Wednesday, September 30, 2015

playground politics

the boy
in the striped shirt,
with the broken tooth
is in
charge of the playground.
he demands
a line
to form
behind him.
because he's bigger
and louder
than everyone else,
the children listen.
you can see him one day
on the side
of the road
waving and smiling
holding a placard
asking you
to vote for him
in this coming election,
but you won't.


it's the pull
the push
the struggle of moving
in one
when life
is taking you in another
that confuses you.
it's exhausting
trying to be what you're
not meant to be.
is futile.
the flow take you
where it needs
to go
is the only solution.
lean back, float
the destination
you were meant for.

her kind

you couldn't take her
to visit your mother,
as the rick james
song goes.
it might cause
a ruckus
at the thanksgiving
dinner table.
you might as well light
a flare
and set it on a chair.
with her stiletto heels,
and low
cut sweater.
you had to keep her
under wraps,
away from
anyone you might know,
especially men.
but she was fun,
as long as you
kept her away
from sharp objects
and your
credit cards.

where you stand

the need
to climb that peak,
that tall
impossibly large
in the distance
is not
in me,
nor is the desire
to descend
into a cave
that twists and turns
to the center
of the earth.
mars is too far away.
the moon, just
leave it alone
for now.
i'm happy and content
with where
I stand, or fall,
and a tree
to lean upon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


it's an urge
that suddenly comes over
a desire
that needs
to be quenched,
an appetite for something
something sugary.
cold and soft,
flaky to the touch
and layered, but
that will melt in my mouth
once bitten
or licked.
it could
be chocolate or vanilla,
the pinkest of strawberry,
even praline,
it could be you
coming across the room
in whipped cream.

i bequeath

in his mind,
it's not money,
cash or coin, check
or a solid
brick of gold,
he's leaving none of
that to begin with.
it's that mug
he bought when he
was in france
for an hour,
or the stool he sat
on when he milked
a cow
in nova scotia.
it's a magnifying
on his desk. his
favorite pen, dried
of ink,
his collector's
half dollar
of jfk
in a commemorative
tin. it's the radio
in the corner
that you gave him
and he never used.
it's his broken watch,
fogged and cracked.
the hands
stuck on two.

before rising

he said,
I feel like i'm underwater.
this was
he truly was.
gripping your hand,
smiling. inching
the bottom, before

cropping photos

some people that you
know, you send
them photos of sunsets,
the woods around the lake,
while for others
you take a picture
of a donut you
might be eating.
or crab cake
with hot sauce.
your dog sleeping is
always good,
or a ladybug that landed
on your hand.
some need a joke,
or a line of wisdom.
some spiritual cliché,
while others just
need a photo of you,
only you,
getting out of the shower,
but just a bare arm
or bare leg.

her other boyfriend

her other boyfriend,
not you,
but the one
she keeps hidden,
is suspicious
of her absence
on Saturday nights.
she's juggled him
into Tuesday,
or Thursday,
an occasional sunday,
or Friday night,
but rarely
Saturday. which is in
your favor.
sometimes though
you wonder, when
staring at her neck
and shoulder,
how bad it hurts
when he bites.


a drawer full
of keys.
large, small, thin,
to mail boxes,
and locks
to doors you know
care to get into.
car keys.
bike chains.
some on clasps,
or tied together
with string.
metal rings.
silver and bronze,
with time, the turn
of a hand.
all keys eventually
come here
to rest.
in this drawer,
no longer needed,
no longer
wanted, just left
to sit. abandoned.

dog free

it's hard to get another dog.
they get sick and die.
not to mention
taking them for walks
in the rain and cold.
leaving them at home.
the guilt.
the shedding, the barking.
putting the trash
bag in the closet
to keep them out of it.
every visit to the vet
is four hundred
you're too selfish now,
too happy and free
to have a dog, maybe next
year if things take
a turn for the worse.

olive bread

the man who drops
your loaf
of thick crusted olive
thinks that you
don't see him
when it slips out
of his gloved hands onto
the floor.
you see it roll
behind the counter,
his foot kicking
it even farther.
finally, picking
it up and sliding it
into a brown bag.
he hands it to you,
but you say no,
is it okay if I have
a loaf
that wasn't on the floor?
to which he says,
okay, without blinking,
then rings you up,
taking another loaf
from the rack.

lost and late

lost and late,
you keep driving.
you circle, you check
the map,
turning on the over head
you look at the sky,
where the sun is.
you find north,
you wet your finger
and stick it out
the window.
you think about turning
on your gps,
or stopping to ask
someone where you are,
that farmer on his tractor
for instance,
but you don't,
you're a man, you'll
find a way out
of this without anyone
else's help,
ignoring the laughter
in your head
that she would provide
at this point.

Monday, September 28, 2015

straight jacket day

I don't know what day it is
your client tells
you on the phone.
I don't have a calendar
near me.
or my phone.
my brain may have
fallen out of my head
too, you say to yourself,
but keep quiet.
isn't today
the day you start work
on my house. I bought six
gallons of paint
for the kitchen. will
that be enough.
I hope so.
are you coming?
yes. you tell her.
yes. i'll be there in
five minutes.
what day is this, she asks
Monday, you tell her.
it's 8 30
and it's Monday morning,
the 28th of September.
okay. see you soon,
i'll be waiting for you.
and if you see my cat
out wandering around, would
you mind picking her
up and bringing her
with you. she has half
a tail and she's
sort of grey color.
her name is Sylvia, but
she won't answer
to that, she might try
to bite you if you pick
her up, so be careful.
okay. will do.
see you shortly.

i like your pie

your first
girl friend from the fifth
finds you,
and now
wants to friend
you on face book.
you say okay and
hit the confirm button.
within minutes
you wish you hadn't.
there was a reason
you hadn't talked to her
in 50 years.
now there are more
but you click on the like
button because
you don't want her
to think that you've
become a bad person.
you tell her yes,
you do like
that apple
pie she just baked,
hmm. hmmm.
not to mention
the red pot holders
she's been crocheting
for the holidays.
how do you catch up
on 50 years?
you don't. you just say
I like your pie
and move on.

tap water and bread

that's my favorite
the waitress says, pointing
at the crab cake
on the menu, but we're
out of that.
plum empty on crab cakes. sorry.
what about the soup,
I ask, the clam chowder,
to die for she says,
but sadly we ladled out
the last drop
an hour ago.
okay, I say, what about
this rib eye steak.
oh my.
I almost pass out when I eat
wish you had been
here yesterday
we sold out
then. it was a two
for one steak night.
bread. do you have bread.
I just love the bread here
she says.
I could make a meal
out of bread and butter.
i'll bring you out a basket.
i'll try not eat
any on the way over.
she laughs.
water too? sparkling
or tap.
if you have it.

someone like you

someone like you
in the bank,
on the street, getting
the same height,
the same hair.
exactly like you was
in a car
going in
the opposite direction.
she was wearing
your glasses
and had your hands
around the wheel.
at the airport
waving, was you.
luggage at your feet.
your feet.
on a bike
along the path
beside the river, you
were pedaling.
staring straight ahead,
smiling with your smile,
going forward
without me.
someone like you seems
to be everywhere.

just you

it's not the chair
wounds you.
the metal leg
black against
the white rug.
it's not that it's
in the center of
the room and has been
there for years
it's not the chairs
that your foot
it, bending the toe
and bruised.
it's you.
as it is with most
you've made in your life.
just you.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

the whistle

she tried you show me
how to whistle.
not the lips
together, bird like
of a whistle, but the kind
where you place two fingers
of one hand
into your half
gaped mouth kind of whistle.
I failed.
she could do it. loudly.
a high pitched
screech of a whistle.
over and over again.
dogs came running.
but I had nothing.
nothing but my lips pursed
in a small circle, a
bing Crosby
kind of whistle.
it wasn't meant to be,
me and her.
the whistle.

the recliner out front

the chair appears one
morning, out near the hydrant
where the morning trash
goes for pick up.
it has been secretly dragged
out of someone's house
in the dark.
it's mauve and soft,
a recliner of some sort
with cup holders
and a tray that swings
to and fro.
the pressed shape
of a large body is still
imbedded in the seat
and back. you can see where
an elbow bent and leaned,
changing channels
there are crumbs and spills
the faded fabric.
it's mechanical arm
is broken, the lever and buttons
unwired, sticking out
like horse hairs.
the chair is there for a week.
everyone sees it, but what is
there to do. it goes
unclaimed, too large
to toss in the back of
a truck.
too awkward to be carried
or disposed of.
then one day, it's gone.

don't judge me

it seems like you might
be judging me,
I tell her
as she slams a gavel
on the kitchen table,
rattling my plate
of scramble eggs.
she's wearing a black robe
and a white rolled
wig. you're out of order,
she says.
slamming the gavel
down again, almost
spilling my coffee.
i'll tell you when to talk,
she says.
now be quiet while I read
this list of charges.
I butter my toast
and slowly eat my breakfast
while I listen,
rolling my eyes
at each blown up charge.
when she's done, she asks
me how I plead.
to which i say, do we
have any tabasco sauce
your honor?

Friday, September 25, 2015

another land

you think fondly of her now.
the water of time
having risen and blurred
what was once
safe, dry land.
your feet hardly touch
the bottom
of what it was.
you swim freely,
one arm over the other,
in clean smooth strokes,
to another shore,
to another place
to stand.

we want

we want
the gift unwrapped.
the new
day. the sun to rise.
the water
to boil.
we are an impatient lot.
like babies
in a crib,
for comfort,
wanting what we want,
nothing changes
we might be less loud,
at this age,
grumbling beneath
our breath,
but no less
annoyed at how slow
the world moves
for us.

when love turns

when he wanted it,
she didn't.
she put on an old rag
and climbed into bed
being tired, before being
able to sleep
and turned
her back,
staring at the luminous
of a clock
that seemed not to move.
it was less about a mood,
and more
about the nature
of their love,
that had turned.
she cringed at his hand
on her shoulder
and his whispers,
stating his desires.
soon, he'd be coming home
and later,
then not at all,
business would suddenly
be taking
up all his time.

the long day

with the bagged bottle,
the amber liquid glassed
in the chip
of sunlight
that creases
buildings, near
the fountain where he sits,
he raises it
to his lips,
accepting communion,
closing his eyes with
the harsh swallow.
does he remember
does he
include anyone in his
to sort out
how it's come to this.
a long
day waiting for
the sun to climb higher
to warm him
in his stitched again
clothes, another
change of season
pulling at his beard.
it's easy for anyone
to give him money,
how can they pass and not,
believing it could
be them, not him,
one day.

breaking even

it's an empty
vault with
the door open wide.
and cob webs
hang in the corners,
the trace
of mice
who have come and gone,
their small
in the silken sand
of time.
a life
flickering, with nothing
to show
of value.
not a dime. no policy,
no hidden
treasure, no map
to where it might
all be buried.
breaking even at the end,
is possible,
though you suspect
you may have to chip in
the funeral.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

the horse

the horse, clueless
about his
soon unwilled departure
from this good
wagged his
broom stiff tail
and munched
carefully on a final
an apple waited too
when he finished that.
his sloped back
was a burden to both
ends of him.
he surrendered
to the flies, and to
the ignorant
stable boy
who never got his name
maybe he knew, sensed
some sort of end,
perhaps. but like most
anyone of long
years, he dreamed of
blue skies.
of love.
of running across
lush green fields,
he dreamed of the past.

when to ask for money

when thinking,
pondering the world,
where he went wrong
with his children,
he liked to stare out into
the distance
at the ceaseless crawl
of ocean and waves,
and stroke his greying beard.
his children left
him alone
when he did this.
they stood on the screen
porch drinking
manhattans, eating
olives from toothpicks,
and whispered to themselves,
don't bother
him now, he's thinking.
we can ask him
later, when he's not.

to be amused

the bee was not
by the bouquet of
plastic flowers
the woman set out
on the lawn
to brighten up
the otherwise dismal
she had made
to grow daffodils
and what not,
but it was a bee,
so in truth
being amused or not
was irrelevant.
perhaps it was surprised
as it landed
on an stiff open petal
and confused, but
nonetheless hardly

making do

you make a quick list
of what hurts.
the left shoulder.
the left knee.
a stitch in the side
below the rib cage.
the right wrist.
some blurred vision
close up in
one eye.
then there's the ear.
the dull one,
the one
that can't hear
too well. but you
make do
with ice and ibuprofen,
and hot baths.
closed caption,
with a splash of
tonic, a slice of lime,
the occasional visit
from you.

foot prints

the footprints
are everywhere.
those that were here
and left.
it seems forever,
it seems like just
you first set eyes
upon them,
fell in love,
or met.
they go in all
yours too. still
for a pair that will
and fit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

down the hall

someone is cooking
meatloaf down the hall.
onions. carrots.
perhaps string beans.
maybe they have a boiling
pot of water
on the stove too.
the potatoes sliced
and ready.
salt and pepper might
be involved.
butter. cream.
you pass your door
and lean into the smell
of meatloaf
that's flowing in the air.
you remember it when you
were a child.
you inhale
and put your nose against
the door. maybe your mother
is in there.
at the stove. her red and white
checked apron tied around her.
maybe your brothers and sisters
are gathered
in their chairs.
there is cold milk in every glass.
you want to knock.
you want to go in and sit
down at the table.
take a knife and butter
a flat piece of
white bread while dinner
is served.

visitors parking

there is no parking
in the neighborhood,
but there are seven empty
visitor spaces
available in front
of the 23 story building.
you go to the desk and beg
on bended knee for an hours
worth of time.
just one hour
to park, then you'll
be on your way.
no. the man behind the
desk says.
a woman beside you
getting her mail, wearing
a mink stole and
holding a poodle
agrees. we have rules
here. there are rules
everywhere. that's the way
it is, she says,
she plays with a string of
pearls around her long
old neck then kisses her
pink nosed dog
with runny eyes.
just one hour, you plead.
i'll give blood, you can have
one of my kidneys.
here's a hundred dollars,
you say, counting out
the cash on the counter.
I just need to go up
the elevator, visit someone
then come back down.
it will take me
no time at all, I promise.
no, they both say
in unison. no.
we're calling a tow truck
in one minute, so you'd better
move your car. we think
you'd better leave.


best left unsaid
some words.
swallowed whole,
unspoken thoughts
that do nothing
but cause
the bitten tongue
is a better
path to choose
than truth, though
easy it would
be to let it go,
to let it rain.

good times

the high school reunion
is approaching.
again. damn these people.
they remind you everyday.
they won't leave you alone.
they want you to rat
out your friends, tell
them where they live,
their addresses
and phone numbers, e mails.
but you don't give in.
it's a joint venture.
of three classes, not just
the one you graduated
the herd is thinning, it
seems. so many have died
and passed on, they need
three this time around
to make a full house.
you hated high school.
so why would you go,
especially now. you don't
want to reminisce and eat greasy
chicken with complete
strangers you once took
showers with when you were
sixteen. there is no one
there that you want to see
again and the feeling is
probably like wise.
those that plan it year
after year are the ones
that loved high school.
the ones who ran the school
and peaked there.
you were invisible, trying
hard to make the clock
move faster.

the wine festival

after three stingily poured sips
of the medicine sized paper
full of warm wine
were swallowed
I got a headache, felt dizzy
and swooned
under the partial
shade of a white tent.
how was that one? the man behind
the counter asked?
it was made yesterday in my
my entire head throbbed
like a flickering light bulb.
my date said are you alright,
as I leaned
out of the sun, staring
at the field
of wobbling patrons,
jolly and rushing to the next
table of pinot noirs, merlots,
and chardonnays.
at the far end, where the tents
ended and the hot dogs
were sold
a small stage was set up
for a band, which played
loudly songs you thought
you'd never hear again.
the music echoed up the slope
of fresh cut grass.
some people were dancing, or
were they having strange
neurological episodes?
where are the bathrooms, I asked
her, bent and rubbing
my forehead. wiping
sweat with a napkin
I found on the ground, rubbing
an ice cube along
the base of my neck.
over there she said, pointing
at a line of blue plastic
out houses in a neat row.
they're over there, she
said, i'm going over to the dessert
wine table, i'll
meet you there when you
get back. okay? should I buy
a bottle. no, I said, then
gave a wave and staggered
towards the blue dots
in the distance, thinking fondly
of death.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

a slice of cake

once the thought of cake
hits my mind.
i'm doomed.
I have to have a slice.
chocolate is preferred
but will
succumb to vanilla
or lemon
or even a spice cake
if need be.
the same holds true
for you
when you cross my mind.
I want you now,
and hopefully you're
so I won't have to settle
on a lesser
slice of cake
I might find.

found happiness

her new husband
is not like the old husband, who
would be me.
he holds her close,
laughs at all
her jokes, asks her
if she needs anything.
champagne coffee tea.
his arm stays around
her, keeping her
tightly held
waist to waist. his eyes
with this new found love.
she tells him
to do a dance, to sing.
to jump up and down. to bring
her some polish
for her rings.
I am happy
for him. for her,
and especially
for me.

under the radar

you are under the radar,
out of sight,
incognito, lurking
in the shadows
of your own curious
and vague life.
you walk on cats feet
from one place
to another, whispering
known secrets
to anyone who will
listen. you are cautious
with love, with
affection. taking
it slow, spooning it
down like cold medicine.
you tilt your hat
even on a cloudy day,
wear your black shades.
your coat is long,
your shoes walk softly
down the narrow streets
and alleyways.
you go about this world
happily quiet and alone.
gently you slip the key
into the lock
of your own front door
and turn.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

best offer

her house,
with the for sale sign
in the sandy dirt
is rusting.
the price too high
for these parts.
too far from the interstate,
the gravel
the schools and coffee
a twenty minute ride
but she doesn't care.
she likes it here.
she likes
lying in the sun
on her patio,
finished for the day,
retired at last,
in no hurry to go or stay,
not ready to take
the best offer.

running free

the young dog
is a blur of blonde
hair, rushing
across the sand, unleased
in late September
along the shore.
hanging out happily
as it chases
and waves that crash
like long wet smiles
the sea.
it's hard to not
a dog like that, or
a person.

breakfast all day

the line outside
the Pocahontas restaurant
is long
in the warm morning sun.
beyond the street
is beach.
couples and
families, peer
impatiently into the window
which is stenciled with
Indians, old fort fences,
wild horses and pilgrims.
there is the foggy glaze
of grease on the other side.
breakfast all day
says the faded yellow
lettering, a foot high
quoted by hatchets.
from what you know of Pocahontas,
you don't remember
her being a breakfast
there seems to be no mention
of scrambled eggs, bacon
and hash browns,
with unlimited coffee
in her wikepedia bio,
but she's getting it done
still, to this day.
children under twelve
eat free.

knowing what you want

he wants the original brand
of hot sauce,
but he can't read, even
with his over sized
thick black framed
glasses on. you reach up
on the shelf, bring it to
his eyes, then and put the bottle
into his cart. is that
the original, he asks.
yes you tell him,
then move on to the shredded
the big biscuits,
without a sugar frosting,
they too original.
saying so right on
the box. he pushes the cart
along, saying
the words cherry pie.
little Debbie, he says.
I like those the best.

the nature of luck

the good luck
runs out
and a string of bad
moves in
to take its place.
jobs fall through.
flat tires appear
you sprain a knee,
someone you love
tells you
it's over.
but it's okay.
you understand the nature
of luck,
the nature of cars,
of work,
of love.
things will change,
they always do.

the naked lady

she likes
to undress and sun bathe
in her back
people think she might
be crazy.
she doesn't care.
she doesn't care
who sees or doesn't see
as she lies
on her lawn
chair stretched out
like a cat, taking
phone calls and sipping
beer. smoking cigarettes
and blowing smoke
into the air.
knows when she's out
bringing husbands
and teenage boys
to the window
to watch, then be shooed
away by wives
and mothers alike,
who shake their heads
looking themselves
and admiring her.

Friday, September 18, 2015

the salad bar

talking to yourself
at the salad bar, but loud
enough to be heard
by the rotund
man beside you who
is delicately building
his salad, spooning
peas and celery
onto his lettuce leaves,
a sprinkle of
bacon bits and croutons,
you say to no one
in particular as you make
your own
green salad, you say,
well, I guess we can't
eat pizza everyday.
this gets nothing, not a stare,
not a laugh,
not a head nod.
but the next day, you see
the same man,
making the same salad,
and just barely, you hear
him say to the woman
beside him,
I guess we can't eat pizza
everyday. this makes
her laugh and laugh,
jumbling her
kale and beets out of
her plastic container
and onto the floor. you say
nothing, but
this makes you happy.

fish party

it's a wild
these fish are having.
stirring up the sea.
gathered close
enough that
you can see them jumping
out of the water
into the air,
their white
their silver
the black eyes.
they are alive
and frenetic, hearing
some music
you imagine.
perhaps a wedding
is taking place below
the cool green surface,
or a birthday
celebration, someone
has miraculously made
it all the way
to the age of three.

tomorrow is here

the girl with the chipped
and scar on her chin, unrelated
you wonder,
doesn't listen
as you ask for one scoop
of coffee ice cream,
one scoop of mint.
she gives you two
of each in a cup,
not the sugar cone
you asked for. she takes
your money
with the hand
that has a dagger tattooed
on her wrist.
she doesn't look at you,
she's looking
to a place in her
life she's left behind,
not tomorrow.
tomorrow is here.

the ocean wins

you wrestle with the ocean.
the ocean
wins, you limp out of the waves
towards your towel
which has baked
itself flat
across the sand.
you stare at your knee,
and swollen, stiff as
you walk carefully
around the cascade
of dunes
and families, couples
lying together in
the autumn sun. it's the last
day, so limping
is fine.
you can make it to
your room, you can order
in. you can get a bucket
of ice
and let the swelling
go down before the drive
home tomorrow.
still, you love the ocean,
you harbor no resentment
for mysterious

the love you take

the three of you. your
and father
sit down to move line by line
across the pages
of his last will and testament.
for names, asking who gets
and when.
which bank. which trust.
we tie a bow around his life
putting everything
but him into a box.
your sister reads out loud
the legal rendering
as his blue eyes
look but do not see
what is written.
he's punitive towards some,
and generous
to others. no explanations
are needed,
or asked for.
the love given or not
during his life is
tallied in the final count.
someone turns a radio on
and we listen
to music, drinking ice
tea in the sun
as the ink dries.

a fine day

what weather is this?
sunny and full of gloom.
blue skies
and tears.
what wind carries
mourning on such a sweet
breeze across
the fields of flowers.
how deep is the ache
of this world
on such a fine day.
how can we live in a world
so beautiful
and so tragic
and move on into
the next day as if nothing
at all changes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

beach landing

when I get there
i'll stretch out in the warm
and think of you.
each wave
I hear
will be a reminder
of what
comes and goes
so quickly.
i'll close my eyes
in the sun, smile,
and bathe in the hope
of tomorrow,
the joy
of memory, the sweet
the embrace of time
gone by.

Monday, September 14, 2015

the cat's paws

the cat's paw
after stepping into
the tray
of white paint
are everywhere.
across the carpet,
onto the piano,
on the counter,
the stove,
and into the bathroom.
the petals of her
feet are white.
her nose
too, thinking
perhaps of milk,
not paint.
behind her you trace
her trail, and with
a damp cloth,
you wipe.

the visit

you take your mother
for a walk, her in her
wheel chair,
you pushing
from behind.
where to you ask her.
leaning over
to see which
way her eyes point.
over there.
I want to see those
in that yard.
so there you go.
up the street, farther,
she says,
after reviewing
the daffodils,
to the end where
the road stops, she
says, pointing.
so you wheel her there,
to the stop sign.
okay. you tell her.
let's go back now.
she starts to cry.
I don't want to go back,
she says.
let's go around again.
a few more times.
can I see the flowers again?
she's a good crier.
you tip the chair back
and put on some speed.
slow, she says. slow down
you're going to fast.
are you trying to kill me?
i'm your mother don't you
want to stay

the big store

how full the shelves
every need
and want, what is
is found.
the music of your youth
plays from
high above.
the bright lights
radiate the big
store with hope, with
from top to bottom,
so much
to choose from,
so many things
to buy
and yet the dark
of the clerk says
something different
to you.

not found

slowly a man
with his metal detector
scans the beach,
the plowed smooth sand.
in to pull out a can,
or ring,
or watch. a set of keys.
anything of value goes
into his pouch
around his waist.
beyond him is
the ocean.
golden in the sunset.
the water
cool in its loud
wash upon his
bare feet.
nothing is truly lost,
he thinks.
it's just not found.

silver fish

you see the boy
in the creek,
knee deep in the swirl
of blue
sky water.
he reaches in to catch
the silver
fish, but to no
he's learning early
about love
and happiness.
he can see it,
almost have it in his
but it's rarely

Saturday, September 12, 2015

the ice maker

the copper line
to the double door
ice making
freezer is leaking.
they all leak.
a puddle forms
at your feet as you
grind a handful
of cubes into your
empty glass.
nothing is easy.
not even ice
in this world
of loose connections.

green stamps

with so many green stamps
stuck into
the book, you can get
a new toaster
or a Gillette razor.
maybe a coffee
maker, or a clock with a
rooster head
to hang in the kitchen.
such wonderful
gifts to one's self
for doing nothing,
but collecting
green stamps, year in,
year out, staring
at the empty pages
yet to be filled,
the promise of things
to come.

go away

your relatives are exhausting.
with a sharp
pair of scissors you try
to cut the ties
that bind you, but to
no avail.
the blood and history
is thick
keeping you in the mix
of drama after drama.
you circle the wagons,
and wait it out.
dodging flaming arrows.
hoping they'll go away.
leave you alone
to forge or perish on
your own chosen trail.

there's still time

the emerald trees,
this morning rain
are still. their shoulders
sag with
a year of being
and full. only a few
of papery yellow
there's time left,
isn't that what we
all want to believe.

the new church

this church is full of light.
the modern
arches sailing upward,
wires holding canisters
of bright beams, hung down
from the white ceilings.
the floors are slate,
the pews long and clean
the color of sandalwood.
a stone bowl of holy water
sits glassy as you enter,
rippling as fingers
reach to touch its surface.
the new Christ is shaven,
young, fit and gleaming
on the cross above
the open altar. he appears
to be Danish now. an Olympian
at rest.
His muscular arms
are stretched out, wrists
nailed to the white
boards. no blood. no crown
of thorns. he's immaculate
in death. it's all well and good,
but you miss the dark tombs
of your youth.
the incense and latin.
the rugged cross, the stained
glass, the hard pews.
nuns and priests, in black.
you miss the ambiance of mystery
and guilt, your knees
bent, aching while your small hands
stayed folded in prayer.

Friday, September 11, 2015

the truce

the swords are put away.
the murmurs cease.
the dead have a way
of quieting things,
at least for now.
there will be more time
to continue
the war between
but what a nice
reprieve to see it
end for just a moment.
everyone standing and singing
along with the priest,
having sandwiches
and cake in the hall
outside the church,
a short walk
down the street.

the wallpaper

in the bathrooms
across the land
it splits
it peels, the edges
go brittle
and fall apart.
the corners aren't plum,
the ceiling slants,
the floor board
is jagged.
it's hard to get
an even cut, to get
one rose to match and yet
it goes up.
the put a check in your
bloody hand, but
it's not over,
it's never over, for
until the end of time
the calls
come in. please come
and fix these seams,
these bubbles,
the roses that don't
match, please bring
your tools, your ladders,
your paste,
and come, come back
once again.

black shoes

these shoes could use
a shine.
a nice polish and buff.
the top
the sides, a new set
of laces
wouldn't hurt either.
wedding shoes.
funeral shoes.
the left one goes
on first, then the right.
they still fit,
and will fit again
one day,
one night.

to each hs own

each to his own grief,
his own
way of remembering
and unraveling what
a life
passed has meant
to them.
sorrow being holy
ground, you give
room to everyone,
to their own way
of sighing
and moving on.
yours too, is different.

belated wishes

the birthday comes,
it goes.
there was a time though
when you baked
her a cake,
frosted it, stuck
a candle in
the middle. you
carried it to her door.
you bought her
flowers, a gift
or two.
small, but thoughtful
things that
she could use.
you signed the card
with love,
underlining the word
love a few times
for proper emphasis.
but not this year.
it took a week or so
to pass
then it crossed
your mind that it came
and went without you.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

the high rise

the electrical fire
knocks out the power in the building.
the water too.
the elevators
don't work, no air conditioning.
slowly the angry
mob of tenants gather
in the lobby
with their dogs
having walked down eighteen
flights of stairs.
people are holding candles
to light the darkened
hallways. flashlights
are pointed at faces.
someone brings down a bottle
of booze, another
a cake
with paper plates and forks.
a card game breaks out.
a little girl in pigtails
has a hoola hoop,
which she swings around her
tiny body again and again.
a man brings his banjo down
and starts playing.
he's quickly asked to stop.

your poetry stinks

you're poetry stinks,
she says to you.
what's with all the typos.
the grammar
mistakes, misspellings?
it's a self absorbed
mess. who are you kidding.
you ain't no
Robert frost. you ain't
even Charles
why don't you give it
up and stop.
do the world a favor.
no one wants to hear about
your sad sack love
life, or silly problems.
she's angry when she drinks.
so I take all of it in
with a grain of salt.
this will make a great
subject to write about,
I think, staring
at my half eaten lobster
roll and sipping on
my Tanqueray and tonic.
go on, I tell her.
keep talking.

going forward

you no longer
look into the rear view mirror.
you just left there.
left that.
left trouble.
left, period.
you're focused on
what lies ahead.
that big rest stop
the road.
the point where land
and the ocean begins.
what's done is done.
no going back.
no big circle,
no make up sex
with the world you've
left behind.
no late night call to
after a drink or two.
you have no reverse
in this car.
it's going in one
direction, forward.
maybe i'll drop you a
when I get there.
maybe not.

the overflow

you need someone to come
and haul away
the junk that has accumulated
in your house.
the fat tvs that sit
in the basement.
the pool table you
never use
since your son went
to California.
the clothes hanging in
the closet. out of style
and somehow shrunken
to the point of being
too tight.
shoes, lots of shoes.
a hundred t shirts, all white.
who has a hundred
t-shirts. you do.
toaster ovens, that you've
kept after buying new
ones. blenders. waffle makers.
dishes, where have these
dishes come from.
what's wrong with you,
still adding on so much,
when there is no room,
no point.


her one leg,
and pale, as white
as the sheet
she lies under
is still.
a porcelain curve
of flesh,
you could wake her,
but you don't.
you could lean
over and kiss
her, but that would
take away the dream
that so blissfully
across her face.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

it's something else

not tonight, she says.
i'm not feeling it.
I'm not in the mood.
head ache, again, you ask
her scratching at
your toes
covered by black socks.
yawing and stretching
as you flip through
the channels on the tv.
no, she says,
staring at your feet,
your white spindly legs
that run up
to your striped boxer
shorts. no,
it's not a head ache,
she says.
it's something else.

shaved ice

it doesn't seem that long
ago, but it is,
when the small man
with the push cart
came up the street with
a hand held
and shaved ice into a
paper cone
for all the children
that came running
with coins
in their hand.
strawberry, lime,
orange and vanilla,
root beer,
were just a few of the flavors
he carried in
tall cold bottles.
they rattled against
one another
as the wooden wheeled
cart pressed on.
then one day he was gone
and so were you.

let me know

call me if there's a change
in plans.
don't leave me
at the door, in the lobby,
on a bench
staring out
into the rain.
drop me a note, or
give me a call.
something. even a carrier
pigeon will do.
I just need to know.
i'm anxious
to see you, and sad if
it doesn't happen.
this is the same
note I wrote the last time,
last year and the year
before that.
sorry if you've seen
it before.
maybe laminate it
and string it around
your wrist to read
whenever you tell me
that you might be in town.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

a days work

his hallway
kept him busy all day.
stripping the green linoleum.
then washing,
then waxing. steadying
the heavy buffer
with two hands, the long
cord plugged in
at the far end.
it was his hallway.
and at four o'clock
he'd be finished.
the sun would shine
through and he would
lower his gaze,
turning his head just so,
to witness the shine,
the polished gleam
of the long
stretch of hall,
a days work, now done.

the birds at the fountain

all day
they sit at the fountain,
sunning their
sipping from bagged bottles.
staring longingly
at women
passing by.
they might ask you for money
if you walk
close enough.
they have a car
that needs gas, or a repair,
or they need
bus fare to a place
they'll never get to.
like birds on a wire,
they sit
and flap their wings,
content with where they've
landed, unbothered
by the time that keeps
and slipping away.

the lay off

the director of human
walks down the hall towards
your office. you can hear
the heavy footsteps
of her squared body.
you take your feet
off the desk
and stop texting on
your phone.
you put the bag of chips
back into the drawer
and sit up straight.
she comes in and asks
if she could have a talk
with you.
sure, you tell her.
have a seat.
how are you? i'm fine
she says, but I have
some bad news.
the company is cutting
back and unfortunately
you are part of
the layoffs. it has nothing
to do with your
work performance, we
love you here, it's just
a numbers game.
I understand you tell her,
opening the drawer
with the bag of chips.
you take the bag out
and offer her one.
no thanks she says.
by the end of the day,
gather your things, hand
in your key pass
and security will escort
you out.
can I leave now, you ask her.
standing up and stretching.
if I go now, I can beat
sure, she says. why not?
you take the picture of
your dog off your desk. look
around and say, okay.
that's i'm packed and ready
you can have the rest of
those chips, if you want
them. thanks she says,
and takes the bag, eating
as she walks you towards
the exit.

Monday, September 7, 2015

i don't want this dog

she adopted a dog.
then tried to take it back
the next day.
she even gave it a name.
then changed it to joe.
she was awful with names.
she kept away from the names
of ex boyfriends
or anyone she knew.
this made it difficult.
by the time she
put him into his carry
on crate, got him
back into the car,
she just called
him dog, or hey.
she lugged him back into
the store
and said, I can't keep
i'm not good with dogs, plus
he barks a lot
and he peed on my carpet.
I can't live with that.
sorry, the girl with pigtails
told her at the counter, but no.
it's yours, you can't leave
him here.
we don't take dogs back.
but she didn't care.
sue me, she said, and walked
out, but not before
taking a long
look at the caged cats
that meowed so

the stars at night

I used to live there.
I say,
pointing out the window
at a cluster
of brick houses,
stuck together like
thick slices
of bread. a man with a dog
is sitting on the porch
next to a lidless
metal can.
my window was right above
that crab apple tree,
I tell her, pointing
upwards to where a board
has replaced the glass.
at night,
when it was too hot
to sleep
i'd climb out and sit
on the porch roof
with my pillow, i'd
lie down and watch
the stars.
we keep driving.
she doesn't say a word
as we turn the corner
and wait for a crowd
of young men to cross
the street. she checks
the lock on her door
and rolls up the window.


no one walked on the moon
he says.
the mafia
killed kennedy.
the world is run by
a handful
of corporations,
the earth is not
warming, it's all
a lie,
nothing they print
in the paper
is right.
aliens are here.
so are things that go
bump in the night,
fold a ten dollar
bill a center way
and you'll
see the trade
center towers burning.
they know everything
about us, he says,
squinting his
eyes in the light,
we're being watched,
we're being followed,
trust me on this.
you'll see, you'll see.
one day you'll know
i'm right.

names and numbers

the kitchen door frame
is full of ink markings.
lines drawn
off the top of heads.
dates, separated by
but the house is empty
there is a ghost breeze
that blows
from the open door
to the back.
the children are grown,
the family
that once lived here
is gone.
you read the names
and numbers
out loud,
then take a brush,
dipping it into a bucket,
covering them all up,
gone forever
with white paint.

lemon pie

your mother having forgotten
your birthday
at the age of twelve
runs out to the grocery store
to buy you a cake.
she's crying
when she carries in the lemon
pie, boxed with a plastic window,
the meringue
bouncing stiffly
on top of the bright
yellow jell.
they only had pie, she
says, is that okay?
you nod, and say yes. you
want her to stop crying.
she sticks in twelve
candles, lights them,
and everyone gathers
at ten o'clock at night
to sing happy birthday.
you tell her that lemon pie
was what you always wanted,
which makes her happy.
it's been lemon
pie forever since.

good news and bad

a late night call
is not good.
that after midnight
ringing of the phone
which startles you
does not bear good news.
bad news can
wait, but it doesn't.
it comes faster
than good news.
it has to be told
quickly, no matter
the time of night.

the dark suit

you have a suit.
two suits to be exact.
there is no need for more.
a summer suit.
a winter suit, that one darker
and more serious.
one for weddings, one
for funerals.
they wait for you
in the closet
along with starched shirts,
and bright ties. dull ties.
it's usually a long
but they are patient,
hanging quietly together.
awaiting their
turn to go out
and be worn. you take
out the dark suit
and lay it on the bed.
it's time
to go out.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

custard in delray

it's a long line,
inside, snaking
out onto the side walk.
kids, and dogs,
sunburned faces,
patiently waiting
for custard
in delray.
everyone well behaved.
the last vacation has
been taken and
the end of the summer
the trees are still
but some leaves have
the line moves slowly
the tired
trio of youngsters
working the big silver
which cranks out vanilla,
and raspberry
custard ice cream.
you wait your turn,
then lick at
the sweet cold cone,
melting in your hand,
like the years,
quickly away.

breaking even

you see the list,
hand written on the desk
of your retired friend.
a line drawn
through two columns,
at the top,
the word in,
and to the right, out.
each is underlined with a
quick slash
of an ink pen.
water, gas, electric.
food, mortgage,
phone, cable, and then
the word
is written at the bottom
of the right side.
on the left under
in, is one number, to the penny.
at the end, the subtraction
is made.
then an adjustment
to the miscellaneous
number, crossed out
and lowered which
makes it a break even

Saturday, September 5, 2015

asking too much

you ex wife
tried to sell her wedding
in the community newsletter.
why not.
it cost so much
and it was practically new.
sealed away,
as clean as the day it was worn.
white and frilly
with lace.
a small cake of fabric
that she wore
so well, so long ago.
she enclosed a photo
of the dress.
hanging on the side
of a door.
she was throwing in the shoes
too, also white,
low heels,
with some sparkle.
whether she sold it or not,
you never knew.
but it seemed she was asking
way too much,
something she was often
prone to do with you.

pink dice

i like
seeing the painted flames
on the side
of an old Honda
civic, four cylinders.
maybe a dragon
on the hood.
jacked up with
fat tires,
and extra pipes
to make the exhaust
as loud as it can
be. gunning the engine
at stop lights as a pair
of pink dice
float from the mirror.
i like this
ingenuity, making
the most
of less.
it's such a positive
and crazy
way of thinking.

unbusy yourself

you must be busy,
she says,
or you've lost interest.
there must be
someone else
on your plate,
a different dish
than me.
but it was nice getting
to know you.
nice having
that little
fling. I hope we can
still be friends.
pop on over
if you're in my hood,
send me
a note, tell me your
world is all
don't disappear
into the folds of time.
unbusy yourself
again, for me.

chicken salad

the things she could do
with a chicken
would amaze you.
she could stretch that bird
out into a whole week
of baked, roasted,
souped and sandwiched
not a bone unused.
when you saw
a cold fat chicken
on the kitchen counter
you knew what was coming.
you didn't need to
ask for a few days,
what's for dinner.

Friday, September 4, 2015


all day
you take an axe to the wood.
the broad thick
blade against
the turned log.
again and again.
bang, bang.
you stack it neatly
to the side.
you have other things to do.
but this
seems the right thing
now, as you take
your shirt off
in the hot sun
and wipe your brow.
you feel the weight
of sorrow as
you swing the axe
again and again,
bang, bang.
striking hard,
splitting the wood
until there is no more.


it rings and rings
then goes to voice mail.
how can I ever get my point
when she never picks up.
cell or land line,
it doesn't matter.
she's allergic
to the phone, can't bring
it to her ear
to even listen to a word
I have to say.
but maybe, just maybe
that's the message
she wants to tell me.
now it seems so clear.

stormy weather

one my husbands
gave me this, she says,
holding up
her arm
where a bone once broke.
I think it was the third one.
he was mean
when he drank, she says,
I could almost see it coming.
you know.
like a storm
that rises over the plains
far enough away
to run.
but sometimes,
just like lightning
he could strike.
I used to keep bags of frozen
peas in the ice box
to put on my bruises.
I loved him more though
than the others
and i sort of miss him
when the weather's right.

the new death

the new death
is not unexpected.
almost three years is a long
time to suffer
with no
as always, it's the ones
the dying
who suffer even more
in the absence of love,
of his presence,
his hand
upon their day.
the new death finally comes
in the night. he is
welcomed into
the next world, exiting this
with an exhale
and a quiet silencing
of heart.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

going home

you do go home
over the bridge.
the highway,
a right, then a quick
at the light
by the dry cleaners,
Mead's liquor
the drive thru
still with six cars
in line
for a bagged bottle
or two,
then behind the drug
where you played stick
that isn't a drug
store anymore,
but empty
and charred from a
then there it is,
the house you grew up in.
309 Dorchester St.,
the middle house
of three. rough bricked,
casement windows,
two trashcans
set between the bushes,
just like you
remembered it to be
fifty years
ago. the concrete
porch baking
in the summer sun.

seeing stars

she ruins
the night by telling you
the name of each
star, each constellation
that glimmers
against the black sky,
pointing out
with her hand
the galaxies and beyond.
you just want her
to be quiet
and to kiss her.
to silence her lips
with yours, but she's
just getting started,
it's only the milky way
so far.

making a list

you makes a list
of things to do.
fix the faucet,
change the lock
on the door.
oil the hinge,
patch the peeling
paint on the ceiling.
unweed the yard.
it's a long list
of household chores.
a list for a three
day weekend,
but then she calls,
and a different list
appears. it's
a more fun list
of things to do.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

apartment laundry

there was only one washer
that worked in the apartment
the dark laundry room
with a wooden table,
a dryer. a slab floor,
cages for storage
full of
bikes and Christmas
boxes taped tight.
the good washer was slow
and small,
taking an hour
to spin your clothes
feeding it quarter
after quarter. it was
hard to wait
for it all to be done,
and then
you'd forget and see
your pile of wet clothes
on the floor
the next day
when you finally came

self image

why the birds
keep flying into the window.
you don't know.
is it love
of self.
is it madness,
or imagination, hoping
for a better
behind the blue
it flies in.
it's hard to tell
as you sweep
it's lifeless body
into the woods.

sweet maybaline

your uncle had a name
for every thing,
each tool, each wrench
that hung in the garage.
mabel was his car.
old mabel, he'd whisper
tenderly, his hands caressing
the fender he just polished.
oh how I love her.
she never lets me down.
sweet mable.
come on baby, he'd murmur
when cranking the engine.
she gets me where I need
to go, he'd say
keeps me warm
and dry
in the rain, the sleet
the ice, the snow.
mable for short,
maybaline when
she was waxed
and cleaned for a
Saturday night.
it almost made you forget
how mean he was
when he talked about
mable, always with sweet
nothings to his car,
never a word unkind.

leave the tv on

she needed the television
to fall asleep.
either on the long blue
couch in the living room,
or in bed,
with the tv
on the nightstand
in the far corner
of the room.
she liked how it went
to snow.
a garbled field
of blue and white
bubbles, loudly
emitting static,
or a circle
with the words,
station has gone off
the air.
those were the old days.
now it keeps coming.
it never stops,
which comforts her when
she awakens at four
or three in the morning
to see matlock
solving a murder, or
to hear the whistling
by the creek
in mayberry.

beef chow mein

there was the time
I left
the left over Chinese
in those small white
in the back seat
of the car
for several days.
the windows rolled
the temperature
hitting the nineties.
every cat
and dog in the neighbor
hood wanted
hovering over the car.
scratching at the doors
and windows.
how quickly
that new car smell

is this seat taken

her skin, tanned into a
leathery ox brown.
fingers and neck,
ankles blinged out
to a shiny max.
like fishing lures
on her long legged
body as she swims
through the bar, between
the lily pads,
the rocks on spinning
stools, through
the deep swirl
of music and darkness.
a mane of hair,
brushed up and out.
sixty going on thirty
with her wild
phone blinking in one
free hand, the other
holding a cosmo
seeking the kindness
of any stranger
to give their seat up.

the earth is warm

the earth is warm
and ready.
the squared corners
of the long deep dig
to make
the box fit.
how quickly it all went.
from birth
to this.
how blue the sky remains.
how empty
hearts are
before being filled
with joy

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

the wedding gifts

I tell people that it was
a start up marriage,
just a run through
before the real thing.
it wasn't true love,
how could it be,
she at eighteen and me
just barely twenty one,
still a feathery
six months was all it took
before she walked home
carrying in her one suitcase
the new toaster
and wine glasses that she
deemed her own.
she took the wedding album
too, and white gown,
which was fine
with me.
I had the t.v.
and the blender,
and a white tuxedo
with black shoes.

listen, come here and listen

the old men want
to tell stories.
they have to tell stories.
you can't stop them.
listen, they say.
waving you over
with large hands.
listen, come here and be
still. sit next to me
and let me tell you
what happened.
you won't believe this,
they say.
i'm not making up a single
you aren't there quite
yet, but you'll have more
than a few when it's
your turn.

the fair grounds

the fairgrounds
in black and white.
the photo crimped at
the corners. yellowed.
a carousel
in the background
behind the scrub
brush and tall weeds.
quiet in its
no time or date is
given when you turn the
picture over.
no state or town.
it's just an empty fairground,
and forgotten.
hardly a sadder photo
have you ever seen.

the hunt

the fox hunt
begins early, the horses
the riders coiffed
just right,
with boots
and jodhpurs,
hard black caps,
and whistles with
which to get
the show off.
through the rolling
hills of Virginia
they go,
chasing the slender
red fox,
as light and quick
as melting snow.
no guns are used.
it's just the chase
this time.
the thrill
of riding, galloping
through the fog
at sunrise,
chasing after what
won't be caught.

the five dollar egg

for some reason
there is a garden hose on the roof.
and a wooden
step stool.
narrow paths
of ground dirt
are grooved into the yard
against the fence
where the dogs
run and bark
all day.
the ripped screen door
let's the flies in,
some out,
there's a pan on the stove,
and thick
with bacon fat
gone yellow.
there's a ham
in the oven
ringed with pineapple.
the scalloped
potatoes are under
foil in a long glass dish.
someone's brought
a yellow cake, iced as bright
as a lemon peel.
everyone is home, gathered
the table
the television, it's easter
later there will
an egg hunt
and the children,
girls in yellow dresses
like cut
and boys in blue overalls
will dart
red faced in search
of the one plastic
egg with a five
dollar bill
tucked inside.

three cats, two rabbits

to separate her three cats
from the two
rabbits in the dark
basement, she barricades
the hallway
with suitcases
and a laundry basket,
a trash can turned
on its side. a broom
nearby for shooing.
one rabbit is fat
and black, while the other
a distant relative
is brown.
it looks up at you with
pink eyes, gnawing
on lettuce.
the green leaf hanging
loosely from
it's tight mouth.
you look at the woman
to measure how crazy she
might be.
she smiles. it doesn't
matter. rabbits, cats.
whatever it takes
to find happiness these
days. it's fine with me.

cheap clothes

these cheap clothes.
one wash
and they've shrunk beyond
too tight to get on.
the threads
already unraveling,
the collars
impossible to iron.
the pant legs
now short and above
your ankles.
these clothes.
these coupon clothes,
marked down
and down
to the point of being
nearly free,
worn once,
then stuffed away
in a drawer, or bagged
for the corner
pick up
on Saturday.

talking together

the back fence
was where she stood,
a laundry basket
at her feet under the cold
april sky,
talking to her friend
the neighbor who
was doing the same.
hanging wet laundry
in the wind.
from the window you
could see them
talking. laughing, sometimes
leaning over
the chain link fence,
waist high
to hug one another
and cry.
this was before cell
phones, before texting
and e mails.
before face book
and all of the other
social media venues.
this was standing
in the back yard in
the long wet grass
pinning clothes on a line
with a neighbor.
talking, together
spending time.