Sunday, January 31, 2016

are you listening

her midnight call
stirs you.
keeps you awake for hours.
her voice shrill
and drunk,
drugged.
her wrist awaiting another cut.
her skinny limbs
crossed
and bare,
white bones against
white bones.
a match could set
her on fire.
she talks about love,
betrayal,
about the window across
the room,
open and holding a breeze.
how inviting
flight is.
how quickly it would be
to hit bottom,
real bottom this time.
don't hang up,
are you there, are you
listening.

that's gone too

no one cares.
no one
will read what you've written.
the sun
will swallow
the world whole.
the flash of flames
will engulf
everything you hold
dear,
even this poem.
let it go. let it all
go.
surrender and be free
of all
that seems real or
holds meaning.
open your eyes and point.
that's gone
too.

dead or alive

I could take the street to get home
as the sky grew darker.
I could stick to the sidewalks
like my mother said, take
the curbs edged with grass
and dirt. I could walk the center
line until the cars honked
and cursed. but I preferred
the alley, the tunneled path through
the mangle of briars and vines.
stepping through the minefields
of broken glass, trash,
over the fences of yards,
hopping the chained linked
gardens and small plots
of nothing, nothing
but grass biding time.
I wanted to be scared, to be
awake and alive, speeding along
with a bag of groceries,
high tops on. I was being
chased, being hunted, wanted
dead or alive. this was a better
way to live. another world
within the real one,
the one inside.

drinking and cooking

you pour too much wine
into the pot roast stew.
you sip and stir, taste,
add another carrot,
some salt. by five you're
drunk out
of your mind, you begin
to text
women you used to know.
hey baby, want some pot roast.
they immediately
block and delete you.
telling you to never contact
them again.
you pour a glass of
wine, what's left of the pinot,
and add another onion
to the mix. chopping
quickly,
dicing the onion like you
see them do on tv,
cutting your finger only
a little bit. you seal
the cut with butter.
you lean over and inhale
the aroma of potatoes
and meat, carrots
and onions all coming
to a nice boil.
it's so wonderful you almost
begin to weep.
you wipe the hot splatters
off your face, hoping
there won't be any scars
and take a picture of
the stew as you ladle it
into a bowl. you butter
a half a loaf of french bread
and set it on the table.
you send
the picture to everyone
you know.

the end is near

in the middle of the blizzard
your battery dies
on the side of the road.
you have no cables
and no desire
to get out and sort through
the trunk
to find any, even if you did
have an old rusted pair
passed down through
the century and never
used.
fortunately you've invested
thousands of monthly
fees into triple A for forty years.
you call them with your last
bar of charge and beg for help.
you wait.
you wait some more.
you sing the entire beatle's
catalogue, surprisingly well
too despite everything.
you lose feeling in your feet,
your arms.
your fingers begin
to tingle with warmth.
your cheeks are red. a bloom
of air exits from your shivering
body.
you take out your phone,
it's dead now too.
you find a hamburger wrapper
on the floor and a pen. first you
eat the cold white French fry
lying next to it. slowly,
you begin to write out
your last will
and testament.
my son, you write, my only son
who I love more than
almost anything,
it's all yours, live wisely,
don't do drugs
or get anyone pregnant before
you're married. don't forget
to turn the stove off when
you leave the house.
you feel dizzy, the pen
is frozen, you touch the end
with your tongue
to get it going again. you spit
the blue ink onto the windshield
where it immediately freezes.
to ginger. i'm sorry for
everything, for not
paying attention to you when
you talked about your cat. I hope
he or she is well.
lucy, what can I say.
I didn't mean to get gum
in your hair when we were
dancing that night, and you can
have my watch. I think
it may have rolled under your bed.
it has luminous dials, so it
should be easy to spot.
Karen, I hope it wasn't me
that made you a lesbian.
suddenly there's a knock at
the window.
a bearded man with a pair
of jumper cables. it's a burly
angel from the Ozarks.
quickly you ball the note
up and put it in your mouth
to swallow it. triple A you
mouth to the man as your teeth
chatter.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

future world leaders

she takes her students
on the bus
to the debate. they are all
smart children,
born smart. wiry and fat,
all sizes.
bespectacled.
their parents go too.
larger sizes of them.
there is lots of twitching,
and nervous
toying with hair,
lips bitten, teeth
grinded.
braces snapped together
like tambourines.
their lunch
money is taken
before they're born,
bruised and pummeled
before stepping
into the sandbox.
they perform well though
under pressure, our
future world leaders.

enough

you try so hard
to understand people.
people you know and love,
even the ones
you don't really like too much.
you try to imagine
their lives,
their problems, their
troubles.
but you can only go so far
before the door
closes.
before they push it
shut and say enough,
no more.

just business

in time, you get used
to hearing
the voice on the phone,
the complaint, the yell,
the cursing.
a fist banging against
a desk.
it's just business.
it's what's done to grease
the wheels,
fill the pockets
of old and new men
in this crooked world
of shady deals.

the flow

water
finds a low spot,
gravity
pulling it towards
the easiest
of all
directions,
it bends and folds
and fits
into any
hole it finds, it hardly
matters
where. it just does so
without
complaint. moving
along
to where it needs to be.
let's be water,
for once,
and stop thinking of
a better way to go.


untrained

like you,
your dog refused to learn
tricks,
to roll over,
play dead. beg
or bark on cue.
like you,
he didn't heel,
or stay out of the street,
he wouldn't
chase the ball
or behave in school.
like you he made life
harder
on the both of you.

Friday, January 29, 2016

the food critic

your son
at three, strapped
into a child's seat
at the table,
after taking a bite,
picked up his six dollar
hot dog
covered in sauerkraut
and mustard
and threw it like a missile
across the room
striking a waiter
in the head.
a food critic
was born.

raising the flag

these troops arrive
in castelldefels,
black booted, their uniforms
starched
army green.
weapons
on their belts in leather
pouches.
mustached men.
lean and brown eyed
Spaniards.
Franco's men.
your mother listened to them
as they pointed
at the flag your
father had
raised on the pole
outside, near the fountain.
waving red white and blue
with fifty stars,
as if he had conquered
this mall patch of land
for himself
and country.
they were not amused.

found money

in Barcelona
the help, how could she know,
bundled quickly
the money from our game
thinking it real
and quit, running home
with her small fortune,
her life
now beginning. how her
heart must have
sped, her dreams, whatever
dreams there were
at the end of the road
where she lived,
were possible now.
this money. these stacks
of yellow and green,
gold, blue money.
children's money. they
would never miss it,
but they did.
and told their mother,
who laughed
and found the young lady,
bringing her back,
her arm around her shoulder,
walking her to our home
to sweep and dust,
to boil water
and pour milk into our
bowls.

wanting more

you've seen it before.
seen on the wry
faces
of children
along the shore,
touching the endless
sea with
white toes.
their voices high pitched
across
an unknown gift of years
they've yet to
know.
you've seen it
in lovers
hand in hand,
caressing one another,
together
on blankets that cover
squares
of warm sand.
it's there. you know it
is.
this ephemeral
feeling
of joy, of happiness
subdued. unhidden,
impossibly found
but wanting
more.

new sod

it's new money.
you can tell. the faux columns.
the freshly laid sod.
the slate roof,
the three car
garage.
she can hardly stop talking about
the sub zero,
the Viking
stove,
the marble counter.

the rooms echo with our
footsteps.
no dog. no child.
no plant.
no anything that needs
attention.
don't step on that rug,
it's new she says.
all the way from
Istanbul.
I bought it online.

this is me time, she says
to you.
and him too. he's at work,
he works a lot
these days.
maybe you'll meet him
some day.

held captive

at first you don't feel
the thin tethers
that hold you, bind you.
the new roots, growing,
thickening with years.
how hard it is to move now,
to leave this place.
you weren't born here.
no blood shed
for any of it.
no family land, no reason
to stay at this or any age,
and yet, you can barely
lift a leg in another
direction. the vines
have twisted around your
wrists, your ankles.
strangely, even your heart.
it would take a cataclysmic
event, like love,
to move you now.

the fourteenth of february

you spot them in the store
as you fill your cart
with a meal for one, you see
the young men, some old,
some as old as you are. they
wander with a glazed look,
sheep to the slaughter,
a bunch of store flowers
banded in their fists.
the thin plastic wrinkling
as they move.
a heart shaped box of milk
chocolates under their arms.
they step lightly towards
the row of cards.
the pinks and reds,
the cupids with arrows
pointing, bloodied.
they move and read from
card to card, trying to decide
whether to go funny,
or sweet, serious, or
deadly serious with words
like adore and love, or
forever written inside.

uber doctor

stuck in traffic for so long
you decide to take classes online,
pulling out your lap top.
the hours and hours go by,
weeks, into months. the traffic
is so slow, the lights,
the accidents, the detours
and ice, the piles of unplowed
snow. by the end of the
year you are graduating
from med school. by spring
you've become a doctor.
you carry a black bag now
with a white cross on the side.
you put a sign on top
of your car, a small blinking
light. the doctor is in
open for new patients,
come on inside.
it isn't long before you
are delivering curbside babies,
performing appendectomies,
shooting botox into the crows
feet of women wearing leopard
print pants.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

your uncle

your uncle.
the one in the white suit,
the white
caddy, the one in florida
who lives
on the golf course,
the one with
the boat, the who has
someone peel his
oranges for him. the one with
hair plugs, the cane,
the one
with the gold ring,
the young wife,
that uncle. the rich
uncle. he dies
and leaves you nothing.
he leaves everybody
nothing,
which is what he took
with him,
in the end. everyone
getting the same.

the passing train

the boy
with one arm is pointed
at
by children, by adults
passing by,
new to town.
asking
what happened, why,
he's so young.
but he seems fine,
seems well
adjusted they say,
holding their groceries
watching him
on the playground.
you'd almost think he
was whole,
they say.
as if nothing every happened.
but when a train
screams by
on the nearby track,
everyone, but him,
stops to look.

ice cream love

I can't marry you,
she tells me.
i'm sorry, but it just
wouldn't work.
I love you, but
i love ice cream
I just can't eat it everyday.
in time I would
no longer like ice cream,
do you here what
i'm saying?
so the wedding is off.
but we can have a scoop
every now and then,
if that's okay
with you?

the boarder

you can't make these things up,
no one would believe you, if they
weren't true. if you didn't swear to
them. they wouldn't believe the woman
you talk about. how round shouldered
and large she was. the size of a man.
a steel worker, or longshoreman.
the blue smoke
of her cigarette, her bad teeth
and cursing. how she came to live
in your house, handing your mother
forty dollars at the end of
the month for rent. finding her
asleep on the couch. the blue
couch where no one could sit
anymore and watch television.
no one would believe you,
how she belittled your brothers
and sisters, how small she made
small children feel. how she
demanded pancakes out of you
in the kitchen. round, not
like you were making them, standing
on a stool to see the pan
as you poured the yellow
batter into the black face
of heat. no one could imagine
a life like that. where were your
parents, what street were they on,
what city had they left to, escaped
to, separately and alone, leaving
you with this woman. this strange
rust haired woman with a thick
smear of pond's cream
on her moon face, as if anything
could help.

like you

a tangerine of a moon
appears
over the white caked
earth.
a strange candied orb
floating
without a string to hold
it in place.
the clouds rub against it
as the night moves on,
the earth spins
just so, making it go
away.
fading from black
to blue.
like all fun things,
abstract and odd,
like you.

fox island

she lives on an island
with her dogs,
her cats,
her garden,
the sky above her is blue.
the pacific
is not far
away, a days row
through the channel.
it rains.
it rains.
it rains.
she sits in her chair
where the dozen shades
of green
comes in,
where she can see
the sky,
the blue. see the life
before
and behind her,
thinking, what next.

come to florida

come to florida
the magazine ad says
in bold blue letters
over white.
in the picture there are oranges.
rows and rows
of oranges in a green grove.
there are long white
beaches with
tanned fit bodies frolicking
in the water. tossing
striped beach balls to one another.
women in bikinis,
wearing sunglasses
drinking tropical
fruit drinks waving to
the camera.
come to florida,
the ad says.
fly or take the train.
drive.
leave your troubles behind.
leave the snow and ice behind you.
leave now.
you run upstairs and put
on your lime green bathing suit.
a white t shirt
and a straw hat. you slip
into your flip flops, then
you go the kitchen
for your green bowl
full of loose change.
you set a towel down
on the dining room table
and pour it all out.
you begin to count.
stacking quarters against
quarters, dime againt dimes.
this could happen. you can
do this.

sauces

your mother was all over
the sauces.
red sauce, white sauce.
you name it sauce.
gravy too.
she'd make it in gallons.
working for days,
standing over the stove
with a wooden spoon,
stirring, sweating,
talking on the phone
telling every one she was
making sauce for
the holidays. she'd tape
and write the date
and what it was on the top
of each container.
this was in august.
she couldn't stop making
sauces and talking about
what work it was.
happy and proud with what
she was doing.
so when the power went out
she couldn't understand
why the insurance company
wouldn't cover
the loss of all her
hard work, gone bad in
the defrosted ice box.

sweet potato

she likes
to square dance.
you don't.
two step, that line
dancing thing.
she wears a cowgirl
hat
and a big dress
with roses embroidered
into the denim
fabric. white boots.
pointed, up to her calves.
she works for IBM
and is originally from
new jersey,
but at night she's
patsy cline risen
from the grave.
when she sees you
she gives you a big hug,
plants a lipsticked
kiss onto your cheek
and says,
how we all doing tonight, honey.
you respond by saying,
I reckon just fine my
little sweet potato.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

primitive instinct

it's less about grey
matter, or reason,
and more
about instinct, a million
odd
years of
procreation.
the necessity of keeping
the species going.
the primitive need
for survival.
I blame
that buried inner
desire
on nothing more than
that.
the dna within
wanting out. it's not
the smell of you, those lips,
those legs,
those eyes,
although they all
seem to help.

the king of snowballs

knee deep in
this snow, this snow
turned
sour and grey,
a salted sludge of misery.
i can hear
the tires spin a mile
away, smell
the rubbery smoke
in the air as tires
churn against
one foot of crumbling
concrete.
a kid throws a snowball
at me
as i scrape my window.
i catch it with
one hand, grab
more wet snow to pack
it solid, then
throw it back,
knocking him over
as hits his forehead.
he doesn't know
who he's dealing with.
i am the king
of snowballs.

she orders lamb

excuse my French,
my grandmother says,
but that cab driver was driving
that cab
like a bat out of hell.
I look at my sister
and say, which word is French?
she shrugs,
she's sucking on a lollipop
and playing with a band aid
on her knee as we sit in the back
seat of my father's Chevrolet.
the trunk is full of luggage.
she's left boston to stay
with us for a week, or more.
she leans over the seat
and ask us if we've been good
girls and boys,
if we've been praying, if we've
been asking God to save us
from that bastard john kennedy.
we both nod yes.
your father, driving, looks
at you in the rear view mirror
and smiles.
let's stop for lunch he says.
your grandmother orders lamb
with mint jelly.

paper claims

rare to see
a billboard these days.
the giant
wooden frame, the size
of a movie screen
on the edge of highways
proclaiming organic
beans, or beer,
a better way to God.
a place to stay
at the beach,
two hundred miles away,
the golden sand,
room service.
air conditioning.
the smiling faces soon
shredded by wind
and rain.
the promise of America
in each oversized
papered
claim.

the dog eared page

nose deep into
your business, she says,
i'll find it.
i'll find
what i'm looking for, just
you wait and see.
she digs
into your paperwork,
goes
through your files,
circles the balance
on your bank statements.
she downloads
your documents.
lifts the mattress
to see what's underneath.
she shakes each book
on the shelf,
not once stopping
on a dog eared
page to read. not
knowing, that there lies
a clue to me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

across the line

there was a time,
not too long ago,
when there were boiled
eggs,
pigs feet,
in grim pink water
floating
in a jar
on the counter.
girly magazines, and
cigarettes
just a quarter
on a rack,
everything in reach.
gas twenty-nine cents.
directions
free, a fold out map.
a big key attached
to a paddle
for the bathroom,
black and white tile,
a broken mirror,
a busted seat,
nothing ever cleaned.
writing on the wall,
numbers and names pressed
neat.
it was just a mile across
the city line, you could
see the monument from there,
but another world,
another language,
a different time.

the red umbrella

out of the rain,
she shakes her coat,
her red umbrella.
she looks
up into the sky.
she has time
to wait it out.
you can see that in her face,
in her eyes.
you give her room,
spare her
a hello, no need to talk,
two strangers
in a doorway
waiting for the rain
to stop.
something about the red
umbrella
keeps you quiet,
wishing it
was blue.

the eight count

I see the error of my ways.
I don't need you
to tell me
what I've already told
myself, but you
go on, don't you. I can't
stop you
from saying what you're
saying.
take a swing. and another.
pummel me in the corner.
I can take a punch.
I can get up before
the bell rings, before
the count is ten.
but there won't be a
rematch. this is it,
take your turn,
your swings.

like christmas

she smelled like Christmas
when I met her.
lit up with
gin and tonic
on her tongue, a cut
lime,
sharpened
words, her green eyes
sparkling
like roadside
glass.
how underwater
she was with drink.
how malleable
and kind, soft in
my hands.
ready for any direction
the road
might lead
that night. how
the road veered off
in time.

i need a knife

don't bother me
with your Harvard poets,
your degreed
and learned
sages
writing illegible words
in rhyme and meter.
I need a knife
to cut through
to find the blood,
the gristle
of meaning. the bone
within
the meat.
where is the heart,
the dirt
under the nails,
the ache of love
and dying. a fresh wound,
an unhealed scar.
why do they
make it so hard,
for me to read.

Monday, January 25, 2016

petty thieves

I send the widow
the photos that I promised
of me
and her husband
drinking,
carousing. dancing
and posing.
petty thieves
of hearts, our unlined
faces
and cheap clothes,
soft caps
and gloves
as we trolled for
affection
through the cobbled
streets of Georgetown.
I imagine
she cried when getting
them,
as I did in sending.

each seed

each seed
thumbed down into
the soil.
watered
and worried over.
a peek at the sun,
its glare
not yet full
as it flares through
spring trees.
each seed
from your hand has
a chance
at rising,
being green,
this makes you happy
and feeling
old
at the same time.

what's unknown

I know nothing
about you
unless you want it to be
known,
and likewise
I too
will hold a card or
two
to my chest, out
of view.
it's how we play,
how we
lie and hide
the truths that are
known
to just a chosen few.

sick with something

sick with something,
the man in front of you
sneezes
into his coat sleeve.
he turns around
and says i'm sorry.
something's going around
he says
and I think I caught it.
I threw up this morning
and I have a fever.
he shakes his head
then puts his bananas
onto the counter,
his milk.
his cough syrup.
his wine.
a valentine card.
you nod, and try to
hold your breath, then
turn to breathe in
air from another direction.
you remove your gloves
and touch your forehead,
still cool.
you're good for awhile.

pink mittens

I don't know the young
woman
who knocks persistently
on the door,
but she's been shoveling
snow all day
for the company
she works for.
her hair is black,
down to her shoulders,
her eyes large
and wide, black too.
she wants to use
the bathroom. come in
I tell her, sure.
she's in there for
a half an hour,
I knock and ask if
she's okay.
si, she says. si.
I hear the spigot running
for a long time.
finally she comes out
looking relieved
and happy.
I give her a bottle
of water
and a donut
in a napkin and say,
thanks for shoveling today,
goodbye, but then I
see her pink mitten
like gloves
on the sink, they look
like children's gloves.
I look out the door
to yell for her,
but she's gone
behind a snow bank
somewhere, so I leave
them on the porch.
she'll be back, i'm sure.

check on my cats

the ambulance arrives
with the quiet spin of
many red lights, the siren
off. the men with all
their heavy gear
go into the house
and pull her out.
an older woman in a blue
bathrobe.
she's awake on the stretcher,
her face grey and tight,
she waves to you
as you watch
them push her down the sidewalk
to the waiting truck.
she yells out, check
on my cats.
don't let them take them.
you look behind you,
hoping there are other
people she's talking to,
but no. it's you.
you don't even know her
name, she lives
three doors down
and has never said a
word to anyone.
you wave back and say
okay. this can't be good.

this change

things change.
not always for the good,
or bad,
they just do.
the light, the mood,
the way
you feel. it's part
of it.
this change,
hard to understand
the whys,
the how, it just
does
and there's little
one can do.

day four

after four days
of being stuck inside
she calls happily on the phone,
we are having so much fun,
she says, talking loudly
over the din,
the kids are home, we're snowed in.
the neighbors are here
with their dogs
and children,
we're playing board
games and charades,
making brownies, and hot
chocolate. (i'm having gin)
it's wonderful, you should
come over.
then she slips into the kitchen
and whispers. help me,
please, come and rescue me.
help me. i'm going crazy.
I might kill someone
if they don't plow our
street soon.

enough

you still have
enough
to shovel out.
to scrape
and roll the car,
to defrost
and dig
and dig, and shovel
some more.
you still have
enough
to walk a few
miles
for breakfast.
coffee,
a paper.
to sit in the empty
diner
and inhale
the food before you.
you still have
enough
to make it home
under the blue soft
light
of a setting
sun.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

the red bird

cane deep
in snow, she opens her door.
peers out. closes her
robe.
a red cardinal
is on a branch.
crimson and still
against the white.
it makes her morning.
she closes
the door
to call someone, to
tell them about
the bird. how red it
was
against the snow.

the tax man cometh

I wonder
about Obama care.
the ins and outs
of corporate filing,
how will it affect my taxes.
is my preparer bright enough
to get it done,
to keep me out of prison
like al capone.
she still uses a pen
and paper form, a calculator
and ruler to read
my ledger, by candle light
I might add.
I keep no receipts.
to hell with that.
I need gas, I buy gas.
i'm not buying anyone
a business lunch,
or writing off the shirt
and shoes, or boxer
shorts
I have on.
my itemized deductions
are low,
so leave me alone
mr. revenue man.
give me a few bucks in
return.



remember the sun

low on cake
you decide to venture out
into the white
wilderness
that is the world now.
coffee would be nice too.
not the kind you make
at home,
but from a barista
who will tell you
to be safe,
stay warm.
you haven't seen a human
in almost forty eight hours,
which is okay,
you can live with that,
but a newspaper
would be a welcome relief
from the babbling
news heads and looped traffic
jams and wrecks.
you need to get out.
to tramp through
the drifts to a place
that is open,
a place where the haughty
and proud four wheel
drive men and women
stand around and laugh,
to hear a voice, to
see if anyone out there
is still alive.
the sun is out. you
remember the sun,
don't you?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

into the sea

in spite of
everything you find a way
to love
her. to adore her from a distance.
what else is there
to do, but
fade into the fog,
slip
under the rain of days
that make
up your life,
be washed into
the sea
with others.

waiting for spring

the ground was too hard
to dig
so they set her in
the mausoleum
next to the others.
all boxed
and ready
to be buried come spring.
still
they had the funeral.
words were said
that should be said.
tears, laughter,
all of that.
and yet she was still
above ground,
above the ice
and snow.
above the living,
stored neatly in
the cemetery shed.

through the white

the sheen
and bloom of the red
fox
on the path,
still,
and nervous
as you walk towards
it,
far enough away
to keep you
both out of danger.
what brings you
out into the snow
he must think,
this day is his, free
to roam,
no bike or stroller
no runners
to make him
hide, to burrow
between tree and stone.
just you,
knee deep, walking
through the white,
traveling alone.

i hate snow

i hate snow.
i hate when people say how
lovely it is. look
how wonderful
the trees are when they are
covered, dappled
in white frosting.
look over there,
that smooth blanket, cresting
over that hill,
which happens to be
my car.
I don't want to ski
on it,
trudge through it, or
shovel.
I don't want to spread
salt, and sweep, defrost
the windows.
I don't want to talk with
the neighbors
about the snow.
pushing each other's cars
out as the tires spin
on sheets of ice.
I don't want to ask
how the roads are,
when it will stop
or start again.
I want it to go away, now.
my dog agrees.

the doctor is in

you have all the symptoms
of a dozen diseases.
dry mouth, thirst,
frequent urination,
sweating and blurred vision.
your feet tingle.
you might have a week or
less to live.
you've verified each ailment
on a variety of
websites.
each one more frightening
and believable than
the next.
you buy a blood pressure
machine for your wrist,
and pray for low numbers,
a tester
for blood to prick your
skin, you put
a thermometer into
your mouth and count your
heart beats, listening
for a murmur
with a stethoscope,
the doctor is in, and you
are him. it's not good
you tell yourself.
but it's been a good run.

men, she sighs

men, she sighs.
then curses. I hate them.
they leave
me stranded
in bed, at the side of
the road,
no pleasure, it's all
about them.
i'm done with them, she says.
I may switch to the other side.
cross over
and never come back.
i'm bored with men.
even you, she says,
are with fault.
lying there, asleep,
ten seconds after it's over,
snoring
on your back.

the sand

how long you shoveled
sand, digging
the hole for your son,
him saying deeper
dad, deeper, unsatisfied
with what you've done.
more sand by shovel
and bucket tossed
to side, before hitting
pools of water,
small crusted things
with life, that would
dig faster than you
could go, disappearing
like meteors from sight.
deeper dad,
he said. go deeper.
and so you did.
and so you will
for all your life.

what ticks within

what others think as true
is not always so,
no more than staring at
a watch and
declaring the time,
with no knowledge of what
ticks within,
what wheels spin,
or grind to move
those hands, to set it
right, punctual
and perfect,
or stopping
when it's time to die.

Friday, January 22, 2016

doing the math

I can't meet you for coffee
today, she tells me
on the street, while eating
a celery stalk.
i'm in training for a five k.
and after that, if I don't get injured
and I have the entry fee money,
a ten k. she's jumping in place,
stretching in her purple tights.
her new orange running shoes
squeak against the sidewalk.
what's a k, I ask her.
what happened to miles?
are we a metric country now?
when did that happen?
I don't know what you're talking
about, she says, taking
a gulp of water from
a bottle attached to her
utility belt. she's sweating
and nearly out of breath.
I might enter the half
marathon in the spring, she says,
jumping up and down,
reaching her arms over
her head and swaying
them back and forth.
how many k's is that, I ask.
I don't know. maybe
12? i'm not sure, i'll
have to do the conversion
math. i'm getting a headache,
I tell her, do you have
any aspirin. she takes
out two white pills
from a pouch on her belt
and hands them to me.
how many milligrams is this,
I ask.
I don't know she says, taking
her pulse with two fingers
on her wrist, but
I have to go now. bye.

in with the old

tired of old music.
you know every word. you could
have been in
the band.
sung each song, knowing
when to stop
then start again.
but the new music stinks.
it's not on the radio.
it's nowhere to
be found.
you are unplugged at
this age.
stuck with the old,
repeating for eternity
the same known sounds.


the last loaf

before the storm hits
you don't mean to knock
over the old woman in the store,
or pin her long
coat down with a boot
as you reach for
the last loaf of bread
on the shelf, but she was
in the way.
and besides it was gluten
free bread
made from wood chips
and hay,
embedded with cherry pits,
she'd never get it through
her system.
you are doing her a favor.

quiet time

her weapon
is silence. deadly
cold
dark silence.
it says everything there is
to say.
you have no
defense for it,
no way to block
or dodge
its fury. you
can't even surrender,
for there is no one
to surrender
to.
not a single syllable
falls from
her sweet lips.
how clever she is
in being quiet
this way.

new and improved

new and improved,
you step out in clothes
just bought,
a pound
less weight
than the last day of the year.
sleep gained
to ease
the worry,
a book on the nightstand
to be read
in due time.
polished to a nice
glow
with over the counter
soaps,
a shave, a few muscled
tones
by lifting repeatedly
a weight or two.
you step out
into sun, that sweet
scent in the air is you.
the cologne
still on your cheeks
and chin. where is she,
where are they,
why aren't they running
towards you.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

which cake to buy

it's hard to decide
on which cake
mix to buy for the big storm
coming.
which frosting.
double layer, or triple?
fudge or spice?
maybe brownies,
that I can neatly bake,
cut into even
squares, each one,
two maybe three
small bites.
maybe a box of donuts
already made.
the kind with the window
on the box
so you know how many
are left
without opening it.
and milk. must have milk,
or it could be a long
two days
stuck inside.

travel

she flies to LA
like it's nothing. nothing
to get on a plane
and settle in her
seat with a cold drink
and a magazine.
high above the clouds,
closer to he moon
than i'll ever be.
a day or two, then she's
back, as if she never
left.
I can hardly travel to the beach,
three hours
away, without it being
a life changing event.
looking at the world with
new eyes,
coming home with sand
in my shoes.
a burn on my head,
a bag full of salt water
taffy that
i'll never eat.

the new cutting board

my new cutting board,
sitting close to my sink,
but not too close
because I don't want to get
water on it,
is beautiful.
sheesham wood, stained
and glossy.
it had a nice tag on it
telling me where it was made
and how it didn't hurt
the amazon jungle one bit
when it was carved
out of a thirty foot tree.
I can't possibly cut
a piece of cold
chicken on it let alone
dice a stalk of celery,
not that I eat
celery, but it's a
beautiful piece of wood.
it's heavy and thick.
I think about it
all the time when I leave
the house
wondering if it's too
close to the window,
the sun making it fade
in color or shine.
what if someone looks
in and wants to steal
it, what then? maybe I
should get two,
one for safe storage.
I have fallen in love with
my indian rosewood
cutting board.

cold feet

you have cold feet.
you can't sign on the dotted
line,
jump out of a plane,
decide
on what to wear,
what to eat,
say I do.
it's a lifelong
ailment, that bothers
others
more than it bothers
you.
you can't just blink
and go with
the first thought that
crosses your mind,
you'd rather wait,
see how it goes,
give it time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

soup bone

you could save
more money.
cut out coupons.
you could be more frugal,
make your clothes
last longer. patch a hole,
thread a seam,
turn the heat down.
eat what's in
cupboard. make soup
out of that bone.
you could, but you'd
rather not.
you'd rather go to a restaurant
with a new suit
on
order a steak.
have a few drinks,
maybe dessert.
what's the point of it all
if you can't
do this. come let's go
together, we don't
have long.



miss texas

she has no shovel.
no gloves.
no ice scrapper, or
winter hat.
she's in a dress
as the snow begins
to fall. heels
and lipstick,
a bottle of wine
in a brown bag.
she doesn't care.
she's beyond the weather,
beyond
shoveling and scraping,
she wont give
in to this minor
inconvenience of three
feet of snow.
she'll press on
and let others dig her
out, push her forward,
put a warm drink
in her hand
while they clean her
windshield,
and absorb
her winning smile.

guilty

your finger prints are
everywhere.
on the glass,
the door knob,
her legs
and arms. a loose
a strand of hair
sits upon
your sleeve.
footprints are in
the tangled sheets,
you may have bitten
her neck
at some point,
left teeth marks,
ripped her blouse,
whispered
feelings into her ear.
you're guilty.
guilty. guilty.
but willing to do the time,
if she agrees,
perhaps a long stretch
of happy years.

the sleeping

when the pet
rabbit passes, she ponders
a shoe box,
a nice spot
in the yard, near the trees
on the other side
of the fence,
a deep place
in the soft dirt where the dogs
can't get to it.
play funeral for awhile,
but no, she folds a paper
around it's limp body
and quietly goes out
to where the cans
sit, waiting for the truck.
the child is crying.
calling out
the pet's name, asking
why it won't wake up.
why is he still sleeping?
what is there to say,
but lie, for now
say yes, he's sleeping,
he's in a better place,
but we'll get another,
then another,
until you've had your fill.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

land things

they wave from the boats.
they feel the need
to throw up their arms,
their hands
and smile to those on shore,
shout greetings you
can't hear. maybe ahoy,
or something like
that. it's what people
do when sailing
on the river, or bay
in their shiny crafts,
they are cheerfully
at ease, holding drinks,
lying on their sides
in the sun, wearing sailor
caps and boat shoes.
bikinis.
a stripe of white
across their noses.
sometimes you wave back.
sometimes you don't,
you keep walking,
thinking of land things.

in crowds

another cancer
comes
and takes
the life of one you
love.
the sorrow is different now.
the adding
of dark
water to the pond
where once
there was none.
you heard of death,
read about it,
saw it on the big screen,
when you were young,
but not once
did that shadow
cross your path,
that hoarse
whisper find your ear,
like it does now,
in crowds.

so much news

so much
is hearsay, half thoughts,
murmurs collected
from vague sources,
masquerading as
news. the weeds that grow
under us, neither
false or true,
but wonderings, low
shouts from
the woods.
it's hard to believe
anything you hear these days,
harder not
to believe them
either.

sunday morning

you wake up
one morning in a strange house.
a woman
is sleeping
beside you.
there's a dog
at the end of the bed,
children
in the other room.
there's a picture
of you and this family
that you don't know
on the dresser.
your clothes are in
the closet.
you look out the window.
a neighbor waves
and says your name.
you've never seen him before.
your wife, this woman
you don't know
opens her eyes
and says hello, good
morning. kiss me, she
says, so you do.
this is how your life
begins.
you accept it
and ask her what her
name is.

the market

you ignore
the stock market, give
it the cold shoulder,
avoid it
like a troublesome
old friend
who needs a loan.
you turn
the other way,
skim the paper,
read the comics,
the horoscope.
you cross the street
and don't look back.
there is no need
to know how far it's
tumbled once again.
you go visit your
therapist and best
friend, joe, you
tap the bar
and say,
leave the bottle.

apple pie

you liked the world
when you were younger,
when it moved more slowly.
simply.
when there were
nine planets in the sky,
before the moon
got closer.
each show on tv
neatly planned on three
or four
channels. bonanza at nine.
the radio held all
your music.
you had a room, a bed.
dinner at the table
after being called in
from playing
in the street with everyone
you knew.
school in the morning.
the world seemed
safer.
people stayed together,
worked at the same
place
until they stopped
and became old.
the food pyramid had
eggs and bacon on
it. whole milk, and pie.
okay, maybe an apple too.
of course it was all
a charade, a
Disney world of make
believe.
but still you miss it.

singing solo

I can sing
in the shower, keep
a beat
on the tiles
and tap
my feet, but that is
the sum
total of all
my musical abilities.
I won't be going
on tour
anytime soon.
which is fine,
because I have severe
stage fright,
which makes me sweat
and tremble
with just the thought
of being
in a spotlight.
i'm quite content
to croon until
the hot water
runs cold,
the soap microphone
runs out.

the ice box

tomorrow you'll
get on your knees and empty
the ice
box.
clean the shelves
of lettuce leaves,
cocktail sauce
in hardened spills,
ancient tangerines,
skin like tissue
gone green.
you don't really need
six bottles
of dressing,
Italian, vinaigrette,
blue cheese.
those frozen meats,
what are they?
who put them there?
how long can they last,
those white
boxes of Chinese?
Halloween candy,
bite sized,
like rocks
beside the ice trays.
a hardened bag
of green beans.

no salt no sugar

your idea of dinner
differs
from hers.
undust it of seasoning,
serve it
bland
and raw
is her way to go.
boil or broil,
a celery stalk would
make a meal.
a carob cake
to top
things off.
no bread, no butter.
no sugar.
fish fish fish
all year long.
she may live to be
a hundred
but what a slow
ungodly crawl.

faint praise

arrows,
sharp and pointed,
raining from the bent
bow of critics,
you can live with.
a sword swung
in full view, aiming
for your head,
is fine.
it's the dull
short knife
of faint praise
that finds
its mark and brings
you to your knees,
nothing said
would be better,
more kind.

Monday, January 18, 2016

moon pie?

do you mind if I vape,
she says
after making love,
what, I say. what are you
talking about?
I see the blue
light
of her electronic
cigarette
go on, a puff of air
rise.
she puts one hand
behind her head
and sighs.
care for one, she asks.
no, I tell her,
pulling out a box
from the dresser drawer,
ripping a wrapper,
moon pie?

out of reach

her sofa,
wrapped tightly in a plastic
sheet,
the velvet rope,
the keepsakes
on the mantle, a clock
without a tick,
a vase, an oil portrait
of someone
who looked almost
like her, everything
worth breaking, just inches
out of reach.
no fun to wander
her house.
the borders closed
from step to door,
no where to roam.
to stamp our feet,
or throw a ball,
and the tea, the stale
cookies,
her proper way of talking.
all of it,
to us children,
a deathly bore.

the large pill

the pill,
too large to swallow
no matter how much
water
or wine
you use to flush it down
remains on
the tongue,
gone bitter as its
shell
dissolves into
your mouth.
so you spit it free
into sink.
you're not good with
pills or
listening to others
complain.

tuesday night

too much light,
sitting near the door where
a wind
swirls in.
the food
is cold. the drinks come
slow.
the television behind
the bar,
too loud.
a Tuesday night,
the second shift
is listless,
everyone is watching
the clock, staring
into their phones,
even you, at this point,
want to go home.

the best she could

from the window
you see
the rusted bike. the swing
with a broken chain
on one side.
the collapse of a blue
plastic
pool, once two feet high,
now slick with algae.
the yard
is worn by dogs.
the clothes line stretched
with wet
dungarees and shirts,
girls dresses. baby clothes
of blue and pink,
carnations stiff in
the cold wind.
a pair of chuck
taylors with the laces
tied, hung like weights
over the vine,
never to dry.
the long chain
link fence has a hole in
it where
we took wire clippers
to escape,
then come back. she did
the best she could.

the middle years

you fondly remember
the middle years,
those fat and happy
years of contentment.
a wife, the picket
fence, the child
in school, the dog on
a leash.
how nice it was
to know where and when
dinner was served,
when to rise,
or sleep.
the kiss goodnight.
it's different now.
each day a spin of the wheel.
each day
a toss of the dice.

stepping out

stepping out into
the morning glare,
a thick coat
is not enough, a scarf
and hat,
gloves, and boots.
still not enough
to keep the wind at bay,
the cold
from entering your bones
and making you
shout out a word
that you don't want
children to hear
what you say.

the end

i'm surprised to find
her living in a senior home.
I can still remember her long
legs
unfolding out of a chair.
the way she kissed
and cursed.
are we that old?
it has a ramp, she says
on the phone.
bingo on Wednesday.
the food is great and I've
made so many new
friends.
you should come and play
cards one night.
we have an indoor pool.
you like to swim, don't you?
i'll leave your name at
the gate
to get you in.

wait until spring

we need to talk, she says to you,
while lying in bed staring
at the motionless fan.
we need to have a serious talk.
you shake your head
and say, again.
what, what now? it's us, she says.
it's not working.
your heart sinks.
you know what it's about.
it's always about the same thing.
the falling out of love,
the moving on.
there's someone else better
out there for both of us,
she says smiling, reaching over
to touch your hand.
all givens. all true.
but you're willing to live in
this kind misery for a little while
longer.
it's too cold out to call it quits,
you say out loud.
spring is a better season
for this, trust me. I know.

remember when

her memory had been
fogged
by innumerous bong hits over
the decades.
not a dead head,
following jerry and the boys
around the world,
but someone who liked to sleep
and eat
and make love in the cloud
of a happy drug.
it made her laugh and sway
to the music,
but sometimes she went to the window
to see if
the sirens she heard wailing
were for her,
stuffing her stash
under a sofa pillow.
sometimes she heard things that
weren't said.
she locked the doors
and checked them again.
it was difficult to join
in when someone said
remember when. the remember
when part of her brain was gone.
long gone, erased gently
away with smoke,
but she was happy, a creased
smile crossed her face
as she rolled another joint
sealing it with a long
expert lick.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

flowers and a card

you get the call
that an elderly aunt has died.
the aunt no one really knew.
was she in philly still,
or jersey.
a decision
has to be made
do you go to the funeral
or stay home.
we toss it around.
say things like who really
knew her. when did she ever
call or send a card.
isn't she married now?
have kids of her own.
did she work?
we know nothing about her.
as she knew nothing
about us. it's been decades
since you've seen her,
but still,
this card in hand, this
notice of death asks
for something to be done.
flowers? you suggest.
yes. she says, flowers.
and a card. roses?

bring the truck

it's the click click
click
of the dead battery
in the cold morning,
that makes you think
of other things besides
love
and desire.
you try again, hitting
the pedal
for gas, but nothing.
a whir then silence.
you sit there.
the frost is etched
across the window.
a bloom of your
breath opens an oval view
of street
and bare trees,
the lines of black wire.
you wait, as if waiting
is the cure
for all things
mechanical.
you turn the key, still
nothing.
you've done all you can
do but make
the call, to bring a truck
to save you.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

it's going to rain

it's going to rain.
look at the sky, how low
and grey it is.
the wind
has picked up, the leaves
have curled.
take this umbrella
with you. these boots,
they'll fit.
put them on.
call me when you get home.
hurry.
before it starts
to pour.
I made you a dish too.
take it.
it's still warm, you
can eat when you
get home. but wait,
you're forgetting something,
kiss me
before you go.

apartness

how easily
she sleeps. unburdened
by love.
distant and aloof
in her dreams,
not unlike when she's
awake
and kneeling in her
garden.
she tells you to dig
a long carved
row
for her French drain.
push the wheel
barrow full of stones
to the top
and pour.
she leaves you alone
at night.
it confuses her, this thing
she's stuck in.
keeping a pen
and paper nearby on
the nightstand,
for things
to do to keep us
apart and tired, to
keep us unglued.

it starts now

no, I say. no.
I don't want to download
your poetry
your photos of you,
your dog
and your children.
I don't want to meet
them either.
spare me the politeness
I must show
to be in this
relationship with you.
don't send me
your wishes, your favorites,
your likes.
just come as you are.
bring no one.
I have no desire to know
the history of you.
ours begins now, day one,
year one.
the world we're in
starts now.

waiting on tomorrow

someone
asks you about tomorrow.
but tomorrow seems so far off.
so far away,
you wonder if it will
even get here.
you're non committal
about the next day.
you say, let's see,
let's wait
before we decide on
tomorrow. we have time.
let's decide when
it gets here, if it ever
does.

gambling fever

you slowly tear up
the five dollars worth of lottery
tickets that you purchased
for the big drawing
and toss the scraps into
the fire.
your luck has not run dry,
it's never even trickled
to begin with.
you didn't have one single
number that matched any
of the numbers chosen.
this tells you something.
gambling isn't in your blood.
you've always been cautious
with even buying things
from a vending machine.
you wish you had the five dollars
back. the things you could
do with that money.
a grande gingerbread latte,
for example, with whipped cream.

another sister

a stranger who claims
to be another daughter from
your father
wants to friend you.
she looks like no one you know.
a different color,
a different race,
a different height and weight.
you see no resemblance
or dna connection with
anyone you are related to.
so you delete the request.
he did sail all seven seas,
so you do wonder if it's possible.
but life is stressful
enough with the siblings
you already have, why add another
to the mix.

shopped out

you feel like buying something.
but you don't know what.
there is nothing that you need.
and yet the urge to splurge
and purchase some useless thing
comes over you.
so you walk the stores with
a pocket full money hoping
against hope that you will
find something you can't live
without. but it's useless.
you go home and get online.
amazon, you browse for hours.
still nothing. you look at
red chairs. blue chairs.
pants, shoes, another tv.
but there is nothing you can
buy that you don't already have
in twos or threes. it's the end
of your shopping life
as you know it.

Friday, January 15, 2016

notes revisited

no sooner than you start
to clean out the desk,
the cluttered drawers of papers,
photos
postcards, loose ends,
you stop to read
a note once sent to you.
it's folded and placed
with value in a tin.
handwritten.
the ink still clean
and legible.
everything that is said
of importance is between
the lines.
why you didn't see it back
then, you aren't sure.
but you were blind to much
of life those days.
quick to turn the page,
move on to the next whim,
but now you see
her love for you,
her willingness
to let you be you,
go past the point of just
being friends. it's so clear
now what you didn't
see then.

press on

it's disturbing
this
thing called death
and dying.
ignored for as long
as possibly,
it suddenly
is in the room, taking
the busy hands
of others
that you've known
and loved
and walking off with
them.
there is less than
little
you can do, but press
on in the quiet
of your day,
pretend to imagine
that it could never
happen to you.

without words

without words
what are you, a bird without
wings,
a fish
on land.
a night of sleep
without a dream.
you need these words.
these seeds
of thought, but more
than that
you need the rain
of others
to bring them through
the hard earth,
to make them
rise up.

so it goes

what little chance there is
in changing things,
the room arranged
and left as desired.
a place for everything
and everything in its
place as is often said.
the colors chosen took time.
it would be strange
to move that chair
into the light or to
hang the black
and white photo on
a different wall.
things have landed where
they should be, or where
life feels right.
so it goes.

the meeting

your boss, who is you,
gives you the day off on Friday.
take a day off
you tell yourself
when you sit down at your desk.
these meetings worry
you. you never know when
the axe might fall.
go ahead, you deserve it,
you tell yourself.
go to a movie, sleep late.
you've had a good year.
you've worked so hard,
but, you say, maybe not.
maybe I need to go in.
I have bills to pay.
who will feed me, take care
of me. I need to press on,
I need to stay ahead
of things. I can't let
this all slip away
and end up in a box behind
the liquor store.
i'll rest on sunday, but
thanks just the same.

upstream

the limp of almost love
comes to her
every now and then.
she swims upstream
kicking her small feet,
one arm over the other
while he waits on the shore
for her with a cold drink
in hand, a blanket to
keep her warm. trying
still to win her over
with what he thinks she
needs. trying to say
the right things, but
knowing all along.
it won't last. the only
mystery being would be
the first to leave.

both small and fierce

her shoes were so tight
that she took
them off n the way to see
king lear.
the pavement was hot,
broken glass
and cigarettes still
burning were in her path,
she dodged them
in her dress with short
hop scotch hops.
dangling her dainty
heels in one hand.
you didn't know what to
make of her. both small
and fierce
as Shakespeare liked
to say.

four men

four boys,
four men. four of them.
neatly
tied to your own
life, now
gone. just the memory
of who they were
to you remains, how could
you know otherwise.
it's all you have to go
on.
you feel the space
where they once stood,
hear the silence
of their voices.
you can see them,
no need name their
names. they know.
you know. your world
without them
can't be the same.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

the other side

you've done so
while driving,
at work.
standing in line.
in bed.
on the phone, walking
through
the woods.
the sand. rarely
in the presence
of others. what shame
there would be
in showing that.
broken and awash
in tears. but
how sweet it is to
finally break
and cry, to get
to that other
side.

stuck inside of ikea

after getting my three hundred dollars
tax return in the mail
i decided i needed a new set of furniture
for my house,
so I went to ikea. unfortunately
I got stuck in there
overnight. i didn't understand
the closing announcement
on the P.A. system
because it was in Swedish.
it was scary. i was by myself
and had no one to lead me around.
I lost my way,
not following the yellow
arrows and got caught inside
when the doors sealed shut,
and the iron gates clanged
together.
I wandered for a while
with my little three inch pencil
and order paper,
smelling candles.
touching the fabrics of itchy
rugs and curtains. saying ooh and ahh
when rubbing the shiny
red kitchen cabinets, seeing
how nicely the drawers
closed by themselves. I couldn't
get over that.
to wile the hours away
I tried to put together
a seventy-nine piece
desk with four drawers
and a foldout table top,
marked genius level
of construction,
but it was missing
several pieces and i lost
my hex wrench
in a barrel of bag clips
sitting nearby.
finally
I got tired as the night
wore on, but
I couldn't find
a bed that didn't collapse
under my own weight,
or a chair to sit on that
didn't wobble, having a screw
or bolt, or caster, or peg
coming loose.
I set my phone and keys
on the shelf of a
Klondike cabinet
and it fell over,
striking me in the forehead,
injuring my knee. I limped on
through the store until
I found meatballs
in the cafeteria, so it
wasn't all lost, mashed potatoes
and a cold tub of mixed
vegetables, all unfrozen
and heated up that week.
I ate my fill,
but I began to neigh
as the night went on,
stampeding across
the floor, galloping from
aisle to aisle
knocking over tens of dollars worth
of lamps and glasses,
ornate mirrors,
trying to get free.

the work dog

you see a dog walking
by, going to work,
a seeing eye dog,
with a brief case
and a newspaper under
his leg.
he's wearing ear muffs
and mittens on his paws.
he tips his hat
and barks hello.
it's cold out, you say
to him, as he gallops
by. have a nice day.
to which he nods a reply,
then runs, zig zagging
across the street
dodging cars.

happy birthday, week

it's her birthday.
not just one day though,
it's birthday week.
flowers and balloons
a small parade
down main street.
women are different
that way.
everyone needs to know
the day of their birth.
they put the word out
on the street.
write it in the sky.
they casually slip it into
every conversation
they have, oh by the way,
today's my birthday.
men don't care.
it's a reminder
of time passing here
on earth. another scratch
on the wall.
a slice of cake,
a nice card will do.
but please, no singing
waiters.

we would be happy

maybe i'll buy ten houses
if I win,
I hear the man say,
zipping up his thin coat,
holding his son's hand.
and three new cars. five, six.
maybe one for every day
of the week. different colors.
big cars for all of us.
every night we could eat
steak, have cake for dessert.
every night? the boy says.
he goes over to throw
rocks into the icy water.
I could have gloves too,
he says. blowing on his hands.
yes. leather gloves.
all different colors
and boots for your feet.
I could buy your sister
a new dress and your mother
a small dog. she always
talks about having pets.
we would be happy then,
wouldn't we,
the boy says. if our ticket wins.
you wouldn't fight and yell
anymore, right dad?
yes. we would be happy.
we would all be happy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

no dessert for me

she never wants dessert, ever.
she shakes her head, and says no
to the waiter, no not me.
i'm fine. please, but you
go right ahead. she pushes
back from the table
as if a radioactive isotope
had just been offered to her.
making a face, squinting
her eyes,
but it doesn't stop her
from eating half of mine
when it arrives, taking
a fork and diving in.

a saucer of milk

the black cat
with green eyes waits for you
now
to come home from work,
lying low
under the car
in front of your house,
tight against a tire.
she cries when she sees you.
you haven't lost
your touch at all you think
and smile
as you pour a saucer
of milk
to set on the stoop
outside, but
you don't dare let her in,
she might get attached.

another shovel

another shovel
of coal goes
into the mouth
of the hungry
furnace,
it belches red
and yellow,
hot smoke and ash fly
in the dank
cellar,
embers spark.
the vents are full
of heat.
another shovel goes
in.
then another from the stack
on the floor.
your hands are black.
your shoes too.
the soot is on your brow.
this should be
enough
to get you through
the night.
keep you warm as you back
up the stairs,
to your life.

kenny and mary

mary is moving to Miami.
she's tapping out.
raising the white flag.
at ninety five, she's
ready to move on. I've known
her for forty years.
all her friends are dead.
her husband long gone.
her blue chairs are worn
and faded.
Hecht's is closed.
so is woodies, and garfinkels.
her white caddy is rusting
in the garage, undriven for
years. it's time, she says.
the building has changed.
I know no one.
I've had enough.
time to move on,
but i'll miss you, and you
must come to visit
once i'm settled in,
once i find my way around.
i'm taking the train, she says.
you know how Kenny and I
loved to ride
the train. I always sat
by the window. he loved me
like that.

jibber jabber

jibber jabber
is all you got sometimes.
a mess of words
strung together,
no reason
no message, no
metaphor, or rhyme.
just a stream of
thoughts,
going nowhere, a
tangled
empty vine.

feels like january

it feels like
January I tell my
dog as he curls in my lap
hoping i'll turn up the heat
and not ask him
if he wants to go for a walk.
he shivers and wipes
his runny eyes with a paw.
he burrows in deep,
cleaning up some cookie
crumbs as he does so.
I guess we can wait
just a little longer I
tell him before we go
outside, which makes him
nod his head and sigh.

the day off

the woman
chases you down the sidewalk,
across
the parking lot,
as you get
into your truck to go home,
she yells
and says, you can't do
this to us,
you can't leave. you
promised you'd hang
this wallpaper today.
now get back here. get
back here right now.
i'm calling your boss
and tell him
that you are a no good
employee.
she bangs on your window.
screaming.
beating the side of
the door with a double
roll of unpasted
flock, twenty seven
inch repeat, untrimmed
designer paper.
get in here now and
put this on our walls.
you roll down the window
and say, i'm sorry, but
as nice as you are,
I have to go.

lunch box

people are confused and saddened
when sharks bite
them
on the arm or leg,
or worse. taking a large
part of them
back into the sea.
what are these sharks doing?
they take it personally.
what did I do wrong, they think.
why are they so
mean to us, lovers
of nature, and yet they keep
going out
to swim where they swim,
thrashing in the water
like baby seals,
or tuna, ready to eat.
lunch is served.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

leftovers

there's too much food
on this plate.
enough for two people.
I can't eat it all.
I won't come close to
finishing it
and will take what's
left home
in a styro foam
box. white and softly hard
held closed by tabs.
it will sit on an ice box
shelf
getting cold.
for days.
maybe a week. at some
point i'll forget what's
in the box and look,
say something like, oh,
right.
then throw it away.

the cubist

she wore what we called
earth shoes
back in the nineteen seventies.
grey blocks
of rubberized shoes,
bricks with openings for
one's feet.
she was squared off,
with short cut hair.
straight bangs,
straight shoulders.
no curves to be found.
she'd sit on the radiator
on the side of the classroom
and lecture us
on art history.
her fingers pressing a clicker
for the slides showing
the beauty of paris.
the museums,
the enormous cathedrals
of rome.
there was hardly a painting
or artist that she didn't know.
but it was hard to take
your eyes off her shoes
attached to her thick ankles
folded together
above the floor.


blimey

on occasion she would
talk with a british accent.
cloudy day today, isn't it?
it was adorable
for the first day,
the second and third
day, well, not so much.
i attempted
to respond in like manner
by saying things like,
perhaps we should
stop and get a spot of tea,
or bloody hell,
what do they know about art
or music?
soon though,
i lost interest,
my mind wandered.
i started to look
at and listen to other
women. one's who spoke
my language, not
the king's.
are you day dreaming,
my love, she'd say.
passing a hand
in front of my face.
hello. anyone home?
fish and chips for lunch
today?

the haircut

i felt bad for mister kim
when I purchased
a pair of men's hair clippers
from walgreens.
but it was more of a financial
decision, not a personal one.
he's a fine man.
although his stories
were boring and he always
asked me the same questions.
if I was married,
had any children,
what did I do for work?
after a few years of going
there, he didn't remember
any of my answers.
I grew weary of his
tobacco breath,
and the garlic from his lunch.
it took him ten minutes to
buzz my thin head of hair.
it takes me the same
amount of time now.
but I don't have to answer
any questions, or sit there
with a sheet tied tight
around my neck. have him
spin the chair around
and ask me how's
it look. it looks like an
apple. a fuzzy peach.
I've become a still life
bowl of fruit in the wall
length mirror.
I still see mister kim
nearly every week though.
he's standing outside smoking
in front of the barbershop.
he's wearing his blue smock
and black shoes.
I used to wave to him
as I went in to get coffee
next door, but now he turns
his back, averts his eyes.
he's done with me. done with
my hair. my life.

maybe i know them

if your father saw
a license plate
from Canada he would stop
the car,
hop out and go shake
their hand.
have a conversation
in the middle of the street
with these
strangers from
nova scotia,
or Ontario.
traffic would back up.
horns would blow.
curses and fingers
would get thrown his way,
he didn't care and waved
the cars to go around.
he lived there
for maybe a year or two
as a child.
now that he no longer drives
and has you to drive him around,
he asks you
to roll down
the window
and question these people,
ask these Canadians
if they've ever been
to Halifax, or Montreal.

winter wonderland

it's the ice
on the window.
the wind breaking
free loose
tiles from the roof.
it's the shiver
of the skinny dog in
the yard. his bark
hardly heard.
it's the woman
crossing the street,
bent over,
clutching her
empty purse,
the man
over the fire barrel
rubbing his
hands.
the ragged souls
huddled
on a steam grate.
the child half submerged
in the split pond
with a red scarf
blowing.
winter is here.


the half moon scar

the kid
who put the firecracker
into the coke
bottle
is a grown man now
but when I
see the half moon scar
on his lip
I can't help
but remember that day
he lit the fuse
and watched
it blow.
the glass shards
raining down
on all of us.
did he lose his courage
from that point
on. is he
different now?
it doesn't matter.
some things you can
never on from.

caged

her feathered wings
are clipped
and now she swings in the cage
not singing, not
flying, but
watching
the world disappear
before her eyes,
the blue sky out the window
no longer
hers.

she's the devil

the cab driver wants to tell
me a story.
a long story, but I don't want
to hear it.
it involves his mother in law
and a dog.
something about barking
and chewing shoes. how she is
meddling in his life.
i nod to him in the mirror,
making facial expressions
to fit the words that spill
out of his mouth.
sometimes he'll hit the dashboard
with his hand
to give an exclamation to a point
he is making.
his dark eyes blink wildly,
then get wider as the story
advances. can you believe it
he says.
she's the devil, the devil.
this is my stop, I tell him.
you can pull over here.
this is good.
I start counting out some bills,
but he doesn't stop. I won't
charge you, he says, turning
off the meter. but I have more
to say, he keeps driving.
you won't believe this next part.
he lifts a bag of chips
to the top of the seat
and asks me if I want some,
then continues talking,
driving madly, beeping his
horn as he barely avoids
collisions.

warnings of impending doom

you were warned
about so many things as a child.
eating
before swimming,
put your coat on you'll
catch your death
of cold,
don't eat
the yellow snow, avoid
those cracks
on the sidewalk, it
could cause
great pain to your mother
if you step on them.
the ladder,
the black cat.
a broken mirror.
bread and butter must
be said
when splitting the pole
as you walk
with a friend.
and lift those feet
when crossing
the railroad track.
be home before dark,
wash your hands.
and yet somehow you've
made it this
far by breaking
every rule.

Monday, January 11, 2016

coat with an ink stain

it's dark when you leave
for work in the morning,
dark when you get home.
it's cold.
it might snow.
you can't live like this
much longer.
you throw the mail
into the trash
and peel
back the plastic off a slice
of low fat American cheese
while standing at
the kitchen sink.
you turn the milk up
to your lips
and drink from the jug.
it's two per cent,
so you feel good about that.
you go into the living room
and turn judge judy on.
you hate her,
but can't stop yourself
from watching.
how will this case end?
this struggle over
a hundred dollar
coat with an ink stain.


the last dog

i can't get another
dog, because i hate when they
die and leave me to
their things.
the leashes and collars
still on the hook
by the door.
the dog dish in the kitchen.
the jackets
that they wore
when it snowed or was cold.
their toys
everywhere,
a bone or two buried
beneath a sock
in the corner.
the brush, the pills,
the bags and cans
of their food.
i can't get another dog,
i don't have
the room for more
sorrow in my life,
but i think about
it often.

was i sleeping

a sip or two of wine
made her amorous,
giving me a wink,
batting her lashes
like a movie queen
from another era,
but more than a drink
would put her asleep
on the couch
with pistachio shells
on her blouse.
her fingers red,
her mouth open and
snoring, the tv on.
i'd take her shoes off,
call the restaurant
to cancel our
reservations, then
put a blanket on her.
i'd sit in the other
chair watching tv,
until she woke
up and said,
was I sleeping?

the teacher i loved

I saw my favorite teacher
in the store once
when I was eleven
or twelve. she was
buying milk, bread,
placing assorted
things in her cart.
a man was with her. he
was smoking
and looking at a magazine.
I had no idea
that teachers would
drink milk too.
she seemed awkwardly
shy
to see me,
saying my full name,
and asking
how I was.
she knew how I was.
she saw me three hours
ago
in her classroom.
I shrugged, I said
I had to go,
which seemed to relieve her
of some sort of hidden pain.
she waved at me,
see you in school tomorrow,
she said.
don't forget to do
your reading.
I couldn't get out of
there fast enough, but
took a look
back at the man.
he was wearing a light blue suit
and had a hat on.
like he was
trying to be someone
that he wasn't.
I wondered what she was
doing with
the likes of him and
never forgave her for that.

school house

it surprises you.
the abandoned building.
the red brick
in tact. windows shattered
by rocks.
the doors chained
shut.
graffiti criss crossed
across
the walls.
you carried
a satchel of books in
there once.
for six years, up
those steps
down the linoleum
halls, the columns
of metal lockers
on each side.
taking your seat
where told.
it seemed as if it would
never end
this torturous teaching,
waiting for those hands
on the clock
to spin,
and then it did,
and now this.
empty and abandoned,
but not you,
not yet.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

a days work


when I was twenty
I remember standing
beside
the men
in winter clothes,
boots, shuffling to stay warm,
some with hats.
unshaven.
smoking. hands in their
pockets. tool
bags at their feet.
they were my father's age.
they had
little patience for the world,
but there they
were at seven in the morning
listening
to a man much younger
than them
giving orders for the day
as to who will do
what, where,
and when. he told them
Friday
is payday.
lunch is thirty minutes.
if you're late
in the morning, go home.
the skeleton of the building
groaned with wind and setting
concrete,
the new iron, steel bones
as we climbed
the stairs up twenty floors
to begin doing
what we were told to do.
the slow ones were let go.
as each floor
was finished
even more were given pink slips
and checks.
somehow I made
it to the lobby, then told
to leave.


late night shopping

upon entering the store
at midnight, I stop to
count the bills
in my pocket. a wad of crushed
greens
of varying assorted numbers.
tens and twenties.
I see Lincoln
in the mix and George.
I count them out
as I push
the broken wheel cart
through the grocery
store, down the empty aisles
past the man working,
making a pyramid
out of yellow grapefruits.
I have no clue as to what
to buy, or eat.
so I wander until I do know,
my tipsy brain and grumbling
stomach
leaning towards salt,
towards cake and sweets.

anyone

asleep, they could be anyone's
arms.
anyone's hands,
or hair. or leg lingering
out
from the sheets.
she could be anyone.
anyone
you've loved and lost,
or ran from.
she could be a stranger
fallen from
the sky,
but she isn't. she's there.
she's asleep
beside you
and you don't know
what to make
of it.

the yellow dress

it's not about
her yellow dress, cotton
with white
fringe, caught
on the fence and torn
that this is all about.
the tears
are more than that.
it's all
of the yesterdays
that came before this moment
as she closed the gate
and tried
to run.

the parents

there is a point
where your mother and father
become people.
they have names.
faults
and scars.
it scares you to think
that they
are just like you.
fragile
and curious as to what
happens next.
you want more out of them
than
they can possibly give,
and now
your son knows too.

strangers on the ground

i'm not sure why,
but the train whistle
sounds mournful
as it crosses
the water, the break
in trees,
the carved out cliff
that straightens the tracks
over the trestle.
there should be no emotion
involved, I try
to reason, but there is.
there is the coming
and going
of those on board,
strangers with destinations
in mind while
those on the ground
look up and wave.

the straight line

I used to think of
this, this life as a circle.
birth and death
joining hands
down the road with
the days you lived
in the middle.
but not anymore.
it's a straight line
that I see now.
a point
where it starts and
another point where it ends.
you can throw eternity
in there if you wish.
salvation,
life after life.
but from where I sit
at the moment.
I can see
the line. the straight line.
not a circle.
a point where it begins,
a point
where it ends.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

the other world

tired
of being responsible
and caring,
compassionate and full of
worry
about the state of the world,
wars everywhere, the rising tide,
the economy,
disease and poverty.
you need a mental
break
from your thoughts,
so you call your friend
jimmy
who answers the phone
always by saying
repeatedly yo yo yo.
what's up
my brother?
not much I tell him.
hey!
you need to get down here
and have some
of these chicken wings,
they will blow the top
off your head.
he yells louder
into the phone. hey man,
can you hear that music
playing?
they're about to start
a bikini contest.
don't be a loser,
come on man, get down here.
i'll save you
a seat. i'm right at the bar,
front row.
okay, you tell
him, bending the corner
of a page
of the Philip Larkin
biography you're reading,
see you soon.

what did he look like

she told the police
what he did, how he waited
for her
to open the car door
than he lunged at her,
grabbing her purse.
she told them
how she wouldn't let
go, how he yelled at her
and cursed.
called her old
and stupid, worse.
and what did he look like,
the policewoman
asked, taking notes.
he was very handsome she
said, her eyes
glazing over.
he reminded me of my
husband before he died,
when he was young
when we both were young
he was very strong
and handsome. I have
a picture of him
in my purse if you'd
like to see, she said,
undoing the clasp.

where we are

the misunderstanding
is
apparent.
the silence says more
than
all the words
spoken.
it's cold in here.
maybe
this is not working out.
between you
and me.
the separate rooms,
the different
foods,
the way
you plug in your ear
phones
and leave. we should
talk sometime
when things begin
to thaw.
i'll say all these things
i'm thinking.
i'll guess at
your htoughts.

getting vitamins

when I was your age,
the man tells me as he's standing
in line
to get his prescription
filled
at the drugstore, when I
was your age
we made our own
medicine.
but you look around
my age, I tell him,
twisting my prescription
for rogaine and Viagra
in my hand.
we put mud on our wounds
back then,
drank castor oil.
if I was feeling ill
as a child
my mother put leeches
on my neck.
that's nice I tell him,
trying to ignore
him by
reading the directions
on a hot water
bottle. what are you
getting, he asks me,
tapping my leg with his
cane.
oh nothing. just some
vitamins. sort of low
on vitamin C and D
lately. and you I politely
ask. oh, you don't want
to know, he says.
i'm dying. in fact I
might be dead before
I get to the counter.
if I fall and start turning blue
could you breathe into my
mouth, and pump my heart.
are you serious? yes, he says.
please. promise me.
you know, I'd like to but
I just remembered
that I need some gum
at the front of the store.
i'll be back.

Friday, January 8, 2016

hiking the accotink trail

while hiking in the woods
for three miles
with joan, who carries a knife
on her belt
and speaks fluent apache,
she yells out frantically
and points into the trees,
oh my god, she says.
look at that maple tree.
look at the beauty and splendor
of those leaves.
i catch my breath,
scrapping mud of my
florshiem shoes and say,
which one is that?
that one, the one with the
reddish leaves.
I still don't see it.
between the pines and the oak
trees. i squint into
the direction where she's
pointing. the one with the squirrel
on it or the one with all
those Budweiser cans under it?
no no. neither of those.
over there. right there.
she goes over to the tree
and puts her arms around it.
this one. oh. yeah. nice, I
say. hey watch out, there
might be fire ants or sap
on that tree. she hugs it
even more, closing her eyes
and smiling. maybe you two
should get a room,
or something, I tell her.
suddenly she starts making loud
whooping sounds. whooo whooo,
she yells out, cupping her
hands to her mouth.
what are you doing, I ask
her. you might attract rabid
raccoons to our position.
my obamacare hasn't kicked in
yet. i'm talking to that
owl. see it. it's right
up there on that high branch.
he's watching us. see the way
his head swivels. sure. I tell her.
sure. I give the owl a wave.
hey, by any chance is there
a starbucks nearby,
like maybe on the other
side of that creek?
I could really use a cup of joe,
and a morning bun.

travel light

springtime in paris
would be nice.
or new York,
or rome,
perhaps aruba, anywhere
safe
and warm.
i'd even settle
for the atlantic ocean.
a porch
on the beach, not
too far of a drive,
away from home.
don't bring any children
or pets,
or baggage.
bring skin
and bones.
lips and a smile,
an appetite for food
and drink.
come alone.

the hipster clerk

it shouldn't bother you,
it's none of your business
and you don't want to be
judgmental, and yet, you
want to say out loud, why,
to the middle aged woman
ringing up your groceries
who has a fishing lure
hanging from her lip.
a straight pin through
her eyebrow, and a ring
in her nose like a rodeo
bull. you don't even see
the fresco of tattoos
that ink her body, arms
and legs, her neck.
you ignore the streaks
of blue in her hair.
the hardware glistens
upon her face. she looks
as if she fell into
a tackle box. you want
to ask why, or what were
you thinking. does it hurt?
what happens when you sneeze
or have a cold.
do you ever snag a sweater
when pulling it over
your head?
but you say nothing
as she bags your milk
and bread, your tuna
cans, your bag of red
potatoes.

sex education

there was a kid
in the old neighborhood,
jimmy, that had
red hair that fell
like soft flames
along his brow.
despite being
only a year older
than you at eleven he
knew everything there
was to know about sex.
he was wiry and blued eyed,
animated.
he was a walking
Kinsey report, telling
his gathered group
of striped shirt minions
with cowlicks
the in and outs of
women, of how to please
them. how different
they were. what makes
them tic. what makes
them swoon and want more
love. sometimes
he'd bring chalk and
draw a crude picture
on the side of a wall
or an apartment
laundry room floor where
he held court, out
of earshot from parents
or adults. remember,
he used to say when wrapping
up a seminar
before playing stick
ball behind the bowling
alley. remember.
they like it too, almost
as much as we do.



four out of five doctors

you rub another
miracle cream into your
sore shoulder.
a dollop
for your knee.
your wrist.
it doesn't work.
these pain creams are useless
and now
you smell like
the sap from a pine tree.
those four out
of five doctors
are lying.
you want to hear from
the one
with the no vote.
the one sitting in a bar,
shaking his
head and saying
give me another vodka
tonic
with a twist of lime.
he knows the truth
about pain
and suffering.

the sparrow

you met her at
the Morrison Hotel
so many years ago.
a blind date.
more or less.
one never knows
until it happens,
she landed on a sill
of a window.
this sparrow
of a girl.
starched wings.
brown eyes, black
hair. a suitcase
that weighed more
than she did.
how she could
fly back then.
from Ireland
to Lisbon
to Rome
to me. her feathers
are still
everywhere.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

trying to leave

she walks now.
fast
from side to side,
forward.
to a table.
around a chair.
she's a child.
touching everything,
eating
whatever comes into
reach.
her brown eyes
are small
behind her glasses.
her hair,
as white as corn silk,
knotted upon
her head
by her eldest daughter
who calls to her
to come sit.
to be still.
she walks
and walks, going nowhere,
trying so hard
to get
out.

a sparkle of green

it was a sweet
delicate fear that fed you
in church
as a child. hair combed,
a clean shirt,
coins for the basket
rattling in your pocket.
your small hands pressed
and laced together,
with head bowed.
a sweet fear.
it kept you from
being more evil
than you already were.
God had to kill his own son
just to save you,
who does that?
you were that bad
of a boy.
the latin and incense,
the robes and candles.
the stained
glass
and murmuring
as one, repeating
what was spoken, the rap
upon the chest,
standing,
kneeling, genuflecting
on cue.
you would do whatever
it took
to keep you out of hell.
confession, communion,
repentance,
and yet you still couldn't
keep your eyes
off the girl
in front of you with
a sparkle of green in
her eyes. the white
ribbon against her long
dark hair. the paleness
of her arms.

these things

it's different now,
at this ripe
age, the things we
held to heart
when young,
their weight upon us.
how easily the span
of years,
or perhaps hard,
for us to change our
minds
and take a different
course.
retreat, lighten
the load, surrender
what we never could
have imagined
so long ago.