Monday, November 30, 2015

brown bag

happiness
in a bottle, ambered
bug juice,
gold and brusque down
the flesh
pipe
the tongue stung
with the sluice
of liquor,
the mouth
alive with a burst
of something
not unlike pain
or pleasure
but mischief uncapped.
happiness
in a bottle, bagged
brown and kept
snug
in the thick overcoat.
hidden from judges eyes,
sipped on
in a shadow, under a bridge
on the roof
where the pigeons
in cages, unlike you
wait to go home,
and fly.

the prison farm

the striped melons
green skinned and flesh
toned
those bouldered fruits
carried in our skinny arms
through
the rivulets
of mud
and field,
no stopping our theft
now once
broken off the vine,
even with that long
and short gun,
despite the weight
and fog
of early morning,
the shouts to stop,
we run, we run, and the
captured
stay behind
unchained in orange
suits
cheering us on, cheering
us on.

separate ways

it's blood,
but it's not blood. not
that river
of sameness
that travels within
the body
that makes
the bond, it's something
else.
in the heart, the mind.
a seeing
things together, agreeing
on what is right,
what is wrong.
family
has no say in this.
it's something else,
undefined, unsettled
until
later when one goes
forward
the other stays behind.

the new born

pink fruit,
or black,
or blossoms off color
and browned,
a sage
or yellowed
hue, bundles of
life,
wrapped and waiting
to be taken
home.
out from under
the glass, freed
from
a mother's womb.
reaching
and crying already
for things
they can't have,
trying to do
what they can't do.

the last thing seen

the bruised bones
of ships asleep on the bottom
of a green
eyed sea
sway
in salted rot,
key holes
for fish, for wandering
shells,
seaweed, mermaids
imagined.
how the shadows fold
from light to dark,
under silvered stars
light years away
already dead and gone,
as are the sailors
who sailed
and drowned,
the water as they
sank
the last thing seen.

so easy

unburdened by us,
by moral
or civil laws
these animals neither
care
nor wonder
what might be right,
what might
be wrong.
they just are. just
are.
how hard it is to be
what
you are meant
to be, a struggle,
and yet for them,
so easy.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

saucer of milk

with green
glassed eyes
on black paws,
a wind of hair,
teeth like fangs
white and sharp.
she licks
the saucer clean of
milk. her pink pebbled
tongue
shining clean the dish,
then she peers at you
before turning away
to seek
another porch,
another
two legged fish.

put the good word in

an unpraying person,
she still puts
her hands
together and sends up something
like a wish,
as if a penny
tossed into a well.
maybe your God
will hear me, she says,
always referring to God
as your God.
as if he's a personal
savior of yours.
ring the bell and he appears.
put the good word in
for me, she'll ask, when
down
and out, but not quite
far enough down
to be on her knees.
I've been good lately,
don't you think?
maybe with your help,
he'll hear me.

the former better half

your former better half
is asleep,
she is sound asleep
in another state,
in another place,
in the woods
beside a frozen lake.
her mattress is on
a wooden floor.
her clothes
are without hangers.
her life
is in stacks,
pyramids of things to
get to, tomorrow never
arriving.
your better half,
is asleep.
but not you, you are
busy
with everything
you've invented
and must do. it's easy
now
to see the difference.

coming undone

unfearing is hard,
as is
undoing,
untying the knot
of love.
stringing
together days
without what has become
habit
and forming.
the inertia of two
as one, undone,
is unnerving,
unstoppable
when the time has
come.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

why are you here

here, fill out this form,
you are told
by the nurse, is she a nurse,
or just someone
wearing green scrubs
to look like one. but she has
a chart,
a pen, a tag, and something
around her waist
that has buttons.
you are told, to keep
your questions down to one.
the doctor is very busy.
and yes, we know it's your
first visit, but
there is so little time.
so please, ask only one question
concerning your health.
you sigh. you take the clipboard
and the pen
and go sit down.
you close your eyes
and imagine a different world.
a world of
love and compassion, of
unhurried concern.
of a tender hand on your
shoulder and a thank
you for choosing us to take
care of you.
you try to think of what
to write in the open white
space asking
why are you here. finally
you write the word.
sadness.

her casserole

the aunt
carries in her casserole of
corn pudding
with two hands, her
piston arms
carrying the glassed weight
in front of her.
where, she says with puffed
cheeks, where
should I set it
down.
it's still hot.
be careful.
someone get this dog out
from under me
before I trip
and fall.
she'll tell you later
how it was made,
how she was up
all night and early
in the morning at the foot
of her old oven.
you feel unworthy
with what she's brought
and wish you had a better
seat to sit her
in, not the one by
the kitchen door.

the watchman

the watchman in his chair,
not asleep
but not awake, his flask
half full, thrice sipped,
stuck in the pocket of his
heavy coat.
the tilt of his cap
upon his thick brow,
furrowed with something
along dumbness
and youth. a job, he says.
a job to pay the bills,
to keep one in food,
and shoes. flickering his
flashlight at a black cat
who arches in the alley,
waiting behind a can
for prey, for rats.
he pares an apple with
his dull knife, letting
the skin fall
to the pavement, tossing
the core down the alley.
it's a long night,
this graveyard
shift, this rising of stars
and setting of moons,
this day within a night
for the watchman,
his ambitions, his dreams,
on hold.

old school

the teachers
miss being able to pick a child
up by the shirt collar
and smacking his bottom
with a ruler.
rapping knuckles,
sending them out into the cold
to bang erasers
against the wall,
or into a corner
with a dunce hat on his
head or
sticking a wad of chewed
gum on the offenders nose.
teachers miss being able
to threaten the children
with punishing quizzes
and tests. detention.
casting spells
upon their pointed heads
and fearing eyes.



the fiance

have you met my fiancé
she says, pointing at him as
he stands silently beside her,
grimacing.
no, I say, sticking my hand
out to shake.
you wonder if he knows.
if he cares
that you two were once lovers.
as she was with so many before you.
that she once
had big plans for the both of you.
but you escaped.
nice to meet you, he says,
letting go quickly my hand.
likewise, I say.
you will be coming to the wedding,
she says,
I sent you an email.
of course, I say.
the fiancé turns his head
and looks off into the distance.
into some future life
he's about to live in.

early morning

a staggered light
appears,
not pink, not orange
but a murky purple bruise,
a coat of early dew
frosted
along the curves
of cars, chimneyed
angled roofs.
the noteless lines
of wires,
holding only
birds, not music,
stretch
haphazardly along
the streets. dogs bark
at the end
of chains.
doors open
for papers and milk,
to stick a finger in the wind.
everything is exactly as
it was when you
were children, not
much has changed, not
even you
in your plaid cuffed
jeans, mittens.

Friday, November 27, 2015

the actor

the actor leans
into his lines. his dialect
practiced
in the dark
in the light
anywhere
that his feet can find
a spot.
to be. it's hard
being who you aren't
under the lights,
in front
of eyes that don't
know who you are,
even non actors
know this, but find
a way,
to act, to play
the role,
to disappear inside
the part.

one lie

one lie
leads to another.
the pretense of self
folding
over and over
until the layers make
truth
unrecognizable.
nothing gets in
or out
that touches the soul.
what difference does it
make.
you can only listen
and nod,
smile agreeably,
pretend that you hold
no doubt.

turbulent seas

to weather the storm
the ship
lightens its load.
tossing overboard anything
not worth dying
for.
and so should you,
as you
toss and turn
on turbulent seas.
sending sailors
and cargo
unworthy
over the side, setting
yourself
free.

what are you thankful for

then the really painful part
of the holiday dinner begins.
each person having their turn
at saying what they are thankful
for.
you hate this tradition.
you squirm in your seat,
and look towards the door.
they are only halfway around
the table, you could easily
dash to the bathroom, or suddenly
get a phone call
on your turned off phone.
i'm thankful for everyone here
someone says, and begins
to name every one, pointing
at the person and describing how
wonderful each one is.
i'm thankful for the abundance
of things we have
another says, smiling broadly,
proud of her originality.
world peace, someone shouts
out. which is more like a wish,
than something to be thankful for.
but you don't blurt that out.
you are still trying to figure
out how to escape.
vodka, your drunk uncle
mumbles when it's his turn,
spilling his drink
onto his shirt already spotted
with cranberry sauce. i'm thankful
for separate bedrooms
his wife says.
then the children begin. they
are thankful for their playstation.
for ice cream and cake.
for their pets
and for being off school.
they are thankful that this dinner
thing is almost over.
they are the most honest.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

and gravy please

having starved yourself for
three days
you're ready for thanksgiving.
you've done two hundred sit ups
walked approximately
nine miles, did a hundred jumping jacks.
you've biked and lifted weights.
you drank water
and then more water.
you ate a black olive, but spit
it out before swallowing.
you've taken deep breaths
raising your arms skyward.
doing circular motions.
you aren't sure why you are doing
this, but you do it anyway.
you feel prepared.
your belt is on a different
notch. you feel weak and close
to fainting so carefully
you inch your chair towards the table.
you are wearing your red
holiday sweater with reindeer
embroidered on it.
as if down a long dark hallway
you hear someone saying a prayer.
dizzy, you try to keep your head
from falling forward
and hitting your empty plate.
you can see your face
in the shiny white dish.
your eyes are dark and hollow.
you say a prayer that the long
winded prayer you are hearing
will end soon.
you place a napkin into
your lap and whisper amen, finally.
trembling you reach for a fork.
dark or white meat someone
says to you from far away
across the table.
both you say. and gravy too,
please.

frozen shoulder

you fly into Toronto
to get your frozen shoulder
unfrozen.
it's a mysterious
process that you found
while grazing for
cures
to alleviate the pain
from your injury.
you know nothing
about Canada. nothing.
except that it's north
and it's colder
than it is here most
of the time. they have mounties,
and love hockey.
the guess who is from there.
you've watched the videos
online
of how pleased
people are after the doctor
does his magic.
there are tears in their
eyes.
you want this kind of
happiness. you want to be
able to throw your arm
straight into
the air, or to put your
arm behind you
and tuck in your shirt.
that's all you ask for.
how much does it cost?
you have no idea.
so you bring a lot of money.
pain and pleasure
are worth spending on.
maybe you'll see a moose while
there.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

a non-profit company

so explain to me exactly what
you do everyday, I ask my friend Lola
as we sit at a coffee shop
shooting the breeze.
I work for a non profit company, she says.
I love it. I love my work.
I am sooo so lucky.
okay. I say. and....what do you do?
I do work for them.
like what? like conversing on
the phone, talking to clients.
sending e mails and text messages.
we use twitter now too.
and? well,
we have meetings and strategize
about what we are going to do
next. do next about what?
about whatever we're doing
that particular week or month.
our goals are quite clear.
we're a green company too, did I tell
you that?
and you get paid for this. yes.
everyone has a salary.
but it's a non profit? right.
the company doesn't make any money.
the money goes to our offices,
the expenses
and the employees.
for doing what?
I just told you. we organize
and plan events, network with
other non profits. we have
several ongoing think tanks
with some very smart people.
sometimes we'll hold banquets
or destination meetings to gather
and disseminate information
what we've learned.
destinations?
to where. somewhere nice,
the islands, or vegas. places
like that. people get more done
when they are relaxed.
and when you get
there, you do what? well, that's
the fun part.
we talk about our plans for
the new year, how we can perform
better, increase our productivity
and make our company grow even larger.
but, doing what?
what does your company do?
oh, you just don't get it do you?

marriage therapy

mere months away from retiring,
your marriage counselor reluctantly
agrees to take you and your wife on.
she was old. old school. there was old
furniture in her room. faux paintings
of real paintings. you remember the scream
being one. how perfect, you thought.,
as you sat and waited for the door to open
and for her to ask the three of you to step in.
your son, was in tow, talking on his
phone, which wasn't a phone at all but
a rock he had found outside in the parking lot.
what seems to be the problem, she said,
smiling broadly with betty davis red lips
and a set of owl glasses halfway down
her short pug nose.
your wife jumped in first. I hate him, she said.
he's evil and mean and I want out.
she wrote this down, or something along
those lines. your son laughed and said,
mom you so funny. then he set a bowl
of fake fruit on his head, balancing it
with his short arms stuck out like a wire
walker. time me dad.
see if I can do three minutes.
I checked my watched and told him, go.
yes. the therapist said, and what do you
have to say about things? me, you ask,
pointing at your chest. yes, she said,
you. which sounded incriminating.
she's cheating on me, you tell the therapist.
she's a liar, a cheat, she doesn't work,
she's lazy, doesn't cook or clean
and our sex life stinks.
how much time, your son asks, still
balancing the bowl. almost two minutes
you tell him. the pears and apples
wobble in the plate.
I see, the therapist says. well, let's
do a test now. both of you stand up.
now you sir, stand there, close your eyes.
your wife will stand behind you.
let's see if you trust one another
enough to continue on and save this marriage.
bored, your son takes the plate off his
head and pretends once more to talk on
his phone, which is really a rock.
the therapist gives him a sheet of paper
and asks him to make a drawing of
what he thinks his family looks like.
okay, he says and goes to the table.
your wife moves behind, as you shake your
head. now fall back, the therapist says.
let her catch you. trust her.
trust your wife, the love of you life.
but she doesn't catch you, you drop to
the floor, hitting your head on a potted
plant. your son laughs and comes
over to look at you on the floor. dad,
he says. what are you crazy, mom would
never catch you. why did you do that.
he hands the paper to the therapist.
it's a picture of a tornado, black
and swirly with all four of us up in
the air. that's you,
he says to the therapist, pointing
at something that looks like a cow
with glasses on.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

the swing

of course
your son wanted you to push him
harder and harder
faster and higher
on the play ground swing,
while from the window
his mother
said stop, what are you
doing,
are you crazy, you're
going to kill
him.
and now, as he rounds
his life
into thirty,
not much has changed
in what you both want
for him.

milk carton photo

you see your face
on the side of a milk carton.
one side is
when you were young,
the other is a projection
of what you might
look like in
thirty years from then.
they aren't even close.
how will they ever find
you.
you want to call the milk
company to
update your photo,
but then they'll know
where you are,
which would ruin
everything you've
done to stay hidden,
private and quiet
in the life you've
chosen.

hold on

how long can I stay on hold?
apparently
all afternoon.
I don't mind Christmas
music,
but after an hour or so
on the speaker
my thoughts wander
and I need to let
out a scream
or stab a piece of meat
with a sharp knife.
but this does no good.
this makes my blood pressure
go up.
my head throbs and my neck
hurts. I take out a bag
of frozen peas
and press it against the nape
of my neck.
I like the word
nape and rarely get to use it.
so this pleases me a little,
but not so much
that it eases the anger,
or stops my ulcer
from flaring up.
finally someone arrives
and asks me
if i have an order number.
I unravel the receipt which
is three feet long
and look.
there are numbers all
over the place.
can't you look up my
name. I ask politely, still
searching the lightly printed
piece of paper and its
endless array
of numbers and words.
what if I gave you
my phone number, my
social security number,
my mother's maiden name.
my first dog's name, or
the city I was born in?
would that help?
hold on, she says.
I have to take this other
call.

eating out


what do you want me to bring
for dinner
I ask her
pondering the holiday
and staring at frozen
butter ball
turkeys in the grocery
store.
there are so many.
white and goose
pimpled
under factory sealed
wrap. I plop one into
my cart
making the front wheel
of the cart go wobbly.
i'm in the grocery store
right now,
I tell her,
with two packages of
gravy
in my hand. how about a pie
or two?
I push the broken cart
around, stopping to touch
boxes of stuffing,
shaking them.
pick me up a cook book
she says.
I've never cooked dinner
before,
how about you? I've heated
things up before,
I tell her.
maybe we can go online
and figure this out.
it can't be that hard.
i'll get three or
four potatoes
to start. I think
we need a turkey baster
maybe for something.
I'll get one
of those too.
how do you feel about
Chinese, she asks.

Monday, November 23, 2015

the wounded bird

a clipped wing
keeps
the red bird
close and
flying
in circles,
but he's still happy
to have flight,
having adjusted
and found peace
to his new
and simpler
life.

make her happy

flowers make her happy.
so you buy her
flowers.
you buy a vase with which
to place them in.
crystal and heavy.
you write a note.
you buy a box of dark
chocolates too
just to make sure
your point is being
made. then
you go to the jewelers
and pick out a
strand of pearls.
you have them gift wrapped.
yes, the red
ribbon, please.
that should do it.
you think. you hope.

holiday bridge jumping

you see them lining up
at the bridge for
the holidays.
three days early,
finding a spot
that's suitable for
jumping.
some have written notes
saying farewell,
explaining
why they're leaping
into the great abyss,
others have left
voice mails,
or texted goodbye,
but most have said
the hell with it,
why bother, they
don't care about me
anyway,
and maybe this will
teach them a lesson.
it doesn't.

i get it

no need to shout,
or say it three times,
I can hear you.
I get it.
I understand.
no need to send me
a message
in capital letters,
or write across
the sky how
you feel. i'm
very observant and
astute when it comes
to catching
your drift.
by changing the lock
on the door and
putting my clothes
out in a paper bag, well,
that sort of said
it all.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

the dream farewell

in your dream
your mother is lying on
a table.
unclothed.
stretched upon a white
linen sheet,
a burial shroud,
you imagine.
you approach her
to grieve, to say
farewell. you lean
in to kiss her when
she opens her eyes.
her hair is black
and full.
her eyes are a rich
brown.
her teeth are perfect,
her face lineless.
she smiles
and says I came
back to say goodbye
to you.
then closes her eyes
to leave once more.

miscues

it's a day of missed
buttons,
laces
that have a knot,
catching every red light,
at every
corner
making you stop.
a day of leaving home
with shaving
cream in one ear.
it's a day
of spilled coffee
on a white shirt,
of dragging tissue
around on
one shoe.
a day of saying the wrong
thing
at the wrong time,
being perpetually
misunderstood.
a day of choosing
the longest
and slowest of every line
you get into.
it's a a day
full of errant
choices, miscues.

in the end

nary a soul
while lying prone
on his death bed
has said that he wished
he'd worked
just one more hour,
straight through
a weekend
instead
of doing other things
that brought him joy,
if only I had made
more money,
had bought a bigger
home,
just more car,
if only I had stared into
the woods, embraced
the ocean,
the rising sun,
and not looked
continually at my
phone.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

free range

we were free range children.
allowed
to go out and wander
leaving the borders of
our fenced yards.
a summers day could take us
miles
into the woods,
across the highway
that led us across
a stream, behind
the stores,
up trees.
there was no limits,
no strings,
no leash attached.
an alley was as pleasant
as any meadow.
no eyes
to follow us to save
us if
need be.
we wandered and wandered
until hungry and then came
home. not unlike
today.

the weight lifter

the weight lifter
needs mirrors, for how
else would
he know where his days
have gone.
each muscle an hour,
each bead
of sweat drained
into gallons.
but is he no different
in lifting bar bells
than we are with our books,
lining them on
shelves
to be dusted and seen
below picture framed
degrees.

true feelings

there's more
to everything
you surmise,
the tip
of the ice berg, the sly
glance,
the mumbled words.
so much is unsaid,
or hidden.
true feelings
disguised
in a smile.
it's better to be polite,
or remise
and say little
of what is right,
or how you truly
feel.

Friday, November 20, 2015

strangers

upon the first hour
of the first meeting
she took your hand
and said
stand up. I love this song
so you stood
and turned your head upward
to listen
to the overhead
music
in the pizza joint
off the pike.
slowly she led you around
the black and white tiled
floor
slippery with pizzas
being bricked oven
cooked in the back.
she sang into your ear,
strangers in
the night she cooed.
it was getting
stranger alright.

a new religion

the new religion
will have
only a few rules.
be kind
is one,
the rest will follow
and be
unwritten.
no one will keep
score.
everything but love
will be
forbidden.

you miss running

you miss running.
being one of them. in all
weather.
rain or ice.
snow. no problem.
wind.
strapping on the shoes.
the windbreaker.
the hat and gloves.
checking your watch.
stretching
then off you'd go.
you miss the burn of lungs,
the heavy sweat
on your clothes,
the looseness of
bones and muscles
as you hit your stride.
you could run all
day, into night.
you miss running.
the sweet high of
exhaustion. happy to be
tired and sore.
an unquenched addiction.
you miss running.

almost edible

no matter what you do to it,
slice, or dice,
fry or put it between
to pieces of bread,
lather mustard,
or mayo across its
glistening back,
it's still spam. a mutant
meat of sorts
swept up from some floor
you don't want to
know about. mysteriously
pink and gnarled,
canned, how else could
it be sold.
never hanging in the butcher's
window.
never under a plastic
wrap staggered
nicely in rows with real
meat.
spam is the end game.
when the cupboard is bare,
when the apocalypse
is in full bloom.
it's the last thing
to be eaten, well almost
the last, there's
always me, or you.

wine and politics

your friend suggests
over dinner,
nuking them, them being everyone
but us.
building a barb wired fence
that straddles
the coastline, the deserts,
hills and mountains.
it's not ellis island
anymore, she says. we can't
let everyone in.
they didn't then and why should
we now.
she pours another glass
of wine for herself,
tilting the bottle
until the last drop drips
into the red
sea of her glass.

save the planet

the man, boy, at the door
wants to talk
about the environment. he's neat
and clean
in a plaid shirt, a beard
just born.
he holds a packet of information,
a phone,
something else.
a pen is in his pocket.
his enthusiasm
throws light into the room.
he wants to talk
rivers and streams,
pollution, what you can do
to bring things
back to they way they were.
you do too.
but you're in the middle of
dinner eating
farm raised salmon,
and you don't have time
right now to talk
and agree, so you hand him
ten bucks and send him
on his way.

making repairs

the old shed,
with the door hanging
on rusted hinges,
some screws have
fallen out,
letting the door
sag at one corner.
the bottom wood
rotted from ice and snow
of winters past.
the roof letting light
in. an afternoon
would take care of it.
a hammer, new
wood, nails, and screws.
a few tiles tacked on.
just one afternoon,
then paint.
but like many things,
what's stopping
you. like much in life,
leaving it unfixed,
is comfort
of some sort.

they want in

they want in, they want out,
who isn't
a refugee
trying to flee
the horrors of life.
ducking
the swings, absorbing
the blows
that strike.
gathering all that you
own
and fleeing,
seeking a soft place
to land,
an asylum
to wait out the night.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

the writing life

the key to good writing is rewriting
your professor tells
the class as she stand in front of the room
holding a book.
strunk and white.
spelling, grammar, punctuation.
show don't tell.
write what you know.
write every day.
don't wait on the muse.
but how can you at such an age.
hardly enough beard to shave,
unwrinkled, having never lost love,
untouched by death.
what is there to know, or say.
give it time. give it time,
she says. be patient.
there'll be more than enough.
just wait.


saved newspapers

old papers
stored away in an older box.
no lock
no key with which to turn,
black and soft
the sides are.
news headlines.
tall blocked letters
in black.
a war is over, a president
shot dead.
a man is on
the moon.
such news it was.
life changing
swiftly
before your young eyes,
strangely unstopped
by any headline.

waiting on the train

I could go south.
hop a train,
one bag of clothes.
some money
in my pocket.
lock the door
behind me and just
leave for a while.
ride the rails.
take the blue
highways.
see what hasn't
been seen.
I think this while
sitting watching
a train roll past
the line of cars.
the ding of the bell.
the striped post
keeping us
from crossing.
then the last car
swings by
and the thought
disappears, as does
the train.
its lights fading
in the fog.

the butcher

the butcher who insists
he nows you,
comes out from behind
the counter
wiping his hands on his
blood stained
apron.
he shakes your hand,
gripping your wrist with
his other hand.
his hand is cold
and curled still
from the knife he uses
all day.
let me bring you out
a good cut, he says.
smiling.
wait, don't leave, i'll
wrap it for you.
rib eye? he says, or
sirloin. no, he says,
both i'll bring both.
it's so nice to see
you after so long.
I rarely see my old
friends. he brings you
the meat wrapped in white
paper with red tape.
you go home and cook
the steaks, you cut each
sweet tender morsel
and chew. you try to
remember his name,
the butcher, where you
might know him from.

pretty blue wishes

her pretty blue
wishes
don't all come true.
most don't.
and yet she holds
them
to her heart
folds them like
petals
into a book.
keeps a box on her
dresser
where her dreams
have lived
without air
for too long.
her grey wings
won't
keep her in the air
much longer.

the music

it's uncertain,
the music
of your life.
this.
that. tomorrow.
today.
hard to get a handle
on what's ahead.
you cant hear
the song being sung.
it's
even harder still
to strike
the keys of
what's gone
away.
but you try
to make sense of it
all.
find rhythm to
your life.
to hit the right notes
and make
a melody
of sorts.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

blue skies

he tells you
about the beans and rice
in jail.
how he shared a cell,
his bunk
just below
another bunk.
a toilet and a basin
in the corner.
a steel shaved mirror.
his roommate serving
twenty seven years,
and he just
ninety days.
but together,
they live, play
cards in the cinder
block room.
telling lies to one
another, staring
at the bluest
of skies
outside the barred window
as if never having seen one
before.

a small bite

a flea comes
into your life and bites
your thigh
right above
the knee.
a small flea, a small
bite,
but the itch is
enormous.
you pinch the life out
of him, then
you scratch and scratch
until the red
hill bleeds.
you hold no grudge
though.
we all do what we need
to do.


that's it

when it ends,
with gallantry and compassion,
let's stay in touch,
you both say, meaning farewell
pretty much
forever.
the bittersweet hug,
a gentle
kiss upon the cheek.
a long last look,
a glance
over the shoulder
as you walk away,
that's it.

unfinished work

the fence needs
work. a coat of stain before
the cold sets
in. the trees are already
bare.
how quickly it comes.
the frost.
the shiver of north winds.
the low sky of a puddled
sun. but the fence,
both sides.
wooden and pale,
half done,
stretches along
the cornered yard.
time has passed
too quickly to finish it.
the buckets sit nearby.
untouched. a stiff brush,
tossed down.
it's dark
before you want it to be dark.

the first born

the first baby, so loved
and wooed over,
cradled
and rocked. the room painted
a sweet hue
of blue or pink
to get the show started.
the mobile
hanging from the ceiling
above the crib
swinging gently to a
music box.
already books
are stacked for reading.
stuffed animals await.
the center of the universe
is here.
but the second child,
or third,
or even fourth will get
a different deal,
and be better for it.

the patients

how patient these patients
are.
sitting side by side
with their coughs and fevers.
things that itch.
their canes
beside them.
they read
the magazines on the table.
popular mechanics,
people, and sports.
some stare into their phones,
or out the window
where the sun
has crawled away.
they have finished their forms
and wait.
there is no hello.
no eyes meet eyes.
no introductions, no explanations
as to why anyone
is there.
it's a guessing game
as each name is called,
and they are taken
behind
closed doors.

the way it is

the city stretches
her arms
turning on the lights
in the fog
of early morning.
you see it awaken
slowly.
the movement of life.
cars
and people walking
leaving
to go where they need
to be.
you see them waving,
kissing
someone goodbye.
exiting the warmth of home.
they quicken their
pace, looking
at their watches.
grasping their briefcases,
holding onto
their hats.
the commerce of the world
is loud
and numbing.
only thirty more years
to go.

the hunted

with a large branch
you scratch away your tracks
behind you.
step into the stream
and go down.
crossing over
on the rocks.
you look back. they're
still there, not
far behind.
they have dogs.
you hear them barking.
you hear the rattle of
the chains
they carry to put on
your wrists and legs
again. they want to bring
you back to reality.
no one gets to live
outside the laws of
love and life.
you are hunted. you are
alone. you won't
be caught again.
not alive.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

not taking new patients

the doctor you want is no
longer taking new patients.
you stare at her photo. her long
red hair cascading down
her starched
white coat. a stethoscope
hanging around
her neck.
she seems smart and kind,
you gather this from her eyes,
her bright smile.
the way her hand leans
against her desk.
she seems relaxed and ready
to help you.
specifically you.
behind her is wall of awards
and degrees.
you wonder why she is not
made queen of medicine, but
no, she's too busy to help you.
instead, you get
Sharma. a man, a former goat
herder,
who looks confused, as if
he smells something burning
that he left
in the oven too long.
he has the hands of a meat
cutter, thick and gnarled like
a butcher in hells kitchen,
there is a stain on his white
coat. blood?
gravy? maybe. he wants to be
paid in flour
and milk. blankets.
balls of string.

dust laden

you find the broom
in the closet where you last left
it some months ago,
was it spring?
and begin to sweep.
whose dust is this?
these tumble weeds
under each bed, how come?
how has this happened.
each sill,
each shelf a martian layer
of fine silt.
the threads of clothes.
long strands of hairs,
not yours.
you feel like giving up.
giving in
to the world, but you have
this broom,
this cloth, this vacuum
with it's meager power
sucking
the debris that has gathered
around you.
one room after another.
you go, making things
presentable, at least
when the sun goes down.

four pears in a bowl

four green
pears, ripe and pear
shaped
as pears often are,
settle in a crystal
bowl on a silver
plate,
on a sheet of white
linen, a tablecloth
new, and unstretched.
the light
shines down from above.
the paint feels
wet, undried, her hand
not far from the canvas,
perhaps,
standing back,
just slightly tilting,
her eyes, wondering
if it's finished.
if anything in life
can be walked away from
with the word done,
firmly spoken.

mentholated

you smell like a jar of mentholated
heat rub because you've been
rubbing it onto your body
for a week.
people look at you when you
stand in line for coffee
and rub their noses.
you pretend not to notice,
avoiding eye contact.
when you get home you rub
more on. it gives you a rash,
and it burns the top layer
of your skin, making it feel
like it's on fire,
but it says it's
highly recommended by
four out of five doctors for
relieving muscle soreness.
you believe this,
you believe a lot of crazy things
you see on late night tv,
so you keep lathering it
onto your shoulders, your knees,
your elbow and feet,
smelling like a eucalyptus
tree.

marital bliss

your fourth wife
was your favorite and she
was fond of you
as well.
it was her mother that
gave you trouble.
living
in the other room
with her cats,
always around, sniffing
into your business
and barking
her remarks like
when are you going to get
a job,
or do you think
that bathrobe might need
to be washed.
you've worn it nine
straight days.
if not for her you would
still be married
to the fourth wife,
living in marital
bliss. well, something
like that.

surviving

all day you hunt.
hiding in the brush,
moving quietly through
the woods
with your arrows.
leaning into trees,
peering
through the shadows
of brush and leaves,
searching for prey.
it's how you survive,
eating off the land.
crawling in the dirt,
burrowing, becoming
one with the forest.
being hungry drives you.
your ambition is to stay
alive, food and shelter.
you see no other way,
having tried
so many
in your coat and tie.
this makes the most
sense.

Monday, November 16, 2015

old apart

you put
out the olive
branch.
wave the white flag.
you
are too tired to fight.
to go on
with this silly
disagreement.
after all you are related
by blood.
so senseless
to hold a grudge for so long.
the energy it
takes to be
angry and resentful
burns
more of you
than love ever will.
it's all you can do
to put out
your hand,
and let it go.
the days grow shorter
and the nights
longer
as we grow old
apart.

cat and dog

the dog
barking, pawing at
the ground,
showing his teeth
to the cat,
a mere calico
on the sill
licking one paw
after another
having a bath.
she hardly moves
an inch
as the dog barks louder
and lurches forward.
the cat yawns,
stretches, then folds
herself
into a soft
ball, closing
her eyes to sleep.
it's fun to be a cat
behind the window,
aloof,
and on the sill,
fed and warm.

far away

how round
and yellow the moon
is,
a far away sweet orb
swinging
in the sky overhead.
larger
than it's been
in months.
the earth being where
it is,
the sun too.
what a lovely sight
the moon is
from this point on the ground
where we fill
our lungs
with air.
our hearts with hope,
our voices
with sound.

let live

dizzy
with joy, you spin
like
a top
through the day.
the news
is great.
the headlines
read
we won, you win,
we all win.
evil has been
defeated.
the angry and mean
have given
up.
they've decided to
live
a different way.
to live
and let live
like
the rest of us.

the scare crow

the scarecrow
full of birds,
stretched out along
the post,
dug in the middle
of the field
is tired.
sagging in his
ragged clothes.
not lifting a straw
finger
to keep
the seeds in the plowed
ground.
he fools no one,
with his silent gaze,
his stitched
eyes,
the bent mouth
that stays silent
and never yells out,
and yet he goes
about his day as if
he mattered.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

once there

it's hard to leave
the battlefield
once there,
once having seen
what there is to be seen.
you never
get the blood out.
the sound
from your ears.
lucky to be alive,
some lucky
to be dead.
others, walking the earth
in a trance
trying to make
sense of it all,
hiding the fear.

let's do something fun


she asks you to do something
fun
over the weekend.
let's do something fun,
she says.
throwing her hands up into
the air
to demonstrate
what fun might look like.
her eyes get large,
her mouth is wide
and open. tell me what you
think of this she says,
jumping into the air
and spinning around like a
leaf tumbling from a tree.
let's go for a ride in
a hot air balloon.
yes? what do you think?
come on. come on it will be
fun.
you say hmmm. which settles
her down a little.
what? she says. it's so
nice out, the leaves
are changing. we can
drive out to Orange County
today and be up in the air
by this afternoon.
we can pick up some apple
cider too and maybe a few
pies from a roadside stand.
hmmm. you say again.
what about power lines?
and fire. those balloons explode
when they hit the power lines.
people fall out of those
things all the time and die
in a fiery crash. no one survives
when they go down.
you open your phone to show
her a photo you've saved
of a hot air balloon on fire
with people in mid air
falling to the ground.
you enlarge the picture
with your thumb and forefinger.
oh my, she says. when did that
happen? an hour ago, you say,
crossing your fingers.
well. that's terrible. well.
how about some cider
and some pie? we can do that,
can't we? take a nice
ride through the country.
i'm in you say, putting your
phone away and grabbing your
car keys.

the white cadillac

as you sit at the light
waiting for red
to turn green
the man in the white
Eldorado
Cadillac rolls
down his window
to throw trash
out.
wrappers and cans,
paper
bags, things that
get caught in the wind
and fly over your
car, into the woods.
he empties his ashtray
by opening the door
and tilting
the ashes and butts
onto the road.
he looks into his mirror
to see if you've seen
what he's done.
but he doesn't care,
he's eating
something, drinking.
singing. you can hear
the loud music
seep out of his car.
he's happy.
he's in a white Cadillac.

the black cat

the black cat
wants milk. she's been here
before.
long haired,
green eyed.
friendly and loud.
a sultry purr
as she paws
and peers into
your open door.
her back arched,
her tail up
and waving
in the night air.
the black cat
wants in.
she knows you.
she knows how easy you
are when
it comes to affection.
she's been here before.
without hesitation
you get the milk,
the bowl.
you pour.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

the high rise

it's a secure building.
you have to sign in.
write on a ledger
your name,
your car, the plates,
the year
the color, who you might
be visiting.
the time.
the day. your mother's
maiden name.
people stare at you
as you wait
for someone to leave,
or go in with bags
of groceries,
then you grab the door
and enter. the buttons
don't work.
no one is at the desk.
there's a sign
reading pick up after
your pets.
someone has a couch
for sale.
it's on the board, next
to the board meeting notice
about mice. the couch
is plaid circa 1979
with someone
lying on top of it
asleep, his mullet hanging
over the side.
it's a high rise
with washers and dryers
in the basement.
a loading dock.
a cement pond out back
surrounded by barbed wire.
it smells like cabbage
in the windowless halls,
it smells
like shoes on the balcony.
wet towels
and cats.
the rugs, wet spotted,
are gold and patterned
with hexagons in red.
the walls are the color
of sand, the texture
is sand too.
it's hard to get in
this building, there's
a waiting list and harder
still to get out
once you've signed
a lease.

her boots

she wants to show you her boots.
see, she says,
opening one closet
after another,
pulling the string
to the bulb above.
she waves her hand across
the boots lined on the shelves,
on the floor,
some still in boxes.
see how many I have.
every color.
but mostly black and brown.
but wait,
there's more.
she opens another door,
and shows you more.
I love my boots,
she says.
I know they all look the same,
but they're different
if you look closely
at them. some are pointed
while others are flat toed.
I have different brands.
different leather.
made in different countries.
she smiles, and turns
the light off. closes the door.
I love boots, she says,
smiling as brightly as
any child could do.

some get lost

some get lost,
get angry and confused,
they fall through the cracks.
you can't keep everyone
happy.
you only have so much
to give, your heart
having given
so much in the past.
you bend only so far.
in time, a week or two,
or less, you'll forget
who they are,
as they do you.

burning leaves

the afternoon
spent in the cold,
in the wind,
as the trees empty.
raking with gloved hands
what falls
at your feet,
tossing them in armfuls
into
a barrel of fire
and letting them burn,
letting the ashes
and smoke rise
and blow into the bluest
of skies,
warming your
hands over
the debris of branches,
timber
having fallen.
the churning,
of dead leaves,
no longer green.
this act brings
you a sweet
autumn peace.
a distant memory
that fills you with a joy,
only this season
can possess.

a shoe box photo

the photo, yellowed at the edges,
along with others
in the shoebox
under the steps,
is in your hand.
you haven't seen that person
in some time
now. troubled in
black and white,
the edges scalloped
by your mother's sewing
scissors.
they weren't happier
times. not at all,
or simpler. you can't
gloss over
those times,
because you were there,
you were in the photo,
you were younger then,
but not nearly
as young as you are now.

Friday, November 13, 2015

who isn't busy?

who isn't busy
these days?
raise your hand.
only the dead
it seems. besides them
everyone else
has a schedule to keep.
hardly a soul
can meet you for dinner
a drink,
a cup of coffee
on the spur of the moment.
no one owns
their life.
it belongs to the world
that spins
increasingly
faster under their feet.
who isn't busy
these days?
only the dead,
it seems,
but they don't
return your calls either.

the news boy

when you were a boy,
you left the house before
dawn.
the dog with you.
a wagon
creakily being towed
by your thick coated
arms
and gloves.
the papers were on the corner
six blocks away.
no cars.
no noise, no sound at all.
just you
breathing. the bright
stars
more brilliant than you've
ever seen before or
since then.
for an hour you'd circle
the neighborhood
and throw the folded
batons
of news to each porch.
the dog
moving beside you. knowing
when to stop
when to go.
not a soul around.
the bloom of your breath
a cloud
in your eyes.
it was dream like, this work.
this silent
walk through a different time.

civilized

insulted
and bruised, the old you
would attack
with arrows of poison
truth.
killing with words,
with daggers
of sarcasm. but not anymore
you let her live.
you let
what she says roll off you.
there was a time
when you could remove her heart
with a few surgically
chosen lines,
and show it to her
before eating it.
but you're more civilized
now. you've grown up,
or maybe you've gotten
old and soft, tired,
believing that
her own life is enough
suffering, why point it out.

time to heal

it will take time to heal
the doctor says to you
as you sit in a paper gown
in her office.
she taps here and there
as you sit
atop the paper sheeted
platform, a thick green leather
seat, for sitting or lying.
your feet dangle a foot from
the floor.
the room is full of
instruments gleaming in
jars,
machines, waist high
pushed into corners.
boxes and tins
of things
she needs to make someone well,
but not you.
not this time.
it will take months, she says,
months of rest
and therapy.
of careful use.
she speaks Hindu too.
you saw that in her profile
before you came in for your
appointment.
but her English is fine, clear,
with a hint
of London in her lilt.
ice, she says. lots of ice.
now off with you.
be careful. cheerio.
see you in a few weeks.

the boy and his kite

the boy efforts
along the open field.
a stretch of
green before the woods
of falling
leaves, with
a long white string
attached to a kite
above him,
the spindle curled
in his small hand.
it lifts, this yellow kite,
with a sheet tail,
cut and tied
a the end.
it rises above him
as he runs, and runs.
he knows little
about life, at this age,
but this helps.
to win
to fail.

a gallon of rum

the first time you hear Christmas music
this season, it surprises you.
you are still in shorts and a t shirt,
flip flops, but you easily
join in to help sing white Christmas
with Bing, while you push your grocery
cart through the store.
you jingle your keys
to the beat. nodding your head
from side to side as you grab a
quart of milk from behind the glass
doors. maybe you should get some eggnog too,
you think. maybe some candy
canes and some pies.
what about lights. do you have
enough lights and candles this year.
last year you ran out of peanut
brittle and fruit cake
before December. better
stock up. oh, and batteries.
first the rum though, for that
eggnog. a gallon should do it.

the road crew

the men
in green bright vests
reflective
and shiny in the headlights,
gather around the hole
they have
dug in the center lane
of the highway.
they've been there
since dawn.
eating sandwiches,
drinking coffee,
talking on their phones
and looking into the hole.
some lean on shovels,
while others
tap the mud off their boots
with iron pipes.
sometimes a head
will pop out of the hole
and say something
then go back down the ladder
into the darkness
below the street.
the seven or eight men,
move from side to side
as the day goes on.
some take
off their helmets
and wipe their faces
with red bandanas.
at three, they fill the hole
up, gather their
lunch boxes, put a steel
plate over their work
then go home. tomorrow
they'll be back.

what day is this?

you scratch out
another line on the concrete
wall
of your cell.
but it's not a cell
it's your work
cubicle and you've
just scratched
the faux carpet
that is stuck to the
temporary wall that
encloses you. it's
a diagonal mark
scratching out
another week of lines.
you bang your coffee
cup against your desk
and yell out,
guard, guard,
but no one comes.
the prisoner next to
you stands up and looks
over.
you okay? he says.
yes. yes. you say,
settling back down.
what day is this.
who am I?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

buying the new car

what can I do to get you
to buy this car today, buddy,
the salesman says,
walking across the gravel lot
in his alligator shoes.
he leans into you with his kung pao
chicken lunch breath,
putting a greasy
paw around your shoulders.
you married, buddy?
no? single.
perfect. this car will
have women all over you.
but it's a minivan.
he winks at you and chuckles.
travel with me, he says,
stretching his arm,
pointing his ringed fingers
out towards
the setting sun
that melts over the interstate.
travel with me to the 60's.
tell me what you see.
I dunno. well,
I see a lava lamp in this van.
I see romance.
we gut this baby,
we rip out the seats and put
a thick postropedic mattress
in the back on top of some
maroon shag carpet.
maybe a black light
with day glow posters
taped to the walls.
hang some straps from the ceiling
to hold onto
in case things get crazy.
I see a quadraphonic
sound system, and a wet bar.
maybe some flowered curtains.
who likes curtains?
that's right buddy,
chicks do. and you know what
else they like,
candles and wine.
we can have candle holders
in each corner,
and an ice cooler for your
adult beverages.
are you with me?
can you feel it?
you my brother will be the man.
what say we go in and do
the paperwork on this baby.
he slaps you hard on the back,
curling his arm around you.
you a veteran?

the gift

you see a horse tied
up outside
your house. it's white
with a dark brown saddle.
no rider.
you peek out the door.
there's a note
attached to the reins.
I bought you this horse.
I hope you enjoy it.
love S.
you bring the horse in,
put down a bowl of water,
make some oatmeal.
you grab a carrot or two
out of the fridge
and feed the horse.
you try to get it to lie
down. but it won't.
it's too large.
it steps through your coffee
table.
it's tail knocks over
a lamp.
you get a scrub brush from
under the sink
and brush it down.
it's hair is like stiff wires.
it looks at you, you look
at him. his eyes
are enormous
and hold the reflection of
your face.
you have so many things
to do, but now you have
this horse. this changes
everything.

keep this version

she waves
from the train,
wiping her eyes.
blowing kisses.
this is how you choose
to remember her.
leaving because
of war,
because of hard times.
she had no choice
but to leave.
you've rewritten
the story again and again,
but this version suits you
best.
the fog
the rain, the black
and white air,
her waving from
a window on
the slowly departing
train.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

what's wrong, honey?

what are you thinking about,
she asks me,
you've been quiet all night,
I haven't seen you
in such a blue
and quiet mood for sometime.
she reaches over and touches
my knee as I drive the car.
is it me, us, what's
bothering you?
it's nothing, I tell her.
i'm fine.
really. i'm just thinking,
that's all.
about what. please tell me,
honey,
you can tell me anything.
we'll, you begin.
I'm thinking
about bacon. all day long
I've wanted to eat
some bacon, but I heard
on the radio
that it's really really
bad for you.
she shakes her head,
and stares out the car
window. it's raining harder now.
bacon, she says? really.
you've been moping around
all day because of bacon.
pfff. you need some serious
mental help.
I think I need a cigarette.
and a drink, she says,
rolling down the window a little.
you're upset about bacon?
it's grizzled fat. how can
it not be bad for you.
this is what you're worried about?
but, I tell her, staring
at the rain as the wipers
flop back and forth across
the windshield.
I just bought some the other
day and a tube of jimmy
dean sage sausage.
I want to eat it but I don't
want to die, either.
she continues to shake her
head.
what's wrong, I ask her.
are you upset? is it me?

I'm watching you

sometimes
the prayers are answered
with a maybe shrug,
we'll see
how it goes.
ask me again next year,
and i'll see what
I can do.
hey, it's a mystery,
don't try to understand.
who are you
to even begin to know
what I know,
what I've been through,
but thanks for asking,
i'll be in touch.
and remember i'm watching
everything you do.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

standardized testing

they blur the naked
man's private parts on the news
as he runs
across the white house lawn,
not unlike the proverbial
chicken missing it's head.
dogs chase him,
as a swat team moves in with
weapons and a net.
you find out later
he's a disgruntled teacher
from ohio,
tired of standardized testing
and trying to make
his point. point made.

recess at St. Thomas More

when they were nuns,
real
nuns, black penguins
with wooden
crosses hanging
down the front of their
gowns,
they stood like guards
posted
at the playground.
stern with hands folded
in front of them.
they watched your every move.
knowing your
sins before you did.
not afraid to rap your
knuckles or pull
a red ear brittled
from the cold wind
that swirled
in the paved lot
of St. Thomas More.
they made you realize
that fun must be had
in secret.

kitchen ballet

you know it's home
when you can click on the burner
of the stove.
crack an egg in the pan,
open the fridge door,
then close,
run the water
in the sink with your left elbow,
kick the dishwasher
door shut with
the back of your foot, toss
the shells
to a can in the corner,
and all the while
be talking on the phone.

untetthered

you wonder where they are,
these people,
friends.
school and beyond, work
related
relations
never meant to extend
beyond the arm
of a clock on some office wall.
we fly away. we do.
untethered in this world,
like balloons,
where too much is unglued.
flying to different places,
almost always taking
no one,
just you.

Monday, November 9, 2015

her new lover


sitting outside
drinking coffee
she wants to tell you about her new
lover. Pablo.
a man she met working for Uber
and drove
her to nordstroms
the other day for a shoe sale.
his dream is to open
a restaurant
that serves only
breakfast
with free range chicken
eggs
and turkey sausage.
it would be gluten free
with flourless waffles and toast.
juices without pulp.
I think I love Pablo,
she says.
his eyes are brown
as any coffee bean,
his hair, thick and black
like a wild animal in the jungle.
he is a storm
of a man, always wanting,
always
grabbing me and pulling
me into a dark
corner to make love
and whisper in his language,
a language I don't
understand
but sort of get the gist of.
okay, okay.
spare me the details,
you tell her.
I really don't want to hear
about Pablo anymore.
are we getting another cup
of coffee, or what?

the land line

it doesn't matter,
this no call list. they still
call.
deep voiced men
collecting for a police fund,
firefighters,
the hawkers of light bulbs
for the blind,
the pick ups
on Wednesday for the purple
heart,
Thursday for
the united way, Friday
for goodwill,
and the rest. the machine delay,
that three seconds
of silence
before
someone mispronounces your name
and asks you if you're
having a good day.
you curse your land line,
that kitchen phone on
the wall with the twenty
foot black cord,
hardly a real
soul calls that number
anymore,
but what if, what if.

in the attic

there's
something in the attic.
the pitter pat
of small paws
in the rafters, or is
it the rattle of wings
you hear, the tiny
scratching
claws of leathered
bats.
squirrels perhaps
with their riot minds,
a raccoon who has gnawed
his way in
to burrow for the night
in pink insulation.
but it's late,
you don't want to drag
the ladder down
and climb
up to see.
shining your light
into their yellow eyes,
swiping at the webs,
let them
have their night of fun,
whoever they are, go
back to sleep,
let them be.

a new name

she changed her name
from your name
back to her mother's name
after the divorce.
which wasn't her
name at all, but the one
she took
when she got married.
she was making a statement
of some sort. you guess.
it's all confusing.
and now, remarried, she
has another name to remember.
a new one.
but who doesn't
want to change
their name at some point
and go undercover,
become someone
different
than what they started
as.

the milk man

you miss the milk
man.
his truck
with cold milk.
bottles
ice cold in the hand.
his pastries
and eggs.
sausage and bacon.
all placed
neatly into the silver
box
on your stoop.
his
engine blowing blue
smoke
out the back
as he rumbled
through the early
morning streets.
you miss the milk man
and everything those years
appeared to be
but weren't.

tomorrow is close by

there was a time
when
there was time
to do
the things you were meant
to do.
plenty of hours
on the clock.
pages on the calendar.
no matter how
swiftly the seasons
went by, there was still
time.
still enough days
ahead of you
to do all of those
things
you wanted to.
tomorrow was always
close by,
just around the corner,
almost
in reach, almost
there, before you die.

champagne love

it was a champagne love.
the bubbles,
the fizz, the pop
of the cork.
the cold bottle
keeping them
warm
throughout the night.
glass after glass,
kiss following kiss,
it was impossible
to understand how in
time, things would go
flat.

together

they speak
without words, this couple
on the train, a nudge,
a wink
a nod. a slight touch
of hand.
so many words
lie behind them.
no longer needing
these things to be said.
the years have
gathered in their faces,
in their hands
that join
as one, still together
despite
the world they have
lived in.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

she can help you

her blue hair
stacked high, a cyclone
of hair,
unbending
in the wind,
a tower
of blue, a fashion
statement
to go along
with that leopard
print dress
and matching shoes.
the blue eye shadow
and cherry lips,
she's in sales.
she can help you.
here, have a brochure.

her secret world

her secret world
is dark and
hidden
behind the curtain
of her day.
when the shades
are pulled
the lights dimmed.
it's a world you
don't want to know.
she tells no one
about the hours
that she toils at her
craft, her fingers
curled, rocking
back and forth
in the corner chair,
neither good nor evil,
but mysterious
and so like her,
not wanting to seem old,
so strange,
how the needles click,
the yarn
unravels as she makes
another afghan
for someone
for Christmas.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

nothing has changed

nothing has changed.
you are still the same boy,
the same person
you were
when born.
the shape and age
of you has
altered, but the bones
and soul
are yours. still yours
after all
these years.
you think and believe
no differently
than when a child.
what was
in the beginning is
clearer now, but
nothing has changed.

things have changed

on your honeymoon
in Bermuda, both of you
stretched out on the hotel
bed overlooking the languid
blue sea, your new wife
said she had a headache.
you had barely
cleaned the thrown rice out
of your hair.
maybe later, she said
when i'm feeling better.
we're married now, we have
all the time in the world
to do that. okay?
can you turn the light off,
I want to rest now.

stepping up

your tv works perfectly fine,
this black and white
with rabbit ears,
once the horizontal lines settle down.
but wouldn't it be nice to have
a new t.v.,
a bigger one, a fifty five inch
4K,
a smart one with a
curved screen, three D,
with all the bells and whistles.
a t.v. you could be
proud of.
a t.v. you could text on,
answer e mails on,
and play games.
so clear and wonderful.
a t.v. that you could almost
jump into
and be a part of the show.
but your son lives in California
and how would
you ever figure it out.
which button to push,
which dial to turn. how do I change
the channel?
maybe you'll wait, maybe after
the holidays
they'll be cheaper and you
could find a local
kid to help you.

we sold the last bottle

you ask
the clerk, who is on
his knees, grumpily filling
the shelves with new
product
where the castor oil
is.
he arches his eyebrows
and says
with a smirk,
we sold the last bottle
about fifty years
ago.
he might be thirty
at the most
so you know he's lying.
messing with you mind.
he's holding out
on the castor oil,
oh really, you reply.
we'll see about that,
and begin to search
the shelves anyway.

Friday, November 6, 2015

grapefruit moon

you steer her towards
some tom waits,
singing about a grapefruit moon,
or a 29 dollar
alligator purse. but she'll have
none of it.
i'd rather put knitting needles
into my ears
than listen to that.
that, that. she can't find the words
to describe how
much she hates his music.
which is fine.
just fine.
You don't like Abba, which
is what she sings to and plays
incessantly all day long.
you're different, the two of you.
the distant between
you growing with each
painful conversation.

a woman's touch

i need to help him decorate
she says.
he has no sense of style. he's
a man.
she laughs. brown and black.
leather. bulky lamps.
a can of peanuts
near the big tv.
a table where his feet go.
nothing matches.
no curtains, no art, nothing
to reflect
his inner soul, though it is
quite dark.
but i can help him.
he needs a woman's touch.
some light handed splashes to
bring life to the place.
some flowers, new sheets, blue
perhaps.
a shower curtain that isn't torn.
a rug
that isn't worn.
i can make it nicer here, at least
if not for him,
for me,
when i'm passing through
or leaving in the early
morn.

fixing the broken lamp

you set the old lamp
with it's dangling
wires, and shade,
bulb removed, the cord
a tail lagging behind
onto the counter.
I can fix that, the woman
says, taking hold
of the lamp
leaning it towards
the light.
can you wait for it?
she asks.
it won't take long.
she pulls the wires out
and cuts them clean,
skimming off the casing
with a pair
of wire cutters.
she opens a drawer,
then another drawer,
she yells to someone in
the back room,
then she leans down into
a drawer you can't
see and pulls out a part
that looks like the broken part
where the bulb goes in.
she threads the wires
where they need to go,
then pushes and pulls,
until everything is in place.
talking all the while about
how nice this lamp is,
do I have a matching one?
she screws in a bulb,
plugs in the cord then turns
it on. it lights up.
I am happy that you didn't
throw it away, she says,
smiling, finished with her
work. the light
cascading off her face.
so much of life is retrievable
when broken,
we just don't know, until
we try, now do we.

the old lamp

the lamp,
shorts out. the room goes black.
wires have
been frayed
and crossed after
so many twists and turns.
it's an old lamp.
not as old as you, but old
still.
you understand
though, how things
go awry
after so much time.
being turned on
and off.
giving light, embracing
the dark.
it had a good run,
this lamp.\
it helped you find
your shoes,
your clothes. helped
you read a book
before turning in.
it showed you what she
looked like
as she lay there sleeping
beside you.

a drop in temperature

instead of one pie
you buy
two.
what if you someone comes
over
and wants a slice.
that way there will be
enough.
is two cans of whipped cream
enough
you ask yourself.
and what about
ice cream. who doesn't like
a scoop or two
of ice cream with their pie.
one or two,
that's the question.
it's getting cold
out and you need a nice layer
of fat
to make it through
the harsh winter
months that lie ahead.
you opt for two
cans of whipped cream.
seems prudent.

i'm in a hurry

she shrugs her shoulders
at another speeding ticket.
running a red,
reckless driving, ignoring
signs,
and postings.
she laughs in the face
of the county law.
she doesn't even try to explain
why she broke the limit.
why she ran the stop
sign.
it's how she rolls,
fast and hard, no one gets
in her way.
she smirks, flips her hair
back and says,
so what. it's not like I
robbed a bank or killed anyone.
I just like to drive
fast.
i'm in a hurry. so write me
a ticket and let
me be on my way.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

you are here

you are here
the map says, as I stand
in the rain
outside the train station
with an umbrella
sipping tea.
I am not good at maps,
or directions
or in remembering names
so I ask someone
where I am.
they look at me strangely
then point at the map.
you are here
he says, pointing at the red
x on the map.
tapping his finger several
times against the glass.
I see that I tell him,
asking him his name.
bill, he says.
I have to go now,
but you are here. right here.
thank you joe, I tell him
and begin to walk,
hopefully in the right
direction.

unlike the heart

almost everything,
but the heart
takes longer to heal these days.
whether ankle
knee or shoulder.
a sore wrist from work,
a back from
lifting.
everything needs ice,
a rub,
a tiger balm or
heat.
you lie in the hot water
of your tub
and think about this.
what little
you can do about it, unlike
the heart
the body now
needs rest, needs sleep.

a seventies place

the furniture was dated.
early seventies,
every piece
Spanish roped
of faux wood,
too large
for the apartment,
but crammed in and neat.
the plastic
tree
with a vine of white lights,
plugged in all year,
the patterned spread
on the four post queen sized bed,
the thick
tv in the corner,
rabbit ears with a dial,
a line of framed photos
now yellowed behind the glass.
a hammock
to rest your feet
as you sunk back into
the plaid cushions.
two matching end tables
and jar lamps
salmon colored
with pleated shades.
you remember this place,
you lived there once,
a long time ago, with
the magazines
lined on the table.
people, us, a playboy,
and newsweek.

zoo boy

your son could make every noise
that any farm
animal could make
when he was three,
and would tell you so,
going through
the cow, the chicken, the rooster,
the goat
and horse.
sometimes he'd make noises
like a monkey all
day, or at least until
you told him
to stop.
coming home from the zoo,
he'd bring
the zoo back with you
on the train,
entertaining
the passengers
with his noises.
you tried to pretend
you weren't with him,
but he looked too much
like you
and from that point
on you felt and knew
for certain
that his life was
a direct result
of yours.

new love

it surprised you
when she rolled her down
and spit.
then rolled it back up
and looked at you
and said what?
girls can't spit
once in a while?
to which you replied.
sure, why not.
girls can do a lot
of things.
then you rolled your
window down
and spit.
which made her smile
and take your hand.

two old men

he never reached
the age
where you both planned
to be
in central park,
on a bench
reciting verse,
remembering remembering
everything
that still seemed so
fresh
and new. him with his
beret,
tilted sideways,
strumming
his old guitar,
you breaking bread
for the ducks
before walking to the lake
to feed them.
so now you go alone,
and pretend.
you and him. two
old men.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

still life


as an artist
she was adept
at still life and faces
printed in
the obituaries.
portraits.
pears in bowls
and people now
deceased.
she filled her walls
with them.
displayed them
in local
restaurants
where people came
to look
and eat. she painted
apples
grapes.
a woman who lived
a long life,
a boy
who died too soon,
a man
who looked asleep.

where to now

no one goes to the moon
anymore.
they've seen enough.
littered it with
left overs
from the so called
space age.
planted a flag, made
some footprints,
carried home some rocks,
but
pretty much discovered
nothing.
the dark side no
different from the light
side.
no green cheese.
no ghosts, no air to
breathe.
some excursions are
like that.
getting there being
all the fun, then when
arriving, looking around
and saying,
where to now.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

you'll be fine

the doctor puts his cold
stethoscope
on my chest and listens.
does it hurt when I do this,
he says, pulling my arm
into the air. yes. I say.
it hurts.
everything hurts.
he nods.
he looks at his watch.
he listens some more,
he taps me on the back,
on the knee, on the elbow,
with a rubber arrow
instrument then says
inhale, exhale.
is anything bothering you,
he says.
yes. I tell him
as he straps a black
band around my arm.
a lot of things.
sometimes I can't sleep,
sometimes I sleep too much.
he takes the reading and writes
it down.
he looks into my mouth
with a flashlight,
my nose and ears. strangely,
he asks me how long since
i last
made love to a woman.
i ask him what time is it,
which makes him laugh.
we're done here, he says.
get dressed. you'll be fine,
you'll live.

chicken

you'd like to eat
chicken
tonight, but that would mean
getting dressed
and driving up
to the store
and buying one. cooking
one is out
of the question
right now, because
you are starving, well
not starving
in the medical sense
of the word.
your tongue has not turned
black yet.
which your grandmother once
told you was a sign
starvation and impending death.
you're happy
though that there are
cooked chickens out there,
ready to be eaten
with side orders.
the idea of having to wring
one's neck,
pluck it clean of feathers,
then cook it,
seems insanely hard.
where are the car keys?

another world

your father's whiskey
breath
and stubble cheeks
are with you still,
his mighty arms,
holding you up towards
the ceiling
like a stuffed animal.
saying something with
his soft
blue eyes, that are crying?
he sees what
he's become, what
he's always been,
afraid
of the choice he's about
to make
upon leaving
your mother for another
woman.
somehow this life
he's in is not enough, not
right.
his cowardice
and courage joining hands
to help him
leap into another
world.

shouldn't we discuss this

I can't see you
anymore she says, but she doesn't
really say it.
she just sort of disappears
as people are prone
to do in this fast
age we live in.
gone.
a neat magic
trick.
poof.
but, I stammer,
but wait a minute, shouldn't
we discuss this,
it's too late though,
I'm talking to myself,
searching
the rooms, under the beds,
in the closet
to where she may have
gone.

her candle

her candle
is burning, but it's running
low on wax.
the flame
is still high and hot,
and she gives
off enough light
to attract
the bugs and moths,
but it's waning.
there is only so much
wick and wax
to go on in one lifetime,
so much has
puddled hard and cold
at her feet.

Monday, November 2, 2015

the new you

the new you is going to be wonderful.
he will be caring
and no longer be dismissive
of annoying people, he will
feel compassion for the lazy
and loud. he will not honk
and curse at bad drivers
but will wave politely with all
his fingers, not just one.
he will be patient
when standing in line for coffee,
and will not roll
his eyes as the person in front
of him tries to make up their mind
about what kind of latte
they want. the new you will
not screen calls, or hang up
by slamming the phone down
and cursing when a telemarketer
phones him. the new you will
be different in so many ways.
he will not look at his cell
phone every ten seconds.
he will no longer pretend to pick
up after his dog, but actually
reach down
and put something in a baggy
besides mulch.
yes, the new you will be something.
he will answer the door after
peeking out the window
to see that it's a neighbor
or Mormons or a relative
holding a pillow and a suitcase.
he will not be sarcastic even
when drinking and at the beach
watching people waddle down
the boardwalk eating a tub
of French fries. the new you
will spread joy and cheer.
he may even put a candle in the window
at Christmas. he will
keep a wad of dollars in his
pocket to put into every hat
of every person standing at a
corner begging.
he will even put money into
the fireman's boot and not question
where his tax dollars are
really going.
the new you will say hi to everyone.
striking up meaningless conversations
about the weather
and sports, asking
how's your health, the kids, the new wife?
he will say things like
we could sure use come rain, then shake
his head in a worried way.
he will say god bless you
when someone sneezes
and not hold his breath until
he's able to get away from
where that person was standing.
he will not complain about people
taking his jobs and food out of his mouth,
or say things like politics
are a joke. nothing changes.
the new you will be optimistic
and believe everything
each candidate says, believing that
they are honest and have your best
interest in mind. the new you
might have to sleep on that one,
but he will love all people, all races,
creeds and colors.
he will even, on occasion, keep
in touch with members of his
own family. he will vote, he will
recycle, he will eat more fiber.
the new you will embrace humanity
and give it a big giant hug.

keepsakes

he had a photo
of dom deluise on his mantle
and a story, a long,
a very long story
to go with it.
there was ruby and jim
and dom in a golf cap
smiling broadly
and comically as he was
prone to do. the three of them
on a cruise thirty years
ago.
the one photo became the focus
of the livingroom,
the chance meeting
in line at a dessert
bar on a ship going to
the Bahamas,
and having a photo
shot, each holding their
enormous plates
of boston cream pie.
the picture is in a steel
frame under glass.
it's the largest
picture in the room
except for the one
on the side wall
of a horse.
roy roger's horse. trigger.
signed at the bottom
by both dale and roy.

getting limber

you sign up for a yoga
class that's being held
next to the donut shop
because you can no longer
touch your toes
or put your arm
behind you to get that itch
in the middle of your back.
plus you are having a hard
time breathing.
maybe they can help with that
too.
you go out and buy some tight
fitting
yoga pants, a manly lime color
and a matching t-shirt.
a nice purple mat that you can
roll up like a sleeping bag
and carry around.
you also buy a tube of extra
strength ben gay
to rub on your sore muscles
later.
you are nothing if not prepared.
it surprises you that you
are the only man in the class,
but it doesn't make you unhappy
either.

did you like that?

she sends you a photo
of herself
in her underwear.
a pink frilly thing
showing nothing really.
suggestive, but not
revealing.
she's had a few
to drink.
and she's listening
to music. it's raining out.
did you like that, she writes.
I hope so.
the phone is a dangerous
thing
around a bottle of
chardonnay and a lonely
night at home alone.

the fading light

you meet your friend
at the prison
gate
as he leaves, his time
served.
he has one suitcase
in his hand.
the clothes he wore
when they
cuffed him and tossed
him into a cell.
he tells you about
Jesus.
and how he's seen the light
and will be walking
the straight and narrow
path.
he's been on his road to
Damascus.
you nod and smile,
knowing
where this is going,
you know how short and fading
this light
will be.
just bright enough
to get him out
and on the streets.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

beyond you

your feet
are cold. the night is long.
you pull the blanket
tight,
turn the pillow over.
someone out the window
is drunk
and singing.
you peer through blinds
and see him
staggering towards
a house
down the street.
there are owls in trees,
blue eyed
foxes on the edge
of woods.
possum laying low.
another world
beyond you
continues to live.

the black cat

the black cat
comes to your window.
sniffs
at the door.
you pour a saucer
of milk
set it out on the porch.
she moves
in closer as the door
closes.
her green eyes
as bright as emeralds
in the sunlight.
her pink tongue
laps
against the white
plate.
her whiskers wet
with milk.
no words are spoken
as she drinks
her fill and moves on.
it will come
back to you, in time.

flowers in a vase

she stays
because she has no choice.
this is good enough.
my life is good
enough.
who needs love.
who needs affection.
I have a home,
a place to live,
sleep and eat.
I could do worse.
life is good, she concedes,
nodding quietly
in the empty room,
watering
flowers in a vase.
my life is full.
it hasn't
been a waste.

the distant lives

the last step,
painted from a can
of throwaway green,
slick oil
on rotted wood.
watch the last step
you'd hear people say
as they exited
the screen door,
going down the unsteady
porch,
a panel
ripped open where
the dogs
slid out, barking,
into the dirt yard,
and the laundry
hung heavy and wet all
day across the line.
the chain link
fence separating long
linear
lanes of broken dreams,
settled
disputes,
children unclaimed.
how the wind did blow
on young cheeks,
harshly through holes
of old coats,
hand me downs.
wool sweaters, dungarees,
how quickly
it came and went.
all of us moving to the sides
of our own
distant lives as each sunday
we marched
to church, listening to the bells
that would ring and ring
and ring.

fly away

some birds
have wings and can fly.
some can't
and stay flat footed
on the earth,
most of those
we eat
on a regular basis
or at thanksgiving.
it's our physical
limitations
that keep us grounded
sometimes
no matter
how hard we try
to fly away.

let's get married

we should get married,
she whispers to you
as you pretend to be asleep
or dead,
you haven't decided which
exactly quite yet.
let's get married, she
says, as she slowly
scratches your back
in a circular motion,
continually missing
the itchy spot that you have.
let's move in together,
maybe buy a house,
get a cat, a dog,
a picket fence.
you like to barbeque
don't you? we could grill
out at night,
have the neighbors over
for cocktails
and dinner.
a house with a pool and a shed,
a big shed
where you could
keep the lawn mower
and weed whacker.
you blink your eyes into
the pillow
and run the words weed
whacker through your brain.
you pretend to snore,
burrowing your head
deeper and deeper
into the pillow almost
losing consciousness from
the lack of air.

panning for gold

your dentist
removes your gold tooth
from the back
of your mouth.
tired of looking like a pirate
you have her
put a white tooth in.
porcelain white,
shiny like a sink.
she gives
you an envelope
with which to send the removed
gold tooth
to and have them weigh it,
determine what it's worth.
a few weeks go
by, and you're anticipating
all the fun
things you will do with
this found money.
a trip to Italy perhaps,
a new car.
that full length fur
coat you've always
wanted,
then the check comes.
eight dollars and nineteen
cents.
just barely enough
for two grande carmel
machiatos.

down in the lab

you wake up, stretch,
look out the window, then
put on your white smock,
your name tag, you fix yourself
a cup of black coffee,
heat up a cinnamon bun, then
go down to your science
lab in the cellar.
you have a few beakers
boiling with a blue
liquid
over the Bunsen burner.
there are white mice in cages
a few rabbits
in a box with carrots.
the periodic table
is scotched tapped to the wall.
your old copies of the new England
journal of medicine
are scattered about,
earmarked and underlined.
you put your goggles
on and get to it.
clapping your yellow rubber
gloves together.
you are determined to find
a cure
for something. what exactly
that is, you aren't sure of.
but time is of the essence.
you aren't getting any younger.