Thursday, December 31, 2015

who are you

she doesn't wake
up for weeks
after falling into a
coma, striking
her head
against the curb
when the car hit her.
she doesn't know
who she is.
where she is, what
happened.
she's groggy.
her hair is grey.
almost white.
her make up is gone.
tubes
are in her arm.
machines, blink and
beep
beside her.
people she doesn't
know have gathered
around her
happy that she is
suddenly awake.
they clap and smile
calling out her name.
a name she doesn't recognize.
she doesn't know them.
at least she
pretends that she doesn't.
she understands that this
might be her only
chance to get her
life back
and start fresh
without them being
involved.

family

they know each other
from childhood.
hands
in their pockets.
gathered on the wide
sidewalk.
an unmarked car
across the street unwrapping
his cold cuts
on a roll.
cigarettes going.
a few men,
a few woman. all standing
in front of the sandwich
shop
in the old section
of town
where they haven't
bulldozed
the projects yet.
but it's coming.
they
dance. they bump into
one another.
low fives.
complicated shakes.
hats tilted
sideways. oversized coats
loose
with fur around
the collars.
they wait on their
food, sipping,
passing a bottle around.
family
that ain't family.
bringing in
the new year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

starvation ends

if you were starving, your
mother used to say,
your tongue would turn black.
you stick your tongue
out and look into
the side of a toaster
oven, it's not black.
but still, you say to no
one, but the dog, who
apparently is also starving,
that you are starving.
you see a carton of
eggs in the fridge.
there's peanut butter
and jelly, but you have
no bread.
oatmeal. no.
there's a bag of peas
in the freezer.
a can of amy's chili
that might be ten years
old in the cupboard.
the word botulism comes
to mind. you check the can
for dents and to see
if it feels swollen. it sort
of does.
pizza, Chinese.
kung pao you say
out loud. spare ribs
and kung pao.
the dog wags his tail.
he barks.
starvation is about to end
in give or take
forty five minutes.

viva barcelona

you throw Santiago
a roll of blue
tape.
it hits the back of his
hands,
then caroms off
his forehead
before rolling back
down the steps
to where you stand.
you try again
with the same
results.
it's almost as if
he's never
used his hands for
catching anything.
you throw him an apple.
it bounces off his chest
and falls
to he floor.
soccer? you say.
yes. he says.
viva Barcelona.

on the job

the workers
in their hard hats,
day glow
green vests
are walking about in
the rain
talking
to one another
on phones.
going from one
new patch
of laid sod
to another.
staring up
at brick and mortar.
measuring.
they stamp their
mud caked boots
against the new curbs.
one has a shovel,
one a rake,
another
is holding a cup
of coffee.
all day
they criss cross
the street,
walking to and fro
as if working.

i feel faint

i feel like i'm going to faint
she says to you
as you both hang onto the straps
on the subway
as it wobbles through
a tunnel, the lights going
on and off.
me too, I tell her.
i think my sugar levels
are too high,
or maybe too low.
all i had to eat today
was a scone and a cup
of coffee.
i had some yogurt this
morning, she says, and some
peanut butter crackers at my
desk for lunch with a
celery stalk.
someone brought in their
left over Halloween
candy and i think i ate
about five candy bars,
I tell her. feigning
throwing up, pointing
my finger towards my mouth.
do you have any with you?
yeah, a couple,
give me one. butterfingers?
yeah, i think so. might
have a chunky too.
I might even have a candy
apple if you want some fruit.

his ship has come in

you have to come out on
my boat one day, he says to you,
freshly retired and flush
with money. he's
wearing his new
captains hat
that he bought at the mall.
two anchors crossing one
another, sky blue.
nice hat, you tell him.
I have some work to do on it,
but by next weekend
I think i'll have it ship shape,
so if you want to take a ride,
come on out.
you'll love my boat.
we can fish off it.
it's big, it's fun, it's
fast once you get the sails
up. there's even a bathroom
on board, and a bedroom
in case you need to take
a nap. I can fix us sandwiches
down in the kitchen,
you mean the galley, you
tell him. right he says,
the galley. and the bathroom
is the head.
I know, he says. I have
a book, so I need to learn
the terminology.
but it has sails and an
anchor too. bow, stern,
forward and aft. i'm learning
everything there is to know.
right now it's not in the water
I have someone patching
up a hole in the bottom
when it sank last year, but
once that's done, we're
ready to roll. wear something
nautical. you know how
to swim, right?

early rising

if you leave now
you can beat the traffic.
no one is up
at this hour.
well, some are, but
this is what they do.
they rise,
they can't sleep,
there are things on
their mind like work
and love,
money and old age.
it used to be the milk truck,
or the van
dropping papers on
a corner.
so why you?
what brings you to
the road
at this early hour.
starting the car up
and driving
towards work, alone
on the highway, well,
almost.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

everyone suddenly got old

you call them to plan a
dinner out. old friends
you've known for years.
but you hear a chorus of
I don't know, it's kind
of late and far to drive,
it might rain,
it's windy.
it's cold. I don't drive
well in the dark
anymore. I feel like i'm
underwater.
do they have valet
parking, would you mind
picking me up?
is it gluten free.
is it noisy in there?
I can't go
if it's too noisy.
I want to sit at a table,
but not near the kitchen,
and not in a booth, is that okay?
I can't slide in and out
of a booth anymore,
especially
if I have to go to
the bathroom like I do
every ten minutes.
do they have an early bird
special?
who else is going, do I
know them?
I don't like to meet
new people. and I can't
go if betty is going.
I still hate her. if I have
to sit next to a republican
i'll never forgive you.
what should I wear,
is it casual? if it's not
casual I have nothing to wear.
I have to find a sitter
for my cats. they don't do
well if i'm gone too long.
do you think we'll be
done by nine,
my show comes on at nine,
plus I have to
take my pills
at that time. put me down
for a maybe.

Monday, December 28, 2015

speechless love

without talking
we say so much. we say
everything
we've meant to say.
our eyes linger
on one another. we smile
and blush, our hands
touch.
we can talk the night away
without saying
a single word. a nod,
a wink, an eyebrow raised.
it's nice
getting old with someone
when you know each
other so well and can
talk this way.

in the mood

your music
is different than my music.
I like
the crooners,
you don't even know
what the word
crooner means.
I want the summer wind,
you want
something that's never
been inside
a record sleeve.
we're not the same
when it comes
to rhythm and blues,
jazz
or country.
I can't listen to a banjo
a washboard,
a bagpipe, or spoons.
while you on
the other hand
can't listen to dean,
or frank,
or any of tom wait's
tunes.
but it's okay.
we agree on other things.
and make our own
kind of music
when we're in the mood.

cold water

you embrace
the ocean on this winter day.
empty.
littered with shells
unfound.
each with a story,
each
with a whisper
a tale to tell.
the others who pass by
nod hello.
they too
are here seeking answers,
remembering
what has come
and gone.
no need to take off
your shoes
to walk in the water,
to see how cold.
you know.

each house

the nails
find a way back out
no matter how
hard the hammer struck
the head
pounding
it down. securing one
board into
another.
the vibrations of the world
make them slip
and turn.
all houses fall
down in time.
some sooner than others.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

a long ways off

a row of roses
once
red, yellow, the yellow
young girls prefer,
are rusting
along the side
of the house.
a thin metal fence
neither guards
or adorns
it just sits
imbedded in the ground,
round shouldered
and white,
put there by hands
that touch the window,
fingers that
bled on thorns.
she looks out,
at the sky,
the tattered swirl
of grey
clouds, the possibility
of rain,
first snow.
tomorrow seems a long
ways off.

have fun

i'm better off without
these thoughts,
but they come.
the idea that none of this
matters.
what's written,
the art,
the music. the love
given.
that one day
the sun will melt out
and the earth
will lie like
a cold stone in the black
sky. that there
will be
no remembrance of what
went on here, for
better or worse.
best have fun.

sail on

there are days
when I have no bend in me.
no letting
others be
who they were meant to be.
I want
them to change, be
different.
fly right.
behave in a way more
liking
to my ways.
those days are short
though.
for the most part, I can
let it go,
let them be.
right my own ship
and sail on without them.

her poetry reading


her blue stone
poems, wrapped in a hard
book. soft blue and white.
signed
inside to you.
she loved to read
from it.
her favorite poems
dog eared.
i'm eighty-six she tells
you one
night after a reading
in a quiet
library room.
a coffee pot plugged
in on a table,
a paper plate of cookies.
six people show, all
of whom
she knows.
it doesn't matter.
she reads as if it's
a hundred people listening.
reads with the same
wonder
and joy each old
poem. hardly needing
to look at the words
anymore.

Momma's Squirrel Stew

you find a recipe
folded in your cookbook.
evelyn gave it to you a long time
ago. it's for squirrel
stew. at the top in dark ink
is scrawled, Mommas Squirrel Stew.
you remember her showing
you the skinned
squirrels in her freezer.
the limp
pale bodies, bloodless,
furless, without
tails. lifeless, no longer
confused, darting
back and forth across
a road, now
marinating
in a red sauce.
it's hand written. she said
it was her
grandmother's recipe
that was used for generations
in the mountains
of Pennsylvania.
it's not much different
than any other meat,
she said, wearing her plaid
long dress,
bringing a pot over
to your house one night.
potatoes, carrots.
a little gamey,
but salt it down and add
some hot sauce.
you won't be disappointed.
you don't know what happened
to evelyn, there was a rumor
about a hunting accident,
but you aren't sure.
you fold the recipe
up and carefully place
it back into
your betty crocker cook book.

nest egg

you stare at your nest egg,
the numbers all aligned
in a neat printed row.
you cradle it in
your arms. hold it up to the light.
rock it, sing a lullabye
to it.
it's sleeping,
waiting to be awakened,
waiting for the day
when you can
take it out
and play with it.
some days it's smaller
than other days.
one year you couldn't
find it.
it was just a speck
on a piece of paper.
you want to wait until
it's fat and healthy,
you want to wait until it's
time, and you're
ready and you have no choice
but to spend it
because you're so old
and feeble. then and only
then can you do something
ridiculous like spend it
on a little red sports car,
a speed boat,
get another dog.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

the cleaning

maybe you wouldn't grind your teeth
so much
if we snap a pair of metallic
braces on you
and give you a plastic
mouth guard
with which to sleep with.
does your neck hurt?
your jaw. I hear a clicking
noise. a popping noise.
do you get a lot of headaches?
how often do you floss?
we have a power toothbrush
we want you to use,
ginny will show it to you
when you pay at the desk.
when I poke around your gums
with this razor sharp steel
ice pick you seem to bleed a lot.
go ahead and spit into this cup.
look at all that blood.
if you feel like you're going
to faint, just
let your head fall backwards
and let it hit the chair.
those gums look a little red,
inflamed. are you brushing
way back there. hold your tongue
way back. left. now right.
do a swirl like your tying a cherry
stem into a knot.
that laser blue light won't hurt you.
but don't look directly into
the light. could cause temporary
blindness.
okay. I need to stick this
cardboard jigsaw puzzle
into your mouth for some
x-rays. open wide, don't blink
and don't move.
i'll be behind the leaded
curtain in another room
with the door closed.
here put this ten pound lead
bag on your crotch.
we don't want to sterilize
you now, do we? just six
more x-rays. don't move.
don't move. how often do
you floss. you really should
floss more. did I tell you
that already? don't mean to
be a nag, but flossing
is important. how was your
Christmas?

instead

instead is nearly always
the better idea.
let's stay home instead
of the movie,
or dinner,
let's not
go out into the cold.
let's build a fire,
cook,
relax and snuggle on
the couch.
quench our unending
desires. let's do that
instead.

hit and run

she gets hit by a car
and goes
into the air,
twirls
and spins off the ground.
it happens so fast.
no color,
no brand, no clue
as to who or what car
collided against her
leg,
breaking it in two.
she's dazed.
the stars are misaligned
above
her as she lies on
the street
still holding a bag
with a box of shoes.
she feels fine
she says as she tries
to stand up,
as she sits on the edge
of the curb.
in her ear
there is the low buzz
of nothing.
the blur
of time.
a siren. the sound
of weeping
nearby as to what could
have been.

no comb

you should not be working
on Saturday.
the day after Christmas.
and you're late
already
to the empty house that
wants paint,
wants paper,
wants color and life
instilled into its new
cold bones.
you'll get there when
you get there. soon.
first
there's coffee, there's
a shower,
the brushing of teeth,
a comb.
no. no comb. the time
you've saved there is
enormous.

biting the dog

with a preemptive strike
in mind
you bite the dog
as it growls
and approaches you
from beneath the table,
wanting that rib
bone in your hand.
this confuses the dog.
and sends him
out the door
into the street,
spreading the word with
loud barks
that you are not to be
reasoned with.

high noon

you no longer
stand in the street
facing off with adversity
with the hot
sun overhead
at high noon,
hands held inches
away from the gun
around your waist.
you've put the gun down.
taken the bullets out.
walked away.
found a better
way to live your life
without killing
or being killed.
life is too short,
increasingly so.

Friday, December 25, 2015

something must be open

something must be open.
this Christmas morning.
somewhere.
coffee.
a donut, a paper.
a few scratch off lottery
tickets.
there has to be a 7 11
nearby
this town.
this Midwest town
in the middle
of nowhere.
I give my horse a carrot,
a pat on the rump
and say giddyup.
let's go.
then off we go,
galloping through
the long frozen fields,
the plains of
rolling snow.

moving the world an inch

you tire
of Syria. the middle east.
in general.
climate warming,
the ozone
layer.
the homeless,
death disease and abuse.
racism. terrorism.
all different
causes
and problems, but you
feel overwhelmed at times,
seeing there is little
you can do or
say to change anything.
to move the world
an inch in the right direction
seems impossible.
so what do you do.
you go to prayer.
go to your own life, and
do the best you can
to be good
and to not hurt anyone,
what else
is there to do.

the next morning

the detective comes to your
door to question you.
it's early morning
with a thin layer of snow
on the ground. he
ask if you saw anything,
remember any details about
the crime that happened
on the corner last night.
the mugging.
you are still groggy from
the eggnog, spiked with rum.
still in your red slippers,
your robe, your night cap,
with the fuzzy ball
on the end flopping over.
I peeked out the window,
it was around midnight
and me and jezebelle were
about to go to sleep,
you tell the cop.
she grabbed the baseball bat
from under the bed that we keep
there in case of break ins.
and I saw a crowd
of elves beating the tar
out of a very
large man wearing a velvet
red suit. something about
low wages, harsh factory
conditions. I heard one
small fellow yell out in
a high squeaky voice,
you're not the boss of me
anymore, fat man.
it all happened very fast,
you might say in the twinkling
of an eye.
I see, the cop says, writing
it all down. anything else?
I think drinking might have
been involved. i saw a bunch
of those little airplane
vodka bottles all over
the sidewalk. then they all
untied these deer from
a large sleigh and each one
flew off with an elf on its back,
not to mention a bunch of gift
wrapped boxes that were in a sack.
what about the man, the man
they beat up.
oh, he knocked on the door
last night, wouldn't stop.
but I don't let
strangers in. jezebelle threw a cup
of hot water out the window
on him. then he was up
on the roof for awhile trying
to get down the chimney, as if.
but I sent my dogs out to chase
him away.
last I saw of him, he
was wobbling down the street,
with his suit all torn
and his nightshirt hanging
out the back.
this neighborhood is falling
apart officer.

a plate of cookies

they stopped giving
out turkeys, and bonus hams
at the office.
no longer was there a little
something extra
in the envelope
for a job well done, for
being a loyal and a dedicated
worker.
there were no more parties
with liquor and sumptuous food,
held in banquet rooms,
waiters
marching around with roasts
on silver platters.
those days are gone.
a pat on the back, a shake
of the hand, a candy cane
is what you get now. maybe
someone will bring in a plate
of cookie. be
thankful you still have a
cubicle to go to.

warming up

it takes awhile to wake up.
to stretch, unstiffen
the bones, the muscles that
have shortened
during sleep.
it takes some time
to shake the cobwebs loose,
to get the down the hall,
the steps,
holding onto the rail,
watching carefully
where your next foot goes.
it takes awhile to
warm up to the phone,
to answer calls, to make
calls, to say the things
we need to say
on Christmas day. another
hour, another cup
of coffee, after the paper
the news, a walk,
then i'll be up to it.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

everything is forgotten

a fish in a bowl,
maybe it has a name,
swims from side
to glass side,
golden
a leaf laced
castle
on the blue graveled
bottom
that he can float
through.
the water is cold.
the surface
speckled
with a sprinkling
of food.
it's a short life.
it's not
long before
the bowl is empty.
the child
is grown and moved
on to bigger grief.
everything is
forgotten.

a little off the top

an inch or two
more
off the top
you tell the barber
as he spins you
in the big leather
chair
holding your skinny
legs
your weightless frame.
he clips away
as you stare into the wall
length mirror.
the striped
pole spinning slowly
beside the blue
jars filled with
combs and scissors,
the feathered hair
floating across the black
and white tiled
floor. how many years
has it been
since the child came
in with two dollars
and sat,
saying always just a little
more of the sides,
off the top.

one more day

she sends a photo of her feet
in white sand,
a drink with an umbrella
in her hand.
you can see the blue soft
roll of water
edging towards her.
she's in no hurry to leave,
to go home, to winter,
to cold, to snow
on Christmas eve, so she'll stay
a little longer.
play a little longer,
lie in the warm sun
and be home when she's
good and ready. just one
more day.

the piano

you measure the door,
count the steps,
the narrow hallway up,
and down
the hall.
you tell the man
where the piano will
go.
he takes off his hat,
wipes his brow
with a white rag
from his pocket.
okay, he says. okay.
we'll see.
he yells to his men
to get out of the truck
and bring it in.
do you play, he says.
not really, you tell him,
but I like pianos,
I like how they look
in a room.
this makes him shake
his head,
then remove the hinges
from the door.

just begun

the unwashed child
on the stoop,
one broken shoe. a sleeve
torn.
mud, or blood
caked
on a chin, an arm.
somewhere
inside is someone
that told her to go
outside. go play
in the rain,
go play in the sun.
her life
of leaving
and being wanted has
just begun.

i want that

we want the things
we need
or think we need.
it's what pushes us through
the rain.
digs us
out of the snow.
shower and shave, put
on clean
clothes. we pursue
each day of our lives
what's missing
and when it's done,
when the end
looms large like a boiled
sun on the horizon
we wonder
what now, what next.
what else could I have
done rather than chase
these things that I
thought I needed,
fought for and won.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

your skills

tell me your skills
the interviewer asks me
as I sit in my new suit
across the desk from him.
I don't have any, I tell
him, straightening my
new tie. blue with white
stripes. small red
martini glasses stitched
down the front.
the collar itches my
neck, so I pull on that.
accounting? he says.
no, you say.
computers? no.
any business skills whatsoever,
he asks?
not really, I tell him.
so, why would we hire
you? you have nothing
to offer this company.
please explain why you're here.
i'm good with organizing
happy hours, company
picnics and parties,
I tell him. birthdays, anniversaries,
retirements.
i'm good at Wednesday night
volley ball.
beach trips for company
morale. I like to tell
jokes at the coffee machine.
I can bring in donuts.
pastries in the morning.
I can rub shoulders, listen
to people's problems.
i'm a very good listener.
they can cry and sob all day
to me and i'll empathize
with their plight.
excellent, he says, reaching
across the desk to shake
my hand. when can you start.
how about Tuesday, say
ten a.m., you say,
great he says, i'll see
you then.

tired

tired
but a good tired, as people like
to say
with a tired smile
on their faces.
I like to work.
I like
to feel tired, I sleep well.
I eat well.
I ache, sure, but it's
worth it.
it's a good tired.
i'm glad
to be doing what I do,
for a living.
did I tell you that I sleep
well.
I know it's only nine
o'clock,
but i'm tired. I need to
go to bed.
I get up at six.
goodnight.

the woman in the window

you lived in a townhouse once
where the woman
across the small fenced
yard
would undress, shower,
return
and towel herself down
with the blinds open.
you had the feeling she knew
she was putting on a show
for the line of houses
behind hers.
you didn't want to watch.
you wanted to watch.
you told your roommate
Sheila, who pulled a chair
in each night
to watch with you.
this led to nothing.
there was no talk,
other than to say, surely
she must know
that people can see her.
one day the woman moved,
and not long after that Sheila
got a boyfriend
and was gone too.
you shut blinds, all the blinds
in your house, strangely
blue.

pink balloon babies

pink balloon babies
float
by your window
in a silky dream.
they shine like candy
across the blue acres
of sky.
what does it mean?
does it mean
you want another baby?
doubtful,
not at this age
as you are becoming
one.
gingerly down the steps
you go,
holding onto
the rail in your slippers,
sipping warm milk before
bed and being
read to by the machine
as you click
it on and turn off the lights.
if only there was
someone here to tuck
you in, say goodnight.
kiss you on the cheek.
but back to the babies,
the pink balloon babies
floating by
the window. who knows?
it doesn't matter,
you're sleeping and that's
always a nice
place to be.

the stamp book

he spent much of his free
time collecting stamps
from all over the world.
ancient stamps
once licked
by people long gone.
once attached to letters
sent during wars
long since fought,
lost or won.
he put them in a book
with black
soft pages.
making a note beside
each.
the date, the country,
the places
they were sent or not
sent at all.
you find the book
at a flea market,
a neighborhood sale,
where people sit in lawn
chairs
drinking beer and smoking.
beside the stamps
there are paintings,
water colors, finger paintings.
each a dollar.
lamps without shades,
pots without plants,
rakes
and tools, empty boxes
crates holding nothing,
marked down to two dollars
or best offer.
you buy the stamp book,
fifty cents.
once priceless to someone.
now rescued.

hello, is there a doctor in the house

my doctor, or rather former doctor
Seema Chandra
suggests that I take my
blood pressure
and keep track of it.
we want to get to the bottom
of what's ailing you.
we need to see if there is
a pattern here.
but it's my shoulder, I tell
her, pointing at my shoulder.
see, I can't lift it any
higher than this.
I move my arm up and out to
the side grimacing
from the pain. see, can you see
what i'm talking about.
it's killing me.
perhaps you have white coat
syndrome, and therefore
your blood pressure is reading
a little bit high right now.
she unstraps the Velcro band
from around my arm.
it's getting higher, I tell
her. yoo hoo. my shoulder,
can you look at my shoulder.
that's why i'm here.
I clap my hands together
trying to get her attention.
she stands back staring
at her chart. making notes.
do you smoke, she asks.
do drink a lot. no, I tell her.
but I could use a drink
right now.
any rubbing alcohol you got
will do.

colored lights

sometimes the fog
doesn't lift.
the sun doesn't arrive
and melt
it away.
sometimes the whole
day
is a grey mist
making you doubt
everything you've ever
believed.
and it's so close
to Christmas.
maybe these colored lights
will help.
you plug them in.
no, they don't.

not my size

you search the stack
of clothes
looking for your size.
but your size is the only
size
they don't have.
you could quickly
gain weight, lose weight.
but that never
works.
you ask the clerk,
a child who wanders out
from the back
after smoking a cigarette
and ask him
if he has your size
in the stock room.
no, he says.
adjusting his store
badge, and zipper.
can you look? no. I was
just back there, and
everything you see on the floor
is all we have.
if I give you twenty
dollars cash, will you
go look for me?
he scratches his head,
looks around and says,
if you give me the money first,
i'll go look.
you hand him the money.
he comes back a minute
later
and says, sorry, nope.

acclimation

you call up your ex wife
in texas
to see why you haven't heard
from your son
who lives in
Los Angeles.
howdy, she says when she
answers the phone.
you say, Howdy?
what's up, she says, with
a discernable twang
in her voice.
she's lived there for
a month now, moving
from the east coast
to Houston.
what's up partner, she
says. I can't reach our
son, I tell her.
what's going on.
His dang phone is plumb
broken, she says.
I can hear her scraping
a spatula across her barbeque
grill.
there are chickens clucking
in the background,
horses.
goats. it sounds like
a pick up
truck grumbling along
the road.
that boy done dropped
his phone into the well
and he's awaiting on a new
one.
are you drinking? I ask her.
you sound different,
funny. is everything okay.
everything is hunky dorey.
but listen, I gots to giddy up
now. I've got a couple of steer
that are trying
to get over
the dang fence and onto
the highway. adios amigo.
that boy will call you when
he gets himself a new phone.
keep your hat on cowboy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

the fruitcake gift

you think about regifting
the fruit cake
you got in the mail
last christmas. it's still
in its red tin, unbitten.
the seal broken only
to see what it looks like.
but what will you use
as a door stop
if you give it to someone
else.
what will you do when you
can't find
a hammer, or a weight to
lift and exercise with
if the fruitcake is no longer
yours?
how will you hold up
your old car
in the driveway if you
give the fruitcake away?

cats and people


when I set the bowl
of milk out
on the stoop for the stray
black cat
I realize
I don't care anymore
about
things I used to care about.
this gives me so much more
free time,
I sleep better,
enjoy the day better.
I can let things go now.
let
it rain, sleet, or snow.
let love
in the door and let it
out again
when it's time to go.
I don't care much
anymore for the things
I used to care about.
i'll still set the bowl
of milk
out, but then shut
the door when the sun
goes down.
cats and people
are on their own from
this point forward.

the short life

hard
women, hard men.
they didn't live long then,
pushing plows,
building fires,
but it's an even
a shorter life
now. hardly a moment to
oneself.
the world is a flock
of birds
frenetically flapping
black wings.
scratching
at the roof,
building nests in your
hair.
hard women, hard men,
they didn't last
long then.
but our lives
are even shorter now.

things have changed

I might be coming down with something
i tell Queen
Elizabeth as she gets ready
for work,
slipping on her manish
clothes to go
be a CEO, or something.
she hates when I call her queen.
so I do it a lot.
she looks at me in the mirror,
brushing out her
hair which comes down
to her ears.
i miss having hair
sometimes.
I might have a fever, I
tell her, putting my hand
on my forehead.
look at my tongue. my throat.
tell me what you
think. I don't have time,
she says, stepping into
a pair of leather boots.
new boots? I ask, leaning
over the edge of the bed.
can you call my boss and tell
her than I can't make
it in today?
no, she says. unplugging her
phone, her laptop,
her notepad and ipod
from their chargers.
I have to go, there's a board
meeting in thirty minutes.
get up and go to work, you
aren't sick.
and if you don't mind,
I left a list of things we
need at the grocery store.
so pick them up and start dinner.
i'll be late, I have a social
to go to after work.
she blows me a kiss.
not wanting to smudge her ruby
red lipstick.
I put my hand on my head
and give a little bird like
cough. get up she says,
as she marches out the door.
Now.

hints

there are signs
from God, warnings.
portents of things to come.
hints.
little whispers
into your warm
ear.
don't do this, do that.
go here,
don't go there.
stay away from him,
or her,
especially her. but
do you listen.
rarely. you think
sometimes that you know
yourself better
than He does.

Monday, December 21, 2015

stolen fruits

i'm a thief.
I admit it.
any word or sentence,
paragraph,
or phrase said out loud
or read
is stolen,
scrubbed clean
of ownership and made
my own.
my fingerprints are
all over
each swiped story,
each
chiseled poem.
i'm a thief
in broad daylight.
test me.
say something funny,
something smart
something sad, almost
anything. i'll
find a way
to use
and make it mine,
take it home.

the first kiss

it's the first kiss
that makes your knees shake a little
your heart
beat a little faster,
your head spin.
there is movement in the body
above and below
that surprises you
in a happy way.
it's the first kiss
you remember and take with
you to all the other kisses
you'll have
with her, tomorrow
and hopefully
for the rest of your
days.

we did exist

I spend a few hours sifting
through
a box of photos.
old photos.
some yellowed at the corners.
the ones your mother
scissored, making a scalloped
design
along the edges.
were we ever that young?
ever that poor,
and happy
at the same time.
it's a dipping of my hand
into a soft
edged world of images,
moments captured
that seemed unimportant
when the camera
clicked but now feel like
gold,
gems, sharp diamonds
proving
that we did exist.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

celery, who needs it

the recipe calls for celery.
how often do you purchase
those slender green
nearly translucent vegetables,
not often, maybe once
a year when you're making
beef stew.
you avoid it at a party no matter
how much cheese dip
is stuffed between the narrow
alley. with reluctance
you accept it in a bloody
mary, but don't see the point.
moving the stalk to the side
so that you don't poke
an eye out.
you resist
the package of three stalks
and go to the salad
bar for the chopped up
pieces.
celery has never been your
thing, even in stew, but
you're able to ignore it
as it floats among the other
ingredients, like meat and potatoes,
carrots and onions. real food.
celery, who needs it, except
at a time like this
when dutifully following
a betty crocker
recipe for beef stew.

the mall cheese

you're inventive
if nothing else.
you devise a water cannon
to put in
the front of your car.
fresh water,
not too hot or too cold.
but it emits a solid
stream of water,
a blast when you hit
the red button.
it caroms, knocking
them off the road,
the offensive holiday drivers
who have become rats
that can sniff
the mall cheese.

the girl with glasses

she can't read without
her glasses,
red framed and stylish,
or drive, or read a recipe,
watch tv,
no book is close
enough to see without
her specs,
forget the newspaper,
or anything
online,
stop signs are a blur,
but when we make love,
she takes them off,
which makes me wonder
how she really feels
about me.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

the wonder

I am the same boy
my mother
bent over
and whispered a song
to as
best she could.
these same ears listened
to the stories
she read from worn books,
the same mouth
that opened for a spoon
as she
fed me.
I am the same boy,
that was held in her arms
when I cried,
ran from as she chased
me with
a paddle.
laughing together,
uncatchable, always.
now she
doesn't remember
any of it, but that
takes nothing
away from the wonder
of her life.

a simple truth

the simple truth
is easiest found
in the eyes. no need
to travel any
further.
no need to wait
for words,
to confirm or deny,
no use in wondering
any longer
what is or isn't
so. you've counted
the votes. you know
now what is
the simple truth,
you know from the eyes
whether to stay,
whether to pack the bags
and go.

no leftovers

your mother never had to tell
you and your brothers
and sisters
to eat everything, that
there are starving children
around the world
who would love to have
your meal.
we cleaned our plates.
drank every drop of milk.
ate every slice of white
bread slathered in
butter.
it wasn't a race, but it
felt like it at times.
each standing in line
at the one bathroom door
to wash our hands, our
faces before dinner.
we ate with big eyes,
fast hands,
negotiating for what
the others didn't want.
there were no leftovers.
we made sure of that.

new money

the inheritance ruined them.
she made sandwiches
and he pumped gas
for a living.
you'd see them at the dog
park,
your dogs would play
together.
but the money, oh the money.
fifty million
changed everything.
soon it was a new house.
new cars.
a maid,
a person for the yard.
three children from
three continents were
adopted and taken to Disney
world.
what couldn't be bought?
she was suddenly
surgically slender.
he got a hair cut. his teeth
fixed.
new clothes, new shoes.
you hardly recognized them
anymore.
they forgot your name,
they had new
friends with other names.
oh, hello, she said on the street.
almost stopping
to talk,
but pressing forward
to the car
where someone held the door
for her.
in the window the dog
barked,
it was wearing a scarf
with a collar of Christmas
lights
around it's coiffed
neck. it look at you,
happily barking and wagging
his tail
he remembered.


the invisible car

it's only a twenty dollar
bill that you
find on the coffee shop
floor, but still,
someone lost it and left
it lying there.
you pick it up
and tap the man on the stool
beside it
if it's his. no, he says,
checking his wallet.
a woman at a table,
looks at you, so you wave
the bill in her direction,
she checks her purse.
she wants to say yes,
but shakes her head no,
and says, you are so honest.
the place is nearly
empty.
you can't just toss it
back onto the floor
and hope whoever lost it
will come back.
that would be crazy.
so instead you get the most
expensive drink on
the board menu,
and leave a nice holiday
tip. the rest you give
to the woman
who trolls the sidewalk
out front
asking for money to buy
gas for her invisible car.

noel or noah

she was noel,
but now she's noah.
I can see that by her name
tag
on her apron.
today her hair is white.
it's been blue before,
green,
red, raspberry striped.
it's a nice head of
hair.
a style a woman
might wear,
but now I see a small
thin
bouquet of whiskers
growing under her chin.
thin feathery strands
of a new beard.
i'm confused.
I use to say, thanks
noel. now I say, thanks
noah, when handed
my coffee, but i'm
hesitant. thanks is
good enough.

I'm on the board

i'm on the board
she tells me, as I unload
a loud clanging set
of extension ladders
from my truck.
where are you working
today?
i'm on the board and I need
to know
whose house
are you working on.
I live here, I tell her.
she's hanging red felt
ribbons for the holidays
around the gas lamp
poles, tying them with
plastic snaps,
that she herself thought
of and bought
at her own expense. they wanted
me to do it with string,
but that doesn't work.
there are ninety-seven such
poles throughout the small
neighbor hood.
her hands are red
and already blistered.
she's not merry one bit.
you live here? she says
again, climbing up
the step ladder
and tying another ribbon
into place.
how come I've never seen
you before?
I don't know I tell her,
carrying each ladder around
back to my gated yard.
I hope you're putting those in
your yard and not on
community property. right?
she stares at me, waiting
for an answer. I carry
the ladders around. each one
longer and more heavier
than the other.
she waits for me. are they in
the yard, she asks. yes.
I tell her. yes.
oh, and by the way, are you
the fellow who keeps putting
his trash out early?
we've had several complaints
from Becky, your neighbor.
We have rules here.
there are things I want to say
to her. mean things,
unholiday type things, but
I decide to just smile, go
home, close the door.
it's been a long day.

Friday, December 18, 2015

the holiday carving

she takes the carving knife
from her husband, saying
let me do this, sit down,
and thinks for a second
of stabbing him
with it, cutting right through
the red flannel shirt
he's wearing to his inept
heart, but
instead shakes her head disdainfully
and slices off
the white meet
in thin perfect slices.
she places them next to the wounded
lumps that he
carved, and the broken
bone of a drumstick
that you once had your eye
on.

where's the dog

it's the iron
of the sun. not yellow, or
soft
as butter,
but a cold metal of white,
like the snow
that has fallen
heavy
on the low
slung houses,
with hearts beating somewhere
inside.
where's the snow shovel
dear.
my gloves. one's missing.
and my boots.
are they in the attic,
or the basement.
I can't remember which.
where's the dog?
did we leave him out
last night.

it's a nice poem

her poetry is wonderful.
all sixty two lines of it,
centered and aligned in a
symmetrical
fashion upon the page.
a delight for the eyes.
there may even be a hint
of perfume in the ink.
printed on pink paper.
it is light as a feather,
whimsical and flowing.
clearly a master of calligraphy.
a slight breeze would
blow it out of my hands
and into the sky
if it I didn't hold on
to it tightly. whoops.
there it goes, as I
wave goodbye.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

christmas shopping

you go shopping
on amazon and after buying everything
in sight
for yourself,
you figure maybe
you should get things for other
people too.
you type in the words
gift suggestions.
this steers you towards gifts
you used to see and buy
in the dollar store.
you're almost home.

the new rug

I never know if you're joking
when you say something,
she says to you,
as you nod and say something
cryptic like,
what is this, the Spanish
inquisition?
or can you imagine a world
without the color blue.
just say what you mean,
she says
quit being you.
be me for once and tell
me how you really feel.
you're asking for trouble,
you tell her,
smoothing down your
shag rug with your socked
foot.
I hate this rug, you tell
her. i'm getting a new one
tomorrow.
i'll never see it she says.
i'm not coming back.
but just out of curiosity,
what color?
blue, you tell her. blue,
which is how i'll feel when
you leave.

to be finished

the machine is strong.
serves you well.
relentless.
the arms and legs,
the heart.
they move and move,
you are a shark
in water, endlessly
swimming
through your work.
you ignore the lights
blinking,
the siren,
the slow
dull beep of an ache.
a knee,
a joint, the pounding
of veins.
the machine keeps going.
you throw coal
into the fire.
you roar through
the hours.
through the months,
the years.
the machine sees no end.
no gold watch,
no beach house,
no white sand.
the machine knows better.
the work,
the doing means everything.
everything.
to stop is to be finished.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

in bed by ten

this year you plan
on staying up past ten on new
years eve.
you make a vow
to stay awake, drink plenty
of coffee, extra
strong, black and hot.
you make your house cold
opening the front and back
windows.
this year you will join in
the excitement of the countdown.
you have a horn,
and one of those whistle things
that extend when you blow it,
tinsel swirling at the end.
you turn the tv on
and wait for dick clark
and his gala from times square.
how does he stay so young looking?
bastard.
you pop a bottle of champagne
and let the dog
up on the bed. but where's
dick. what?
he's dead?
how did you miss knowing that?

the drive thru visit

you like a short
visit for the holidays.
you there, her here.
an overnight thing, then
see you later.
the family in for a weekend.
that's almost too
much to handle,
who's in the bathroom
now.
what's for dinner.
is there enough for everyone,
or should we go out.
why do people bring their dogs?
the drive thru visit
would be nice.
hello, how are you. let
me take a picture
as you pass through, pass
by the window.
here, have a cookie.
a paper cup of milk for
your ride home.
so nice to see you again,
drive safely.
come again, real soon.

her garden

in her garden,
her swollen knees deep
into the cold
dirt.
digging weeds.
pulling vines. stones
from the ground.
all the flowers and
vegetable long gone.
her gloves on.
her spade beside her.
a small rake.
her hair is tied back.
thick and grey.
only so many more days
at this.
so many more years.
then the steps are too hard
to go down,
to go back up
again. then what?
then the yard wins, she
thinks and shakes her head.
thank God,
i'll done with this,
she says
to no one.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

can't sleep at night

despite
your good deeds.
the volunteer work you do
down at the shelter,
the giving of blood,
recycling,
and adopting a nearby
road as yours
to keep clean, you can't
sleep at night.
somehow not eating meat
became
a religious quest,
making you preach that
good news.
the garden,
all green, organic.
soy milk and hummus,
carob. kale and beans.
at some point you felt
better
about yourself. voting
at every election.
putting stickers
on your car
for the k's you ran.
it's a hard life
to live up to. worrying about
the whales,
the snails,
the unadopted kittens
in a cage on tv.
maybe some of it is
part of the reason
why you can't
sleep at night.

at the gate

the angle of sun
at this hour of morning is stiff
with a white
glare.
a steel warmth upon
us as we wait
at the factory gate,
lunch boxes in hand,
our shoulders already
into the positions
we will hold
all day, at
the wheel, the saw,
the drill.
but it's work, it's pay.
there is nobility
in standing
on your feet, using
your hands. providing.
and yet still, we can't
help
but look up at the narrow
windows,
high above the shadows
of dust
and silt that fill the air.
there is a feeling in
all of us,
that there should be more.
there has to be.

the intervention

someone suggests
maybe an intervention would help
with your sibling,
a gathering of loved
ones, trapping him
in a circle
and questioning his
nefarious deeds
and desires.
you suggest leaving him
alone.
at almost sixty it's a done
deal with
most of us.
we have decided on the roads
taken
and will rarely
veer off
and choose
a different path.
becoming good
is a decision made
alone, a group
suggestion will only
make matters worse.

it's a slow day

it's a slow day.
traffic.
people.
the lines.
the computer. everything
is taking longer
than
expected.
I googled Elizabeth
Hurley three minutes ago,
where is she.
what's taking so long.
the barista making
coffee,
why did he run into the back
of the store?
my mother on the phone
finally getting to the point
of why she really called.
it wasn't really about
her making meat loaf after all.
that cloud
in the sky, will it ever
pass over the sun
or just sit there,
fat and grey like a,
like a, well, like
a cloud?

dreams


morning comes too soon.
you've left
so many dreams on the table.
abruptly
leaving one or two
in the muddled middle.
maybe you can pick up
where you left off when
get home tonight
and go to bed.
but you doubt it.
dreams don't work that
way, do they?

Monday, December 14, 2015

being followed

the man that follows me home
is not good at following, I see
him every step of the way.
we make eye contact.
I drop my umbrella and he picks
it up, calls me by name.
says excuse me, but I believe
this is yours.
he waits for me to get off the train
first, then he steps into the shadows
across the street
as if he can't be seen.
I stop for ice cream, trying
to get him off my tail, but he
comes in too. he asks me if
my cone of pistachio is any good.
I nod yes. so he orders the same
thing. again I leave, he waits,
then follows me, staying a half
a block behind. I can hear
his shoes click against
the pavement. when I go up the steps
and turn the key to my door, I look
behind me. there he is.
he stands at the end of the sidewalk.
he tips his hat as I tell him
goodnight. see you tomorrow?
I ask him. maybe he says. maybe.

scrambled

I count
my chickens.
all of them have hatched
so i'm any
breaking
and clich├ęd tenets
of any sort.
the chickens are running
around the yard crazily,
but their
heads have not been cut off.
I have a pot
for each them
in all good time.
sometimes,
I am chicken, less brave
I mean
about many things in life.
like
telling the truth
when it's so much easier
to tell a lie.
sometimes I think I believe
that the egg
did come first.
but this changes day
to day.
I like my eggs scrambled
by the way, if you're
paying attention,
keeping notes.

the lecture

the lecture bores you.
stone tools
found
in a trench.
half man half monkey
beating
sticks into weapons,
making large
rocks into small rocks
with which to throw
and kill.
women gathering wood,
making nests, coming
down from the trees.
the man in front
of you is taking notes.
his shoulders
are round,
he has a wide forehead.
he turns around
and stares at you meanly,
asks you
to stop kicking his
chair.

first blush

she blushed when you took
her hand, leaned
towards her and kissed
her gently on the mouth.
she almost
purred and curled into you
like a cat warming itself.
then she whispered
something unexpected
into your ear.
which made you blush,
wave down the waiter,
and quickly pay
the check.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

water from the well

the turn
of wheel wakes me,
its squeak and grind
as it cranks
down towards water
into the mouth of
circled bricks and stone.

along the marsh
the fog sits
fat
and white, grey.
unmoved
by you, at the well
bringing up
cold water
in your night dress.

the birds whistle
in the vague brush.
time
neither moves
or goes forward.

the moment is captured
in my mind.
as I peer from
the upper window.
loving you more
than
yesterday. my thirst
for you unquenched

the pear tree

in nineteen seventy eight
john and I were
working in a yard
bordered by a brick wall
on three
sides.
a wooden gate
with a black iron latch
led out to the street,
Jefferson davis highway.
perched on ladders,
we leaned
into the house and moved
our brushes
onto windows,
boards,
soffits, trim.
clean even strokes
as one hand gripped
the rung
of the aluminum ladders.
beside us, between
us was a pear tree
in full bloom, pears as
ripe and green as
pears could be.
we grabbed one,
and ate, then another.
take all you want, the owner
said. he was
done with pears, done
with these trees,
the fruit that would fall
and rot on his bricked patio.
we ate our fill, john
and I.
last year john died,
but I remember him
with every pear I've ever
seen since then, every bite
reminding me
of us together
being young and strong,
our friendship
never waning.

good enough

the muscled
arm, curled and veined,
bulging
at the bicep
out of the shorn shirt.
ripped
and bronzed.
he's holding
a vanilla latte
outside the coffee shop.
there's a tattoo of
a mouse
in a cape, a yellow
suit.
mighty mouse, you
remember from
childhood.
he's coming to save
the day.
the muscle flexes,
he looks around to see
if anyone is watching,
then wipes
a line of foam
from his lips.
as you drive home,
you feel your own arm.
you flex.
it's okay. you can still
open jars
and bottles.
small cans of spinach.
good enough.

already dark

i see him
limping in the parking lot.
he lifts a hand
to give a weary wave,
says hello.
he shuffles towards
me as i carry
bags of trash to the curb.
hey, he says. hey, i say back.
we talk about the game
that just ended.
retirement.
moving. the wife, his wife.
he whispers,
I don't know about twenty four
seven.
i'll keep working.
why not.
i'm at a desk now.
it's getting dark out.
it's warm for winter.
kids are still in the street
racing around.
I still have two bags
of trash
in my hands.
good to see you, he says,
his wife is at the door,
calling him in.
good to see you too,
I tell him
and go the edge of the curb,
near the woods
where it's already
dark.

finding home

unsettled
land lies before us.
a stretch
of green pastures.
let's build a house.
put a fence around it.
call it home.
make a stand.
there is so much time
left
in our lives.
these are the things
we used to say
when we were young,
and willing
to settle,
to compromise.
give me sand now.
the shifting tides.
a balloon to rise in
the air
and carry us
anywhere. give me
a bed
in any port and it
will fine.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

she must be dead

you don't hear from her for awhile.
she could be sick,
or dead.
in jail, or on the street,
homeless.
you think the worst things
when
someone disappears.
maybe she just fell in love,
fell into
happiness
and no longer
needs the likes of you
bothering her.
but I doubt that.
seems impossible.

instinct

the best throw,
a spiral from your hand, your
arm extended,
your feet firmly
planted in the turf
goes where you want it to
go. no thought
to it, just your body
making a move.
instincts taking over.
reaction,
no pressing, no thinking
involved.
and so it goes
for much of life.
the written word,
the painting. a heartfelt
kiss.
less thought, more
instinct, makes
it work.

the dark side of her moon

what can loosen
this sadness
that holds you down.
pins you to the floor.
how can we
stop the tears,
the angst and sorrow
that you hold
so dear.
a pill perhaps, a drug,
a bottle of
good wine, or maybe
a night of frenetic sex
with a stranger, no
strings attached. what
elixir can free you
from the dark side
of yourself, in
the shadows of a cold
moon.
what brought you here?
all of the above, perhaps,
but i'm lost as to what to
do for you.

slippery

the first time my friend
dave
went skiing he fell
as he jumped off the lift,
slipping on the hard slope,
dislocating
his shoulder.
he never skied and inch
down the hill.
a helicopter came up
to carry him
to a hospital.
the shoulder was never
the same.
I've been trying to figure
out if there
is a moral to this story
for decades, but
can't come up with one.
although I've never gone
skiing.

let's do something fun for the holidays

let's do something different
for the holidays my new girlfriend Sylvia
says to me
as I make pancakes in the morning.
she's sitting at the table wearing
one of my t shirts
and little else.
I stir, then pour the batter into
the frying pan, starting with a small one.
like what, i ask her.
let's go to a nudist colony
or something fun like that, she says.
what?
are you kidding me.
I flip the pancake over
just in time before the edges
burn.
yeah, come on it might be fun.
I saw this place on a tv show. warm
beaches, volleyball, everyone
naked walking around having drinks.
everyone is free and happy.
where's this coming from?
who are you?
I slide the pancake out of the pan
and put it on her plate, then
move the butter and syrup
bottle closer to her. silver ware
is in the drawer I tell her, pointing
at the drawer.
we don't even walk around the house
naked in front of each other,
so why would we do that around
complete strangers?
we could get back to nature.
God made us naked, so let's explore
that.
I don't know, sounds insane if you
ask me.
well, what do you want to do then?
same old boring stuff.
dinner with family, open the gifts
under the tree, watch it's a wonderful
life for the millioneth time?
ummm, yeah. that's exactly what
I want to do.
you used to be fun, what happened?
I shake my head and flip another
pancake over. I used to be fun?
we've only been going out for a week.

the left turn


if you hadn't made
that left
turn, things would be different.
your whole life
would be changed,
be something else
you wouldn't recognize.
the history of
you would be altered.
you wouldn't be sitting here
now, like this,
waiting
for the phone to ring.
waiting for the fog
to lift.
waiting for a letter
in the mail
that never comes. if only
you had turned
the other way, things
would be fine.

the water of time

a drink or two
in the crowded bar
with
an old friend who nurses
a jack daniels
and you with your gin
and tonic, mostly tonic.
the pours are stingy here.
not like the old
days when they knew
your name.
everyone is thirty or
younger.
the both of you old
enough to be
fathers of most,
grandfathers to some,
lean into one another to
hear what the other one
has said.
something about his knees,
something
about your eyes.
strange music, music
you've never heard before
rattles and booms
from above.
the girls are all the same.
they've never changed.
still young, still
bright like flowers on
the water of time.

Friday, December 11, 2015

have a good one

often, throughout the day
you are ordered by nice well
meaning people to take care,
have a nice day.
be safe. drive careful.
it might rain, stay dry.
have a good one. button up.
it's cold.
usually they are wearing
aprons, or giving you change,
or standing over a barrel
ringing a bell.
you hate telling people
what to do, so you don't
and hope they catch on.
but you're feeling grumpy
today and so
you may feel different
about all of this tomorrow.

pop goes the weasel

why is it so
scandalous, the minister
in the airport
hotel,
slipping quarters
into the vibrating bed
while his
date
counts out cold cash
from the basket.
how can you live up to being
good.
being perfect, being
inhuman.
at some point pop goes
the weasel,
if you crank the good box
long enough.

throw them a bone

you see a gaggle
of men
and women in nice pressed
suits
chasing
the siren down the street.
an ambulance in full bloom.
like mad dogs with bared
teeth gnashing,
they run with their ties
in the air,
their hard shoes
pounding the pavement
as they gallop
towards
the injured, the dying,
the unfortunate
victims.
their brief cases
swing wildly,
as their tongues hang out,
their brows furrowed
and dripping
with sweat. they can
almost taste a payday,
just a bone, even a small
bone will do.



a simple moon

a splendid moon
makes
you forget about the day.
your mind wanders
to other things.
how quickly
you can erase what troubles
may have landed
at your feet.
how swift
the healing of burns
and bruises.
you have learned well
the beauty
of moving on.
just a simple moon
sitting
on a patch of clouds
brightens
even your darkest mood.

what about alaska?

she wants the house
warm
you want it cold,
not freezing, but a little
cool.
you sleep better that way,
you tell her.
she turns
the electric blanket
on and
allows her dog
to lie across her sideways.
you wake up
in a sweat and go
to the kitchen where you put
your head
into the refrigerator
and pretend you
live in Greenland.
you grab a bucket of
ice and rub
your neck with cubes.
the house is so hot
there are mushrooms growing
on the carpet.
you open a window
and let the winter air
flow in.
she yells down the steps,
shut that window
and come back to bed
i'm freezing.
her teeth are chattering
when you get back into bed.
her feet are brittle
with cold.
I've been thinking she says.
we should take a vacation
next year to
the islands, or Morocco.
you sigh and say, what
about Alaska.

liquidation

each winter you see
in big white washed letters
on the plate glass window
these words,
going out of business.
everything must go.
holiday sale.
fifty per cent off.
give us your best offer,
we will match any deal
you bring in.
open all day. all night.
we will not be
undersold. all sales are
final. but they never
close. they never go
out of business.
they open up another
store across town
and do the same thing.



it's all about me

your impatience
surprises you.
the anxiousness of standing
in line,
waiting for coffee
or for a clerk
to ring you up.
the slow traffic,
a yellow light gone red.
what is it that you
need to get to
so quickly that you can't
wait a few moments.
and it's not just you,
it's the world,
shuffling, tapping
their feet,
honking their horns,
rolling their eyes
and sighing.
waiting uneasily
for their turn.

being replaced

I've been lonely and sad
without you in my
life, she writes, so
I got a new dog. I call
him dusty. he's from texas.
a cowboy dog. like you.
but that wasn't enough.
so I have two birds now,
they sing in a cage
on my porch,
seven fish in a bowl.
a horse, three cats,
and a llama that has no
name. I still miss you
though, but these animals
keep me busy, so less so.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

there he is...look

when your niece was
little
you pointed out the window
on Christmas
eve and said look, do you
see him.
there he is,
the sled, the reindeer,
the boxes
stacked tall in the back.
listen you can
almost hear
the jingle, hear him
at the reins
flying from the north pole.
and she looked
and looked at where you
were pointing with a finger
on the cold window
pane, until finally,
she screamed yes, I do.
I see him.
how kind she was to you,
even at that young age.

the undertow

the undertow
is pulling us out to sea.
the surge of
water, the lunar tides,
the deep
yanking us off our feet.
it wants us back.
we've been away
too long having crawled
out from
the earthly womb.
the open arms
beckon us to come back,
luring us home
with a siren's call,
a lullabye, a sweet
whispered song.

suspicion

you spend the day
reporting suspicious people.
packages
left unattended.
cars slowing down
under bridges,
so called tourists aiming
their cameras
at the monuments.
then there's the women
wrapped
in long dark scarves
hiding their faces, and men
with sunglasses
and hoodies.
everyone looks like they
have an agenda,
like there's something
sinister they might
be up to.
that woman over there
in the corner knitting,
the things she could do
with those needles.
even the cats and dogs,
walking around
without leashes,
or collars, what are
they doing, I mean
really doing?

poetry by the fire

you can't improve
on t.s. Elliot, you can only
read
the lines and try
to understand
what the hell he was
talking about.
same goes for Yeats,
Ezra Pound,
and much of Frost.
you settle in with a dictionary
a thesaurus,
a book on mythology
and a set
of encyclopedia
britannicas,
then begin a pleasant
evening of
reading poetry by the fire,
trying so hard
not to toss any books in.

almost fried

like the beautiful fish
speckled in gold,
pulled out of the silky
sea, reeled into your
loving hands she slips out
and falls back into
the water. it's a gentle
splash. you see her swim
away, gracefully moving
from side to side, going
deeper and deeper
away from you. but you had
her once, she was in
your hand. almost fileted
almost fried.

be prepared

i'm prepared for when the power
goes down.
a flashlight in every room.
extra batteries, candles
set out. matches in little boxes.
jugs of water wait
in the basement.
canned goods.
granola bars and power drinks.
i'm ready for
the next thing. I might last
a day or two, possibly
a week if a bad storm hits
or if worst comes to worst
and some country lobs a hydrogen
bomb across the sea
to wipe us out.
I've been preparing for this
day since the fifth grade
when they told us
to get under our wooden
desks when the sirens blared.
i'm ready now. i'm prepared.

the good china

wanting to make a good
impression
you set out the fine china,
yes you have
good china.
it's a little dusty having
been stored in a box
from having moved
three times in five years
after the divorce,
but it's nice china.
dainty with fine printed
leaves or something.
there's a gold band running
along the outer edge of the plate.
very fancy.
you can't even put it in
the dishwasher, it's that
nice.
so you set out the plates,
the tea cups with their
little saucers, soup bowls,
the dessert plates
and a large oval serving dish.
then you wait for her
to arrive, your date,
and for the door to ring
with your delivery of
kung pao chicken, and
crispy beef.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

the girl on the twentieth floor

if she didn't live
on the twentieth floor
i might have married her.
i just couldn't see
carrying groceries
up in the elevator,
talking to people,
having to answer questions
about what i bought,
listening to what they think
about iodized versus
sea salt.
petting their dogs,
talking about
the weather.
if she had lived on
the first floor,
with a sliding glass
balcony door,
we'd be on our honeymoon
by now,
madly in love
forever and ever.

light bulbs

i take the call.
it's ten p.m. so it must
be important
for the phone to ring at
this late hour.
i pick up and say hello.
the delay
tells me before the voice
speaks
what i'm in for.
politely i listen.
it's a woman's voice,
mispronouncing my name,
but close enough.
i haven't won anything,
no trips,
no land or cars.
instead they want a donation.
a small donation.
they will send me a pack
of 75 watt light bulbs
for a twenty dollar
donation.
all the money goes towards
taking care of the blind.
i don't ask
about the strange irony
of the blind selling
what they themselves
don't need., but i resist
and smile, say thanks,
but no thanks
before hanging up and
going back to the tv,
dimming the lights
as i return
to my show.

the hot soup

it's more like a soup
than a stew
you say, dipping the ladle
into the brown
broth, pulling out
a shiny bean
with it.
the steam rises into
your nose
your eyes, you can
taste it before
you taste it.
but it's fine you say,
smiling, sipping
and blowing on the spoon.
just fine.
I can't complain about
a hot soup
on such a winters
day. I think it's ready,
let's eat.

the nightly news

they try to jazz up the news
cast by putting two
attractive women
in tight pencil skirts
on. each appearing to be ready
to go out clubbing
in new York. one blonde,
the other a red head.
the news is the same,
death, chaos, disease and war.
that hasn't changed.
but the two slinky babes,
one in pink and the other
in a salmon colored dress
somehow ease the pain
of what's being said.
the wink a lot and push
back their hair as if
there's wind in the studio.
they nod, and grin with
inside jokes. they're having
fun telling you about
who's missing, who died,
how the stock market just
plunged. but they wrap
it up nicely with a cat
in a tree story,
saved by courageous
firemen. you watch
the whole news cast
hoping at some point
they'll start dancing.

tuna sandwich cat

the cat who keeps showing
up at your door
no longer wants just a simple
bowl of milk.
he insists on a tuna
sandwich lately, with
the crust off.
cut diagonally.
so you accommodate
the stray cat.
he seems to like you,
arching his back
as he runs to rub up
against your legs.
there may be a relationship
developing
if he doesn't get run
over in the parking
lot as he waits
under the cars for you
to come home.

think positive


as the robber
holds what might be a gun
against you,
backing you into a dark
alley to relieve
you of your wallet,
your keys, your phone,
he says,
think positive
believe in yourself
and all your wishes and dreams
will come true.
negative thinking will
hold you back,
he says to you, as he
counts the money
in your wallet.
five dollars, you only have
five dollars?
and what's this, a library
card?
where's your credit cards?
I don't see any car
keys here either,
you don't have a car?
I ride a bike.
you really need to get
with the program,
he says, handing you
back your things, your
five dollars, in ones.
you need to think positive
and do something
with your life. i'm very
disappointed in you.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

the green ceiling

she wanted the ceiling green.
you don't
care too much for green
but you say if it was me,
i'd go with white.
you buy a gallon of pea
soup green paint
and apply it twice upon
the ceiling.
i'll have to get used to
it, she says later
that night on the phone.
I didn't think it would
look like this,
so green. maybe I should
have taken
your advice and gone
white.

candy girl

she always had
candy with her. jelly beans.
a clark bar
or two.
good and plenty,
gum,
with which to blow
bubbles
and chew.
a lollipop
was always in her hand,
a licorice stick
too.
ask for a gum drop
and out
one would pop.
chocolate covered
raisons when the weather
wasn't too
hot.
she was the candy girl
in the old
hood.
always with a treat,
always
staying out late
when she should be at home,
being bad
when all the other girls
were good.

don't go there

there is no room
in space.
it's full.
the planets are where they
should be.
each star to its
own galaxy.
we have enough moons,
and asteroids, nebulas
and
black holes, enough
to call it a day.
take a peek through
your telescope
and tell me what you see
in the airless air.
rocks and fire.
darkness.
everything is telling
us to not go there,
stay away. so
let's forget about that
for awhile,
concentrate on what's
left here.

Monday, December 7, 2015

cooking together

when you cooked together
you never stabbed
one another in the neck
with a potato peeler,
but came close.
there was much eye rolling
when the other person wasn't
looking,
and saying things
like. I think that's enough
salt.
or please, no more butter.
I think we've
already put in a half
cup of olive oil. did you stir
this. could you please
get out of the way,
it's your turn to peel the shrimp.
are we even following the recipe or
winging it now?
there was a lot of ordering
in those days. and thankfully
Hunan West
was a mere ten minutes
away.

road side service

no charge
the man says smiling,
as he cranks
up the side
of your car
to remove your
flat tire and put on
the flimsy donut one
from the trunk.
this service is free.
he wipes his mouth
and spits
a chaw of tobacco
in the direction of the curb.
you've been a member
since nineteen seventy three,
he says, looking
at his notepad clipboard.
yes, you answer. i
feel so lucky to finally
after all these
years get a tire
changed, and for free
no less.
after 42 years of membership
fees.
which adds up to a few
thousand dollars.
what a treat, thank you
kind sir.
thank you, you say again
as he puts out his
hand for a tip.

cards on the table

i put my cards down
on the table.
this is my hand, i say.
pushing all
my money forward
into the middle.
i don't want another
card, another hit.
i need no aces,
my hand is
what it is, laid
out for all to see.
i'm ready now to
see yours. please.

the owl

I see the owl, his wide
wings, brown and
stretched, his small head
dipping forward
shadowing overhead
as I walk.
a live squirrel,
grey and white
is held by the owl's
talons.
he doesn't struggle,
or make a sound.
he seems relaxed
flying through the air
so high above the ground,
between the trees.
maybe an agreement
will be reached,
and no one will get
eaten, but i'm sure that
it doesn't work that way
this deep into
fall, days before winter
and snow.

the lie detector

they strap a lie detector
to your arm
and begin to question about
where you were
last night, the night
before.
a year ago.
were you ever
in love. when was the last
time
you ate red meat.
have you ever lied about
your age
your weight, your sincerity.
do you recycle,
separating paper and plastic.
you answer as best you can.
the machine
smokes and catches
fire, so they bring in
a new one
and say give me your
other arm.

not funny

nothing would make
her laugh.
not even a smile would
cross her
terse lips.
unwrinkled
she was with emotion.
a flat
field of pale
skin.
hardly a line across
her brow,
her dimpled cheeks
around her
irish eyes, her
chin. her light was
low.
you had no chance
staying, or
visiting, of getting
in.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

the short talk

let's not argue.
talk politics
or god.
let's leave Jesus
out of the conversation
for now
and freud
and Darwin.
Einstein.
let's not discuss
the war, if it's okay
with you, or refugees,
the economy,
or the news, or
gossip about anyone we
know or once knew.
let's keep the conversation
civil and light.
no relationships
need to become topics.
or our health.
I prefer not to know
what that is on your arm.
and don't get me started
on my shoulder.
I think that leaves
us with the weather.
cold out today, wssn't it?

enough friends

you have enough friends,
although they are dying rapidly.
suddenly disappearing
with their lives.
there are more and more
empty horses
on your carousel, but the music
keeps playing.
the ocean is there too.
the sand.
salt is in the air.
you have enough friends
for one lifetime you believe,
but new ones on occasion
slip in through
the back door
and you can hardly say no
to strays that
wander in.

let's call it later

you hate surprise parties.
birthday
surprises. you don't want
waiters
to sing,
for a parade of people
to dance around
and make
you the center of attention.
you want none of that.
a simple card will do.
no songs, no gifts, no
jumping out of closets
or cakes
with candles lit.
you have no age.
there is no number anymore.
let's just call it
later, not in the middle
anymore, but
later.

he's not there

my son's toys
are still in the attic.
the ball and glove,
the wind up
toys, the electronic
boxes
that hypnotized long
hours of his
youth.
the figures, plastic
superheroes he
worshiped
and lost himself in.
his small clothes
and shoes.
so much of
him is in the attic,
just steps away,
up the stairs, where I
could pull
the string and light
it up
anytime I desire.
but he's not there.

the hour that you're in

the days slide into
nights.
you hardly remember what
last week
was like. where it went.
where it all
went so quickly.
photos
are strange reminders.
flat
and easy to hold, but
surreal too.
you are a day older
than you were
the day before.
stopping the clock is
impossible,
embracing it even harder.
it's all you can do
to press on
and be grateful for the hour
that you're in.

decorating for the holidays

you have trouble with the lights
on your Christmas tree.
you've taken it off
the shelf and carried it all
the ways up from the basement
to set on the side table.
it's a white and shiny tree
with a string of lights
and bulbs you've carefully
arranged for a semblance of balance.
the tree is maybe two feet tall.
you've place three brand new
double AA batteries
into the little black box and pushed
the button.
nothing happens. then it blinks,
then it stops. you wonder
why you go through so much
trouble to decorate each holiday season.
you give up on the lights,
hoping later to get it working.
you take the snow globe out from
under the shelf where
it's been for three hundred
and forty one days. you shake
it and turn the metal knob
on the bottom. the music begins
to play. I'm Dreaming of a White
Christmas pings out in a slow
motion melody. you push aside
a pizza box from last night
and set it next to the tree.
you almost forget the wreath
for the door.
you find it under the bed
in the guest room. you blow
the dust off it and give it a shake.
the plastic cranberries roll
across the floor and hall as
you hang it on the nail you've never
removed. you find the candy canes
from last year in the card
box and scatter them about.
you strip the plastic off
one of them and suck on the gooey
stale cane. you're done
except for maybe setting out a bowl
of fancy nuts, or something.

nothing you can do

when death occurs
the world continues as if it
didn't matter.
this bothers you
when it's your turn to grieve.
why don't they know,
why don't they understand
how short, how bitter sweet
this life can be.
then the feeling fades and you
ignore the deaths of
others, those you don't know.
you shake your head
with empathy,
but move on, continue
with your life
as if it didn't matter,
for what else is there
to do.

when will we get there

we row and row.
someone says how much farther
before we're there.
there is no answer.
we keep at it.
from left to right our
oars enter the water
and pull us forward.
the stars come out as the sun
goes away.
you can hear but you cannot
see the ocean.
you can taste it though.
feel the wash of cold
upon your hands,
your knees. the water slaps
against the side
of your small boat.
we row and row.
people longer ask when will
we get there.
we already are.

Friday, December 4, 2015

bad news

the mailman is weeping.
he sits on your step.
I have bad news he says.
holding out a letter addressed
to you.
he's opened it and holds
it in his curled hand.
i'm sorry he says
to bring this to you.
I felt it might be bad news,
so I opened it and read it
and read it again.
you comfort him, you bring
him tea. you tell him it's okay.
you offer him a blanket
and a pillow so that he might
lie down on
your porch and rest.
it's okay, you tell him.
bad news as they say will
keep. don't give it to me
if it bothers you so much.
i'll find out eventually.
this makes him smile.
thank you he says. thank
you. he folds the letter
back into the envelope
then puts it into his
stachel. he waves to you
and says thank you once
more before going down
the sidewalk to the next
door.

chicken dinner

how many chickens
there must be in the world.
how many eggs,
you can almost hear the roar
of clucking,
the scratching,
free ranged or caged,
the roosters crowing.
eggs rolling
and breaking open
with more.
we are living in a deep
fried world
of chickens.
hens, roasters, pieces.
you can hardly drive a mile
without putting your
hands on
a chicken leg
or wing.
dark or white meat.
oven baked or grilled,
barbequed.
buffaloed and blue cheesed.
chickens are falling from
the sky.
they are filling the warehouses
of the world
with their fat
white feathered bodies.
they are marching in numb
lockstep towards
the ovens.
hardly a day goes
by when you aren't offered
a chicken dinner
and an order
of fries.

i want to stay home

there is no where
you need to go.
no one you need to see.
clapping
for others is not your thing.
you like music
you like the theater, but
you have no desire
anymore to stand
in line, to find a seat
and wait
to be entertained.
the coliseum holds no
interest.
the crowds,
the weather.
there are dozens of reasons
that will keep
you home. you like
people, but too many
in one place
distresses you.
it's okay to say no now.
it took a long
time. but you're there.


i can't read this

some books you can't read.
it's a long list actually
starting with anything with
the word dragon
in the title.
Ulysses is another. a
sleeper, a heavy book
best used for a door stop,
as is War and Peace.
any shade of grey
will make you gag
and throw it across
the room towards the fire
place.
Michener bothers you
as well. dry as a bone
history lessons that make
you yawn.
you try so hard to plow
through Harding
or the Russian writers
that are worshiped as literary
gods, but you can't.
you can't get past
the names, the multiple
plots, the endless
pages of descriptions
of snow. Chekov is fine
though. he keeps it short
and sweet.
as is carver and
Hemmingway. toss salinger
into the salad
along with flannery,
lorrie moore. season it
with some poets.
which is most of them,
except Mckuen.

where do you live

it's a short drive
from here to there.
easy.
a few left turns, a right.
straight down
the freeway,
an exit on
the cloverleaf,
then you're almost
there.
you could drive there
in your sleep,
you could leave
from there and be home
in less than
an hour.
you know the back roads
when the traffic is
bad.
which route to take
when there's weather.
it's a short drive from me
to you. we've done
it a thousand times,
remember?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

the bakery

the baker
no longer tastes what he
bakes.
his tongue is tired.
he knows the salt
or sugar is right.
his lips
no longer open for
warm bread,
a bite of scone. the pastries
he has boxed
are pushed aside.
the night is long
beside the oven,
his floured hands
are weary.
his hat tilted in early
light.
what brings others joy
has brought
him sadness.
how could this happen,
so soon
after forty years.

i can see

I can see by your face
that you are unhappy.
again, the clouds have arrived
above you.
I hear thunder
on the horizon, above
the gloom of trees
folding
themselves into black.
I know the reasons,
but I've stopped
caring why.
your unhappiness is
your own choice
as is standing in the rain
growing cold.
I am free from this.
I am beyond the reach
of your minds arm
and fist.

these hunters

these hunters.
cowardly
men, some women. seeking
their
own demise
as well as others.
they live in darkness.
their minds
already gone, twisted.
once children,
once babies
in some mother's arms.
all sense of good erased.
now this.
the horror of blind
faith. no heaven awaits,
even hell
might be too good
of a place for them
to land.

what's your sign

he reads his horoscope
religiously.
bending to it's suggestions
of what the day
might bring.
waiting for things
to happen that never
will.
the planets are aligned
today.
I feel a good vibe
as to where the sun
and moon are.
something good is about
to happen, he says.
i'm virgo, what are you?
catholic, you tell him,
lapsed, but still carrying
the guilt
and shame
of my early years, and
unlike you I don't
expect things to
change much
in the future.

almost like home kennels

in a weakened state your dog
can barely wag
his tail.
his eyes are bloodshot.
his tongue and
nose warm. he's shedding.
he hasn't done well
at the almost like home
kennels
along the highway,
exit 50 west.
we had to feed him
pieces of hot dogs
for the whole week
the young girl tells you
when you arrive to pick him up.
he seemed depressed.
sad and lonely in his little
cage. he wouldn't even
watch tv or play
with the other
dogs, so we left him
alone. is he always this
way?
he's been on an IV for
a few days,
so your bill might be
slightly higher than what
we had planned on.
he ate seven packages
of all beef dogs too, so
that's on there as well.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

the leak

it's hard to find
a leak,
the point at which the water
comes in.
a small hole
will do.
will sink a ship,
sink me and you,
will bring the ceiling
down.
it finds
it's way to the lowest
point
than pools and puddles
heavy, until it breaks
your heart,
the dry land that you
found.

red stockings

you find a new pair
of red
stockings, still in the plastic
package
that you bought for her.
they were playful
times.
hot and erotic
adventures with dancing.
with wine.
you were younger then,
she too.
her black hair
unfurled,
her lips red and wet
with anticipation.
why you never gave them to
her, you aren't sure.
would it have
made a difference, of
course not.
but still they belong
to her,
so you slide them into
a drawer and close
it, as you've done
with others.

the last horse

you like the last horse
who settled in and galloped
at his own pace.
the last one
in. wet with sweat
and mud.
the unwhipped horse
who had no chance,
but finished just
the same. feeling none
the worse
for losing, for is it
losing if you've
done your best, does
the carrot
or sugar cube
taste less sweet?

a last leaf

the last
leaf on the tree is
hanging on. she's
been there all spring,
through the summer,
no rain or wind
can set it free.
tenacious she is with
her desire
to persevere, to be
with you.