Saturday, December 31, 2016

unfunny

the elbow striking
the door
edge, sends a storm of
electrical
current up your arm.
you rub it
gently until
the pain goes away.
hardly a funny bone.
not a single laugh,
or smirk
in it.
are there sad bones
too.
weary and angry bones,
curious bones,
bones that are aloof,
that ignore you?

a new year

i've been counting
down
all day,
ten, backwards to one,
warming up for tonight,
as if i'm
on a liftoff mission
to the moon.
but it isn't the moon
we're going to,
is it?
out the window
are the same trees,
the same
parked cars,
the same
kid with a runny nose
and training
wheels rolling
down the street.

what isn't true

what isn't
true, is this. this
memory
of what was, what happened
then.
I've
glossed over it nicely,
polished it after
sanded it down,
agreeing to make it
what it never was.
of course, your memory
is different
than mine,
as it should it be.
we need
to remember life that way.
makes it
easier for everyone
involved,
all around.

Friday, December 30, 2016

flies by

all the lights are green.
the traffic has
thinned.
the roads are dry.
let's drive all day
all night,
find a place to rest
our weary bones
let the new
year bring what it
brings, watch as
another one flies by.

love poem

do you
need to go so soon,
stay a little longer,
one more cup
of coffee,
one more
splash of cream,
another lump
of sugar,
one more
stir of your spoon.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

sugar sugar

it's hard to give up
sweets,
the cake
the candy, the sugar
filled
sodas,
the m and m's
that I pour
from a bag into my
mouth when
the movie starts.
I could use
some sugar, sugar,
any ideas?

the next day

the dog
in the laundry basket
chasing his
tail,
circling,
circling,
reminds me of things
I have to do
soon,
maybe tomorrow, or
the next
day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

this will pass, maybe

let's not call them tears
today, dear heart,
not crying,
not sobbing,
no.
let's just say it's bad
weather.
a small storm
that will pass.
i'll help you, hand
you a tissue,
put my arm around you.
i'll listen,
i'll say things like
don't worry,
things will get better,
you'll see,
though I won't believe
a word
of what i'm saying.

a day away

a day away,
would be nice, a stretch
of three
or four
all days
and nights together.
on the open
sea
to an unknown
place,
a port, an island,
some dune
to perch upon and ponder
what's
come and gone,
what's coming.

the photo

the photo,
black and white was pinned
to a board in his den,
left behind,
once the room where he lingered
and stared
at all the things
he was, had become.
the diplomas,
awards, family and pets
long gone.
what would be, had happened,
now what?
but the photo, of a girl.
in black and white.
unsigned, undated,
was there too. her golden hair,
or was it golden?
did she have blue eyes or
brown,
who's to know.
and him, with glasses,
shyly beside
this flower, looking down,
at something,


church people

the bed was too heavy
to move,
made of steel and real wood,
anchored to the wall,
so we covered it
and painted around it.
crawled under to get what
we could with a brush
and roller.
above it was a mirror
secured to the ceiling.
they were small people,
church people,
but they needed
this big bed for some reason,
with an ocean of a mattress.
it made you wonder.
what was going on here.

a stack of white bread

there was a lot
of white bread on the table,
growing up.
butter,
slabs of bologna,
yellow mustard,
yellow cheese,
powdered milk when the real
milk ran out.
occasionally
my mother would fall
in love
with a fireman,
or a delivery man,
or a married man with a ring
in his pocket.
the refrigerator
would become more
full then, for awhile,
but there was a price
to pay.

Monday, December 26, 2016

we're good people

it's a sinister sky.
look how low the clouds are,
like
blue knuckled fists
about to punch us.
what do they want out of us.
we try so hard
to live a good life.
what's with the floods,
the tornadoes,
the wild fires.
please dear lord, spare
us another earthquake,
or missed field goal.
and the traffic, while
you're at it, the freeway
is a mess every night,
my cat has a rash,
just to say in passing,
and if you have
the time I have this
lottery ticket, I could
use the number nine.

the spiral ham

the wonder
of the spiral ham,
precut and cooked,
a modern
miracle, no less important
than say
the discovery
of insulin
or penicillin, the building
of the great wall
in china
or the taj mahal.
they have nothing on this ham
that someone stood in
line for three hours to buy,
not me.
but yes, let's bow
and give praise
to the honey baked spiral
ham,
sweetly glazed, oh my,
are those pineapple rings?
a moment of silence
and appreciation
please, before the first
bite.

enjoy your life

he yells to me,
as I speed by on my bike,
head down
in the wind,
hands gripping
the bar
as I make the wide turn,
pedaling hard
for the hill i'm about
to climb.
he yells to me,
this old man in a fedora,
enjoy your life, then
repeats it again,
stopping to see if I look
back.
I nod, he nods,
he adjusts his hat,
plants his cane
into the gravel and moves
forward,
so do i.

the heap

it's the flat
tire
that slows me down.
a cracked
windshield making
it hard to see out.
it's the blinking light
on the dashboard
telling me
what I need to do to keep
this heap running.
it's an earring on the floor,
lipstick
and a coat,
red heels from the night
before.
it's the window
that won't roll down,
the heater
that won't heat.
it barely keeps me going,
this old car,
as I hit the gas
and find
a stale donut
stuck between the seat.

early morning

you wake up
not unhappy in the cold
air.
the rain
falling.
work another day
away,
the covers up to your neck,
you could lie
here all
morning, call
ginger and tell her
that the key
is under the mat.

small print

the print is too
small
to read in this early
morning light,
and so
am I, so are you.
each to his
own
set of directions,
set of rules.
not everything is clear
about how
to start us up,
keep us going,
make us right
and rarely are
batteries
included.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

she says my name

she's grey. her silver hair,
her nails
untrimmed, her knees
shake, she rocks
back and forth
as she says my name,
her brown eyes full of confusion.
a Christmas tree is beside
her, the lights off.
she says my name.
rocks and rocks.
how deeply I want her to sleep.

fish bowl

these fish
in a bowl. swimming.
swimming.
day in
day out. bright gold.
reaching
without hands
or understanding
to the top
for sprinkles from
you, their strange
God.

sneeze sniffle blow

the cold
keeps you home near
the tea kettle,
blanket and stove.
you sneeze, you cough,
you blow.
hard to be cheery when
deep into
these woods,
knee deep in a
drift of snow.

fresh fish

fresh fish
the sign reads. which is good.
who wants
old fish,
wrapped in yesterdays newspaper,
flies buzzing,
inedible no matter how
seasoned
and fried.
fresh love
another sign reads,
making you pause and think,
who wants old
love,
wrapped in yesterdays newspaper,
flies buzzing
after too much
time gone by.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

baking for the holidays

with my apron on,
my holiday apron with snow flakes
and candy canes
I set out to make
a few batches of Christmas
cookies
on Christmas morning.
I like to give out warm
cookies.
it's who I am.
I get the large bowl out,
the mixer
and preheat the oven.
I make myself a large
egg nog with a splash
of rum, two splashes.
I take out my old betty crocker
cookbook and turn
to the cookie page.
eggs and flour, it says.
a rolling pin,
cookie sheets,
sugar.
sprinkles.
I need to go to the store.
I have nothing.
maybe they have cookies.

the home made gift


for thirty two dollars
he found
a local artist who
made a portrait and a t-shirt
imprint of his
grandson.
he showed me the finished
pieces of art,
taking them out
of his car.
the child looked inhuman.
a greenish hue
had blended into
the flesh tone,
the hair was pointed
and wet.
the kid's eyes were
crossed, one green, the other
more blue.
his head was shaped like
an unshelled peanut.
saying nothing would have
been the best response,
but I said, oh my.
do you think she'll like
them, he asked,
folding the t-shirt neatly
and placing it back into
his car.

the tree

my father pulled over
to the side of the road one
snowy December
and chopped a tree down
a mile from
the Mt. Vernon estate,
along the state park,
beside the Potomac river.
he'd been drinking for
most of the night.
he turned the headlights
out towards the dark woods,
then carried a small hatchet
out to a line of trees.
in no time he came back
dragging an eight foot
blue fir which he
jammed into the trunk
and off we went,
his eyes glazed
blue with what he'd done,
smiling.

the fix is in

the fix is in.
it's all been decided
before you were ever born.
this is the way
it will go
and there is nothing you
can do about it.
tomorrow has already
happened.
from day one until the last
day, the last breath
you take,
each hour has
been composed. you're
just playing out the role
of you, wondering
where it all goes.

the sporty red one

her sister was cuter
and funnier than she was,
she had sass,
but I had no shot at her,
so I settled in
with the one I met
and made a go of it.
smart plain jane.
I often wondered what life
would be like
if I had gone with
the younger one,
but I think that way
about everything.
the meal I just ordered,
maybe I should have
had steak
not this plain
piece of chicken on my plate,
or the car I bought,
reserved and grey, instead
of the sporty red one.
how many white shirts
can I buy?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

at the gate

i stand alone
at the gate.
i have come
to this at this point
in my life.
at this gate.
this iron fence.
behind it something waits.
there is always
something waiting, behind
each door
i knock on.
i know nothing about where
i'm going,
but i accept that easily
with each
passing year.
the days brush by like
bullets
from a gun. i no longer
hear the bang,
or see the smoke,
i just feel
the bullet rush by,
missing me once more.
today i am at the gate,
tomorrow, God willing,
i'll be at another.

is love here

it's a narrow door.
my shoulders
rub against the frame
as I squeeze in.
the stairway
is narrow too, and dark.
a single
bulb swings
from the top of the tiled
stairs.
the stairs are a sea
green, almost brown.
the walls are
glossed with a thick
paint.
graffiti in large
black swipes
goes up as far as an
arm can reach.
I smell cabbage cooking,
I hear a dog
barking.
a baby crying.
televisions blare
behind each metal door.
there is a yellow
puddle pooled in the corner.
I wonder if there is love
here.
there has to be,
how else could one
go on.

free range

i'm in love with
a chicken farmer, she tells me.
I met him
online, well, not really met him,
we've been writing
to one another.
he sent me a picture of
his chickens.
some are white, some are brown.
he says that he
wants me to come
visit him on his ranch,
or farm,
whatever it is.
I told him that I have a fantastic
recipe for
chicken pot pies, which
upset him.
he said that he doesn't kill
his chickens,
he sells them and they
kill them.
he is very attached to his
chickens, they are almost
like pets.
free range chickens, he calls
them.
he told me to not worry about
my shoes, he has
little slip on booties
to cover them up.
as I said,
they are free range chickens.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

the good woman

he starts off
by saying, when I was indigent,
I couldn't get
insurance, or buy a car.
in fact I gave my old
car to my sister.
look at my ankle. I have gout.
a soap opera
is on tv, there is a cat
on top
of the tv.
I went to a good school,
he says,
moving strands of hair
across his bald head.
i'm an engineer
by trade, but when the market
fell,
I was out of work, i'm
still out of work.
I've haven't worked since 2002.
I have a good woman though,
he says.
she works everyday,
she leaves early and comes
home late.
I don't know why she's good
to me, he says.
but she is.
i'm trying to lose weight.
it's hard.
I take a walk everyday.
I go up to the 7-11. and back.
i'm going in a few minutes,
if I can get my shoes on.
is there anything I can get you?

sun rise

the sun is without manners,
barging in
all warm
and yellow with her
brilliant
smile. settling across
my arms,
my face.
she is not unkind,
just persistent
as she rises
and tells me gently
to get up,
get up boy, start
your day.

the unknown

I am
the man on the roof
in the hot sun
spreading tar,
the beautician
with a pair scissors
and sore feet.
I am behind the counter
cutting meat,
I am taking
money
from hand to hand
at the toll both,
I am
underground digging coal,
cutting lumber,
the clerk
from nine to five
at the
hardware store.
I am the cab driver,
the woman
cleaning homes.
I am without glory
or celebrity.
I keep my nose to the ground,
make enough
to get by.
I am invisible
to the other world
above
and below.
I am born into this,
and will
go unknown, except
for those
that love me here,
and when i'm gone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

blue lights

one light goes
out on the string and they
all go out.
which one it is
will take some time.
each needs to be spun
and tested.
you hope it's not
a blue light.
it's the only color
that you really
care about.
you can live without
orange, red
or white.
green is okay too, but
blue is
your favorite.
by Christmas
you should have it
figured out.

hurry, the bus is coming

who isn't busy, I tell
her on the phone. who doesn't
have a thousand
things to do,
places to be.
who isn't driving the kids
to school,
taking the dog in,
waiting for the plumber,
the maid,
late for work again.
who isn't in a hurry?
you, she says.
you seem to be past all
of that.
true, I say. true.

snow chains

my father on his knees
wrapping snow
chains around the rear
tires is an image I have
of him.
cigarette in his mouth,
no gloves, a car jacket
on. his soft shoes.
the car running, a blue
cloud of exhaust
dirtying the snow.
I see him in the morning,
out there, trying
to get away, to get somewhere,
he's always been on the run,
just out of reach,
wrapping snow chains
around tires, clueless
about love
and what it takes to stay
home.

receipts

you keep the receipts
to everything.
one never knows if a gift
needs to be
returned,
if it's even given.
things change.
how easily the storm
moves in,
makes love cold.

now sold

how quickly we
disappear. the voice
you heard
last night,
the presence, those light
footsteps
down the stairs.
how quickly the bed
is cold.
one dish set out,
one key
left on a table, the sign
gone up
for sale, the empty house,
now sold.

Monday, December 19, 2016

holiday shopping

i take a day off
from work
to go Christmas shopping.
it's too early
to start drinking,
so i don't.
I stare at the bottle of
Russian vodka
in the ice box.
the tonic water and lime.
I look at the untouched
fruit cake
that my father sent me.
thirty pounds of hardened goo.
re-gifting crosses my mind,
but there is no one
that I dislike that much.
my circle of friends
that i must reciprocate gifts
for has shrunken
down to just a few.
death and distance has taken
its toll. some have become
devout atheists and are
going to hell
in a handbasket, so
the list is short.
life is short.
it's cold out, where are my gloves?
but I digress.
everyone has everything
already.
who doesn't have a toaster
oven,
or a food processor by now?
how much lingerie
or pairs of fuzzy slippers
can a woman have?
I sit in my car and stare
out at the vast
parking lot of the shopping mall,
excuse me,
I mean towne center,
the acres of cars.
it's almost time to go in.
I see the salvation army santa
putting out his cigarette
beneath his unshined
boot,
he rings his bell in his slow
methodical way, adjusting his
yellowed beard.
I break some smelling salts
under my nose,
take a sip of my black
coffee. I go in.

the weathervane

a dry spell
arrives across the land of you.
the hills
bare and brown.
the sky a low
band of white clouds
doing nothing.
you sigh.
you look around.
there is no inspiration
in the well.
the hills,
the face in the window
wondering
what's wrong with you.
the weathervane,
is unmoving
on the peak.

men are different

for women
it's not a one day celebration.
it's a week or two
week long
affair of gatherings,
and parties,
balloons and cakes.
the announcements before
hand
so that everyone knows,
so that everyone
comes and can join in.
it's
candles blown out,
tears and hugs.
gifts and flowers.
men are different,
they say, oh yeah, it
was yesterday.

ancient love

just a vase.
a relic from another age.
spun
and shaped
by someone's hands
in Italy,
or france.
or maybe bayonne new jersey.
who's to know
where things
come from
anymore.
but now, it's dust
and shards
upon the floor,
tumbled down
by a shaky leg from
the end table
you pulled out
from the wall.
don't worry, she says.
it was a gift
from someone I don't
love anymore.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

after bible study

i picked Susie
up after her bible study
one night, one winter,
a thousand years ago.
she didn't want to go home
right away, so we
bought a bottle
of wine, drank it in the car
then went back to the church
where she showed me
the wooden shed where they kept
the Christmas
decorations. the long strings
of lights and candles.
the manger,
with the straw.
the shepherds. the three
kings. mary, joseph and the
baby Jesus.
we sat down next to the
bales of straw. leaning on
a plastic camel
lying on his side
and kissed, drank more wine.
the moon shot through
the cracks of the split planks,
lighting us up in stripes.
we shouldn't do this,
she said. pointing around
at the still figures.
i turned each of them away
so that their eyes were not
looking at us, but still
she said no.
for a little while.

liver and onions

I remember my
mother standing over the stove,
at the thick black
pan spitting grease,
sautéing beef livers
and onions.
we gagged.
wanted none of it.
she knew that, finally
finding one
thing to eat
that we didn't want
to share and devour.

the side of the road

you hate
to see a dead cat
or dog
on the side of the street,
off the leash,
a collar
on. a runaway from
home.
careless out
on the open roads.
but with muskrats
it's different,
armadillos,
or squirrels, even
a bird
that flies into
your windshield,
a snake, perhaps,
you just don't have
that same
fuzzy sadness for them
and drive on
quickly
forgetting about it.

the rear view mirror

after many years,
it's easy to look back
and think
what was I doing
at that point in my life,
in that job,
in those clothes,
driving that car, married
to that particular
wife.
she can't be thinking
the same thing,
can she?

her birthday at 65

I don't want cake,
she says, no
surprise party for me.
I don't need
another wish
after blowing out my candles.
I don't need
a gift,
or a dozen roses,
or a card telling me
to be happy.
I just want
love
and another twenty years
in good health
to enjoy it.

no worry

no worry
or wonder presents
itself
to the small bird,
sparrow,
browned and grey,
or black bird,
cardinal bright as blood
against the fallen
snow.
no stress
in what has occurred
overnight,
with wind and darkness
in the absence
of light.
it is just a day,
and what is needed will
be found,
or not, it continues,
or the next step of life
will occur.
none seemed bothered
like we are,
by it all.

loose change

the blue bowl
on top of the refrigerator
is full of
change.
lint, screws and nails,
nuts
and bolts,
debris of the day
taken from
my pockets.
in time i'll take it
all to the bank
and let it roll through
the machine,
counting out
my cash.
spooning the nickels
and dimes
into the slot.
keeping the trash out.
it's clean
money
going in, clean going
out.
it feels like a bonus
for some reason.
like finding
change between the cushions
of the couch,
or dollars
in the dryer, warm
and crisp.

small claims

you tried not
to finish his sentences
as he struggled
to get the words out.
his stammer and stutter
a slow nervous go
as you both stood in front
of the judge.
he was your lawyer for a small
fee, a small
case.
a life long friend.
so you let him go,
let him ramble
in his stop and start way,
his confidence never
swayed by
his gulping for air
and words.
in time, he finished
and won, shaking your hand,
happy to have
helped you,
happy that you kept
quiet
and let him be himself.

Friday, December 16, 2016

i've been here before

I remember you,
the doctor's assistant says.
a little button
on the side of her nose,
her shoulders squared.
her hair, a helmet of hair.
she's german.
I remember you, she
says again.
allergies, right?
whatever, I say.
sniffling and blowing
my nose into a fist full
of tissue.
sit, she says. I need
to take your blood pressure,
stand.
I need to weigh you.
tell me how you are.
allergies, I tell her.
wind, rain, the earth.
it all makes me sneeze.
blow into this tube she says.
let's measure your lungs.
I blow.
three times, I blow.
each less than the one
before.
she shrugs. oh well, she
says. and marks
something in a chart.
the doctor will be with
you soon. wait.
I sneeze. I wait. I've
been here before.
as in all in things now.
I've been here before.

the skaters

the ice
grows thick across the pond
while the melt
of sun
slips under a blanket
of woolen
blue.
the skaters wait,
skates tied tight as
a moon rises
across the mirrored curve.
these are places where
lovers go,
where the lonely
go,
where children
play, and me
wondering where you
are today.

where we stand

the yard
divided by a stretch of fence,
a wall,
a line of trees
or shrubs
keeps us
in our place. keeps
us home,
across
the border which tells
us where
we should be. what's mine
is mine,
what's yours is yours.
the space between us
is
not unlike
these barriers, whether
soft or hard,
defining where we stand.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

the long drive home

she was wearing her
white plastic
boots
out in the yard, a hoe
nearby in case
a snake slithered up.
she was raking leaves
in a long
dress, her hair up.
her face a plum color
in the cold.
the trees were bare
and the sun was
as low as it gets for
that time of year.
i remember looking out
the window
watching her,
raking, pulling weeds,
moving rocks from one place
to another
for no other reason
than it felt right.
sometimes she'd look up
and wave.
i'd wave back and think
about how empty the trees
had become.
i'd think about the long
drive home.

our five and dime

we miss our
five and dime, Lydia
and me.
we miss
the short walk over
past the old Anderson house.
the coffee shop,
the hardware store,
the alley where the bums
hung out.
we miss our five and dime,
our red vinyl seats where
we could sit all
afternoon
and drink coffee,
eat pie
and talk about
the good old days,
before this, before that
how everything was better
back then.
we miss our five
and dime.
Lydia and me, when
she was around,
we'd go hand in hand
to our little
store, sometimes
stopping to kiss
under a lamp post,
at the beginning of us,
at the edge of town.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

she loves to dance

she likes to dance.
no, let me correct that.
she loves
to dance.
she loves to tell everyone
within range
how much she
loves to dance.
in fact, every chance
she gets
she tells someone
i'm going dancing tomorrow
or tonight,
or Saturday.
I might even go alone,
she says.
she'll stretch
her arms
out, touch her toes
and arch her
back, leaning on a bar stool.
she'll ask if she ever
told you
that she loves
dance, then kick
her leg into the air
to show you
how limber she is.
we should go dancing sometime
she tells you.
do you dance?
you say no, looking at your
watch.

the lollipop

despite
my accounts, my picture
id
and deposit slip
with my name and address
clearly printed
on it,
the teller
at my bank is highly
suspicious.
he needs to go talk
to the manager
he says,
looking at me sideways
turning the check
over and over,
squinting
at the numbers.
he locks up his drawer
then leaves.
I take a lollipop from
the bowl
and wait.
sucking on it's sweet
pineapple
candy
until he returns
to ask will that be
in fifties or twenties.

tomorrow

what's sweet
isn't always so. what's
golden
doesn't always
glow.
what's real
sometimes is just
an illusion.
which are you today,
tomorrow,
before we go any further,
I need to know.

the barking dog

does that dog bark
all day,
the new owner asks,
as we paint his house
and he comes
to see the progress
of the work.
no, I tell him,
only when you are here.
oh, he says,
looking out the window
at the chained
dog, the hair
on his back standing.

christmas cookies

she offered us
a cookie.
a sugar cookie, hot
from the oven
with sprinkles.
red and green,
Christmas cookies.
she held the plate
out
and said, take a few.
they're still warm.
so we did
for the ride home,
but I wondered
where the icing was,
like my mother used
to do.

don't borrow money

don't borrow money
from a friend
or relative, or go into
business with
them.
don't sit a table
and discuss
politics or religion.
don't confess
or listen to confessions.
don't offer
advice,
or seek counsel.
close your ears when
a secret is whispered
towards you.
to make this love last,
quiet acceptance
is the best
route to take.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

her wings

I look at a road
map, to see how far it is
to where she lives
across country.
I look at the red lines,
the blue highways.
the mountains,
the streams and valleys
i'd need to cross
and go through to get to
her. it's hard
getting from here to there
without wings.
she used to have wings.
she used
to arrive with feathers
flying.

the love notes

each day
there is a note attached
to your door.
the gutters are going to be
cleaned,
the roof replaced,
we need to get into
your back yard
so unlock the gate.
we will
be painting next week,
digging up
the old to replant
the new.
trash pick up will be
on Friday this week not
Thursday on account of
the holiday.
never is there a note
saying I love
you. I stopped by to crawl
into bed with
you and kiss you
all over.

preparing for the worst

you have enough
of nearly everything.
spoons
fill the drawer, clothes
are stuffed
in the closets.
more shoes
than you'll ever need
are lined against the wall.
there is milk
and bread,
eggs.
cans of food you'll never
open or eat.
you've spent a lifetime
adding more
onto more
of things you don't need.
you have been preparing
for the worst, it seems.
waiting for the mushroom
cloud on the horizon.
you are still running
home from school
with the sirens blowing
looking up into
the sky
for end.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

i hardly know you

she says no.
you say why not.
she says
I hardly know you.
you say,
I know, but what's
the point.
perhaps in doing this
we will get to know
one another better.
maybe, she says.
good,
you say.
that's better than
a no.
perhaps tomorrow i'll
hear a yes.
maybe,
she says. maybe,
but for now it's no,
so it might be
best that you
put your shoes back on
and go.

space travel

they've given up
on going to the moon.
been there,
done that.
there is no reason to return.
we have our own rocks
here on earth.
on the moon there is
no air.
no water.
no heat.
no coffee.
they ponder mars next.
peering through
the long telescope,
nodding yes.
maybe
it will be more accommodating.

barcelona 1959

the wooden wagon
pulled by a horse,
an old
horse, sagging at the seat,
sloped
from his work,
stops
to deliver ice.
with sharp tongs
the man in a striped shirt
pulls
a block of melting
ice from the back
of the wagon,
undrapping a canvas
cloth.
he carts it in
to where your mother
chips it
on the kitchen floor.
a hammer and chisel
in hands.
she stores
what she can into the ice
box,
keeping cold
for another week
milk
and meat.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

the old tricks

I see the trick
in you. the way the cards
are held,
the way, you turn
and hide what you're
up to. the deceptive shuffle.
I see the full
sleeve, the top hat,
what's in your pockets.
I know all of your
distractions, your ploys
to make me
look the other way.
I know you.
you know that don't you.
so stop, please
and come here and sit,
tell me
what's on your mind.

flames

the fire grows
as you bend and feed it
sticks
broken in your hand.
tossing more into the flames.
like affection,
the more you give,
the more love and fires
grow.

the subway ride

his long black
coat
hung thick and wide
on his
bone thin body.
his hand held the strap
as the subway
car veered
and swayed beneath
the cold bricks
and pavement of the city.
his wife
sat near, studying her
gloved hands.
his silvered eyes
watched
as the stations
rolled by, his good ear
leaning towards
the sound of the conductor's
voice.
when they arrived,
the doors slid open
then he nodded to her,
and together they rose
and went to town.

before you go

before you go,
kiss me.
before you leave,
put your hand
upon my heart and say
you love me.
before you
close the door and
walk away
for the last time,
tell me something
I can hold on to
and not be sad.
before you go,
kiss me once
more, like you
did before, when our
love was new,
when it just began.

Friday, December 9, 2016

the pie eulogy

each and every mourner
though
hardly in mourning,
expressed with some touch
of mirth their
eulogy for aunt jean,
though never really an aunt,
or parent of her own.
instead of grief
and regret,
they spoke of joy, of
her baking
skills,
the culinary masterworks
of her life.
one said
how soft and crumbly
the crust
was on her blueberry
nine inch pie, how it
won the county prize,
the blue ribbon even
now adorning
the silver casket which
sits aside
the dirt which will fill
the perfectly carved space
that awaits her.
another talked of pumpkin
pies
which she made for the holidays,
another eulogist brought
up
her mince meat wonder,
the secrets of which are now
departed with her.
she would be as missed as she
was truly
unknown, or even perhaps
loved, though
finding a way through eggs
and cream, sugar
and dough, a way to overcome
all that.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

before night

the worker
at his station, bent
over
a machine, grinding
metal down
into a different shape.
the heat and flame
in his hand,
his head
masked hard
to protect him.
there is no complaint,
no concern
about what he does,
the danger,
he only fears that one
day
the job won't be there,
then
what is there to do,
what good
are empty hands
to his children, his wife,
the day
he needs to fill
before night.

these woods

these woods you walk
into
then walk out
haven't changed
much over
the years, so you
think,
as you do of yourself.
ignoring
what's fallen,
what's died
or grown over.
there are bones scattered
along the path
that you walk
over.
the bare whiteness
of flesh removed
awakens you
to nothing new.
you'll return to these woods
many times
before your own death,
before your own bones
are laid bare,
which bothers you
less and less
as you go deeper into
these old woods.

she's not there

you can rent a room
by the hour
in Amherst
and see what she saw.
peer out her second
story window,
sit where
she sat
and wrote in her strange
exact
way of writing,
perhaps feel
the heat from her stove,
touch
the bed, the linens
where she lay
before
placing beneath the mattress
her poems,
but still you won't
know her.
everything remains
as it was,
except she's not there.

firmly ashore

it appears to be a short
swim
across the river
to the other side.
the lane
of water moves blue
and soft under
a warm sun.
it looks easy
when you're young,
but you think,
differently now
knowing what you know,
and what lies below.

what draws near

all day
the dead are with you.
whispering
into your ear.
putting a hand on
your shoulder.
there is nothing to be
said in return.
you can only listen,
listen
to what is said,
and wait for
what draws near.

the game

the men are getting old,
after decades
of playing ball together,
yet,
they still show
up
in woolen clothes,
hats,
sweats buttoned
and pulled
tight to keep out
the wind,
the cold. the limps
and aches
laughed at as we press on.
it's more than a game,
more than
exercise,
it's beyond all of that.
it's beyond what we
can even begin
to know.

these tools

these tools
that know your hand,
shaped
by days of work
are neither friend nor
foe, but
things,
things you hold
only
when it's time,
when they are needed,
so perhaps,
they are no
different after all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

giddyup

I've been thinking about
buying a horse.
I know nothing about horses.
I've seen them
on tv and in the movies though
and they look like a lot of fun.
if I had a horse I think
I could meet women
who also like horses, which
seems to be every
woman on earth.
I like those pants they wear,
and the boots that go up
past the knees. nice.
love the boots. not to mention
those tight red
jackets with shiny buttons, and hats.
I hate to admit it, but I like
those riding crops too.
maybe I could buy a medium sized horse,
similar to the one
roy rogers had,
trigger. same color, blonde
with brown eyes.
I wouldn't have to get on
it, or ride it around,
I could just keep it in
a barn somewhere and go
down to visit once in awhile,
swat some flies
off it,
hose it down, maybe walk it around
the pasture, bring it some
carrots, oats, cubes
of sugar. maybe for Christmas
someone will buy me a horse.
that would be swell.

love notes

a rock flies through
your window
with a note attached.
it must be from an old
lover, you think,
watching it as it rolls
to a stop
against the far wall,
next to all the other
rocks with notes attached.
you sip your coffee
as the dog goes over
to sniff the new
rock. he looks at you
and shrugs.
some people never quite
get over things, you
think, as you write
your own note
and tape it to a nice
sized rock.

the new you

my therapist asks me how
things are going
lately with the new job,
the new
girlfriend, the new dog,
the new apartment.
i'm stretched out on her
sofa staring at my new
brown shoes and playing
with the buttons on my
new shirt.
good, I say. good. I
think that change is good,
right?
but sometimes I feel like
I don't know who I am
anymore after turning
over so many new leaves.
I see she says.
I look in the mirror with
my new haircut and suntan,
and I almost don't recognize
myself. I ask my new friends
who I am and they laugh.
but are you happy, she says,
clicking her pen open
and closed. are you happy
with the new you?
not really, I tell her.
not really. I sort of miss me.

heading south

it's almost time
to hop the freight train
to florida, find an orange
grove to call home.
you've thrown out the plants,
cleaned
out the perishables
from the fridge.
folded all the laundry.
yesterday there was
ice on the windshield.
you stared at your snow
shovel
still against the wall
in the basement.
maybe after Christmas,
or new years
you'll go down to the station
and pick out a nice
empty box car,
chase it as it rambles
slowly south
and jump on.
a bag of clothes, a pocket
full of cash
a banjo strapped
to your back.

Monday, December 5, 2016

escape plan

it's good to know
where the back door is.
where the key
is hidden, which window
is not latched.
it's good to know,
there's
a basement or any attic
where you can go
and get out in a flash.
it's good
to have a plan
of escape
in any form of endeavor.

how easy


how easy
and cruel it is
to argue and not agree,
preaching
one's own
brand of knowledge
and opinion
to any ear
within reach, that
cannot flee.

rest in peace

til death do we
part sounds
ominous, but it's really
an optimistic note
on a tragic ending.
you are finally free
to eat
what you want, wear
the clothes that you want,
snore and snore
away
stretching, having
the whole bed to your self.
you can stay
home and watch the game
in your underwear,
no longer
attending the gatherings
of in-laws,
making small talk, while
checking your
phone for the score.
may we both rest in peace.

the beard

a completely smooth
shave
is difficult
as one ages.
the creases and sags,
the nooks
and crannies
of one's face grows
increasingly strange,
becoming new
terrain for the razor.
some stubble
is left behind, shaving
cream too,
behind an ear,
along the neck.
there are nicks, cuts
that dribble out
rivulets of blood,
stopped only
with tissue
or the collar of a shirt.
as time goes on you have
new admiration
for those
that give it all
up, and discover
the ease
of a walt Whitman beard.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

the rainbow arm

we signed
the cast on my mother's arm
the next day.
colored it
with paint
and crayons.
a rainbow appeared
on the white cast
that went from
wrist
to elbow.
thick and smoothed,
wrapped so that a thumb
and fingers
poked out.
she still
had her left hand
to boil water,
fill bottles,
change diapers
and get us to school.
my father
remained unscathed.
sleeping it all
off,
only a small scratch
on his unshaved
face.

the all night store

some cans,
some jars with labels
torn
expiration dates
met
and passed
remain
on the shelf.
some in the ice
box
others
in the cupboard,
nestled tightly,
side by side.
sometimes I move them
to the back
to make room
for more.
like us.
what was new becomes
old,
replaced, renewed,
replenished
from
the open all night
store.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

physics class

i know little about science
or physics
having learned
the bare minimum
back in high school
the rudimentary knowledge
forced upon
us by narrow
collared teachers
with thick
spectacles. my thoughts
lay elsewhere.
there was no enjoyment
in learning
how an apple
on the moon dropped
would hit the ground
at the same time as a feather.
did Cyndi know that?
three rows up
in her plaid skirt.
her pony tail.
her small hand raised
for nearly
every question posed?
of course she did.

was it fun?

it's less
about love or money,
things
possessed
things lost in the long
shuffle
of life.
it's not where
you are, how far you've
come.
who you know,
or
sleep with.
it's not the car, the house,
the prizes
that you've won,
the diplomas earned,
it's about none
of this as the end
draws near.
as the light grows dim
around you.
was it fun?

the day and the next day

early
in the morning,
I watch the man
smooth
the mortar with a pointed
trowel
along the walk way,
tapping
new bricks into place.
his level
tells him less
or more.
he wipes his brow,
sips
his water.
in time the stairs are
new again.
settling hard,
for feet to tread upon.
he goes home,
has dinner with his wife.
tells his
children
goodnight, and thinks
about
the next day, the next
set of steps
he needs to make
right.

this wind

this wind
carves
the woods. unsettles all
not tight
and wound
upon the trees.
the shiver of winter
nears.
how quickly
the pages turn,
the lives
of loved ones,
once flowers,
disappear,

Friday, December 2, 2016

i've met someone

through the shared wall
I could hear my neighbor
playing her piano.
sometimes if there were no
students there,
she would sing too.
she had a high pitched voice
not unlike laura nyro.
I preferred her just playing.
it was easy
to lie there
and fall asleep on the couch
as her fingers danced
easily across
the keys.
we never talked about it
when we greeted each
other in the parking lot,
coming and going, raking leaves,
or shoveling snow.
one day she told me that she
had met someone.
it wasn't long after that,
that she moved.

season tickets

on the phone, very late
into the night
my friend
calls.
he's unusually calm, whispering
into the phone,
I imagine his
hand cupped around the
speaker,
as he looks towards
the basement steps
to see if anyone
is coming down.
i'm getting a divorce, he
says.
I found a place, a condo,
on the west end.
it's perfect.
he gives me no time to
respond and keeps
talking.
I've met someone, he says,
actually I have
maybe three prospects.
my wife doesn't know,
the kids
don't know. I've only
told a few people,
you being one
of them. he waits.
I here him breathing,
waiting for me to say something.
what about your season
tickets to the games,
I ask him.
my god he says, I haven't
even thought about that.

like us

the ship
seems still
that far out along the grey
green coast
of the atlantic
ocean.
it hardly
appears to be moving,
going anywhere.
you can see the curve
of the earth.
looking left to right,
the way shadows
lie down
like blankets
upon the wide sea,
but the ship, it's dull red
hull remains still,
until it doesn't
anymore, and like us,
disappears
from view.

be happy

it's not just another
day
the speaker says, jubilant
and glowing
on the stage,
giving his seminar
on positive thinking
and finding joy
in your life
no matter what the
circumstances.
today is the first day
of the rest of your life
he shouts.
he bounces around
in his new suit and shoes,
his hair slicked
back. his books
are stacked up on a table,
to be sold,
signed and ready
to go.
it's all going well until
someone in
the audience
throws a tomato at him.
hitting him in the head.
he's not so
happy then.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

spit polish

I haven't shined a pair of shoes
in a long time.
maybe decades have passed
since I took out the small
bag with polish
and brush, a chamois cloth
and put a sheen onto a pair
of buster browns.
there hasn't been a need to.
the funeral shoes
get dusty, but are almost
new. the wedding shoes,
which look like the funeral
shoes, but more fancy,
are the same. dusty and just
need a wiping of a dry cloth.
but if I had to, I could.
I could take a pair
of dulled leather boots
and make them glow, make
them shine in the overhead
light at the kitchen table.
the newspaper down, just like
my mother told me.

we need you

when you worked in an office
any task
that involved lifting
came to you
being low man on the pole.
they found you in your boxed
in corner,
behind a desk,
holding a mere
pencil that was about
to be broken in your restless fist.
what was the point of
being young
and strong if you were
not to be used
in this way.
get the box off the top
shelf, we need more paper,
they'd say.
get the dolly and wheel
this water cooler out to the curb.
lift it into
the trunk.
can you move the copying
machine out from
the wall,
can you lift that desk,
slide the cubicle
down a few feet?
but you didn't mind.
at happy hour things were
different.

hot tea

the hot tea
burns your tongue.
for hours
it stings
at the tip, along
the edges,
it's a small reminder
of what can
happen
when you sip too quickly
too soon,
put your lips
to the edge
of any hot cup
you don't know.

you're welcome

the boy who sat
next to me through twelve grades
of school. the boy
who cheated off my
papers, copied
my homework, word
for word.
the boy who never read
a book, or
raised his hand
in class.
yes, that boy,
the boy who I slipped
the answers to
during every test
for years and years,
that boy
is now a doctor.
I want to visit him
at some point
and tell him, you're
welcome.

unlike mine

I worry about my son,
how casual
and carefree he is living
in southern California.
I want him to once
struggle
and be unable to sleep,
to concern himself
about money and a career.
but no.
instead, he's happy
with his life.
basking in the glow
of a warm sun,
making ends meet.
he's content with his girlfriend,
his dog,
his ability to relax
and live a life
unlike mine.

holiday decor

the lights won't go on.
you flip
the switch.
but no.
the silver tree stays unlit.
you pull on the wire,
pop in new batteries,
still nothing.
you pick it up and give
it a good shake.
it might be time
for a new Christmas tree
to set upon your table.
it had a good
run though.
seven or eight years
being carried
up from the laundry
room
to complete your extensive
holiday
decorating.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

nothing said

the small boy
with his truck, makes all the noises
that he imagines
a truck would make,
going forward, going backwards.
he's in the middle of the floor
of the rest home
where my mother sits in a rocker,
rocking towards
the television
in the corner.
the boy wants attention, wants
someone to play
with.
my mother stares at him
blankly, unsmiling,
unsure
of this boy, his bright eyes,
his light hair,
his feverish game alone
on the floor.
she can't get the words out,
then looks at me,
trying so hard
to make sense of any of this.
there is nothing i can
say to help.

i understand

the salesman
rings the bell. I see him
straighten his
tie
as I peer through the peep
hole
in the door.
he rings it again,
then uses the knocker.
banging loudly.
I can see you looking out,
he says.
I know you're in there.
he goes to the window
and sees the tv
on. the pot boiling water.
I duck down
behind the sink.
come on, he says. open up.
I know you need
term life insurance
and this is a once in a life
time deal.
hey, he yells.
finally I yell back to him.
I can't open up,
I say loudly.
I have a woman in here.
oh, he says. i'm sorry,
so when is a good
time to come back?
I don't know, I tell him.
you never know about
these things.
to which he says,
i understand
completely, then leaves..

islands in the fog

I can't remember her name,
but I do remember what she looked
like. what her skin felt like.
black hair, black eyes.
short, on the curvy side.
she said she was half American
indian and half French. who knows.
we went out for a while.
I can't even remember where
I met her.
in a club, maybe. dancing,
drinking,
doing what young men did
back then.
it wasn't really going out,
it was more
her coming to my apartment
and spending a few hours
eating and making love.
she never spent the night,
she had a kid, or two kids
she had to get back to.
I was never clear on that.
a lot of what I remember about
her is vague, as if it all
happened in a fog.
but I do remember her skin.
how rough it was. how hard
and grainy it was to the touch.
I had never felt skin like
that before
and would slowly
drag my finger tips across
her back, being amazed,
but not saying a word.
in time, I drifted away,
so did she.

new choppers

he is proud of his new teeth
and opens
his mouth
to show them to me at 8 o'clock
in the morning.
a cloud of
Marlboro smoke
puffs out.
nice, I tell him.
they look
good, real.
they only hurt a little,
he says.
they smoothed down
the bone that was keeping
them from snapping
into place.
nice I say.
i'm going to the steak house
this
weekend,
he tells me.
i'm getting loaded baked
potatoes along
with a ribeye.
good, I tell him.
good.
then hand him a bucket
and a brush,
and point to a spot
near the ceiling
that he missed yesterday.

while eating nuts

I could be a doctor
by now,
or an esteemed lawyer,
or scientist
solving the mysteries
that confound
the world,
but no, instead I sit
here on the couch
breaking apart pistachio
nuts with my
teeth and tongue,
spitting shells into
a bowl
cupped between my legs,
while
flipping back and forth
from channel to channel
on the big screen
smart tv.

the pool

how excited you
were
to see the pool in the backyard
when you came home
from school,
your mother
in her plaid shorts
filling it up with a garden
hose.
the dog already inside
splashing around.
these luxuries
made your summer.
an above ground pool,
blue,
and bulging at the sides.
a wire mesh
holding it all together.
like birds,
the neighborhood
filled it up with children.
it lasted a week,
but a good week
it was that early june.

the door is ajar

the door is ajar.
someone has just left
or just come in.
there is no car
in the driveway,
the dog hasn't barked.
I hear no footsteps
about the house.
nothing. I go and sit
on the sofa.
await, whoever it
might be. ready to hear
their story
and then tell mine.

a love poem

the itch is still there.
nothing can
reach it, no stick or door
edge,
no rolling in
the blankets,
no book will find
it.
no stranger's hand
can locate
where it is
within your heart.
only you
can scratch it out,
come soon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

who needs them

if not for the cats we
wouldn't have to change the floors,
she says to me,
pointing at brown
rust spots in the carpet.
the previous owner had five cats.
can you believe that?
one or two should be the legal
limit, I tell her,
watching where i'm stepping.
personally I prefer
dogs, she says. not a big dog,
or one of those small
yapping dogs, but a medium
sized dog.
me too, I tell her.
to be honest with you,
i'm a dog person.
in fact, she says, I like
dogs better than most people.
I smile and nod my head.
I agree, people can be a pain
in the neck, I say. people,
pffft,
who needs them.?

from here to there

not everyone
wants to go home.
go back to from where they came.
some want
to stay on the open
road.
keep moving, keep
getting farther
and farther away from
where they came.
so many directions to go.
so many ways
to travel.
so many years to get from
here to there
and to forget.

stop doing that

oh my
the dental hygienist says,
adjusting her glasses,
and her mask,
there's a lot
of blood coming from
that gum
behind
your wisdom tooth.
I hold up my hand
in a koko the monkey gesture
to stop.
grimacing at the pain.
she sucks the blood
out of my mouth
with a plastic tube
and then I tell her,
it's bleeding because
you keep stabbing me
with that metal tool
sharpened to a razor
like point.
every time you jab it
into my gums,
I bleed. why are you doing
that?

Monday, November 28, 2016

one more

a woman once
brought a baby to our parent's
house
wrapped in a blanket.
no one but us children
were home.
she had dark hair,
dark eyes.
she looked like
none of us. we were children,
but took the baby
from this strange woman.
here's your father's
baby she said,
handing the small thing
to my little sister, who bent
from the weight.
tell him I left his baby
with you, she said, then left.
we watched her out the window,
lighting a cigarette, then
driving away.
someone changed the baby's diaper,
someone heated up
a bottle of milk,
someone brushed her hair,
then rocked her to sleep.
what was one more?

a side order

she likes love.
being in love, being with
one person
for the rest of her life.
whether bound
by the laws marriage or
a simple handshake,
but she says it's like
having your favorite
dinner every night.
steak, or pasta, or a
fresh garden salad.
it never changes, she says,
still smiling,
but looking down the road
at the neon sign
of a diner, flashing open.
sometimes though, she says,
it would be nice
to have a side
order of something different.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

the burden of love


when my son tired
walking around the lake,

I picked him up,
let him ride

on my back for a mile
or two, then set

him down.
we'd rest on a bench facing

the sun,
skipping rocks,

searching for turtles
or frogs just to say

we saw one.
he's too large to carry now,

living on another coast,
but I do hold him

in my heart at night,
the burden of love

is never set down.

found money

you find
a warm, crumpled five
dollar bill
in the dryer
and consider it luck.
but it isn't luck.
it's something else.
it's money
laundered clean,
ready to be spent
or lost again.

have a good one

you can't remember
if you've sent this card before.
the generic one with
snow
and a sky full of stars.
not an angel or mention
of Christ to
be found.
the box of a hundred
has dwindled down
to a dozen or less
over the years.
your list
has grown shorter
as people die
or move to places far
away. there are
other ways now
to say merry Christmas
happy new year. benignly
of course
so as not to offend,
maybe a smile
with the words, texted,
have a good one.

jumper cables

there was a time
when
it got cold, really cold.
when the streets were
white,
ice on the windshield cold,
so cold
that no one's car
would start.
the whole block was full
of beat up cars
with their hoods up,
jumper cables
strung from one car to
another,
the men would stand nearby
by as the batteries
charged,
and blue exhaust
dirtied the snow, bloomed
acrid in the air.
the men, old and young
smoked and grunted,
tightening their thin
coats while
rubbing their
two day beards. the women
would be inside,
waiting,
looking out the windows
with long faces
thinking things they could
never say
or do.

holiday memories

let's not fight
today, I tell her as she
picks up a plate
of left over turkey to hurl
at me. the look on her
face
is that of her mother's.
I suddenly see the future.
let's let bygones be
bygones. okay?
I duck when the plate
comes flying towards my
head. it crashes into
the wall
knocking down our wedding
pictures
on the mantle.
the dog, cowering under
the table
seizes the moment, rushes
out for bones
and debris, some gravy,
the inedible butternut squash
that her
mother brought over.

spice cake

what is there
in the cake
that isn't in you.
sugar, eggs, cream
and butter.
icing. spice.
I could have a slice
of you a day
but that
might be too much
for my
sweet tooth,
making me take you for
granted.
just having you near
under glass,
with knife
nearby is enough
to get me through
the day, or night,
without a bite,
a nibble, a slice,
although a midnight
taste would
certainly be nice.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

the red planet

you sign up
for the mission to mars, and strangely
they accept your
application.
you just want to get away
for awhile
in a space suit,
eat things out of a tube,
look out the window
at the planets,
the stars.
you just want to go along
for the ride
and not work, or push
buttons, or
say things like all systems
go, or roger that.
maybe you'll take a nap
along the way, stretch out
and do some crossword puzzles.
use your phone
to take pictures, on
the alert
for alien space ships, pointing
interesting things
out to the busy
astronauts.
you can help gather rocks
and stuff like
that when you get there
if your back hasn't stiffened up
from the long trip.
maybe you'll straighten up
the ship
when the real astronauts
are out doing things.
you imagine there will be
red dust floating everywhere.
maybe you'll see
if betty can come too.
she doesn't eat much or take
up too much room.
we can share a space suit
if need be. she can bring her
vacuum.

maybe Spain

they live
and die politics. listening all
day
to the pundits,
to the blabbering talk
shows,
but just one side.
they rattle
the paper in front of you
and cry,
did you read this.
look at the headline.
did you see what he's going
to do now?
they are distressed
and crying. everyday they moan
and groan,
they can't sleep, or eat.
it's the end
they say,
we're moving to Canada,
to cuba,
to the Netherlands,
maybe Spain.

the long visit

they come
to visit. luggage. a dog.
three kids
in tow,
all table high,
all turning knobs on
the stove.
the back door is left
open.
the music turned
up.
in the middle of the night
they wander
and cough.
I hear the steps creak,
the bedsprings as they
make love,
fight.
these blood strangers
who come
just once a year,
have settled upon
the sofa,
holding the remote,
asking
if there is anything
cold to drink,
or hot.
nothing is put back.
the dishes
rise
in the sink. it's only
Saturday morning.
but not too early
to start drinking.

Friday, November 25, 2016

unhurried

unhurried
in a fast world, I hug
the right lane,
linger
at the end of any line,
unrushed
with groceries.
I have the luxury
of time.
no place to be,
no traffic to beat,
no concern
about the bridge or
weather.
I am free.

it's different now

she rocks
perpetually, front to back,
in her red sweater,
buttoned
by hands
not hers. her slippers on,
her soft pants,
her hair chopped
across
then combed straight,
unlike
any hair, I've seen
on her
throughout my life.
she says my name,
over
and over, as I ask her
what she's
thinking,
what she remembers.
childlike she looks me
in the eye
embarrassed by her shyness,
her tears.
I think of you, she says,
I think of everyone all
the time. but
it's different now, she
manages.
it's different, then
I too
cry.

the holiday

her photos of ample food,
of silver
ware
and plates, emptied,
full.
her snap shots of lights,
candles
flickering,
before the carving,
after.
tell me
little.
not a single face
is seen, not
a tear wiped by the back
of hand.
not a smile,
or sweet kiss given.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

turkey chain gang

I saw a chain
gang of turkeys running
down the street,
in my dream.
they looked back at the butcher
in his bloodied
apron, carrying an axe.
together they ran
until they got on a bus,
taking the cross
town
where they hoped
to board a train at Penn Station
and get out of Dodge.
they sat in the back,
keeping their long necks still,
their nervous voices down,
looking out the window
at the butcher,
shaking his head,
his long frown.

a swan

the white swan
in the man made lake,
shallow
and wide,
moves gracefully
across the water,
a beauty out
of place,
behind the mall,
the tire center,
the rail road tracks,
a gutted barn
at the edge.
she glides from side
to side,
her long neck
elegantly poised.
she's beyond this.
above this
pond she's landed in.
some women
can handle this, some
can't.

the cousins in philly

the cousins,
the ones in philly with their
dark
Italian eyes
and hair,
half of them named johnny
or delores,
or marie
or joey
don't see eye to eye on
many things,
but when they gather
together for the holidays
they hug and kiss,
bump hands,
drink to excess and eat
eat eat
until there's nothing left.
the only time
they stop yelling
about politics or football,
or remember whens,
is when they
pray before the meal,
quiet for a minute until
it all starts up
again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

forgetting the olives

the checker,
numb with pushing fat
frozen turkeys
across the belt, lifting
each one into a bag,
then cart,
says little. for what is
there to say but
did you find everything you
were looking for?
who can answer that
truthfully?
what right does he have
to ask such a question,
so deep
and meaningful
as I remember
that I've forgotten
the olives.

she's different

the tint
lies on top of the paint,
the third gallon,
now open and
marbled
in a swirl
of color, raw umber,
black,
magenta red.
unshaken, it comes like this,
before yellow takes
hold,
becomes whole,
readied for the wall.
for now though,
the circle is pretty,
before blended
and made
to look like all the rest.

she reminds me of you

she reminds me of you,
who reminded me
of her,
and the one who came before,
no,
not that one,
but the other
one, the who preceded
the first, or was it
the second, and final
love of
my increasingly
confusing, yet
shortened life.

Monday, November 21, 2016

walking the lake

I know this lake,
each bend,
each break of woods
where the sun
comes in.
the island off shore.
the blue heron
alight on wide wings.
the gravel,
the hills, each bridge
walked a thousand
times or more.
I know this lake
in every season, having
walked it with
others, or alone.
today it seems longer
in getting around.
something that I always
feel as each new
year becomes old.

the snake

thinking it was rope,
or an odd
circle
of something stored,
tucked away in
the shadow,
hatched tan and brown,
coiled in the corner
of the damp
shed.
seen only by the light
of a sun
through trees
and the bent wood
where it crawled to rest
and wait.
you touched it's hard
skin, poked
at it with a finger,
feeling the indent
of small bones
and a steel meshed band.
the snake reared
it's head
before you could speak,
falling back. it's pink
eyes and pinker mouth
white like cotton
opened
with slivers of teeth,
a tongue split
and moving, ready to lurch
upon you,
to satisfy your fears.

a cold brew

a cold brew
of clouds and stars
scratched
out
across a curved black
bowl
of sky
leaves me wanting for
warmth.
something
like love, but not exactly.
something
I can't put
my finger on, or say
in words.
I feel a need
undrawn, unsaid, but
will know it
and rest my head upon
it's pillow
when it does arrive.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

what's left behind

we leave behind
so much
for others to gather
and make their own.
the empty
rooms will be filled
by those we don't know.
the bed
slept in, perhaps
those shoes
will fit another's
feet.
that coat in the hall
closet.
worn on a winters day
such as
today.
that table, those dishes.
another meal
will be served
and eaten.
a hand will light that
candle,
take a book and read,
sitting where
you once sat
and pondered, what next.

bridges

from this bridge
across
rock creek park,
the great divide of woods
and city,
a sleeve
of water rolls below.
it holds in it
the silver coins tossed
for wishes
that never came true,
on this overpass,
this ancient bridge
of stone and steel I can
imagine tossing myself
off
as others have, when blue,
but don't,
though I understand
completely
how other being lost,
and do.

flowers

a vase of flowers,
freshly cut,
watered,
is sometimes all a room needs
to make
it right.
set the mood,
so it is with you
here
in that chair,
legs crossed, eyes
bright.
hands in your lap.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

the ice box

the jelly
and jams sit cold and squat
on the metal
shelf, side door
of the old ice box.
my grandmother in north reading
had a fridge like this.
she used to defrost
it with a butter knife,
standing on a small
stool,
towels on the floor
to catch the puddles of cold
water.
the fur of old ice
melted slowly.
she'd have the radio on.
big bands, mostly.
but I never saw her
shake a leg, or move a muscle
to the music.
she was too busy
with her short arms
in the box, chiseling
away on the thick
ice.
the jelly and jams,
remind me of her, how she
loved her toast and tea
in the morning,
and demanded we have manners.
telling
us to ask politely
and to get our elbows
off the table.

the whistle

I can hear
a train whistle as it crosses
the trestle
through the thin woods,
the trees
bent and losing leaves
on this harsh
night.
the train moves on,
sleek against the tracks,
silver
as it bends,
the yellow light of windows
flashing softly
by.
I can imagine being
on that train,
ticket in hand, a bag
at my side, coming
to you,
and you at the station
waiting,
with open arms.
with tears in your eyes.
wanting me
to be there, me wanting
that too.

in the wind

a blue scarf,
almost violet in color
is in the wind.
it reminds of something,
some place,
some one.
a vague memory,
now touched
and brought to life.
it blows so quickly
into the air,
plays in a swirl,
circling,
not caught
on a thing just yet.
no one is chasing
it.
it's lost its way.
this pretty blue scarf
in the wind.

not now, honey

not now, she says,
pulling on her sweat pants.
let's do this later.
let's
get out in the sun
and take
a walk.
not now, later, I promise.
okay?
but this will only
take a few minutes.
I know, I know.
and it's been awhile,
but let's do it
later.
i'm not keeping track
but it's been three weeks,
two days,
and six hours.
okay, okay. you can
hold out a little bit longer,
my love.
I promise you won't
be disappointed.
cross my heart.
so let's take that walk.
it's so nice out.
a quick walk, right?
not all the ways
around the lake and up
the hill. and we're not stopping
at starbucks
and petting every dog
along the way.
okay?
we'll see she says,
tying her hair up
into a knot.

holiday shopping

I was in line at the liquor
store
the other day,
holding my webbed green
bag to carry out
my bottles,
when I realized that I forgot
to bring my list. i
listened to the fake
santa ring
his bell in front of
pet smart, driving the dogs
crazy,
making them think that
a door bell
was ringing and watched as
a man and woman carried out
a hundred inch
tv from the big store.
then I remembered.
aunt helen wants a fifth
of bourbon and a carton
of lucky strikes
dad wants vodka. my brother
wants tequila.
sally, wine, cindy wine.
sarah wine.
Josie wine. Candace wine.
Stephanie wine. donna wine,
ginger, wine.
I need a bigger bag.

on stage

he has a small part
in a play.
there will be singing and dancing,
of which
he likes neither,
but it's
something to add to his resume.
last year he was
in a production
of the wizard of oz,
he played the wizard. this
year he's George
in a wonderful life.
he walks around
all day pretending to be
someone he isn't,
memorizing and acting
out his lines.
he's happy this way,
and so are those that know
him.

Friday, November 18, 2016

i know i will

I can't work any harder
than I did today.
I stare at my hands, blackened
with paint.
under the nails,
into the skin,
not even an hour long soak
in the tub
takes it off.
ten rolls of wallpaper
smoothed onto walls,
paint,
more work outside as the sun
came down.
she leaves a check
on the counter.
shows me how the door locks
itself.
shows me the button
for the garage.
it's dark out when I back out
of the driveway.
I have places
to go, but can't get there.
I can't work any harder
than what I did today,
but I know I will.
I know I will.

whatever

you left out a comma,
she says.
it's almost like you don't even
work on
these things you write.
your craftsmanship stinks.
I hone and carve
my poems down to the bone
before I read them
at the slam,
at the workshop,
for my admirers, she says
beating her chest
proudly. it almost
seems like
it doesn't matter
what you write
about, coffee and eggs,
traffic,
dogs. you don't seem to care
who reads
it or likes it or anything.
your line breaks are ridiculous,
my professor would
beat you with a stick.
it's almost like you're
writing just for you.
what's up with that?
i'm sorry, did you say something?

how about that

everyone knows
somebody
that knows somebody
that puts them into
the winning circle.
close
enough to rub
elbows, be in the glow
of greatness.
whether writer, or actor,
doesn't matter.
the king
of England,
or the kings of leon.
it's enough
for some to say, hey,
you know so and so, yeah,
him,
we talked.
we were on the elevator
together,
we might have a drink
some day.
how about that?

our room

they talk metaphorically
about
the elephant in the room.
the one big thing that isn't
discussed.
we had monkeys
swinging from the chandeliers,
we had giraffes. we had
snakes
slithering beneath
our feet,
llamas. chickens pecking
at june bugs.
our room was full of many
things we ignored
just to keep
the peace.

when things

when things are going good.
the world
being rosy.
and love is near,
or approaching like a white
sheeted sailboat
on blue water,
you relax your bones
and settle back
into the chair your life
has become.
you rock gently,
and breathe
a pleasant sigh.

eggs

I've known lots
of eggs.
good eggs, bad eggs.
hard boiled,
over easy
and sunny side up.
free range eggs.
organic.
brown or white.
large or small.
I've even been in love
with some scrambled
eggs. but
you don't know
until you crack
one open and put
her in the pan
what you're
going to get.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

answering the bell

the prize
fighter sits in his corner.
blinking
sweat
and blood from
his eyes. a wet sponge
is squeezed over
his head.
the crowd
is restless, they want
a knock out.
he thinks about his life.
that it's come
to this.
leg weary and too old
for the game,
but needing
the cash, the affirmation.
what is there to do
but get up
when the bell rings
and go out
and strike the man in front
of him.
win, not lose.
who isn't answering
the bell
each morning.

finger on the scale

things don't always
add up,
sometimes a finger is on the scale
tipping it
erroneously
in the favor
of the butcher.
deals are made
in the back room.
someone utters a threat
beneath his breath.
someone will
pay, heads will roll.
justice
will be served,
cold. who said the world
is fair?

local corn

it's easy
to make light of the farmer's market,
with their
apples
in a basket, their
tomatoes
piled
high. men in straw
hats
and overalls.
presenting local corn.
local
peas and carrots.
local
lettuce. home baked pies.
I don't really care where
it's from
as long as it's fresh
and bug free.
have some warm cider,
the sign says
beside
a woman who may or may
not be dressed
like Martha Washington.
made from organic
apples
by a local farmer,
using real
cane sugar.

what's come has gone

the goodbyes
are adding up.
the hellos are few.
what's come
has gone.
what lies ahead is shadowed
beneath a cloud
of age,
of time
refusing to stop
for anyone.

renters

renters, how
little they care about
the floor,
the carpet, the dogs running
wild, off chain.
the broken window
is someone else's
problem.
the drips of leaky spigots,
the toilet
that won't flush.
mice.
they make a list
and at some point put it
in the mail
with the rent check,
a week late.
why lock the door,
why turn the heat off,
why bother with
the spill,
or care about the noise
they make.
renters have a way of not
caring
about consequences.
some lovers are like that.
just renting,
not caring
and about to move on.

beside her

she misses
the warm body beside her.
the bed
tilted in
that way
that bodies do. the hand
across her hand.
the gentle snore
as he lies
asleep
in dream. she misses
the rising sun
beside
someone that loves her.
someone
who wants to be there
and only
there
when he awakens
to her kiss, her love
given fully
in return.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

let me get my card

please take me off
the call list I beg the caller.
please
stop calling.
I have enough Cialis,
Viagra,
snow tires and
windows.
I don't need any lightbulbs,
or to refinance
my mortgage
again.
please, I beg of you to stop
with the calls.
stop.
today, you can get a fifty
percent discount
on prednisone,
this one time only,
the young voice says
in his mixed and garbled language.
a hundred pills
for ten dollars.
I hear chopsticks
going into a bowl, stirring.
free delivery,
he says.
hold on for a second, let
me get my card.

the unread

what happened was,
was this.
a life comes
in.
a life is lived.
death occurs.
but it's the in between
that
seems important,
not the start or
the finish.
though most
never find out what that
is.
sure, we
pass each other
on the street and say
hello,
or goodbye,
or say how nice or cold
it might
be, but that's all we
have time
for.
we have our story
to be written,
then left, eternally,
to be unread.

some days

there are some days
when
people
are annoying.
sometimes the whole
day
they are on your bumper,
angry
or impatient
in the lines we all
must stand in.
things are said.
gestures made.
no one is happy, or even
close
to contentment.
there is the underlying
feeling
of unhappiness
in these people.
they live under a dark cloud
and bring it with them.
but then there are some
days
where it's quite
the opposite.
these are the days when
you don't leave
your house, but stay home
and look out
the window.

Monday, November 14, 2016

too much good

back on the sauce,
he calls
me. I love you man,
he says,
slurring his words, I hear
the clink
of glass, the cold
rattle of ice,
a bottle against
the rim.
the music is turned up.
let me know when you have
some more work, he says.
his ex wife's voice
rails in the background
telling him to get off
the goddamn phone
and come here.
too much good has
come into his life and it's
time to right
the ship,
sink it down
again.

the thin man

his eyes, were what I saw.
as he sat
still in his glass cage,
sawdust on the floor,
a pail of water
nearby.
not a crust of bread
to be found.
his ribs looked wooden
beneath
his slack skin,
the hull of a thin
ship raised
from the ocean floor,
rows
of bones protruding,
making the crowd
gasp as they leaned
upon the glass
eating glazed red apples
and hot dogs,
cotton candy.
his cheeks hollowed
so that his teeth took up
too much room.
why did he even need teeth
a boy said to his mother who
shrugged.
he hungered not.
this was what he did.
not eating
as the carnival rolled from
small town
to smaller towns.

the evil ones

the condo board
and their brown shirted minions
march
the neighborhood
with clipboard
in hand, taking notes,
numbers
and names.
marking whose trash
is out early,
whose dog
is on the loose,
or has left
a small
pile behind.
what gives you the right
to change that
door knob from brass to nickel.
who has no sticker
properly displayed,
who dares
to park in a visitor's spot
without
authorized approval.
they are crafty weasels
elected
by a majority of three
or four
who attended their
holy meetings
under the dead of night
in a small
room at Washington Irving
elementary school
where only evil,
and assessments
come out,
and gloom.

so it goes

I listen again
to the old music.
I read
the same books over
and over.
the poetry that rings true
to me
is by my bedside.
I like the old
pair of jeans,
the worn shoes,
the sweater with a hole
in the sleeve.
it's about comfort
and knowing,
and so it
goes with me,
with you.

the fire

the fire
in the old house
shot through the windows.
outside
the family stood in
their
night clothes
watching
in the cold as the flames
licked
and licked
at the wood frame,
taking
in the roof.
someone said there was
a baby
inside.
a dog. a small child.
but there was no going back
in.
the firemen
arrived in their long red
trucks
unable to get close.
they stood with their hoses
as the water
arced into the red roar,
doing little.
we didn't know
the family.
but I remember how hard
my mother cried
for the children, for
the mother.
not knowing their names.
but knowing.

let's be friends

let's be friends
she says,
without benefits, without
the quagmire
of sex
and intimacy.
let's have a conversation
and sit
by the fire,
wile the hours away
with tv,
talk about life,
and books,
things that make
us happy.
let's be friends she says,
sipping
her drink and lighting
a candle.
let's keep it this way,
so that things
won't end.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

discontent

the woe is us
march down the street
after the election
is running
out of gas.
it's the end
of the world
they say
while sipping on a grande
vanilla skim latte.
their voices
hoarse, the feet
blistered
in their not for marching
boots
and shoes
from DSW.
they look at their phones,
take a picture,
smiling
with their home made signs.
soon they
have to go home
and feed the dog,
pick the kids up at the bus
stop.
the revolution and discontent
is slowed
by the hunger
for dinner, the rain.
what's on tv
at nine.

instant

instant
coffee, oats,
potatoes.
instant rice.
instant gratification.
love
and sex.
fast food,
fast
women, fast cars.
the speed of light,
of sound,
the bullet train.
leave the bag this side
up
and hit the button.
quick dry,
quick spin,
the ez pass, the express
line.
where are we
going in such a hurry.
tell me,
if you have
the time.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

a twist of wind

a scrap of paper
finds
the wind
and circles upwards,
a small
twister
gathers more.
across the concrete
playground
it spins,
slides
dips and turns.
the world
is a magical
place
at times,
when watching
these little things.

brain food

Istanbul
I yell to the tv
as alec trebec in his smug way
shakes his
head no,
and says morocco.
what is
Pi
i stand up and yell
to the next answer,
pressing
an imaginary button
in my closed fist.
what is
prime numbers
alec says.
I hate this show
tonight. i'm
standing there in my underwear
feeling the breeze
from the balcony door.
I haven't had one
right answer
I say to my new wife betty
as we enjoy
our honeymoon
at the beach on the jersey coast.
you need to study
more, she says,
opening a can of tuna fish
for a snack.
or maybe you're just
dumb, she says.
here, have some tuna,
fish is brain food.

the ghosts

the ghosts
are here. on the wet field.
in the huddle.
they are still
young,
these four boys.
four men.
their early deaths are
inconceivable.
you roll their
names in
your mouth,
friends you loved,
without ever
saying the word love,
as men
rarely do
towards one another.
you throw a tight spiral
to each
as the low
winter sun
rises in our eyes,
our lineless
faces.
the ghosts are here,
some days
more than others.

Friday, November 11, 2016

the break up

one tire wouldn't grab
the pavement,
it kept spinning in the soft
slush, the snow,
melting ice.
i'll get out and push
I told her. so I did that.
pressing my hands
against the back bumper.
hit the gas just
a little I
yelled to her.
but she floored it throwing
a splash of cold
water onto me,
salt and sand.
feather it I yelled out,
spitting out
granules of road salt.
she lightly tapped
the pedal this time as I
rocked it then
pushed with all my might.
the car finally slipped
out of the rut
and moved forward.
she kept going. waving out
the window.
she threw out my suitcase
and I never saw her again.
timing is everything.

election blues

the election blues
has made
her make run like a wild
raccoon.
she's sad,
bone weary. what now, she
sighs.
my girl didn't make
it.
she's done.
she's too old to try again.
it's the end of
the world, she says.
this country
is going down the drain.
i pour her another
glass of
bourbon
and pet her hand.
oh well. i tell her, who
knows
maybe he'll surprise us.
this man
with yellow hair.
i hate you she says to me,
drinking
her whiskey. it almost
seems like you don't care.
oh, but i do.
i tell her.
i just remember Nixon,
and we got through that.

bonjour

i'm French, she says.
did I tell you that.
yes.
three times
in the last hour I tell her.
yawning.
staring at the ceiling.
I was born in france
and will die
in france, she says,
jutting her chin
out.
i'm dying now I say into my
napkin.
pardon? did you say something?
non.
I was just commenting on
the escargot
that is stuck in my throat
and trying to crawl back out.
the French know
wine,
know culture and art.
we live a different
life than you
cowboy americans.
we know how to love and live.
relax and enjoy ourselves.
you work work work
and want big cars, shiny things.
we don't care
about such things.
i'm French, she says again,
sipping her red wine, gargling
it in her mouth.
these grapes were picked too soon,
she says,
spitting out the wine
into her dish of pheasant bones
and quail egg shells.
I know wine, I am French, she says.
I nod, then see a waiter
walking by.
I yell out as loud as I can.
garcon....check. sil vous plait.

this pie could save the world

i'll die with my secret
ingredients in me,
she tells me
as I shake up a can
of whipped cream.
she's setting her pie
out to cool
on the counter.
she's made
six for the holidays.
this recipe was passed
down from
my great grandmother
when she came over
from Poland.
she used to make these
pies on the ship
coming over, kept
everyone fed.
I stare at the pie
ignoring her story.
it looks like a regular
pie to me.
crust, etc.
the crust she says is
special.
the dough has to be
kneaded by hand,
the spices just right.
what?
I say. touching the top
of the orange brown
filling.
don't she says, slapping
my wrist. it's not time.
this pie could save the world,
she whispers,
if everyone had one of these pies
there would be more love
in the world.
who can fight and argue
while eating pie?
I tell you, this here is
no ordinary pie.
yeah, right, I say,
getting a small dish
and a knife out of the drawer.

before winter

a thin
bird lights upon
the window.
he looks in
at you then averts
his eyes.
flutters his wings.
you want to say something
to keep
him there,
to keep him near,
but he has things to do
before winter
sets in.
we all do.
we all do.

into the fog

in the beginning she
would ask the same question
she asked
ten minutes ago.
you'd tell her that.
she'd say, I did?
yes, i'd say.
but then she'd be hurt
and want to get off
the phone.
over time you
answered, once,
twice, three times if
necessary the same questions.
you let her go into
the fog
where she was heading.
gently holding her hand,
answering what
she wanted to know,
again.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

the long story

always, there is more
to the story.
more details to tell, a
better middle,
a more
exciting ending.
you've been telling it
for so long,
refining it, that it tells
itself now.
you listen to your voice,
as your tongue and lips
rattle on
with the words
you've said before.
it's your go to story,
the one
that gets a laugh, a gasp,
a roll of the eyes.
but you're tired of it.
you need
a new memory, a new story
to tell.
boredom has set in.