Monday, February 29, 2016

both small and fierce

on the way to see King Lear
she wore the tightest
of shoes.
white heels, if I remember
correctly, so tight
that they hurt me just to
look at her wounded
captured feet.
finally, walking down
the sidewalk through
the city, her long dress
hitting each curb,
she took the shoes off
and walked barefoot.
a braver soul than me, she was,
both small and fierce.

the cool down

no matter the chaos
and destruction he caused,
I could hardly chase
then strike
my dog with a rolled
up newspaper, though it was
hard to get him
out from behind the basement
couch to do so.
with the trash bag
in the kitchen
spread out all over the house,
my hat and sunglasses chewed
down to nothing,
he knew I needed
an hour to cool
down and then he'd slouch
up the stairs,
hop into my lap,
give me a lick
and smile.

what came before

each bite of food
reminds you of a past
bite,
each swallow, the same.
each kiss brings
a memory
in comparison to
a past kiss,
a past part or piece
of your life.
a love, or friend
gone away.
we judge today
on what happened
yesterday.
for better or worse,
we are made
of what came before.

stopping the game

I recall
how hot is was. august.
wild
kids roaming sticky
tarred streets.
bare fields of dust and weeds,
stick ball,
the cardboard bases,
flat leather gloves,
baseballs losing
their stitches,
and the white long
Cadillac ambulance
slowing at the house
nearby.
we stopped play to run to it.
there was a woman white as the sheets
that covered her being rolled
into the long car,
her red hair
even more red
in the high sun.
her legs up, knees
in the air.
men in white uniforms
doing something
behind the dark glass windows.
the whispers of adults
about a baby.
it was horrifying.
as young boys,
standing, staring.
aghast. we couldn't run
back to the field
fast enough
when the screaming stopped
and the low murmur of a baby's
cry came out.

unsolved

the puzzle
of you is less crossword
and more
rubically cubed.
hard
to align
the colors all on
one side,
to see the true
shade of you.
I spin and spin
with
no end. no clue.
but you
like it that way,
keeping me
confused, off balance,
seeking
always to solve
the mystery of you.

and if elected

what's the point
of the do not call list
if they keep calling,
no matter how many
times you register your numbers,
again and again,
they keep calling,
asking if you have any
clothes.
do you need to refinance,
do you need
a walk in tub,
a catheter,
a walker, new windows,
your carpet cleaned?
do you need a tooth implant,
do you have
a car to give away?
can you give a donation
to the policeman's fund,
the firemen,
the veterans of
the last nine wars?
just a dime a day
will keep
this weepy eyed child
in diapers
and creamed
spinach. who would you
vote for
right now, today?
the answer being not a
verbal no one,
but a slamming down
of the phone, no one does
anything they promise
or say.

the roadside church

the church
with a modest steeple,
high enough to be reached,
is bordered
neatly by a milk white fence,
the old clapboards
tightened by
fresh nails,
holding things together
for another meeting.
spring daffodils
in bloom
planted in straight rows,
by one or two of the more
faithful
in the flock
are admired and praised
in the sunday
morning bulletin.
if you come early
enough you can have pancakes
and prayer, hot coffee,
fellowship with those
who are just like you.
the church stands
next to a hillside
cemetery that rolls
like new carpet out to
where the trees line
the road. it holds those
who've come and gone,
who once sat,
or slept soundly through
stale sermons
in the pews. the graves
are well kept,
both trimmed
and swept
of what the wind
brings forth.
it's a good church,
a pale mint green paint
adorning the walls,
the simple cross hanging
without blood
or Christ, or thorns.
no angry words
just the sweet sound
of a choir comes out
in the early morning.
it's a pleasant place to go
and worship,
to be saved,
to be found,
then go home.

the hard day

a hard day
finally wipes that smile
off her face.
don't talk to me, she says,
a deep frown
deepening with each word.
I've had a tough
day. you don't know
the trouble I've seen.
what I've been through today.
she's not amused when
you take out your violin
settle in a chair,
and begin to play.

the pressure

the grapes
pressed hard into wine.
the coal
after a millennium
squeezed
into diamonds,
the hand of God,
into you,
not all things
work
according
to science,
or religion,
occasionally things
go askew.

new light

the moon unravels
its silver
thread along the ruffled
edges
of trees
finding their new
way
becoming
their other selves
bleeding into green.
hard to imagine
a world
without hope or love
with a moon
like that
laying light upon
the land below.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

the weather

you see the headline
of another mass shooting,
six dead,
twenty one wounded,
killer on the loose.
you turn the page towards
the weather.
sunny and bright,
an early spring day.
what is there to do,
but go out
and feel the sun upon
your face.

throwing a shoe

her life bed
is now
her death bed.
the ones who loved
her have gathered
around,
the ones who didn't
care so much,
are there too.
everyone takes a hand,
lays a kiss
upon her cheeks,
says a word or two
awkwardly about something,
making it brief.
she knows all of this,
and sees it taking place,
but can't say or do anything
about it
which at the moment
is the most
frustrating thing for
her, not the dying
part,
the phony sadness
part. if I only had
the strength to throw
something, like a shoe,
she thinks,
waiting for the end.

our faults

it's the broken
board at the bottom,
the one that creaks,
and cracks
as you step on it
each morning,
that you get used to.
what's wrong has
become normal
and natural. as
the screws loosen
the wood bends,
the slight gap between wall
and board
extends, you no longer
even think to make
right, you let
this little
thing go on.
not everything
in life
needs fixing.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

that was quick

she tells you
she was stoned out of her mind
on her wedding day.
both her and the groom.
doing bong
hits in back of the limo.
their children
from other marriages trailing
behind in a mini van
driven
by a grandmother.
it was the best party ever,
she says. the band, the food,
the open bar.
we both got tattoos
pledging our love, she says,
pointing at a red
oozing wound on her arm.
it was going to be forever,
but once he lost
his job and cheated on me
with one of the bridesmaids,
it wasn't going
to work out.
I still have the wedding
cake in the freezer.
she rubs her arm
and looks into
the distance, at nothing
in particular. I think
he still has his, she says,
still rubbing
the wound.

how it's done

you jiggle the watch
to get the hands
spinning,
smack
the tv on the side
with a shoe
to stop
the horizontal lines
from moving. you
kick start
the stove
with a well aimed
foot,
bang on the window
to get it to rise,
let the car roll
down a hill to get it
started, pressing
the clutch, then gas.
to close the door
you slam, then push.
old technology
is the best.

on call

she says she is the cure
for your fever,
your sickness.
her bedside
manner will help you
through the night,
her whispered
words
of advice.
her hands are soft
as she explores
your ailments,
your wounds, your tired
bones,
your dry cough.
she's on duty,
twenty four seven,
an unregistered nurse
in white.

precious metals

the gold
you have is in your teeth,
in a small
band
you no longer wear.
silver too.
sprinkles of it
might be
in the metals
that you've kept
in drawers, small boxes,
keepsakes
that you've
forgotten about
or misplaced.
you are not panning
for gold
at this stage of life.
no kneeling
at the rivers edge
for something
shiny, someone bright.

the mermaid

it's unusual these days
to meet a mermaid.
but it happens.
I was fishing on the banks
of the river
the other day
when I snagged one
on the tail,
she swam in closer.
crying, shaking her wet
head of hair.
do you mind, she said,
could you get this
hook out of me.
you leaned over and cut
the line, then wiggled
the hook, with the worm
still in tact, out
of her scaly long
fish leg. sorry you said.
you had brought
a lunch, so you offered
her a tuna sandwich
and a pickle.
which she loved, perching
herself against some rocks.
you poured her a glass
of chardonnay from your
picnic basket and lingered,
talking until nearly dark.
you talked about what's it
like to be a fish,
a mermaid, half woman,
half flounder.
she opened your eyes to
a new world, an underwater
world that you
never knew about.
oh, the stories i could tell
she said, laughing
in a dolphin sort of sound.
she helped herself to
a bag of cookies that I
brought along then said,
I really must go. her long
green gold tail glimmered
in the vanishing sunlight
as she finally swam away,
but you are
optimistic for a second date.

your friend mr. lincoln

you reach into your pocket
and pull
out a five dollar bill.
the line is long,
out the door with
their breakfast
coupons. you
need to sit down
and eat,
have some juice,
you introduce your friend
mr. Lincoln to
the young girl
maƮtre di,
waving the bill in front
of her. she arches
her eyebrows,
that are painted
on her face
like a kabuki doll.
she laughs and
looks around the room,
winks
and says booth
or bar.

could be worse

the bank wants your house.
your car
is on the back of a tow
truck
repossessed.
your ex wife
is going to the papers
with her memoir.
your dog has run away
without a note.
your son
and daughter have changed
their names.
it's been a bad week,
but there is always hope.
you have your
health, a suitcase
full of clothes,
and a stray cat
who loves you.

waiting for spring

a cup
of hot soup. chicken
noodle.
crackers crunched
and set
sail on a steamy
top.
how easy it is to
sit here
and not
want for anything,
but for spring
to come.

a thread

one thread, a thin
long piece
of fabric
pulled
and pulled
can bring the whole thing
apart.
best snip it,
or leave it
alone,
why cause trouble
with
the pulling
and wondering where
it ends.

Friday, February 26, 2016

the light bulb

I just need a package
of light bulbs, I tell the clerk,
who tries to run in the opposite
direction when he sees
me coming. he scratches his head
through his hat
and looks upwards
to where the lights flicker
in the big store.
fluorescent? he says,
three way? halogen?
what wattage are we looking
for sir. neon?
just a pack of light bulbs
for my lamp
at home I tell him.
it's a reading lamp.
LED? no.
I shape a box with my
empty hands, you know,
the waffle box that holds
two or four. i try to draw
in the air the curve
of what a light bulb looks like.
the screw in type? he says,
or the kind you plug
in? some save energy
and some don't he says. I
recommend those, I mean
if you care about the
environment at all.
I don't, I tell him.
I don't want the squiggly
kind either,
made of hard glass,
the kind that you can't throw
away in the regular trash.
or the kind that delays
in getting bright.
but they last for
five years, he says. no, I
just want a light bulb,
a regular light bulb,
a hundred watt light bulb,
i'll even settle
for sixty watts, or one
like Edison made. please,
just tell me where they are.
the clerk looks at his watch
and suddenly unties his orange
smock, i'm on break now,
my man, my shift
just ended, but
let me see if I can get
someone over here to help you.
don't move, I think jimmy
might be on the loading dock.

the chalk

you see a chalk outline
from last nights
crime on the street.
the soft lights
and squad cars
doing nothing
to calm
the self employed.
all the bullets casings
have been swept up.
the blood mopped.
bodies
taken where the bodies go.
it's just
the chalk now that remains.
white dust
blowing, waiting
for rain.

too pink

the pink kitchen
glows
like a sunrise,
a flower
in bloom, stings
your retinas.
it's a shiny
jelly bean of a room.
too bright, she says.
should we tone
it down
a tad,
let me show a chart
of whites
I offer,
putting on my
sunglasses
and dipping my hat.

breakfast

you don't normally eat
breakfast,
the most important meal
of the day,
but this morning you look
in the mirror
and surprisingly
appear a little slim.
you pinch your hips
and say hey,
how about some bacon
and eggs,
maybe a flap jack or two,
a pan of hash browns,
but you have none
of that
in the fridge.
perhaps one of those stale
scones
at the coffee shop
on the way in might do.
or a bagel with a smear
of cream cheese,
your stomach grumbles with
hunger, and then
you remember
that you still have that
bag of gummy
bears in the glove
compartment. fruit flavored.
so it's good.

every breath she takes

suspicious of her,
he keeps an ankle
bracelet on his wife.
tracks her every move,
every typed word
on every device
is his to examine
and peruse. he owns her
by money.
by house and home.
it's a tight leash.
no escape
from this love nest
of continuing gloom.

home movies

you like scary movies.
the ones
where a door knob
turns
and you whisper
to yourself don't go
in there.
the ones with
footsteps
in the attic,
the crazed child
of questionable
lineage sitting mute
in the cold tub,
you like the way
the sky grows
dark, the rain falls,
how doors close
and get locked on
their own. you feel
comfort in the fear
and turmoil of a dark
house full of moans
and cries.
branches scratching
at the window.
you like to be scared.
you called them
home movies,
as a child.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

these moments

she lifts her dress
over her head.
the light is low,
a small lamp
in the hallway.
she is a shadow against
the wall,
the bed.
your shirt comes off.
your shoes
and pants,
you will make love
to her,
and she will
hold you in her arms
and say the things
you need to hear.
all of life
leads to these moments.
the rest lies
inbetween.

the future comes to you

the future comes to you,
as it often does
in small glimpses,
teaspoons of truth
telling you what's to be.
a harsh medicine
to swallow, but you
do. again and again.
you accept the illness
that life is, ever slipping
away, dying, despite
all efforts to detain it.
the future comes to you
as it often does
in small glimpses,
the difference now,
at this age, is that you
drink it gladly
with no remorse.

not a member

i don't like to join
anything.
don't even use the word join
around me.
i have never been a member
of the communist party,
or any other
political party,
especially these days.
i have burned my members only
polyester jacket
with snap buttons
on the shoulders.
don't say, can i join
you for coffee
tomorrow,
on Saturday. don't do that.
just say,
meet me for coffee.
i don't want to join hands
and sing
around the campfire.
i have renounced
all my membership cards,
from triple A,
to Costco,
to barnes and noble.
if i belonged to the springfield
country club,
i'd quit that too,
not that they would have
me.
my wallet is full
of membership cards.
every time i buy a slice
of bread
or a light bulb
from wegmans or
walgreens, they want to know
if i'm a member.
giant and safeway,
even balducci's with their
over priced
salad bar
want to see my card.
i renounce them all
from this day forward,
except the card to Regal
Cinema. i like movies.


the tax lady

my tax lady, Betty B.
likes to joke
around and say things like
I hope they don't
throw us in jail this year.
I laugh with clenched teeth,
having heard the joke
for twenty years now.
a calico cat is lying on the counter,
fat with kittens,
another is between my ankles,
rubbing it's arched
back, purring, pawing
at my shoelaces.
the place
smells of cat litter
and lysol.
there's a pot of folger's
brewing, a tower of white
paper cups beside it.
stirrers and sugar,
powdered cream. there's
a box of donuts on
the radiator. an empty water
cooler sits in the corner
with phone books on top of it.
the shades are down,
and the cubicles
are duct taped together
while tax preparers hunch
over calculators, smoking
cigarettes.
there's an old
water stain in the ceiling
from hurricane Hester.
you didn't get married again,
did you she asks,
looking over your books,
your receipts and paperwork.
nah, not this year, I tell
her. okay, she says, so I
assume that there are no
new dependents. not that I
know of I tell her.
it's all there, I say, pointing
at my year's worth of
paper. okay, she says.
see you in two weeks.
the cowbell over the door
clangs as I leave.

the wine expert

she sniffs the cork,
closing her eyes,
then takes a mouthful
of the small pour
the waiter has so carefully
measured out
in a tall glass, she
gargles the dollop
of wine,
sloshes it around
her tongue,
between her teeth,
makes a clucking noise,
sucking in her cheeks,
then spits it all out.
I love it she says,
leave the bottle.
you look at your white
shirt, speckled with
red wine.
it's all about her
these days.

bumble bee boy

when you teased
your sisters without mercy
at the age
of ten, there
so much to tease about,
the missing tooth,
the pig tails,
the chocolate
on their chin,
your mother couldn't
catch you
to beat you.
you were a bumble bee
of energy,
uncatchable.
she'd end up throwing
things at you.
a shoe,
a book, a rolling pin,
but it didn't slow
you down. under and over
the furniture
you'd go.
knowing you were safe
until your
father, if he decided
to, came home.

the land line

bored at times,
alone at home, nothing
on tv.
already in pajamas at
seven o'clock.
the web has been browsed,
nothing left
on amazon
that I need to buy.
friends, out of reach.
lovers not feeling
it tonight,
I take the call
on the landline
and strike up a conversation
with the window
man, the refinance
lady,
the chattering
children in india
selling prescription
drugs without
a prescription.
some don't mind the
talk. i ask them about
the products, then
veer off and ask
about politics, or
what their favorite
food might be.
did they see that new
movie by cohen brothers.
how's the family,
I ask. everyone good?

the revolving door

as a kid
you loved the revolving
door.
admired its
crazy
wedge of space,
turning heavily
as you pushed,
locked inside
the glass
cage.
how you could spin
and spin
around all
day
until your mother
grabbed
you by the ear
and yanked you
out. you loved
the revolving door,
but enough is
enough today.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

the end of life as we know it

the flash flood
warning
beeps
on your phone.
the condo board
sends out a notice
to be careful
to stay inside,
if you have
plants or pets,
or an old person
living with you,
bring them in.
the weather girl
on tv
is running around
as if
her hair is on
fire. she's excited,
almost tripping in
her high heels.
the newsmen's
eyes
are wide open,
their mouths
unhinged with
impending doom.
the map of nine states
is colored
red. crimson. the color
of blood.
it's rain. it's wind.
exhale.
this too
shall pass.

monkey time

you never liked
monkeys in general.
or flying monkeys,
like the green witch had
and sent out
for nefarious purposes.
even the caged monkeys
didn't melt your
butter, the ones
in a zoo, given
free rein to do what
monkeys
and chimps do.
the screaming
and scratching, those
big brown eyes,
trying so hard
to be human,
but missing
that little smidgen
of chromosome or
something in the dna
chain
of goo. putting
them in a dress or
a pair of overalls,
says more about how
dumb we are,
less human
than we hoped to be.

tornado love

the tornado lifts your house
into the sky.
the green black jazz
of wispy clouds,
warm and full
of circular
violent wind.
is this how it ends,
you think
staring out the window
as your ex wife
rides past
on her bike, your dog
in a basket
in the back.
there goes a horse,
a cow, a crate of chickens.
it's a lovely ride,
fast and furious
as it takes you
higher and higher,
the lighting crashes
beside you.
the funnel of darkness
sucking up
all that you hold dear.
it could be dream,
it could be real.
you lean on the window
sill
and see a friend flying
by, you grab her hand
and pull her in.
you make a drink,
a bite to eat,
you kiss and fall in love.
you wait it out, hoping
to land
in a better
neighborhood from you started.

i want my money

your bank
refuses to give you
some of your money.
just fifty dollars.
the atm is jammed
with a screw driver.
the office is closed.
your account has been
frozen because of a clerical
error.
you think about
robbing it,
using a banana
under your shirt,
sticking the joint
up, just to get
a few dollars
to take your new
girl friend out on
the town. buy her a sandwich.
you plead with
the teller, but
he, in his giant
turban and long white
robes refuses,
he says no no.
you curse him through
the thick window,
yelling into
the vent. you tell him
it's your money,
that you've been banking
there for thirty years,
and you want some now.
he curses back
throwing his hands
into the air
and says something
about a goat.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

things keep changing

things keep changing.
it's hard to keep up.
the new phone,
the smart tv.
the zip lock bag.
oatmeal in a minute?
windows ten, what happened
to eight and nine?
I need to write things down.
keep a list
on how to start my car,
synchronize
just about everything
I've plugged in.
what do I do with all my old
records?
how do I put my music
on a pod, or is it a pad.
I don't know.
these new bags
of beans,
upside down in the microwave,
three minutes,
but it blows the
fuse, I mean
the circuit breaker.
you see what I mean.
i'm dizzy from it all,
I can hardly
get the child proof
cap off a plastic
bottle of extra strength
Tylenol. where's my
son when I need him,
even he has changed.

what are you doing?

you see a plane
in the sky, circling.
writing letters with white
smoke. it's directly over
your house.
hey, it says. what
are you doing?
you quickly gather some
leaves
and branches, sticks,
gravel
and stones and write
out the words, not much,
you?

slim shoes

the new shoes
give me a blister
on my heel,
my big toe is smashed
tight
in the narrow
point.
slim shoes, who knew.
I hate these shoes
that I bought
online.
i'd like to send them
back,
but I already
threw the box out.
maybe I can leave
them on the front porch
and someone
will take them,
someone with smaller
feet,
a smaller big toe.

her tiara

i can't sleep, she says,
elbowing me in the middle
of the night.
is there any cake left?
she shakes my shoulder
and stares at me until i
open my eyes.
what, i mumble. what?
cake?
what time is it?
i was sleeping.
i'm going down to the kitchen
she says
putting on her
leopard print robe.
her tiara is tilted
on her head,
snagged in her hair.
can i get you anything?
no, i'm good.
but close the door
on your way down
and save me a piece.
and get that thing out
of your hair.

soon

better days
are coming. put your finger
to the wind,
your head to the ground,
the horses
of good news are coming.
no need to worry
anymore
about tomorrow.
it's coming, it's coming
fast and soon.
hear the thunder
of hooves,
the slashing of wind
as they cut
through air, galloping
across the great field.
better days are coming.
I promise you.

the things they know

why do they send
you these ads
for unasked products.
pills to sleep
pills to wake up, pills
to keep it up.
a cream to rid you
of liver spots.
places to retire
and die
in peace.
a phone with big numbers.
how do they know
these things
about you.
it's almost as if they're
peeking through
the window
as you go about your
life,
icing a knee,
struggling to open
a can of black beans.

the aging rose

the broken
neck of a long stemmed
rose, its petals
rusting,
sits awkwardly
in the drinking
glass
set near the window,
the weight of
beauty being too much
to bear
as it grew old.

the pack

there comes a time
when you leave the pack,
go off
on your own,
find your own way,
no longer led
down the same
path as all the others.
there is no
comfort in following,
in playing it
safe, being one of many
going over
the cliff of life.

Monday, February 22, 2016

the good bartender

I haven't seen you in a while
the bartender says,
setting a glass of gin
and tonic with a slice of
lime on the bar,
pushing it slowly in
your direction.
he throws a clear swizzle
stick in, against the jeweled
ice, tucks a napkin
under the wet glass.
where you been? he says,
throwing a bar rag over his
shoulder, leaning with
both hands against the polished
mahogany. you take a sip
and shake your head, thanks,
you tell him. he walks away.
he knows everything there is
to know, no need to say it.
he gives you a menu,
leaves you alone.

new parts

the day may come
when you need a new arm
you get one.
a new leg,
a new heart.
it's already here,
these replacement parts.
all things gone
old,
made new again.
why are you looking
so happily at
me?

the dull knife

what good is a knife
that won't cut anymore,
dull
and cold
in the drawer. unused,
but kept,
as if it might
come back to life,
return as if magic,
sharpened
steel
once more. strange
how hard it is
to let go of
old friends, friends
you no longer
know.

out of work

out of work
he
makes
dinner,
does the laundry,
walks
the dogs.
but something
is missing.
love making
is less sweet,
talk is reserved
and short.
the conversations
have no
meat.
out of work,
he's someone
else,
unsure of who is,
the days linger,
the sunlight bleeds.
he needs an axe
in his hand,
he needs
to take down
trees.

the smart brother

your brother
was too smart. never
studying
a book,
never doing homework
or failing
to get an A on any test.
how hard he was
to live up to.
each teacher scolding
your B's and C's
thinking you were lazy
or dumb, so unlike
the first son.
it was this
that drove you
to beating
the tar out of him
with a pair of
boxing gloves
in the back yard one
sunny day.
but it didn't matter,
he's still smart
and you have no
desire to spar anymore
as you lug a lunch
box, wearing your work
boots
out the door.

flowers needing rain

her wrists were bruised.
rope marks.
a red welt on her neck.
she was
going places
I hadn't been.
wounded
and stretched.
the dark circles under her
eyes
look sinful
and empty,
unsatisfied.
a black spider
with no web left to weave.
she leaned on me
for something that
resembled loved,
but was darker
than that.
she needed pain,
unkindness, like
flowers needing
rain.

underwater

sore, from
a days work. I sink
into the tub.
hot as it can be.
lie in the soapy mix
of water
and bubbles.
the light off.
too tired
to read the wrinkled
new Yorker,
or the post.
too sleepy to bring
the phone in
to talk,
or email.
just lie back,
in the sudsy quiet
and soak,
a short, but sweet
reprieve.

thanks but no thanks

there are a lot of things
you'd rather not
do, it's taken this long
in your life
to finally say no
to many of them,
meeting parents or children,
holding a purse
while she tries on a dress
in the dressing room.
dancing,
going to a winery,
or the gold cup. charades,
just to name a few.
no to
the lifetime channel.
you'd rather not meet all
of her friends,
or sleep over, or eat
kale or carob. no thanks
to the camping trip,
or fishing, or hunting,
or spelunking.
go hop in the hot air balloon,
but not me.
it's taken a while, but
it's so easy to say
thanks, but no thanks, now.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

unearthed

unearthed, this
shattered plate, this jagged
piece of blue china,
mud caked,
time worn, dimpled with
bites of winter
and sun,
has a story.
as does your own life,
chipped and used,
cracked
but kept clean
and ready,
stacked in the cupboard,
waiting for
someone with careful hands,
someone like you.

an almost full moon

she slips away
to Baltimore. a slow drive,
her hands
on the wheel,
sunglasses perched,
prim and proper
as always, her map
leading her
down 95. after window
shopping, and lunch,
she finds the time
for church.
for kneeling,
and prayer, offering one
for you. bundled
tight
she walks alone
past the moored ships,
the cobbled stone,
feeling the glow
of an almost full moon
bright as silver
in the cold harbor air.

morning coffee

the child
with a crayon
pressed hard
in her pink hand, her hair
a tangle
of blonde,
her small blue eyes
against pale skin are
gems in the light
of this morning.
her mother
beside her, not crying,
but anguished,
talking on the phone,
the girl
writing on the table,
her ears open,
her heart
closing.
you finish your coffee
and wander off
to your own life,
calling your
son as you head home.

the quiet dead

like grey sand
the snow
is there in smooth piles,
unvanquished
by sun
and a light breeze that
moves
thin branches
of ancient trees,
wet flags
nearly dried and hanging
at the gate
to the cemetery.
the dead are quiet today.
much of what was
known of them is unknown.
we walk the muddied
trail around.
reading the headstones,
saying the names
out loud.
there are no benches,
no places with which to stop
and rest.
we trudge forward,
around the curve,
past the limestone,
the marble,
the rocks, back to the iron
gate
that shows us a way
out, for now.

peanut soup

you regret
the peanut soup,
so filling.
light brown and savory,
you dip in to
capture a thick
dollop
that is hot
on the spoon.
down it goes, the clink
of metal and porcelain
telling you sadly
you are at the end.
it's unpolite to lick
so you don't,
you set aside the cup,
making room
for the fried chicken
and potatoes as
a strong waitress
arrives,
you loosen your belt,
exhale,
go at it again.

be a sport

the stink of money
is upon them.
it's stuck to the bottom
of polished
black riding boots,
on the wheels
of their
fine cars.
it's in the sneer
of them,
the lineless tanned faces,
the straight noses.
it's between their teeth,
sharpened
with coin, white
as tusk.
it's green, this money.
lush and plentiful,
it grows on their
limbs
like new planted trees.
they never glance
about the room,
there is nowhere left that
they need to be,
they are already there.
arrived.
you, young man, be a sport.
bring me tea.

the massage

the woman
who you don't know by name,
has her hands
on you.
it's nearly dark in the room.
incense burns.
music, just a flute
sifts from a ceiling
vent.
she pours oil
and digs into your soul
with her palms,
her steel fingers.
you lay
naked under a thin
warm sheet.
slowly she kneads
the muscled
dough of you,
down to the softening bones.
tell me if it hurts, she says.
to which you
smile and whisper as
if to a lover, no,
go on.

at the inn

if you go there,
if you stumble
upon
the red fox inn,
down the road,
through the arches
of tree lined hills,
past the snow,
the stone fences
the burned out
mills
and homes,
if you go there,
where horses are in
the field,
where cattle graze,
where history began
and ended, where
the tombstones
smoothed by time
tilt above the dried bones
of revolutionary soldiers
just below
the ground,
if you're hungry
and need a place to rest,
to stay for
the night,
a place where soldiers
slept,
where lanterns swung
on chains, a day on horse
from the city,
if you drive and drive
down fifty,
you can stop there
and eat, put your boots up,
they'll take your coat,
your hat, then
drink, feast.

Friday, February 19, 2016

using the broom

the smoke alarm
tells you that dinner is ready.
you open a window,
turn on the fan,
crack the front door, and take
a dish towel to wave
the smoke out.
it takes awhile
for the nagging scream
to stop.
the thought crosses
your mind of hitting it with
a broom.
it's the same thought
you have when someone
you know
harshly reads
and criticizes
one of your perfectly written
poems.

the puzzle

this crossword puzzle
is hard,
I want to cheat
and look things up.
but the catholic
guilt in me would
be too much
to bear, so I press
on and scratch out,
erase and try
again. I plug
in words I don't even
know how to spell.
they almost fit.
i need one more word
to finish.
how can i not think
of a four letter word
meaning deep
affection, starting
with the letter
l and ending in e.
sometimes you have
to set it down
and wait until
tomorrow's paper
to get all the answers.

protection

at the end of the day
you take
off your armor,
heavy as it is,
set the helmet on a table,
the breast plate,
the shin guards,
the chain of metal
that drapes
your body.
you sit down
and rest. you have
survived another day.
but it's hard
carrying such weight.
maybe tomorrow
you'll go out
with nothing to
protect you, but fate.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

slow horses

slow horses,
no gallop, no rider,
no whip
or circle to speed
around
those days of color
and sound
are gone
they graze in the field,
there is nowhere
they need to go.
these slow horses,
along the fence,
never looking up
to see who passes by,
they've seen enough.

troubles

this trouble
you bring with you.
I can see it in your hands.
in your eyes.
hardly a day
do you pick up that
weight
and lug it around
to show,
and parade.
no need to speak.
it's clear
where you've been
and where you plan
to stay.

reflex

reflex brings
the foot
up as the knee
is struck
by a mallet
just softly touched.
not unlike
how a kiss,
just one placed
softly upon
my lips gives rise
to passion.

it all falls away

it all falls away.
the tidy room, this house,
neat
and clean
shiny with wax and polish.
painted Parisian blue.
one child
and the curtains
matter less.
that tear in the wallpaper,
who cares now?
the tiles can stay
mud caked
for more than a day.
the shelves
can lose their order.
the phone can
ring.
one child changes
everything.

speaking of michelangelo

what women
were speaking of Michelangelo?
where did they go,
coming in and
out of the room.
what was in their hands.
were they
allowed to stop
and eat.
to rest.
did they know how they would
become
fixtures in
a famous poem,
were they dressed for the night,
or ready for
sleep, or better yet,
parading by
in less and less, tempting
the poet
to end
the writing and to go
upstairs
for the night.

her ironing room

a smudge of sun
is on the window.
the window
that faces
the woods. the window
in the room
where her ironing
board stood, her basket
of clothes.
her photos
still in the envelopes.
just a yellow
smudge of sunlight.
winter sun,
pale as lemon juice,
bright
as fog.
hardly any light at all,
as you stand in
the same room,
pressing a palm
against the pane
to feel how cold
you really are.

the learning

how smart you were
when young.
a thimble of thoughts
in your new
head.
an answer to every question.
a quick reply
and shrug.
how easy it was to
know nothing then.
how hard
to know so much now.

separate rooms

we don't talk now.
we pass each other
in the hall
on the way to the kitchen
or the bathroom.
we're polite
without kindness.
our feet are cold
on leaving.
we stay in
separate rooms.
the quiet meals alone,
the shared paper
left folded on
the table for when one
who hasn't read it
gets home.

the quiet day

you make no mark
on the calendar, no cake.
how could
a cake hold this many
candles. no reason
to take stock
of where you've been,
where you have
left to go.
no need
for song, or clapping.
no reason
to send a card,
or gift, just let it
pass
and be thankful
for a quiet day at last.

could be nothing

could be wind,
could be nothing up there,
rattling
on soft
feet. an animal
in from the cold,
a ghost or something
I ate.
I could be dreaming,
or awake,
the water of sleep
is like
that sometimes.
you here beside me,
rowing along
in your own darkness.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

a new season

a blade of grass
would be nice to see.
a green leaf,
a flower
breaking free from
the rock
hard earth.
even a squirrel
in shades,
a panama hat, anything
to let me
know that a new
season
is on the way.

in the jump seat

when she flew
in, riding the jump seat,
her suitcase
for the weekend,
rolled behind her,
fifty pounds, at least.
how could
lingerie
and heels weigh so much.
you could barely
get it in or out of the trunk.
what's in here,
you asked,
what's making it so
heavy.
just my stuff, she said.
my things.
all the things you like.


the daily prayer

I hurt myself praying
the other day
for a husband
your friend linda tells you,
holding up her
arm, wrapped in a white
cast.
I was praying, kneeling
in St. Mary's
and fell asleep.
I hit my head on the pew
and rolled
onto the floor.
I twisted my arm
when it caught the shelf
where they keep
the hymnals and bibles.
an altar boy revived
me with a chalice of wine.
I can only pray now
with one hand up.
the other
is at my side on account
of the nerve damage.
still the same prayer?
yes, she says,
but i'm worried now,
with only one arm in use.

dime store

the dime store
had yellow tiled floors,
stairs with iron rails
going down.
a counter for grilled
cheese sandwiches
and shakes.
behind it a long mirror
where you could watch
yourself on a stool
spin around.
everything
anyone ever needed
in their life
was there. just ask,
and you'd be
led to the shelf
where it waited for
you to purchase and carry
it home in a brown
paper bag.

transport

as she lay
somewhere in the dark
basement corridor
of the hospital
beneath a cold sheet,
you sat upstairs with
her brother and sister
to iron out
the details of her
next move.
a truck would transport
her body to new Hampshire.
the grief counselor
said a few words.
nothing memorable.
cautious about bringing
God into this
whole thing.
what was there to say
anyways. but you remember
her using the word
transport, that stuck
with you
even through all
the grief.

suspect

half a cake
is gone. you go around
the room
to question
the suspects.
but it's only you.
you go to the mirror.
there are smears of icing
on your chin.
the belly
protrudes from
the layers of shirts
and sweaters.
there is a trail
of crumbs
from the kitchen
to the couch.
a fork, a spoon,
dishes, all with the hard
remains
of what was done.
empty glasses of milk
with your prints upon them.
you've narrowed it
down to one.

a slow walk

you see a bus
stop at the corner.
the word nowhere is
in the revolving
window of destinations.
it's a crowded bus.
people are standing,
hanging onto
the straps.
heaving to and fro
as the bus churns
forward, the air brakes
hiss and cough
as it comes to
a stop.
the driver motions
to you, asking if
you want to climb
aboard, but you shake
your head no.
you'd rather walk.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

gym class

how hard
did they try to kill
children in junior high school,
very hard
is the answer.
take the pummel horse
for instance,
what child has run full
speed and leaped
over or onto one before,
who has climbed
a thirty foot rope
to the ceiling
of a gymnasium above
a hard wood floor
and nothing else, but
other skinny kids
who would run if you fell.
the parallel bars,
the trampoline,
the endless runs
around the back stops
and back,
the push ups,
the sit ups. murder
ball.
the crease marks on
your swollen face
as you showered
with the other flies
before English class,
knees bleeding,
still sweating, smelling
of cheap soap
and stale towels.

last stop

when mary
left that sort of ended
things
of a certain era.
you could always
ride by and see her curtains
pulled open.
the blue couch
the blue rug,
the cabinet tv,
besides
the curio.
the two candles
in the window.
you can't imagine
a world
without her being nearby.
but at ninety five
she had to
go.
Miami, she said.
taking the train,
the slow train with
two suit cases,
that's all.
I hate to fly.

the city rooster

across
the dirt yard,
your sister's rooster
would sit
atop
the corner of the chain
link fence,
near the plywood
club house
we built with nails
and cinder blocks,
and crow
as the sun came up.
people behind us
would yell out their
windows.
the police
would come
and ask about the rooster,
the chicken,
the dogs
and cats,
ignoring us,
the seven range free
children
roaming the house,
there was nothing to ask.

still alive

despite
the cigars and cheap beer.
even cheaper
wine.
the white bread
and cheese,
pepper and mayo,
not even
cancer can kill him.
he shrugs it
off,
lowers the heat,
burns the one bulb
over his
money,
never weeps.
everyone whispers
how is he,
still alive?
yes, you say.
permanently alive.



the color turquoise

your father buys
a turquoise Chevrolet
in ninety-fifty nine.
who buys that color
in any age?
it's the same year,
the same summer
that he rows his five
children
across an inlet
in Cape Cod Bay.
all of us in a leaky wooden
rowboat that he borrowed
without asking
from a neighbor
still in Boston.
Let's go get ice cream
he said.
and on we went, no life
jackets.
nothing to save us if
we tipped
or went down.
the photo of that day
has his car
in the background,
just washed and waxed.
not a dent, yet.
he looked sober
and shaven that morning
as he rowed us in his
white t shirt,
his shorts, he blue eyes
gleaming, his navy muscles
proving strong.
no one drowned.
the ice cream was cold
and sweet.
everything
there was to know
about him
was in that one photo.

Monday, February 15, 2016

a plea to God

it's not enough
to just hate snow, to curse
and moan
about the ice,
the shoveling,
the wind
the cold.
you have to go out into
it and throw
your arms into
the sky
and make a plea
to God to free you
from this madness.
you have to agree to
change your life,
and be a new person.
for what kind of a loving
deity allows
this to happen
again and again
to his faithful flock,
making us clean
the store shelves,
of milk and bread,
toilet paper, donuts,
both powdered
and chocolate.



fat moe

your little dog
thought he was
a big dog, his bark
sounded big,
his attitude,
the way he strutted about
the neighborhood,
fearless
and nosy.
he was a small
round tube of flesh
and bones, teeth
and tongue.
a crazy smart
low to the ground
megaphone barking
hound.
he had nine
lives and lived
them all,
shortening your one
by years.

love is funny like that

you throw it
into reverse,
then first,
you spin
your tires going
nowhere, you hit
the gas,
you rock it,
you curse.
again, from
first to reverse,
finally you catch
pavement
and off you two
go.
love is funny
like that.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

valentine fear

someone carves
a heart into your front door
with a hatchet.
scratches out with a fork
I love you, not,
into the hood of your car.
there are so
many suspects
that you don't know where
to start.
you hide under
your bed.
there is still
another ten hours
left in the day.
not a flower bought,
a card sent,
not one solitary
piece of chocolate
delivered.
death awaits.

the senior home

they raise the rent on
your mother.
bump up
the fee another three
hundred large.
she's getting out
of control, they say.
walking and walking
all day and night
long.
she's got the energy
of a baby
squirrel.
darting from window
to door,
throughout the house,
entering
and leaving each room.
yesterday she picked up
a knife
in the kitchen.
we need more
help to keep an eye
on her.
three hundred a month
should take care
of it.

the short list

the plane
is delayed. so she gets
a pretzel,
a soda.
a sandwich. bored,
she writes a list
of things to do
when she gets home.
how to improve
her life,
herself. how to
enjoy and relax
and be a better person.
but she gets stuck
on the first
item,
break up with jimmy.
that will
improve everything.
nothing she can
think of
comes after that.

optimism

despite the splattering
of red sauce
on your white shirt
you still feel
dapper,
the tissue paper on
your shoe,
the spilled glass of
wine
across the table,
dripping onto her
new shoes,
the calling of your date
by the wrong name,
no problem,
you're still in
the game.
even when the credit
card comes back
as full,
and she has to pay.
you still got a shot
at wonderful end
to a valentine's day.
you're nothing if not
a positive
thinker.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

her addiction

my name is Susie,
she says in the circle
of other women, some men.
I can't stop knitting.
all day long
i'm knitting, crocheting,
sewing something
together.
I think about knitting
all day.
I dream about it.
I see a pair of chopsticks
and my mouth waters
for yarn.
even sitting in this circle
makes me long
for the clinking
of needles,
the tri colored afghan
unfolding as I
knit one, pearl two.
I have a mountain of
scarves in my closet.
I hide mittens under
my bed. hats and pot
holders of all colors,
all stripes of the rainbow
litter my house.
I can't stop knitting.
my fingers are raw, look
at them. calloused
and curled.
my name is Susie
I need help.
please help me, thank you.

melons

wanting fresh fruit
in the dead of winter,
longing
for something sweet
and juicy,
you type the word melons
into your computer.
it's not the kind of melons
you expected though
that appear upon the screen.
there are no green
striped melons.
no cantaloupes
or seedless. not
a honey dew or
canary melon in sight.
after an hour or so
of searching.
you've forgotten about
fresh fruit, red and sweet,
ripe. you've fallen
into the rabbit hole
of this cyber life.

pull

as you feel
the whip hit your back
opening up old wounds
making new ones,
you pull the oar
towards you,
then away. the others
do the same.
all in a row,
shackled to their fate.
the ship moves on.
it's what we do,
to keep the world going
as it is.
we know no better way.
pull, the master
says. pull.

the winter games

a stick of
ice
falls from the stone
like tree,
a javelin of
frozen
water.
you see a squirrel
pick it up
and hurl it
through
the blue wintry
sky.
another uses
a pair of acorns
to shoot
down a slope
and rise as if on skis,
a third
holds a lit tossed
Winston, like
a torch into
the air. you can
almost hear
the cheers.

while waiting for carry out

she asks you to dance,
taking your hand
to move around the room.
from the white
speakers in the ceiling
a garbled Sinatra
dribbles out over plates
of spaghetti and glasses
of red wine.
slowly you move between
the tables,
inching your way
past waiters carrying
garden salads
and bread sticks.
you realize that she
is completely out of
her mind as she rests
her head on your shoulder
and calls you by
an unknown name.
you wonder
what hers is,
as the cashier
snaps his fingers to
tell you that your
order is ready.





















baby in orange

the inmate, a women garbed
in an orange
maternity jump suit
comes in to the hospital.
three guards beside her.
guns on their hips.
she's in labor.
the water has broken.
they take her to a birthing
room, and she delivers
a ten pound baby
girl. the baby screams.
already angry.
the guards put her in
cuffs. wrap her in an
orange blanket.
read her her rights.
it will be a life long
sentence.

who we really are

she removes her blue
wig, sets it
on the mannequin head
beside the others,
takes her teeth out and lets
them drop into
a bubbling glass
of polident.
she unhinges a girdle,
peels off the stockings,
scrubs clean
an inch
of make up, using a small
trowel
and a green liquid gel.
then crawls into bed
and says hi sweetie.
love has a way
of accepting who we
really are.

another eight

you take a wrench
and tighten up
the screws on your legs.
your arms,
the giant bolt that sticks
out of your neck.
you stand and start with
the oil can,
each joint getting a full
squirt of black juice.
then the battery
charger, you swing open
the rust hatch
and hook up
the negative and positive
cables
to your heart,
it zaps you running.
you're good to go
for another eight.

Friday, February 12, 2016

the next flood

there is no talk
of sin,
no one says a word
about right
or wrong,
confession or
penance.
everything goes.
it's best to tie your
tongue
into a tight
knot
and nod, accepting
what we've
become, awaiting
the next flood
holding hands
as one.

the jellybean jar

she once
guessed exactly how many jelly
beans were in a jar.
she's told you about it
at least three times.
her life is divided
into two.
before the jar,
and after.
the wonder of it all
has not escaped her.
nor you.

the new pastor

pot bellied
with pie
and roast, the new pastor
greets each
member of his
flock at the door,
taking into his
hands
the offerings
of love
and taste.
he leans
onto the podium
and recites his practiced
sermon.
wondering less
about
redemption and sin,
and more about
tomorrow,
the roads untaken,
what life could have
been.

the offering

it's a dead
mouse, grey and soft,
a pelt
of ears
and bead eyes,
whiskers, thin black
lines,
the cat
drops him on your porch
at your feet.
a gift,
an offering.
we've come so far,
and yet we are still
untamed.
what I offer you
is no less
than this, but with
equal
meaning.

into the woods

the ice
holds my weight as I push
through
the brush and fallen
trees, broken branches,
the wintery dry stalks,
brown and blonde debris.
scattered birds
rise
as stumble forward.
off the path,
ignoring the signs.
I see a red fox lying low.
the park is not that big
and it's early still,
plenty of sun
and light
to keep me from getting
too lost
despite trying hard
to do so.

the big night

you make yourself a white
Russian
and put on your silk robe.
you are living large
as you slip into your slippers
and find your pipe.
you don't smoke, but you
like pretending that you do
on nights like this.
you go to the window
and see the lady next door
walking her dog.
you wave, she walks faster
and shakes her head.
it's Friday.
maybe something is on tv.
something that you
haven't seen.
you count out some bills
for the Chinese delivery guy.
no msg you told them on
the phone. spring rolls,
two tonight and some
duck. it's a that kind of
night. a night to splurge
and go wild. extra pancakes
and plum sauce, please.
you drop a cherry into
your drink, and laugh.
you sit back on your leather
sectional couch
and find the remote.
it's a wonderful life.

dizzy

I can hardly look at a ferris
wheel these days
without getting dizzy
and holding on
to the top of some nearby kid
licking a cone
of cotton candy.
this makes him scream,
and I stumble towards
the railing
to keep my balance.
the world is getting
harder and harder
to stand on, as old
age approaches. sometimes
the moon looks like
it might fly off it's hinges
and strike me.

becoming a saint

the ice keeps
you in. the forecast
of snow
and wind.
keeps you safe
and
alone,
a drink in hand,
a pizza
to be delivered later,
but virtually
without sin.
the weather has a way
of keeping
us good.
making us saints.

unpaid loans

you still have
the wooden box that you kept
your paper route
money in when you were a kid,
fifty years ago.
in ink
you've written all the loans
that you made to your family.
your mother still owes
you forty dollars,
your brother ten,
your sister fifteen.
no one has paid you back
and probably never will.
but you don't hold it
against them
despite opening the box
every now and then
and seeing your child
like hand writing
engrained forever
in the wood.

the end is near

you seem distant and aloof
lately, I tell my true love
as she applies a line
of mascara over and under
her green eyes. powdering
her nose
oh, she says. turning on
the sink water to muffle
whatever else I might
I have to say
about the state of our
relationship.
as I approach the bathroom,
with one bare foot, she
eases the door closed,
letting her dog in first,
i'm in here, she says.
a little privacy, please.
i'll be out in twenty
minutes. go read, or
something.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

come on over

it's cold.
come here, come over.
keep me warm.
chip the ice off
those windows
and crank the car up.
we can keep each other warm.
bring food.
bring your dogs too.
don't bring your
sister
or you mother though,
I like them, but they
talk too much.
maybe pick up some chicken
and a bottle
of red wine.
I have everything else,
I baked a cake,
chocolate, so I have
it all,
everything but you.

the worst of roads

it's a step forward,
a stumble
backwards for your lost friend
flush with money,
new shoes,
a pint of rail gin.
his bundled clothes
found the next morning
at his locked shelter door,
ignoring curfew
and sleeping
in a ten dollar bed
with a woman
he met on the street
and gave a light.
the rest was negotiable.
on the sauce
once more, he calls
and laughs. out of work again.
tragedy and comedy
so closely linked
as he struggles in the wind,
always
taking the easiest
and worst of roads.

a place to stop

a broken
string of pearls,
fallen from your hand,
sends each
smooth gem
off
to roll onto the floor,
finding a low
spot
with which to land
and roll no
more.
how we too,
are looking for
that place
to stop.

making the world a better place

i'm trying to make the world
a better place
she says, as she puts a batch
of cookies into
the oven.
yesterday I picked up trash
all day along
the interstate.
and today i'm starting a herb
garden.
you are too wonderful, I tell
her, already smelling
the cookies baking.
I sent in twenty dollars
to those kids with the big eyes
on tv
and twenty more to those
poor mangy dogs
floating on rafts
and stuck in cages.
mother Theresa aren't you?
we all need to chip in
and do things to make the world
better,
don't you agree.
of course. of course.
i'm thinking about eating some
of your cookies so
that you don't eat them all.
when will they be ready?

show and tell

she tells me that she's
from new jersey
as she pours another shot
of scotch on the rocks
into my glass.
i don't hold it
against her,
i tell her that we
have no control of what
our parents did to us.
let it go.
she shows me a molar
in back of her mouth.
it's twisted around
the wrong way.
strange you tell her,
as she pulls her mouth
open with her fingers.
I had appendicitis
when I was a kid, I offer,
pulling the top of my
pants down just enough
to show her a rubbery
pale scar.
more scotch, she says,
pouring as she asks.
sure I tell her.
why not? i'm trying to
stop smoking, she says,
lighting a cigarette
and blowing a smoke ring
into the dull
yellow light of her house.
i'm thinking about
starting I tell her.
she laughs. we have so much
in common.
we do, I tell her,
taking her hand
from across the table
and feeling a finger that
is crooked and bent.
got it caught in a door
when I was kid, she says.
to which I say. nice.
I like it.


private caller

the private caller
won't leave
a number, or a name.
he or she just lets it
ring
and ring.
all hours, any hour,
they call me up
to listen to me
breathe, to listen
to me say hello,
and hello again
before hanging up.
we're in a relationship
me and this
private caller.
it might last forever,
or until the next
call.
i'm waitng by the phone.
it's a been awhile.
I miss the silence
of someone
i'll never know.

a thousand years

it's not
the ice on the windshield,
or the wind
or the lifeless
leafless
trees shivering
arthritically
in the woods,
nor is it
these gloves or boots,
or wrapped
scarf around
my neck.
it's more than that,
this February
morning that makes me
want to pack it in,
head south,
toss the old clothes
into a waste basket
not unlike
the midnight cowboy
and lie
in the sunshine
for a thousand
years.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

four drinks

after one drink,
how charming you are,
polite and at ease,
each word carefully spoken
to praise and please,
after two,
your intellect spills
onto the bar, you may
even stand to offer
an opinion on
anything and everything
near or far.
after three drinks,
your eye finds the button
on her blouse, how lovely
she has become.
you notice how rosy
her cheeks are,
the way those lips form
her mouth,
after four drinks,
wobbling on your feet,
your are asked to leave,
but not before taking
an ink pen
and writing your number
upon her sleeve.

without pen or paper

if you had a pen,
or a pencil you'd
leave a note
telling her how much
you love and adore her,
you'd tape it to the door,
or put it
on the table,
or on the bathroom
counter,
or on the floor
so she finds it when
she comes home.
but you don't.
you don't even have
an envelope
to write on
the back.
what's become of this
world, inkless,
without paper?

that one

bad art,
or music,
books, or poems,
it's okay
that they're wrong
for you,
not all is gold.
not every kiss
a gem,
every love
engraved
in stone. it makes
the one that
rings true
more beautiful
when it happens.

six weeks

it hurts here,
she tells the doctor,
raising her arm
up to the shaky light.
when I breathe,
or cough
I can feel a stitch.
a quick flash
of pain. I can't eat
or sleep.
is it my heart?
she asks.
I was in love but
it didn't work out.
I think I might have
a broken heart.
we'll see, he says.
we'll see.
we'll take some pictures
and do some tests.
six weeks is the usual
healing time
for a broken heart.
come back and see
me then, we'll know
for sure.

the grey and blue

he holds the crimped
thick shell
of a bullet
once shot during
the civil war
in his palm and says
look. he's wide
eyed and happy
with his find. this is
one of ours, he says.
whether it killed
or maimed,
or the stuck
the side of the barn
who's to know.
you hold it in your
hand, feeling
the weight
of the old bullet,
feeling both
metallic
and ceramic at
the same time.
you could see how easily
it could penetrate
the skin
and lodge itself
within the human body
never to be removed.
he brings out a buckle,
a bowl of buttons
from both sides,
then a porcelain broken
dish, white and blue.
a tin of nothing.
we didn't lose every
battle he says,
we won some too.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

the formative years

remember the sixties,
you say to the whipper
snapper who doesn't
even remember
the eighties,
the early sixties
before all hell broke loose
when Dylan went electric.
no, grand pop, they
say. tell me about them.
hop on my knee you
say, tapping your good knee,
and let me tell
you about it. you rock
back in your chair
and stare off into
the distance
past the cell phone tower
and a drone hovering
carrying a package
or a bomb, who knows.
there was black
and white tv, you say,
with three or four channels
that you had to get up to change,
no internet, one
phone on the kitchen
wall, black with a twenty
foot cord.
the mail came twice a day.
you went to the movies
for entertainment.
milk and bacon and eggs
were good for you.
a man in a uniform,
driving a truck would leave
them on your porch
in the morning.
you could smoke everywhere,
all the time
even if you were having
a baby. babies even smoked
back then.
doctors drank like fishes.
you went to the bookstore
to buy books,
the record shop
for records. you spent
hours at
the arcade playing
pin ball machines
that only cost a nickel.
only sailors and convicts
had tattoos.
dogs ran around without
leashes. it was okay to shoot
birds and squirrels out
of trees with your
bee bee gun.
movie stars were movie
stars. people wore real
clothes, dresses,
coats and ties, polished shoes,
not pajamas all day,
or sweat pants with flip flops.
you read the newspaper or time
magazine, for the news or
turned on the tv at
six o'clock for all you
needed to know about a world
that was more interesting
than dangerous.
okay, okay, there's more,
but my knee hurts, hop
off and run along and play
now. I need a nap and a
sedative.

the king of shark's teeth

on the way
to Solomon's island
in Maryland
there is a truck that
sits by the side
of the road selling
shark's teeth.
there's a fat man
under the trees in a lawn
chair and a pitcher
of ice tea.
the sign is crudely
painted in red
letters, perhaps
by a child, or
a drunk hand. bright
red, as if
written in blood.
shark teeth it reads.
the mouth of a shark
opened wide
is drawn too.
the over sized
teeth white and pointed
awaiting a leg
or arm. he is the king
of shark's teeth
you think to yourself
as you speed by,
never stopping to take
a closer look,
or buy one.


the invisible woman

she used to say
women, at forty, become invisible.
men stop
staring
and look at the younger
girls.
to which i'd laugh
and say you
have no idea
how endless it is for
men.
go to the park someday
and see
the bones of white
haired men on
the benches.
they can hardly
keep their eyes off
any woman passing
their way.

fashion statement

it's hard to leave
the house
sometimes. you keep
changing
your mind on
what to wear.
the black t shirt
or the white.
the button
down jeans, or
the ones that zip
and fit a little
bit too tight.
all those shoes to
choose from.
which brown pair
today. high boots.
low boots.
maybe those duck boots
in case
of inclement weather.
and the jackets.
everyone of them alike.
black, more black,
deep black, all to
the waist.
you have nothing to
wear, it's all
the same.

Monday, February 8, 2016

the city girl next door

a witch moves in next door.
you see her in a black
long cape, her tilted
pointed hat,
her gaggle of bats
swirling like dark
wind around her.
you watch out the window
as she drags in her
cauldron, her stack
of brooms,
her box of poison apples,
a large of book
on curses and potions.
she waggles a long thin
hand at the movers
as to where she wants
the hourglass.
but she's cute
in a strange New York City
kind of way.
you shouldn't be so
judgmental.
maybe later you can
bring her a plate
of home made
lasagna with a garden
salad.

soured milk

I pour the half
quart
of bad milk down
the drain.
soured yellow,
one sniff
and the silky
film
gives it all away.
how quickly
things turn
when unused.
look at you, look
at me.

the enhancement

her sister,
thin
and small, petite
would be the word
most dress makers would
use,
decides
to enhance her profile.
it's a simple
procedure
she declares
at the dinner table,
i'm tired
of not getting stares,
especially now
at this age,
approaching
fifty years. hardly
a stitch
can be found, she says,
they look and feel
as natural
as can be.
no one says a word.
although
everyone to themselves,
thinks,
how big,
as they pass
the string beans around.

the fudge

nothing adds up,
no matter how many times
I press
the buttons
and let the total
come forth
the numbers are wrong.
just off
enough to skew
the ledger,
undo the balance,
but there's time
still,
another three weeks
under
the dining room
light,
the pot of coffee,
a tin of pie,
receipts
and forms,
these paper planets
will align, or
not,
an eraser might do
the trick
once more.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

the sale price

in a slight mumble
the man
stares at his receipt
that dangles
from his curled hand
and points
at a line of numbers
printed in purple
faded ink.
that's not right
he says,
the line behind him
growing longer.
his wife with hands
on the cart
shows no
sign of impatience.
whether love
or life together it
makes no
difference, she stands
and waits beside him.
that's not the sale price,
he tells the clerk
who shakes her
head and pushes the button
for help.
the line sags,
help comes.
they give him what
he want, together they
push the cart out
and move on.

on another day

on another day
you'd stop
in mid walk
and say hello, you'd
talk about
the weather,
the ice, again
impending snow.
on another day
you'd be
more kind, more
quick to see
her eye to eye,
ask if the mail
had come,
if she had
time later,
it might be nice
to come on by,
but not today.
there are other things
more pressing
upon your mind.

tying the laces

you can still
feel
your mother's fingers
on
the laces
of your brown shoes
before school
showing you
how to tie and bow
the string.
over and over,
under, then pull
she says sweetly,
make a loop,
there you've got it
now. be good,
then a kiss upon
the cheek.

wanting to be bluer

the house, too large now
with him gone,
the children grown,
the pets
as old and tired
as she is,
she goes out to the yard
on bended knee
for one
last round of planting,
digging
weeds, filling the basin
of a bird
bath.
how quickly this spring
comes, before
the sign hangs on the post,
the shadows of grey
snow still near.
a blue sky wanting to be
bluer.

then and now

it used to be location.
a view,
water perhaps nearby,
a blue pool
of bliss catching
an april sky,
an easy
walk past trees
for a tumbler or two,
a bite, coffee,
the latest flick
playing
at the eclectic
bijou. that was then.
now it's
a warm bed, a helping
lift,
a nurse in sparkling white
who comes
at buttons push
into your
room to still
the pain, ease you
into sleep.
awakens you with a small
cup of juice,
an egg
over easy, a gentle
touch from
her strange young hand
as she whispers
like a lover
that you look fine.

riding in the quiet car

she prefers the quiet
car on the train.
no noise, no
talking. just quiet reading
and pointing,
making silent gestures
about hunger
and thirst.
you become koko
the monkey
in the quiet car.
you whisper to her
saying how quiet it is
in here,
which makes her put
her fingers
to her lips
and say shhh.
well, it is, you insist.
raising your
voice slightly as you
open up a bag
of potato chips.
this makes several
people stand up
and wag their fingers
at you, shaking
their heads, with thick
unreadable books
in their hands,
glasses on
their noses. they mouth
the word quiet car,
which is hard to
understand, not being
a lip reader, so
you yell out, what?
I don't know what you're
saying.
they all seem very angry,
so as a peace offering
you stand up and say,
chips anyone?
to which you get
no reply.

what's left

the books that you sent
him are there
when you go to box
all that needs
taking.
he read them all.
you see the turned
pages, the coffee spills,
the worn covers.
there isn't much
that he's left for you
or anyone.
all things of value
lie on his desk,
what was written by
an ink pen, cards
he meant to send.
photos of you and him,
now and then.

three sticks of gum

she liked to chew gum
while making love.
snapping it in your ears
between amorous words
and phrases.
three sticks
of Wrigley's spearmint,
hardly ever the double
bubble, though you
feel that it has
more stretchability
and is more suited
for the large bubbles
that when popped
make an explosive
annoying sound, but she
preferred stick gum
which she gnawed on
not unlike a farm animal
grazing in a pasture.
sometimes she'd ask
what's wrong, when
you lay there like a
dead person, and you'd
say. it's the gum, can
you please get rid
of the gum for a few
minutes. brother,
she'd say, then stick it
on the nightstand.
the wad hardening as you
went back to making love.

be ready

the loose change
of words
that rattle in your mouth
fall out
into slots
of ears
ringing up discontent
and anger
for those who stand
near.
best to be quiet
when in a slow line of
pondering
patrons
not ready to make a
purchase, but chatting
aimlessly
about nothing on
their phones.
you hold your
won ground
and let the evil
eyes pour
past you.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

her scar

there is a scar
on her belly that she points
to. scratches.
touches, rubs a finger
against the smooth
pink raise
of a wound long ago
healed.
it's a memory she
goes back to. telling
you the story
of when. how she almost
died.
how she stopped
breathing
and was brought back
to life again.
it's a long story
to which you say nothing
but it must have
hurt.
she ignores that
and continues.


distant trains

the whistle
of a distant train
lingers
in the lilting light
of early morning.
it awakens you,
as a kiss
would, whether
moving forward,
or leaving. each
with its
reward. it makes
you still,
keeps you where you
are a moment
longer,
until it's no longer
heard, or felt.

the bible salesman

how easy it was
for your mother to let in
a salesman.
your father on some ship
for months.
the fuller brush man,
encyclopedia Britannica,
how open she was to any man
stepping inside
the crowded house,
children knee high,
one in her arm,
the others fighting
in the yard. dogs barking.
come in she'd say.
coffee? and set out
a plate of something
as they unfolded their
wares on the table.
she'd put the child down
and brush back her hair,
smooth lipstick on
and listen to
the bible salesman,
slick as a seal and handsome,
a black suit, white
shirt, a thin blue tie.
how many bibles did
your mother need
for him to keep
returning, he hardly
knocked anymore as he
pet your dog,
learning all your names,
around so often
until your father
returned home from the sea.

a tree has fallen

you feel as if there is
something missing.
something gone.
a void
of sorts, somewhere.
somehow, but what?
you reach into
your pocket
and fumble with the change.
your glasses are
on your head, keys
on the table.
the phone is being charged
on the kitchen counter.
you look out the window
your car is there,
you go to the back
and stare into
the woods. there it is,
a tree has fallen.


the opera singer

her face,
expressive and bright
under
the lights
of Lincoln center. her voice
a melodic shout
and scream
as she sings in
Italian
the death of love.
she falls into whisper,
her arms
reach out,
her lips bemoan
the loss
she must endure. how
beautiful
she is in front
of strings, and flutes,
drums.
engulfed in betrayal.
you believe her,
and want
what she had so many
songs ago.

the split earth

is it His
hand
that makes the earth
tremble
opens the clouds
splits
the ground
in two.
is it His will
that tumbles
the building,
slays
the child,
sets afire
the cells in you,
or is it
something different,
something beyond
our black and white
point of view.
hard to know
these things while
still
breathing, still
trying to fathom,
the will or non will
of an invisible God,
to get a clue.

Friday, February 5, 2016

no flowers

flowers sent, or
given are the kiss
of death.
it took awhile to learn
this lesson.
a marriage or
two.
long stretches
of love waning, love
new. apologies
too late in arriving,
but you learned.
whether daffodils
or roses,
orchids, or anything
long stemmed,
don't send.

red

it has to be red.
crimson and bright.
what other color could
it be
for eyes to see
when the drip
hits the open
snow,
the white sheet.
you don't
even know how you cut
yourself
but the trail of
what courses within you
bleeds out.
it has to be red,
no other color
could alarm you
as it does now,
searching
for the wound.

help is on the way

please remove everything
from the belt
the disembodied voice
says and begin again.
the light blinks
above you, but no one
sees it, no one comes
with their special badge
to swipe
and make the world right again.
you start over, scanning
each item.
finding the bar code,
unwrinkling each package,
making the ant like
lines straight.
you search the screens for
gala apples,
then peppers, not bell,
not red, not green,
but jalapeno. not under j,
that would be too easy.
the belt rolls them back
towards you, past
the red lasered
line. everything you just
scanned returns to
the starting point.
an id is necessary for
this item, the voice says,
please wait, help is on
the way,
but it's ice berg
lettuce you yell back
at the top of your lungs.
you open up a bottle of wine
as you stand there
waiting, turning the bottle
up to your lips,
watching birds
fly around the store.

already gone

she talks about her four
ex husbands
with a smile on her face.
one dead,
one not dead but might as
well be,
the one she still talks
to because of the kid,
although he's way behind on
support,
and the one
that disappeared.
he might be in texas,
or Riker's Island,
who's to know.
I loved them all equally
she says.
each one loved me back.
she rolls up her leopard
print blouse
and shows me the intials
of each one on her
white arm. room for more,
she winks.
i'd marry again too, in a
heart beat if the right man
comes along.
you don't hear the rest of
what she says,
because you're already
gone.

a stack of wax

I ask my father
if he remembers bringing home
the discarded 45's from
the club.
woolly bully,
sonny and cher, singing
I got you babe,
standing in the shadow
of love, louie louie.
he does.
he remembers how i stacked
them on
the turn table
and played them until
the grooves wore
smooth, scratched
and skipping,
tapping the needle forward,
learning every nonsensical
word, moving my
young floppy head
of hair
to the beat
and dancing as if there
was a land
of a thousand dances.

january people

you don't mind
saying goodbye to some people.
they are January
souls.
windy and cold.
full of ice.
three feet
of featherless snow.
no need to kiss them goodbye,
a wave from
the frosted window
will do
as they trudge up
the path
with a sled full of
complaints,
slipping as they go.

the carving begins

the lawyer has one
question
to ask, as you carry your heart
in your hands,
bleeding,
hardly beat left
in its muscle.
broken and disheveled
with betrayal.
how much do you make,
your annual income,
what exactly is it
in a normal year?
hers?
that settled,
the carving begins.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

early wake up

you can't be late
every day, although you seem
to accomplish
that on a regular basis.
you have at least six or
seven clocks all
glowing and ticking
in your house. not to mention
an alarm clock you've never
learned how to use,
because the print is too
small and it's
in Swedish.
you wake up when you wake
up. maybe it's the rain
outside, or the trash
truck, or the neighbors
making love early
in the morning, like
now. they need to do
something about those springs,
that headboard
hitting our shared wall,
her cat like screaming.

the professional woman

she says she's very down
to earth, which is good,
seeing that you live on earth.
any other place
might be difficult
what with the lack of air
and water, food,
and coffee. she also lives
one day at a time,
also a good thing,
living two days at a time
or more, might
be hard without some sort
of time machine, or really
fast jet that could
take you backwards or forward
depending on which
day you needed to be in
at the moment. i'm a professional
woman she tells you.
which makes you ponder
the alternative,
a novice woman, perhaps?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

it's enough

after three
children, she has given up
on the walls and rug.
on broken plates
and cups,
in yelling
to close the door,
to wipe your feet,
wash your hands,
put the seat down,
and brush.
she goes through
the motions now.
still caring, but too
tired to be
the new mother she once
was. if all are safe
and sound. until tomorrow,
it's enough.

his things

they go to clean
out the remains of his things.
the pots
on the stove,
the silverware, the dishes
in the sink.
the clothes,
still hanging in the dark
closets.
no will has mentioned
what to do with
any of this.
who would wear his
shoes, his watch,
his ring. who will
pick up the book he
earmarked
and turned over for later
when there would be more time
to read.

the road once taken

you take your grandmother
on the road with you.
she sits in the back
seat with her small dog
in a basket. she's
smoking a cigarette
and has a can of beer
between her legs. her dress
is red and purple
with swirls of bright pink.
she tie dyed it herself.
she says she slept
with jack Kerouac once,
and he was no writer,
or lover just a mixed
up booze hound. you're
driving too slow she
says, as you hug the right
lane. hit the gas sonny.
let's see what this
jalopy can do.
let's go to California
she says. let's take
the blue roads, like
I used to do with your
grandfather. we'd score
dope the whole way to
san Francisco, picking
up hitchhikers, singing.
sleeping out under the stars.
you look into the rear view
mirror and see her blowing
smoke rings out the window.
we need some mushrooms, she
says. and tequila.
finally you arrive at
the drugstore and take her
prescription into
the pharmacist. don't forget
my magazines, she says,
yelling out the window.




Tuesday, February 2, 2016

my shadow

you can borrow my cane,
but bring it back
when you're done.
same goes
for my overcoat
and hat,
my boots and umbrella,
my Robert Frost
anthology, my unread
War and Peace.
but bring everything
back,
everything when you
step out
into the night,
pretending to be me.

the sleeping dog

the world
keeps teaching you
old lessons.
ones you know
and have learned
before.
you have the whip
marks
to prove,
the bites along
your ankle.
but you can't resist
what's in front
of you.
testing the waters,
walking out
on thin ice,
waking
the sleeping dog.

the shine

all day,
on his knees at the station.
he rubs
the polish into
shoes.
boots. pressing
in a circle
the paste onto leather,
buffing it in,
putting a shine on
for those who come
and go.
at night, he puts
the money
on table,
and tells his wife
he loves her,
to which she says,
with a hand on
his shoulder,
I know.

which clown

it might be hard
to pull
the lever
when the time comes
to vote.
which circus
clown
is best to be
commander and chief.
who makes
you laugh or cry
the most, whether
they lean
left or right,
does it matter,
nothing changes,
so why not a clown,
any clown,
just hold your nose
and pick one
as they hop
out of the little red
car, a bouquet
of plastic flowers
up their sleeve.

the rest will follow

the rest will follow.
open your eyes,
get out of bed.
shake of the webbed
dreams.
shower and shave.
brush, take a look
and go.
find clothes.
keys, a phone.
some money, cash
and coins
from the green bowl.
the fog is lifting.
the rest will follow.

Monday, February 1, 2016

possessions

your dog
would find a rock
and bring it home.
bury it in a corner
as best he could
with fuzz
from the new carpet.
his rock.
his thing, his possession.
if you threw it back
out into the yard
he'd bring it back
in again
then look at you
as if asking why, why
would you do
that with all of this
you own.
these things,
you think are yours.

still life in a bowl

she painted pears,
beautiful
green pale pears aligned
in a bowl.
oils mostly.
the light just so.
the gleam
of shine on each.
still life
intrigued her, but
not you. it was
hard to live
like that, untouched,
unbitten,
unused.

we need rain

from his window.
hands on hips, he sees the field.
the dry earth.
browned furrows of dust
awaiting wind.
the cows, ribbed
like ships aground,
still
against the sand.
his wife
goes into the other room.
she doesn't want
to hear
or feel what he has to say,
we need rain.
we need rain, he says,
as he says
everyday.



why bother

why bother
speaking when she doesn't stop.
why listen
when it doesn't matter
what you say
in response. what's the point
of the call
when you can't
even say a word,
or make a point, or engage
your thoughts
into the conversation.
why take the call
when someone doesn't
care enough to stop
and say how are you,
how was your day,
hello. better to just
let it ring and ring
and ring.
it makes no difference,
you're just a set
of ears to listen,
to sit silently and let
her talk and talk
and talk.

mr. positive

not everyone
is kind, like me. sweet
and thoughtful.
always happy
and positive.
always a ray of sunshine
in everyone's life.
not everyone can
be me, so helpful
in so many ways,
compassionate
and wonderful. not
a cynical bone
in my body.
mr. positive.
thinking the best
of everyone.
always a kind word
to each person
I meet.
pour me another bar
keep, i'm on a roll.

the nuisance

she is the clipped
nail, bitten too far
now inflamed, sore.
she's the stubbed toe
in the night
against the steel frame
of the bed.
she's the finger
caught in the car door,
the piece of glass
stepped on
in the bathroom from
a broken jar.
she's the phone
call at night when
you're fast asleep.
the telemarketer at dinner time.
the noise in the attic
with scampering feet.
the shoe full of water
as you step off
a mound of snow
into the street.