught to sway
in the small winds
of you as you walk
by, going about
your day
ignoring, not seeing
what lies before your
eyes.
a clean sweep
would help, if you could
stop, just stop
for one moment.

in each and everyone

sometimes you see
it in the smallest of places,
gestures
a hint
in the voice
or the stride of
someone walking.
a hat,
or a pair shoes,
a glimmer of style,
a poem
being written
before your eyes.
a flash of uniqueness
in each
and everyone.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

You Are Being Sued

you are being sued by the irs,
the serious
sounding woman says
on the phone as you listen
to your voice mail.
call this number immediately
or you will serve jail time.
so i do after fixing a tuna sandwich
and pouring a glass of milk.
I can't find any chips,
and the pickles are all gone.
somewhat disappointed
I sit down at the table to eat,
then I call.
an Indian sounding man who gives his
name as Wilfred Owens
states that i owe the government
four thousand
nine hundred and seventy three
dollars from erroneous tax filings
and that if I refuse to pay,
they will see me in court.
I can hear the babbling of a hundred
other Wilfred Owens
in the background, there is the echo
and din of a warehouse.
English seemingly being everyone's
second or third language.
I plead my case, begging forgiveness
and ask if I can
bring the money in immediately.
I have it in cash
in a paper bag I offer.
I can be at the irs offices
in less than an hour.
this startles Wilfred into silence.
you have that much cash, he says.
I can almost hear his lips smacking
together. yes, I tell him.
but he says no. he says that I can
pay by Visa. no checks, or cash,
credit cards only.
I tell him okay. I tell him to hold
on. hold on Wilfred, I say
politely, let me get my wallet.
i'll hold he says amid the chatter
of ringing phones and talking.
I call my dog, put him on a leash
then go for a nice long walk in
the park. when I get back
an hour later, Wilfred is no longer
holding, he's given up on me,
so I call back.
this time i owe seven thousand
three hundred and twelve dollars.
my new irs agent's name is James
Jones. I ask him if I can bring what
I owe in cash. he says no. no cash.

junk mail

sometimes
your empathy is lacking.
evaporated in
the struggle
of your own day to day
living.
keeping the belt
moving,
boxing each day
and stamping for mail.
you hear
the words, the pleas,
the sorrow
of others, but they fall
short of penetrating
your skin.
they drop to the floor
like junk mail,
as if you didn't care.
you do. but at the moment,
well, you don't.
tomorrow maybe.

the white chicken

you were only five or six
but you clearly
remember your grandmother
wringing a chicken's
neck with her fat
curled hand, killing
it for dinner.
it was only a few minutes
ago when
you raced around her bricked
back yard with the other
children, a yard that was more
of an alley in south
Philadelphia. how you
chased the white bird
as it clucked madly
at your reaching short
arms.
then there was silence.
and soon
after, there was dinner.

go now

if you leave now
you'll get there before
the sun
goes down.
if you don't make
too many stops
and the traffic is light.
if you're packed
and ready to go,
and leave
in the next ten minutes
you'll be there
in no time.
you'll be on the beach.
toes in the sand.
an umbrella up.
your blanket spread out.
if you leave now,
you'll be on
the road.
you'll be free for a
few days.
so what's stopping you.

the problems

the death
brings problems.
money mostly, who's grieving
the hardest
or the least.
an accounting
of visits.
a list of who did or
didn't do enough.
who gets what.
was there a will, where
is the money?
we might need a lawyer
here
one sister says.
another says,
I want my inheritance.
the fragile
strands that hold the family
together
quickly dissolves.
swords are sharpened.
guns loaded.
the death brings
problems.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

scrambled eggs

every day
you are notified that your phone
needs
to be updated.
new software is available.
they don't stop.
they are busy, so busy
with these phones.
night and day toiling
to make them
faster, smaller,
clearer.
who cares.
you just want to make
a call and be heard,
and hear.
that's all.
and maybe take a picture
of these scrambled
eggs you're about to eat
to send
to your facebook page
for public viewing.

the fighter

he shows me his scar,
opening his hospital robe,
showing his grey
haired body,
lean and not at all
as old as you might
think.
he points to where
they cut
and took out the offending
visitor.
a red stitched
worm in a straight
line crawls across his belly.
i look, then turn
my head away.
he laughs. I'm not dead
yet, he says.
i'm a fighter,
then he sits back down
on the chair
and asks for water.

hopeful

the notion of being hopeful
seems to kick
in at an early age.
not the playground age, but
past that
when girls are discovered
perhaps.
the idea of love,
once realized,
that seems to float the idea
of hope,
pushes it out to sea
where it sails and sails
even until this age.
peering towards land
that isn't there.

arriving

it's less about awakening
and more
about arriving
at the doorstep
of a new day.
bags in hand, ticket
not yet torn
in half.
that will come later.
but for now you
are there.
in the small bands
of light
coming from the blinds.
at the station.
pressing your finger
against
the alarm button.
you slowly board
this train of another
day,
finding clothes
and coffee,
taking the keys from
the counter, looking around
and saying
farewell to the house
before you go.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

kitchen drawer

it's a kitchen drawer
full of dead
phones and keys
to locks
and doors.
where they go you
have no idea.
batteries and paper
clips. coupons
for pizza deliveries,
expired,
years old.
most of it could
be dumped
quickly
into a bag and be
gone and you'd never blink
or wonder what
happened to any
of it. but you don't,
instead you
toss in another twist
from the bread bag
and close it.

the small fish

it's just a small
fish
lock jawed
and stiff lipped
on the steel
hook.
his flat eyes
unblinking in sunlight.
his skin glittering
with false gold.
your son reels
it in with measured
glee.
it's small he says,
feeling sorry
for the fish,
being gentle as he
pulls into
the harsh air
where it struggles
to breathe.
throw him back, he
says, quick, before he
dies.
this ends
the fishing part
of his childhood,
which makes
you happy.

Monday, August 24, 2015

so you do

please, the weather is bad,
call me when you get there,
I tell her
as she slams
the trunk shut,
her last piece of luggage
tossed in. she's wet,
it's raining.
go easy, rest when you can.
no rush to get
where you're going.
do you have everything?
did you check
the bathroom? the kitchen,
under the bed?
goodbye, she says,
wiping rain from her face.
whatever I've left, just
keep or throw away.
I won't be coming back.
you try to kiss her on
the lips but she turns
her head. she puts a stiff
hand on your chest.
don't she says. it's over.
no need to pretend anymore.
in fact, don't even wave. okay?
just go back inside
to your life and let me
drive away. so you do.

the phone booth

the phone booth,
gone now.
gone the way
of nickel candy,
dime pop,
gum for a penny.
the red coke machine
round shouldered
and hunched
cold and sweating
in the motel lot.
the phone booth,
with its
scratched black
box, the numbers
in ink,
skull and cross bones,
faces and names.
body parts,
erect or soft.
a thick book of thin
pages of anyone,
all in the tri-state
area.
this four walled
glass
tower of talk,
of battered
receivers, empty
dial tones,
of connecting to
the ones you loved,
the one you lost.

do you like my pants

do you like my leopard
print pants, she asks me
as she spins around
looking at herself in
the long mirror.
they're not too tight, are they?
I feel like a cat
ready to pounce on my prey.
she kicks up a leg
and twirls around
to face me lying on the bed
eating a bowl of cereal.
they aren't too trailer court
trashy, are they?
I feel like a wild animal
in these pants.
she puts her nails out,
both hands curled
and lets out a cat like
growl.
no, they're fine, I tell her.
I like those pants a lot.

the unborn

not every baby
lives, she says.
today
some didn't make it.
blue, or still.
too small.
their lungs and
souls like feathers
fallen
from angels wings.
they fly away, she says.
no time
to grieve or mourn,
our prayers
and love must go now
to those,
the many
that are born.

her hands

her hands, roped
in blue thick veins,
long fingered, still
with her wedding ring,
another ring
of some sort
that she's always wore
on the other hand.
she stares into
these hands,
folding them over
and over
as if they held some
answer
to anything, or
to everything.
a palm full of memories
or secrets, who's
to know. only
when you call out
her name, does she
look up to say hello.

going home

you'd like to go home.
it would be
nice to find that road
that curves
through the falling leaves,
along a fenced
field with horses.
you'd have the windows
down letting a cool
breeze full
of apples
and sunlight blow
freely upon your skin.
you'd like a place
down on the water, where
the road ends.
where people would stand
on a porch
and wave, coming out
to greet you
upon hearing your car
come around the bend.
you'd like to see a dog too.
maybe two dogs.
you'd know their names
as they ran and jumped
upon your legs.
you'd like to be kissed
on the cheek and hear
the words, we've missed
you. we're glad you're here.
come inside, we've
been waiting.
you'd like to go home
to a place like that,
come with me, won't you?

a little dust up

the police
knock hard and long
on the steel door.
they peer into the narrow
slot of the chained
apartment door,
they are serious in black
and blue.
hands
on hipped guns,
fingering clubs
and mace, whatever
means it takes
to subdue
this crowd
of two.
two lovers who no
longer
see eye to eye
on anything,
both holding forks
and knives
on this fair
holiday in November.
we're fine, the wife
says, still holding
the large fork
meant to serve
turkey.
we're good here,
the man with the carving
knife says,
just a little dust
up, no need to worry.
just getting ready
to have some dinner
gentlemen. but thanks
for stopping by.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

his time

hardly a ripple
in the flat palm of water.
the air is warm
with the sun still
in the trees.
the sky is blue.
it's early sunday
morning.
hardly a car
on the road,
barely a sound.
just him casting,
wading out
in tall boots,
waiting for his time
to come around.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

even into you

the ground around him
stretches,
doesn't end.
whether flat, or inclined,
the places he has touched
or been
go on and on.
his footsteps
taken, the words spoken.
the food he
has eaten. the sound
of his voice
still there
somehow,
traces and tracks of his
ending life stretch out,
even into you.

the life you save

the blood bank
wants
your blood.
they lure you in with
cookies,
a small cup of juice.
a sticker for your lapel.
the kind
soft spoken nurse
assures you
with a smile,
that everything will be alright,
everything is fine,
she says it might pinch
a little
then slides
the silver needle into
a fat slippery vein,
pulling out the crimson
life that runs through
you.
saying that the life
you save, may
be your own. you like
the sound of those
words and will
find a place for them
later, or now.

the devil's footsteps

your remember
the fat man coming to see
your mother.
the smallest of children
at knee level
among the trees of
adults
and in-betweens.
he was a fireman
from the local station house
who, like a dog in heat,
kept sniffing
around the house.
seeing your mother
not as we saw her,
but as something beyond
our imagination.
to win us over,
or her, one day he
carried an armful
of ice cream, frozen
boxed gallons
that he picked up
off the street after
a truck had
collided with a car,
turning over,
spilling everything.
it wasn't until years
later, decades,
that you found out
that it was your sisters,
ten and twelve,
that caught his eye
and his charms,
seeking them out late
at night,
stepping lightly as
devils do
up the stairs to
their once safe rooms.

Friday, August 21, 2015

a glint of gold

it's a long day
sifting
for gold.
the sun on your back.
the water
making your hands
cold
and stiff.
your knees ache.
your shoulders
are tight, but you
press on
going at it alone,
dipping the screen
into the flow
of blue water
again and again,
searching for that
glint of gold.

buttering her toast

it wasn't so much
that he couldn't
live without her,
he told the man
sitting beside him
at the bar, it wasn't that
at all.
they were both miserable
and had to move on
or die, it wasn't
that, he said, staring
into his drink,
moving the ice around
with a swizzle stick,
we love each other,
but we fight
until there's no fight
left inside us.
I can leave her
and be happy again,
I can live without her,
I can do that, but I just
don't want
anyone else buttering
her toast.
then he looked up
and said, do you know
what I mean. the man
next him nodded
and said I do.

twin beds

during fifty years
of marriage,
they had two
beds. twin beds.
neatly made, each with one
white pillow.
a night stand on either
side with a jar
lamp
and a wide blue shade.
the carpet, wall to wall
was the color
of the Carolina sky.
a sweet cotton blue.
when he died.
nothing changed.
his pillow and bed remained
in place.
she rose, she pulled the curtains
open, halfway, she went on
as if nothing had
or would every change.

bad luck

he tells me about
his string of bad luck.
the accident.
the stumble
down a flight of stairs.
a fight.
the police
pulling him over
for expired tags.
he leaves out the part
about the open
bottle,
drinking to excess,
a woman he met
that he didn't pay
after services were rendered.
he calls it bad luck.
how the IRS hounds him,
his ex wife
seeking judgment,
how the parole board
won't listen
to his pleas.
it starts to rain,
making him point at the sky.
see, he says.
this is what i'm talking
about.
I forgot my umbrella.

picture hanging

you see them carrying
in a large picture
in a frame
from their car.
they go into their house
and close the door.
you can hear
them.
the young couple with
the baby.
he with a hammer
you imagine,
her holding the child.
standing back, or
perhaps measuring
the wall.
height and distance,
centering the spot
before he strikes
the nail.
you hear the hammer
strike.
again, then again.
once more. then stop.
ten minutes later,
they try again.
and later once more
on a different wall.
when you see them later,
she's staring out
a window of the car,
the baby in the back seat.
his hands grip the wheel
as they drive way
in silence.

in the end

he put his keys
into the freezer, next
to the frozen
meat, the bag of peas
and carrots,
the trays of ice,
and left the milk on
the counter,
the eggs went into
the oven.
he forgot his dog's
name, calling him,
hey, come here
let's go for a walk.
once around
the block he couldn't
remember where he lived,
or his own name,
which house was
his.
when they found him,
he was a new man
free from his past,
ready to start over
in an unknown land
with strangers soon
to be friends.

the red door

for years
she talks about having
her front door
painted red.
when the weather is
good, she says.
when it stops raining.
I just need to pick
the color.
it's a door she never
uses. it overlooks
the steep
hill and the fast
road
of moving traffic.
the enters the house
through the back only
where she parks
her car.
another year goes by.
she calls
and talks about the door
again,
the door she wants
to be painted red.
it wouldn't take you
long,
maybe in the fall,
she says.
when I get back from
Ireland. if you aren't
too busy.
I just need to pick a
color.
a nice bright red,
but not too pink or
burgundy. a Christmas
red. do you know what
I mean?


Thursday, August 20, 2015

the outline

you see a chalked
outline
of a body
in the street
cordoned off by
yellow tape
and red cones.
the detectives are
at the corner taking
notes, asking
questions.
you slip under the tape
and go lie down
into the space
neatly drawn
upon the road,
setting your arms
in a way
that makes them fit.
your legs
and torso, twisted.
you turn your
head upwards
to the sky, as you
imagine the person
who was here
had done so
before he died.
you want to see
what he saw,
you want some clarity
in this strange
and mournful life,
but you see nothing,
nothing but blue
in the cloudless
empty sky.

one more sale

the salesman
tired from his day
of persuasion
and white lies
of omission
relaxes
at the bar, ordering
drinks,
and staring
into his phone.
checking his notes
on what
he's earned
that day, that
week, the month
the year.
he calls everyone
buddy and
tells the bartender,
hey buddy, send a round
to the blonde
at the end
of the bar.
she waves, raising her
new drink, he
winks, then heads
over.
the work day is not
over just yet.

not a match

she had a crazy way
of kissing.
her tongue was not
unlike that of
a pond frog chasing
flies. a darting sharp
pointed thing,
that flicked awkwardly
into your mouth.
what exactly are you
doing, you
asked her the first
time you sat in the back
seat of your car
at the drive in.
i'm kissing you, she
said.
what are you doing.
kissing you back.
well, you need some
lessons, and by the way
my lips are getting
all scratched up
from your mustache.
can you shave it the next
time?

the white coat

you had white
coat syndrome, your knees
rattled
as you stood there,
your heart raced,
your throat tightened
with illogical fear.
sweat rolled
down your brow.
your life flashed before
you.
maybe for the next
wedding you'll
wear a black suit
instead of white.

warmer

the earth
is getting hotter.
the ice is melting.
the polar caps
are not what they
used to be.
the oceans rising.
the penguins
are confused,
the polar bears don't
know what to do.
everything is
becoming warmer,
why not you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

at some point

maybe up
north, is where to be.
a small village
in new England
where no one knows
who you are, at
least for
the first few hours
or so.
or south, to the Mexican
border.
where it's warm
and you like the food
the drink,
the sun.
or west, California.
when haven't you
dreamed
of mythical California.
the ocean,
the girls.
the impossible possibilities.
or, you could
stay east
and get lost in new York.
find
a place where you
could walk and walk
all day
the city streets,
through central park.
be part
of the met, an antique
on a bench
in wonder.

four women

they are gum drops
of women
with mops and brooms,
buckets, quietly
happy in their light
blue smocks,
moving as one,
all four,
hair back
and up under kerchiefs,
or knotted
tight.
they are maids
speaking
in another language
removed
from another world,
happy
to be where they are.
exiting
the small car
to enter your home.
they remove the dust
from your shelves,
take away your spills,
put a shine
on your day, and you,
leaving cash in an
envelope, to pay.
in an hour they are
done and gone
until next time,
leaving
the key under the mat.

the parking pass

the bright red
day glow
sticker
is firmly stuck
to your windshield.
the community Nazis
have walked
through
your neighborhood
and deemed
your parking
pass is not visible
enough for their liking.
you will be towed
this is a warning.
you must display
your pass properly
it reads.
in your boxer shorts
you go out
into the parking lot
open your car and
you slide your pass
into the middle of
the dashboard, three
inches to the left.
you hope this pleases
them and that your car,
parked directly in
front of your own
house, as it has been
for ten years, in
a numbered space
will not be towed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

from his garden

his tomatoes were in.
large and red,
ripe, ready to be plucked
from the vine.
his small square of yard
beside the air conditioning
unit, next to the patio
was loosely fenced
to keep the rabbits out.
they were thick and round,
hardly one still green.
all grown from seed,
by hand, his hands
in the dry earth on his
bended knees.
he filled a paper bag
to give me.
to carry home in the car,
three hundred
miles away,
a dozen or more tomatoes
most you'd never
eat, but it was an act
of love and kindness,
attrition perhaps
for so much of the past,
things better left
unsaid. this was enough
i thought, as he stood
in the parking lot
and waved farewell.

don't call for awhile

eighty per cent of all
elderly falls
take place in the bathroom
i tell my father
who is nursing
bruised ribs from his crash
into the side
of the tub.
really? he says, but
ignoring my attempt
at conversation.
I have to go lie down
now, he tells me.
I need a longer cord
for the phone,
so don't call for a few
days. it's very hard
to get up
and go into the kitchen.
he says goodbye, then
hangs up.
you stare at the receiver,
listening to the dial
tone. i go use the bathroom,
hanging on
to the door, the sink,
the towel rack,
walking gingerly
upon the slippery
blue rug.

not quite in love

she made her list
of lovers
before she died and left
it in a drawer
of her desk,
it was updated
a week before
she passed.
she used a five star
rating system.
it was a modest number
of men
in her life,
me being the last,
and apparently to my
surprise
one woman.
she was the only person
who got five
stars, where as
i came in at two
I left the list,
and took
the pen to write
a note to those who
were coming
to claim her things.
the key is
in the shed, on the top
shelf, I wrote.
and moved on, saying
nothing about
the list. she was right.

buy and sell

my broker of twenty five years,
amy, calls and wants to know
if I want to sell
one stock and buy another,
claiming that it would
be a nice addition to my portfolio.
I listen to her and believe
she knows what she's doing,
i say yes, i always say yes,
but still I fear that
at a certain age
i'll be living in a cardboard
box with the clothes on my back
and a toothbrush,
behind a liquor store,
in the woods.
she laughs when I say this
to her, she laughs
a little too long
and too hard though,
and it worries me as I listen
to the rattle of her
fingers across a keyboard
confirming the buy and sell.

i don't want to be judgmental

I don't want to say
anything bad
or be judgmental,
your friend Ginger
tells you,
nodding towards her friend
across the street,
pushing a stroller,
but isn't she a little
too old
and out of shape
to be wearing yoga
pants. how can she
breathe in that top.
they don't even
look real, do they?
who can be that skinny
and have those?
I heard that she's
not even sure who
the father is.
oh look, she's coming
over to say hi.
she saw us.
oh, hello sweetie,
how are you, you look
amazing, and look
at this sweet little
baby. can I hold him?
I just love a brand
new baby.

on the inside

from the street
there was only a sign
with the name of the mental
hospital
and a long stretch of narrow
bars, a fence with a gate,
that separated those inside
from those on
the outside.
the same trees grew,
the same grass was mowed
to a smooth emerald green.
it was hard to tell
the difference
at times.
who was crazy, who was sane.
who didn't talk
to themselves, who didn't
sit and wonder,
stare into the sky,
or throw bread at pigeons,
pondering what's next.
if anything. those caged
behind the bars
moved slower, easier
in their pale blue robes,
thin pajamas, you could see
that, while those on the outside
moved quickly,
purposeful, trying hard
to be busy, to stay
sane and alive, pretending
perhaps to be on the out
not the inside.

the small boat

your boat is too small
for everyone to get on board.
so you have to make
choices.
who's fun, who's silly,
who's smart and kind.
who doesn't rattle when
the wind blows
and the water rises
to the edge.
it's a small boat,
and only a short trip
from here to the shore,
but you have to choose carefully
these friends, who climbs
on board to sail
with you.

Monday, August 17, 2015

the changing road

it is a straight
stretch of curved road
route 4, Pennsylvania avenue
extended.
all the ways
to water, to the bridge
that rises
narrow across the straight
from Solomon's
to California, Maryland.
fifty miles of small houses
face the fast black
band of highway,
farms and tractors
rusting.
road side stands
selling produce
and shark's teeth. big trucks
idling in front
new homes, old shacks.
Vera's to the right,
Calvert Cliffs to the left.
there is a sense of holding
onto the past,
but the grip is loose,
about to let go
of those coming.
the new money. those
seeking quiet
in the hills, the woods,
the water. nothing stays
the same, no roads
left untouched
by tomorrow.

sleep well

there is no where
do we go from here, for him.
the mechanical bed
pushing him
upright to see
who comes and goes,
the television
muted but bright as
the sun
he used to lie under,
stretched
before the ocean,
the sand, the years
behind and before him.
you can only be there,
say little,
grip his hand, kiss
his head
and say sleep well
when you leave,
sleep well.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

the dollar book pile

you dream about snakes,
so you look up
snakes in the dream book
that you bought for a dollar
in the dog pile stack
in front of the closing
book store.
it says
you are afraid of poisonous
snakes
that wander in your yard,
coiling and rearing
back their pointed heads
to strike and bite you.
be careful where you step,
wear boots.
you wanted a deeper
meaning, something more
cerebral or spiritual.
disappointed,
you look up water, having
dreamed about water
the night before.
it says to check your plumbing
to see if you have any leaks
maybe change a washer
or two in the sinks.
perhaps you shouldn't drink
too much water before
going to sleep.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

school lunches

there was a mystery
to each lunch,
peering over shoulders
to see who got what.
you were always in wonder
at the kid
who had sliced
carrots and raisons,
even almonds,
the delicate sandwich
with the crust trimmed off.
the boy with the plaid
box and a thermos
of milk, or juice.
always an apple,
or peach, a washed piece
of fruit,
a small bag of home
baked cookies, tucked in,
oatmeal. even a note
sometimes, folded
over with the words
have a nice day, I love
you son, written in ink.
and you with your brown
bagged baloney
sandwich carved off a thick
tube, stroked quickly
with yellow mustard
by your own hand
on white bread.
a handful of potato chips,
crumbled from the bottom
of a bag,
and the small stack
of coins for milk
jangling in your pant pocket,
formerly your brother's,
being saved for something
else.

not her first rodeo

it's not my first rodeo
you hear
the old woman say with an
emphatic squeal, as she
talks to her
friend while eating an egg salad
sandwich
and keeping her
paper bag of clothes
next to her red
high heels.
you look at her, a sideways
glance
and think about her delicate hands
wrestling the horns
of a steer, or riding
a mad red eyed bull,
lassoing a pony. how many
rodeos has she actually been
a part of, you wonder.


a change

you need a change
of scenery
so you sleep in the other room.
at some point
you wake up
and wonder where you
are.
whose house
are you in, where is your
bed, your
clock, your
pillows.
who put you here
in this state of confusion.
a change wasn't
a good idea after all.

in her mind

in her mind
she's not in a brick one level
house
in the middle of southern
Maryland
with a dirt yard
and chickens and goats across
the scrub brush, the stale
pond.
she's not staring at
a rerun of another world
with seven antique strangers
on a pleather couch,
with her socked feet up
waiting for the dinner
bell to ring.
no. in her mind she's at
the waldorf Astoria,
waiting on room service
and for someone
to get her a club sandwich
and a gin and tonic,
comfy in her thick robe,
her children on
the phone, her dog at her
feet keeping
her toes warm.

the under tow

the undertow takes
you further out and down
the shore, the unseen dark
swirl
of the oceans pull,
rip tide
and there is little you
can do
but let it carry you,
relax, go easy, don't
fight this
strange water,
it too will pass
and calm before you
know.

Friday, August 14, 2015

let's do something fun

let's do something fun
and romantic for a change,
she tells me while browsing
through a magazine on fun things
to do as a couple.
I have the tv on,
lying on the couch
with a cold beer,
and a bag of salted,
shelled peanuts.
let's take a hot air balloon
ride over orange county.
it's just an hour away,
we can stop at one of those
roadside markets and get
some tomatoes too.
I toss some shells onto
the newspaper
and look over at her.
hot air balloon? I say
to her, shaking my head.
two words. no three words.
power lines, death.
oh don't be silly, they
hardly every crash.
I've been waiting for this
moment for a long time,
and pull out my scrap
book which I've had under
the couch just waiting for
the right opportunity.
it's filled with newspaper
photos and reports of
hot air balloon disasters,
starting with the Hindenburg.
I watch her as she thumbs
through the thick folder
staring at the burning
bodies, the carnage,
the flames enveloping
the colorful striped balloons
and straw baskets.
her eyes get wide and she
says oh my. oh my.
see, I tell her, turning
the volume up on the tv,
that's what i'm talking about.

dog in a basket

I couldn't take her seriously
because she carried her
small white dog
in a picnic basket everywhere
she went.
even when with me.
she'd say things like,
hello pumpkin, how's my
little sweetie pie doing
in there, lifting up
the lid
to give Precious a small
dog biscuit,
which the dog shoved into
the corner of the basket
next to the ten other
biscuits. it was difficult
to put my arm around
her and make any kind
of romantic move
with her carrying that
stupid basket and her bag
of doggie treats.
i don't usually
use the word stupid
in a poem, but this is one
time where I feel
it's okay.

digging coal

the interviewer
in his suit, his coffee cup
in hand.
his American flag pinned
on his collar
examines your resume
and says hmmm.
so tell me, where do you
want to be in five
years.
the first thought that comes
into your mind,
is anywhere, but here.
a coal mine
would be nicer, holding
a shovel
and digging into the side
of a cavernous
black mountain.
but you don't say that.
not yet anyway,
you'll wait until you
have the job
and can get a severance
package.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

flaws

there are flaws
in beauty.
Marilyn had six toes
on each foot
for instance,
the smallest ones
being removed
in childhood.
that makes you wonder
about a lot of things.
was she a good
swimmer at an early age?

higher ground

she said she'd call.
but you don't hear from her.
she says,
tomorrow, or the next day.
maybe we can get together.
she says a lot of things
she doesn't mean.
such as I miss you.
we need to catch up
and have a drink. maybe dinner,
or take a walk.
she said she'd call,
but you know what the truth
is.
she won't, which is okay.
because you won't either,
the phone lines go both ways
and it's best to move on
to higher ground anyway.

getting the band back together

I miss the days
when I was the lead singer
in the group
called the donuts.
I've thought about getting
the band back
together for one last
world tour,
the world being southern
Maryland.
go back to our roots,
where we first started,
sunnybrook tavern
on indian head
highway.
we played some of our
best music back then,
and once got paid
in beer and onion rings.
I met my third wife
in there. under the dark
smoky lights.
she was a waitress slash
dancer who knew how to sing
as well dance, sometimes filling
in for someone
who quit or was unconscious
from a variety of substances
he may have consumed.
I miss those days,
and think of them fondly
as I sit out on
the front porch of the senior
home I live in,
strumming my electric guitar
and eating oatmeal.

your nest

you pull the bed out
to vacuum,
throw the blinds up
the curtains back.
dust is everywhere.
tumble weeds
of clothing and shoes.
cups
and dishes.
silverware. the empty
nest is full of
your life now, not
the children.
no excuses anymore
for the laundry piling
up, the sink full,
the spill along
the stairs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

they suffer, these children

they suffer,
these children, wanting
so much, feeling entitled
to nearly everything
we have,
not knowing
that it took work
to acquire these things.
they suffer
with boredom,
angst about tomorrow,
which beach
to lie on,
which city to visit,
should I wear black or
white to the show.
how does my hair look?
they suffer, these children,
staying young
for as long as they can,
with help
from mom and dad,
as you keep growing old.

salt water taffy

you make a list
of all the people
you are going to bring
salt water taffy to
when you return from your
annual trek to the beach.
these are the people
you don't like.

two doctors

the girl in the ice cream
shop sees the two of you come in.
she gasps, staring at your
splattered clothes and faces,
hats and hands.
the red brown stain
of the house you worked
on everywhere upon your body.
she asks if you had been working
outside, and you say no,
we're surgeons, what you see
is blood from a surgery
gone bad. but the patient lived.
this man to my right is my assistant.
dr. jake. we both would like
a double scoop of mint
chocolate chip, please, stat,
in sugar cones. to which
she replies, right away
doctor, right away.

the girl with glasses

she can't see without her glasses.
which is nice
when she takes them off
to kiss and make love to you.
you imagine that you might
be more attractive
to her when blurred
by her fuzzy vision.
a cloud of imaginary beauty.
you prefer dark, or candle
light these days yourself,
not just for her, but for you too,
a bar with friendly lighting.
at this point we all look best
when the sun or moon is
in full eclipse, or the bulb
stays unlit.
it's not vanity, just acceptance
as the days and nights roll on.

we have one wall

we just want one wall
painted
the man says on the phone.
and in fact,
it's not even
an entire wall.
it's just the high
part, the part we
couldn't reach.
can you do that for
us? can you come
over with your ladder
and take care of
this one wall?
it might take ten
minutes of your time.
in the fall
we might have our
gutters cleaned.
can you do that.
we'll pay you.
but for now, it's just
the one wall.
today would be a good
time. between
two and three.
someone will be here.
just ring the bell
and the maid will let
you in.

nothing's easy

it's better for you,
she says, setting a boiled
egg in front
of you.
a shaker of salt,
a shaker of pepper.
the egg rolls on the plate.
i'm worried about your
cholesterol levels.
just break the shell and
peel it off.
but I wanted over easy,
you tell her.
I wanted two eggs
over easy. toast.
bacon, where's my bacon?
why are you messing with me,
starting a fight
so early in the day.
nothing's easy
she says.
especially not with you
these days. just eat
and be thankful
you have someone like me
around to watch
after you.

where we came from

we forget
the pleasures of our youth.
the bounce
of a new morning.
the spring
of legs and heart towards
a new day.
we forget how
easy it was to live
back then.
everything taken care of.
someone to watch
over you, see to your
meals, your clothes,
at night
say a prayer with you,
tuck you in.
we forget
in this rain and wind
so much
of where we came
from, but always a part
of us wanting
to return again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

another year

her mind is elsewhere.
can you blame
her.
work is upon her.
a new school year.
another class,
another flock of
children,
another book to open.
her mind wanders
as she slips into her dress,
her shoes, pins her
hair back
and stares into
the mirror
before leaving,
the sun not quite up,
she starts her car,
backs out of the driveway.
an hour there,
another year ahead.

less than kindness

it's less than kindness.
this tolerance
we bear for others,
in line,
on the open road.
hardly a day goes by
without a curse
or shaking of head
occurs, a stare down
through windows,
wary eye to eye.
the world is getting
tighter.
the pressure rising
with each new sun.
no where to escape each
other. nowhere
left to hide, nowhere
left to run.

so you do

the bleary eyed
stranger
outside the coffee shop
doesn't ask
for anything. not change,
or a dollar,
he tips his
rail road cap
and says good day.
his shirt oiled
with sweat,
his lips chapped with
sun.
ballooned pants
pushed into
his boots.
he's been everywhere
it seems.
the dirt of the world
carried with him.
how can you not
give him
something.
so you do.

the immortals

the elbow curve
of owens road
couldn't hold a speeding
car, and yet
what kid
couldn't resist
driving fast
down the long narrow
stretch
and then hitting the brakes
ever so lightly
to see if
the turn could be made.
the friends
of the dead boys
and sometimes girls
would place crosses
and teddy bears
where the car hit a pole
or turned over
exploding into fire
killing everyone
on board.
your sister's boyfriend
duffy, a long narrow
kid who volunteered
at station 42
was one of those that died
on owens road.
before that
he had answered the call
to rescue those
still alive, but his
belief in immortality
never wavered until
it was his time.

the next train

i can hear the train
from my bed,
the whistle loud
and long,
three times crossing
the trestle
through the woods.
i can almost
see it from the window
in winter
when the trees
are laid bare
and the stream is iced.
leaving or going,
it's all the same.
the train moves on
with or without you.

abandoned

most art,
if loved,
is unfinished,
poems, or stories,
sculptures carved
out of wood
or stone,
at some point
they must be abandoned,
walked away
from, nothing
more can be done
to improve
upon them.

notes to himself

they found notes in his
pockets, afterwards.
shirt and pants,
back and front,
notes on a pad
at his desk, some finished,
some stopped
in mid sentence.
yellow notes, the sticky
kind, stuck
everywhere. reminders
about lights
about a bill that needed
to be paid.
an appointment
with another doctor.
a daughter's birthday.
some just read
milk, or cheese.
lemons.
vodka, or to lock
the door before going
to bed, let the dog out.
let the dog in.

Monday, August 10, 2015

on holiday

his handshake
nearly breaks your fingers.
he's telling you something
about himself.
what that might be you
aren't sure.
but his red car
and blonde wife
with new factory parts
are also a clue.
he asks you
where you might be
going on vacation this year.
they just got back
from Rome and now
are making their house
look like
the Sistine chapel.
the beach you offer.
I haven't been to the beach
since last summer.
it would be nice to get
a day or two in.
I miss those French fries
and pizza. I still have
the salt water taffy
if you want some.

staying alive

your mother's feet
look like maine lobsters.
red and swollen.
her baby blue slippers
barely squeezed
onto her sausage toes.
she needs her blood thinning
medicine, her Coumadin,
adjusted again.
the undersides
are chalky and dotted
with what looks like
barnacles.
it's not exactly the Waldorf
Astoria of senior homes,
but they bake a nice
pan of corn bread
and apple pie,
the health and welfare
of the tenants
are an after thought,
it seems.
they just try to keep them
breathing, keep the checks
coming in, keep them
alive.

pork chops

there were seven
pan fried pork chops
on the plate.
excluding your mother's
who ate hers while
standing in the kitchen
over the sink.
everyone got one, so
it wasn't about that.
it was more about
which one was the largest
and who had the quickest
fork to stab it
and make it their own.
you had a very quick
fork those days
and could size
things up much faster
than the others
who were busy with
spoons of corn, bread
and butter, dessert cake.

one of her

you give her your heart,
but she wants more.
she wants your liver,
your kidneys,
your spleen, your lungs,
she wants it all.
she wants the blood,
wants to drain
you dry
of who you are,
like a vampire
she wants to bite
into your neck and make
you one of her, or
not at all.

a can of worms

a can of worms
comes up every now and then
in casual
conversation.
I don't want to open
up that can of worms,
someone will say.
but has anyone had
a can of worms, ever.
I've had a paper cup
of worms, blood worms
for fishing.
but I was twelve years
old
and didn't know that
safeway sold fish.
I was willing to go
stand in the muddy sand
and wait
for a tiny yellow fish
to bite into my
worm laden hook.
i'd go with my friend
jimmy, who isn't
really a friend at all
anymore. he's a bad
man, but hey. I don't
even want to open
up that can of worms.

her happy place

she started drinking again.
you know that because she calls
you at midnight,
crying,
telling you how much
she loves you
and misses you, even more
than her horse.
that's not something
she'd say when sober.
in the morning
she'll come to her senses
and go back
to silence, her happy place.

replacement parts

with his new
hip, he hardly limps.
there's barely
a drag
of leg or foot anymore.
he can even
dance,
play sports, jog
and bike.
use the clutch
and brake on his sports
car.
he's part metal now,
ball and joint.
titanium parts
tied tight
into the bone.
he's not a new man,
but he's
better than he was
before, both new and old,
a road
we might all travel
before long.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

a glimmer

beneath
this stretch of emerald
sea,
unspoken
vows
and pleas reside
in bottles
corked and tossed
over waves,
past the sand,
over a ships
side.
they roll along
the bottom,
leaking
no secrets, getting
no response,
but some, some float,
some find a way into
the hands
of an open heart,
an open mind,
so there is, despite
all doubts,
a glimmer of
hope.

the luck

the luck
or lack of
can't be blamed
or praised
for everything.
your hands are
on the wheel.
your feet
only move into
the direction
you ask them to.
this path you walk
upon
is not as random
as you hope for.
take yesterday
for example.

topping off the tank

too much religion.
too much false cheer.
too many heart felt prayers
and singing.
guitar strumming
and pot luck dinners,
pancake breakfasts,
robes and hats,
beating of chests
and offerings.
a fill up of church,
like gas
at the filling station.
a quick moral
fix to get one through
the week,
or at least through
the parking lot,
if that far,
with good thoughts
and intentions.
how fast the tank empties
when nothing
is absorbed
or carried out.

this one being done

he sleeps now
most of the time,
his eyes will open,
a smile might crease
his half
still face.
his hands will reach
towards you.
to take your hand.
he breathes slowly.
small gulps
of air come in, go out.
he nods, to say
I know you,
he's happy in a silent
way,
knowing that you're there.
he has to go soon.
you can't go with
him, just yet.
he has to leave by himself,
slip away
and be reborn into
what awaits
in the next life,
this one being done.

needs

your body
will tell you what you need.
whether fruit
or meat,
water to quench
your thirst. sleep.
even love
and affection,
when that well
has run dry
will be on your mind,
and you'll seek it
on hands
and knees.

a slip

a slip of the tongue
is okay by me,
it shows
what you really think,
pulls the curtain
back just a little.
misspoken words
are gems,
to be savored
and listened to,
clearing up whatever
doubts remained.

a place to leave

it's the same.
this town.
this place where you lived
as a child.
the buildings
are all here, the houses,
streets
and wires across
the tall stiff poles.
the barbed fence around
the market,
the boarded store,
the field
of concrete
where you threw a ball.
nothing has changed.
the same glass
broken.
the same empty bottles
of gin
and beer.
the same old men
on the corner, whispering
madly to no one.
even the faces of children
in the windows
have not changed.
it's the same. only
the world around it
has changed,
become different,
and indifferent to
what this place has
always been.
a place to get out of.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

directions

go left at the water
tower,
the man tells me, pointing
with his rag held
hand,
his brow streaked in oil.
there's mustard on
his dry lips.
you know where Elmer's
farm is?
well the water tower
is about a hundred
yards from there,
and once you make that turn,
you'll see a fence,
a broken fence,
seems joe don't want to fix
that fence, guess
he doesn't care
about his live stock
too much, but when you see
that fence you'll
be near the main
road.
you might want to stop
though and grab a bite to eat,
my wife's sister
owns that little store
on the corner,
it ain't much but
there's a three stool counter.
she makes a nice egg
and tomato sandwich.
pay no mind
to her husband though,
and don't make eyes
at her, he's a bit jealous
especially with strangers.
once you get back onto
the main road,
you'll see how the road
splits. there should be
signs up, but sometimes
the kids spray paint over
them. good luck, and I hope
that plug
I put in your tire holds out.

crying

the baby crying
outside
the window, being pushed
in a stroller
by the young mother.
his face
bunched in a pink
fist of tears,
you remember those
reasons for crying,
food, or a change,
or tired.
different reasons
for tears
that fall now.

yard work

when her husband died
the yard
was on her.
the mulch, the weeds,
the trees.
how quickly things grew,
how fast
the vines and hedges
over took
the fence.
it always seemed easy
for him,
being outside
the walls of the house,
in his hat, and gloves
each weekend,
till dark.
coming in to her
for lunch, cold tea,
tired
and dirty
at days end.
she felt guilty and sad
for wanting him
back,
just for this yard,
but sometimes that's
all there really was.

Friday, August 7, 2015

the watch

you have several good
watches.
most with black bands.
silver,
white faced
with luminous dials.
fine keepers of time,
some gifts,
others bought
on impulse.
they sit in various
drawers throughout
the house, on
dressers, ticking away.
unable to stop
themselves.
never worn, never looked
at, just set aside.
who hasn't been
that watch?

sleepless

sometimes I can hear
her in the hallway,
late at night
walking the floors,
pacing, seeing if the dog
is okay.
sometimes she'll
come into my room
and kiss me,
say goodnight, say
see you in the morning.
while other times she'll
lie there in her
own room,
staring at the ceiling
until it whitens
with morning light,
wondering what true love
might be like.

the understudy

the understudy
finally gets his chance,
the lead
is ill,
unable to perform,
so he goes on.
having practiced
his lines,
his irish accent,
his stance,
the glint in his
eyes.
he's ready, it's his
stage to win
or lose.
this is how stars
are born,
or die
quickly and painfully
under a
cascade of boos.

everything but temptation

it's hard to stop
smoking,
or drinking or
carousing around,
or eating
too many pastries,
red meat,
staying out
late
with bad people
doing bad things.
it's hard
to be the person
you really are,
good,
but you try,
sometimes you try
harder than other
times, unlike
tonight for instance,
when you can resist
everything
but temptation.

the hero

the rich uncle
in his white suit,
polished white shoes,
in flordia
on his boat,
docked beside
his Cadillac
used to visit your
mother, his
sister, when you were
all children,
skinny and ragged
in old but clean
clothes.
he'd hand you
a five dollar bill
from his roll of cash,
muss up your
hair with
his soft hand
and say don't spend
it all in one place,
which you did,
buying the largest
sandwich you could
find.

give them up

her shoes,
penny loafers,
unglued and flapping
on this cold
October night
showing her
toes, brown
and worn
the sides of leather
and stitching
falling
apart with each
new step.
watching for glass,
for nails,
for anything sharp
in her path,
she says, these
are my lucky shoes,
I can't give
them up just yet.

the leak

the bucket under
the leaky
roof is nearly full.
the drops
of rain have
filled its
tin mouth
almost to the top.
at some point
you'll empty
it across the rail
of the back
porch, then let
it begin again.
a fresh start
on a roof that needs
mending.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

hot soup

I often wonder
when staring into the white
abyss
of the freezer, how long
soup lasts
before going bad.
it's frozen solid.
she crab soup in a plastic
tub.
you still have the crackers
too
that you were going
to crumble into it
on a cold winters
day
when there was nothing
else to eat,
not even eggs
or peanut butter.
you spin the soup container
around
searching for an
expiration date,
but there is too much
ice encasing it.
maybe when the weather
changes, gets cold
again
you'll put it in the microwave
and give it a go.

ginger is missing

you see a picture
of ginger, your disappearing
friend
on the back of a milk
carton.
she's wearing a white
dress, holding
it down
over a steam grate,
her longs ending
with fashionable
heels.
her hair is done
just right,
lipstick and a grin
on her beautiful face.
you should call her,
and see what's up.
it's been awhile.

at the beach

that ringing in my
ear
is constant.
it's like holding an
empty sea
shell and listening
to the ocean,
the waves crashing
against the warm
sand.
the seagulls,
the buzz of the boardwalk,
the engine
of the prop
plane dragging a banner
across the blue
horizon,
reading eat at Moe's.
I am at the beach
all day
with this humming
in my ear.
it's kind of nice.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

the inferno

the coven of witches
and warlocks, demons
and devils,
that run the phone
company that rhymes
with horizon
own your soul.
it is not unlike dante's
inferno.
they have you on hold
for hours,
making you wait
in purgatory for an
answer to your problem,
transferring you to
one level to the next.
did you turn it on then
off they ask.
did you sprinkle the blood
of a dead bat on the screen?
take the battery out
and wave a wreathe of garlic
over it while
whispering your password
and your mother's maiden name.
you are locked in for
life with your
slow witted phone.
the battery wilts
with every call,
the screen goes black
as any hole.
the sound is garbled,
the connections dropped.
there is no way out
of this blood inked
contract.
they have you by
the arms and legs,
pulling you deeper
and deeper into
the fiery pit
of cell phone hell.
the bill keeps coming
as the box sits
silent, holding its
forked tongue. is there
anything else we can do
for you, they ask
before ending your call
with a loud piercing cackle
then the hum of a dial tone.

aisle six

the clean up
in aisle six took a while,
in fact you almost
slipped in the brown
puddle of what looked
like baked beans
circling on the floor,
but you had
nothing to do with it.
you were just passing
by checking out
the canned tomatoes
and black beans,
things you were going
to throw into
a new chili recipe
that you got online
from rosalita,
your new facebook
friend in cuba.
you liked hearing
those words, clean up
in aisle six, being
broadcast across the public
address system.
it brought a smile
to your face, making you
wait until
the mop arrived.

cat day

the cat,
declawed
and inside all day,
waiting,
licking one
paw then the other
to brush across
her ear
studies the movement
of birds
out the window.
there is no pounce
in her stance,
no hunt,
no anxiety about
that world.
a bowl of food,
a bowl of water
on the counter.
it's a good day
not to work
and be taken care of.

her plans

I smell the coffee
downstairs,
hear the pan sizzle
with eggs
and bacon. I hear
the toast pop up,
and the juice poured
over a jumble
of crushed ice.
I hear her say,
breakfast is ready.
get up and come
down my love, while
it's hot. i know
how this works,
and wonder
what she has
planned for our day.

fun girl

she once sent you a text
message photo of a dozen
large white pills
fixed in a smiley face
and under that
was written the word
goodbye. beside that was
a bottle of vodka,
grey goose,
and a packet of razor
blades, the expensive kind.
she was a very dramatic girl,
but with a sense of style
and imagination.
how fun she was when
trying to die.

The A-9

the d.c. transit bus
was a quarter one way,
which you dropped
into a clear glass
box beside the driver.
a quarter back.
you got on at the dc
line, south capitol
street before it
became indian head
highway, rolling
into Maryland.
from there it took
you to the national
archives building
where you would
get off and wander
the streets
with your delinquent
friends,
skipping school
with a few dollars
in your pockets.
wandering the alley
ways, museums,
peep shows and
monuments until it
was time to leave.
sometimes you'd take
in a senator's ball game,
or movie if james bond
was on the screen.
when you finally arrived
back home, your mother
would say, so how
was school today,
and you'd reply,
okay.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

the office job

how limp
you were at end of the day
in your grey suit,
white shirt,
blue tie
and black shoes.
how tired
you were at doing
nothing
but moving your fingers,
your lips,
emitting sounds
that made it appear
you cared.
the hands of the clock
were lead
sticks that could hardly
move across the white
plate of hours.
your briefcase
full of air.
how easy it was for
the car
to steer itself towards
the local bar
where others
like you drank and sang,
liquefied
your growing despair.

wait it out

a violent wind
grips
the trees
bending them like
straw.
I open a window
to hear
the rain, to feel
the air
churning.
it won't last long
this summer
storm, most don't,
i'll just wait it out
before
going home.

the rattle in the crib

with the baby
finally asleep, you both
look at one another and say
without saying a word,
well, what now.
but you turn
and go to your neutral
corners
something has changed,
only the rattle
in the crib
seems to bring you
together once again,
but in a different way,
one you didn't see
coming.

Monday, August 3, 2015

the red barn

the weathered barn
faded
and peeling
sits open
in an august sun,
under the folded shadows
of an august moon.
no longer used,
but still there against
the oaks,
against the soft
fields of yellow and green,
wildflowers.
there is no work here.
those years
have passed,
the music of that era
gone, as are the hands
and hearts
that plowed.

blue eggs

the black snake
slides his body up
a tree to where
there are pale blue
eggs waiting
in a soft threaded
nest.
it isn't evil,
or cruelty
that drives his
coiled heart
upwards, it is beyond
that,
beyond everything
we can barely
understand.
it's a hunger,
persistent as it is
in you and me.

in the pink

the cruel color
of pink
is what she dressed
in. gloves and dress.
stockings white.
pink heels
even. a hat the color
of an egg
with a net
she could pull down
over her face,
a black web
of nylon deceit
and pretend
to pretend at something
she wasn't even sure of,
but she had
you on bended knees,
kneeling
in defeat.

farewell

you can't
make amends enough.
some people stay angry
all the time.
defensive
and mean is a safe
place to be.
you can only move
on and wish
them well.
say hello when you
see them,
say goodbye when
you leave, or
farewell.

emily

her blue basin
of clear water on
the pedestal
near the mirror,
across from the bed
waits.
she takes a cloth
and wipes her brow.
there are poems
she will write one
day, then tie them
in ribbons
within her head,
keeping them hidden
until her death.
when all the world
will see what she saw
in every nervous breath.

just get there

the compass points north.
which helps
in knowing which direction
you might be
heading.
you are at the intersection
of nothing.
of going nowhere,
with no one.
full tank of gas,
air in the tires.
a trunk full of clothes.
it's time
to hit that open road
and get there, wherever
there might be.

mystery

the chicken
the egg. does it matter
the order
in which
they came.
fried is better
than boiled.
baked
or barbequed is nice
too.
over easy, please.
just
don't bother me
with things
that can't be understood
or known,
there are enough
mysteries hovering about
just dealing with
the likes of you.

dancing

i could take dancing lessons.
but prefer not to.
it might win
over those who like to dance,
being out there
in new shoes, quick stepping
my way, or sashaying
across some polished
floor in synchronized
style and grace. perhaps
the salsa, or ballroom,
or the tango, but no.
i don't feel like dancing
anymore, i never did,
and when it happened
large quantities
of beer was involved,
and it was dark, the rooms
were smoky. perhaps a wedding
or reunion, but it had nothing
really to do with how well
one moved his feet.

too early

I could sleep in.
but no.
the world could sleep
in, but
it can't either.
the birds,
the animals in the woods.
everyone seems
to be up.
even the trash men
who are noisy
in their giant
mouthed truck
backing up with their
beeping
behemoth, they too
press on,
not waiting for you
to get dressed
and run towards them
with your bags.

writing messages

they find her on a park
bench
in her underwear
a can of black spray
paint in her hand.
she's had a night
of writing on the sides
of cars
and signs.
nothing poetic or
interesting.
sometimes she'd write
in big looping
letters the word help.
or no.
or love.
there was a time when
they'd keep
her locked away,
poked and examined
by white coats, but not
these days.
she's not lizzie
borden or even Sylvia
plath, she's just alone
and afraid. a women
in her underwear with a can
of spray paint.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

the old clock

the clock
in your mother's house
never worked.
her mother brought
it over from Italy
with a short stop
at ellis island.
it was a wooden box
with a bird who
would slide
out from the hatch
making its noise
as the pine cone
metal weights swung
on brown chains.
it never kept time,
but she would rise on her
tip toes,
stretch her short arm
up and spin the hands
to make it speak for you.

the big breakfast

don't tell me about
your big
breakfast.
the eggs and bacon,
the sausage and biscuits.
the pancakes
and hash browns.
don't tell me about
the cold juice,
the toast and jam,
the coffee.
don't tell me one
word of how wonderful
it was
as you sat at the table
near the boardwalk
eating
watching the sea
roll in, the gulls
on white wings
swoop down.
don't say a word
of what you did without me.
just leave me alone
with your fun.

giddyup

your rodeo girl friend
throws
a rope around you
and says, boy, come here.
let's rassle.
and you say. i'm not
sure rassle
is a word, not to
mention these rope
burns around my neck.
she stamps her white
boots and pulls
on the rope
nearly dragging you
across the floor.
giddyup, she says.
let's giddyup.
once again, you say,
i'm not sure giddyup is
an actual verb.
no more talking, she
says, and puts
on her hat.

half empty

how sad
he is.
alone in the house.
so large
a cavern of color
and wood.
paint and rugs.
his footsteps
echo
in the chamber,
up the stairs.
this was where youth
resided.
where love
was tried.
the maids keep it
clean.
tear at the cobwebs
in the corners.
shine
the piano.
wipe the counter.
put the bottles
half empty away.

stopping by

a bird,
not just any bird,
but a thimble
of bright yellow,
a stripe of black,
a few ounces
of fluttering wings
and beak,
stopped by on the sill
to peer in.
just a second
of its time
to look and see
what you were up to.
you wished it had
stayed longer.
but things come and
go so quickly now.
this world
being fast.

a glass darkly

she filled the pockets
of her dress
with stones and shells,
then walked into the sea.
it was something
she had been
thinking about for a long
while.
filling her lungs
with water,
emptying her soul
of a world
that brought no relief.
she could feel the sand
between her toes,
against her feet.
how green the water was,
a glass darkly,
as she sank slowly
without resistance
into sleep.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

the promise of cold

you ease into
august.
one foot then the next
stepping
into the new month
of summer.
how you love august.
what it means,
what it doesn't mean.
pressing forward.
still hot,
still long and steamy.
it precedes
the blessing of autumn
and falling leaves.
the promise of cold.

some rest

they are happy to see you,
the boys
at the hotel door
rushing to pop your trunk
grab your bags,
your coat and luggage,
your beach chairs
and umbrella.
welcome back they say
with a smile.
we remember you. remember
her. is she coming too?
not this year,
you tell them, or the next
or the next.
I need a vacation
from all of that. some
deep and relaxing rest.

a different life

the watchdog
barks all night.
nervous
on his chain.
his fur bristled
down the spine
as he pulls at the tree.
wary of every shadow
that passes by.
keeping evil at bay.
but he wonders
about a different
life, being curled
on a couch, sleepily
with a bone,
a hand rubbing
his soft belly,
his ears too,
getting the spot
where it itches,
just right.