Thursday, March 31, 2016

the cloud

this cloud
won't budge. hard to know why
exactly.
but all day
it lingers above
you. not swept
away by wind,
or emptied of rain.
just a cloud.
grey and white
darkening the sky.
some days are like that.
sometimes
a week will pass
before the sun comes
through.
all you can do is
wait.

the apple

you have no guilt
with the apple
stolen from a tree.
it's just an apple.
a crisp bite
into its green thin hide,
the tart
pucker of its white.
you have no guilt
with the apple,
you might have two
in fact, one more
out of spite.

we swim

how much do you need.
how many numbers
on the balance sheet.
how many forks,
knives,
spoons, plates.
glasses to drink from
do you need
on the shelf.
another bed? how many
lovers will it take
to say enough.
a bigger room.
a yard that stretches.
maybe an oak
tree,
a willow.
a cherry blossom
in bloom.
how many cars do you need
in the garage,
more books, more clothes
more things.
the drowning of ourselves
goes on.
in too much
we swim.

words

you say the wrong
thing
and it sticks to you.
thick gum
on your shoe
smacking
and pulling pink
against the hot street.
all day
you carry the fret of it.
you say the wrong
thing
and it can't be removed
easily.
no swallowing
of words.
no apology makes do.

our own story

we have always lived
in fabled times.
we do now.
making our lives
more important
than they ever could be.
casting larger shadows
on what was small.
we edit lines, move
chairs and props
as we go along,
our play, our theater,
alive
with performance.
we smudge or wizen
the faces that we meet.
hear
the voices differently.
the arguments
have meaning. each love
won lost
was true.
we collect the evidence
in photos. in ticket
stubs,
soliloquies of remember
when this happened.
drink helps to rose color
the glass on all of it.
on our own fables being
told by us.

dancing in the light

the Pentecostal
meeting scared you.
the large circle of worshippers.
some speaking
in tongues,
some leaping forward
to make bold prophecies.
women with
burning blue eyes,
bibles held aloft,
aflame with the spirit.
people danced in the middle
as if in a trance.
it was in a hall,
a meeting room
at a college
you could never get into.
but here you were
joining hands
in dark loud prayer. afraid
of where this
might lead. afterwards
you wandered out questioning
everything you thought
you ever knew
about faith and God.
you went and had a beer,
sat with friends watching
women dancing in a different
light.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

unlike us

the dead
wake up in your dreams.
new
and refreshed
by distance.
they are removed from
pain,
from distress.
how easily they laugh
and love,
no longer
tethered to this earth
like us.

the blue dress

you remember her
in a blue dress. waiting
for you.
the first time
you met.
nervous. hands folded
to keep
them still.
her rising
as you came near.
the gentle kiss on
a cheek.
hello.
how quickly the night
passed.
the words
tumbling. the wonder
of it all.
you remember her
in a blue dress.
waiting
for you and then
the rest.

the other side

it's the other side
we don't see.
the rails being laid.
the coal
pulled by hand
from mountains a million
years old.
it's
the farm worker, the paver
of roads.
the chimney sweep,
the roofer hammering
in the slant
of a summer sun.
it's the raking, the mowing.
the chopping of wood,
the men
with sacks
on their back, the women
on their knees
scrubbing.
frying.
lifting. arms deep
into ovens.
it's the other side
that we don't see,
don't want to see.
just leave it at that.

you don't know for sure

it's hard to tell
which animal in the zoo
is crazy.
out of its mind while
locked behind bars,
they peel the bananas
so casually,
the look of love in their
brown eyes.
the zebra, unfazed
by a full moon,
lions just lying around,
pawing at a bone.
the seals
jumping for fish,
as if at play.
it's not unlike
riding the bus on
any afternoon.
who's gone and who isn't
is just too hard
to say.

white shoes

it's hard to keep
those white shoes clean.
having them shine
like new.
always
buffing out a mark
with a finger
lick,
a rub against
the back of a calf
on a pair
of gabardine pants.
white shoes
are a problem when
tying to be dapper
and distinct.
not to mention the belt
to match.

save some for later

it's nice
to leave a small portion
for tomorrow
or tonight. a midnight
snack.
a surprise
for later when you've
forgotten
what you have. enjoying
the moment
when you see it tucked
away
in the corner,
taking it out,
grateful that you had.


what's fun

someone asks you
what you like to do for fun.
you have to think
for a minute
what that might be.
what brings you joy
and pleasure, what things
do you purposely
seek out to put a smile
on your face.
you don't like to hunt
or fish,
climb mountains.
you prefer not to leap
from a plane,
or run in races.
golf bores you, as does
most museums
after an hour or so.
the theater perhaps, or
listening to music,
not at a concert where everyone
knows the songs
and is singing.
for fun, it's a hard question
these days.
a nap is fun.
lying in the sun is fun.
conversation.
a good book.
kissing. making love is fun.
eating
can be fun too.

the rules

the life guard
is insistent that you stay off
the rope
separating
the shallow from
the deep end.
stop running,
no diving
from the side.
no eating in the pool.
no alcohol or loud
music.
it's a poster
of rules
you can't wait
to break
for the rest
of your life, until
it's your child.
then the whistle
blows.

in the pocket

it's nice
to find a dollar
in a coat
pocket. a stick of gum.
a box
of candy from
the theater. a program
folded.
torn tickets.
a note from you,
saying
see you soon.
love.
I miss you too.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

the april wind

what is it with these men.
they know women.
sisters mothers,
aunts, lovers
and friends, wives.
why can't they avert
their eyes.
not look at a pair
legs,
a blouse opened,
parted lips,
an ear, an elbow,
a hand, the curves
strolling by.
no one is exempt.
the waitress pouring coffee.
the maid
smoothing out a bed.
the bartender
sliding a drink
across the bar.
what keeps them on alert,
heads turning
at the click of heels.
the men whistling
as they stand in a ditch
with a shovel,
not having a chance.
what keeps them looking
as an april wind
lifts long hair and skirts.
the old boys
in the park,
pointing with their canes
as a woman fifty years
younger runs by.
it never ends.

high rise

there's a bad smell
in the building.
someone is cooking cabbage.
maybe a goat.
who's to know.
there's a blood stain
on the carpet in the lobby.
I can hear the rattling
of snakes down the hall.
someone's chanting
to their God, or Gods
a floor below.
on the roof
is a contingent of women
singing
church songs
practicing for sunday.
the man across the hall
is having an argument
with his
wife on the phone,
or maybe she's there,
but i haven't heard any
plates or dishes
thrown.
I have to get out
of this building.
but the elevator
doesn't work
anymore, and the loading
dock is
scheduled for two
months in advance.
fourteen floors below
I see the workers dragging
the pool for
possums, getting ready
for summer.

hide your eyes

no use
watching the market.
studying
the ups and downs of all
your holdings.
no point in calling your
broker
to discuss what to sell
or buy.
it's best just to
wear blinders,
say a prayer,
hide your eyes and hope
that in a few years
you aren't in a box
behind the liquor store.

new shoes

the blister on your heel
makes you regret
wearing the new shoes
when you knew
you had to walk so far.
it'll take a week to heal.
not nearly as bad
as a broken heart,
but still the pain
will linger.
it might be a while
before you wear those
shoes again.

Monday, March 28, 2016

naked to the world

it wasn't unusual
when staying in a hotel
for her to take her clothes off
and go stand
by a window.
she'd pull
the curtains back
and stretch her arms out
to the world
as if a new born.
what was there to say.
she was a grown woman,
who did what she wanted to do.
but there seemed to be
more to it
than you could even imagine.

bad blood

there is bad blood
between
the two of you.
it will stay this way
forever.
there is nothing that will
change what is
true,
or unsay the things
that have
been said.
it doesn't happen
overnight,
but years, more years,
until
you break. you break
and tell
the other person
what isn't right.
bad blood is not a good
thing
to have coursing
through your veins, but
what is there to do?

the shop

business as usual,
the man turns the open sign
over, unlocks
the door.
goes behind the counter
and begins
his day.
his hands in dough,
salt
and sauce.
cutting what goes on.
in time
he carries the weight
of his
passing years,
a son comes
along, another.
their lives set too.
what else is there
to know.
each turning the sign over
to open.

the trick

there is the pull
of hook
and line
from shores unseen
that drags
you where they want
you to be.
it starts early
as the sun comes up.
the bait
is set.
how could you know
that the game
is rigged. that
life as you know it
is a trick.
a glimmer
of steel, a plastic
fly,
a worm, no less
that does you in.

unburdened

unburdened
by life, your mother's face
grows younger.
the furrows of her brow
lessened
with each short visit.
no husband
or child
to worry her. her mind
now soft
like the black soil
she once dug
in her garden.
roses are coming up.
daffodils
lilies. how green the grass
has become.
she smiles about something.
laughs,
then cries when
a true thought comes
forward, but it's
quickly
washed away in shadow.

the tickets

the line
at the machine is long.
white haired men,
blue haired women with
cash in hand.
one by one they stick
their bills
into the slots, push
the red buttons
with a prayer,
and fingers crossed,
four across, three across.
lucky shamrocks.
bells and whistles.
outside they stand,
huddled alone
in the wind
and scratch their stubs.
the grey chips
float away in the air.
forty dollars a day,
why not, they think.
one says loudly, bingo,
as the others
turn to walk away.

I love him,
but he's crazy, she says,
showing me the bruise
on her wrist
where he grabbed her
too hard.
he gets angry
all the time
and throws things.
he can't keep a job.
he has no friends
and he treats me
horribly, but i'm so
in love with him.
I know that deep inside
he's a very sweet man.
what should I do.
he wants to marry me.
if I say yes,
I think I can change him
over time.
what do you think,
should I go for it?

five nights in cancun

despite four days of rain
you both made
the most of it.
eating.
staring out into the sea
from your hotel
window.
jiggling an antennae
on an old tv.
playing gin rummy.
making love.
making love.
making love.
then sleep.
the wind bent the trees
sideways.
so there was drinking involved.
dancing,
room service. talking about
our childhoods.
more drinking.
aspirin.
there was falling
asleep on the cold
tiled
floor of the bathroom.
tipping
the maid for all
that missed
its target. on
the fifth day the sun
came out. no one cared
anymore.


open books

the open
book, left to the page
last touched
and turned to.
the words
left to be found later
in mid thought
or sentence.
we leave
friends like that
as well.
the open books
of our lives, easy
to read,
waiting for your return,
to be
found and enjoyed
once more.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

the light is on

the light goes
on
at a certain age.
the proverbial light.
the candle, the flame
of knowledge, call it
wisdom, even.
whether it's neon
or incandescent
laser or fluorescent
makes no difference.
it goes on
and shines brightly
before your eyes.
you realize that the future
is not what it
used to be.

the unlearning

you unlearn the world
with age.
with each passing year
you see clearer
how muddied the water
really is. you
understand less
the mysteries you thought
were figured out.
by deaths end
you know
what there is to learn
about everything,
which is that you know
almost nothing,
but that.

as they float away

you see small children,
almost grown
with their arms stretched
in the air,
tethered to balloons,
strings held
tightly in their fists.
they rise into the sky
against the blue.
caught in the winds that
always come.
they are becoming what
they will become.
floating softly
away with dreams of
their own.

the ejection seat

i like to be spoiled
the queen bee tells me as
she brushes her
hair in the rear view mirror
turned by her hand
to accommodate the location
her face.
do you mind, i tell her.
i'm driving and really need
that mirror.
i think i have spinach
in my teeth she says. look.
do you see any. no.
i tell her, pushing the mirror
back into place.
where was i, she says.
oh yes. i like to be spoiled,
i like nice things, i like to
travel and stay in resorts.
are you able to do
these things with me?
i hope so, she says, smiling,
rummaging through her tiny
purse to find lipstick.
at this point i wish i had
a james bond car, the kind
with an ejection button
for the passenger seat,
but i don't. so i say yes.
who doesn't love caviar
and palm springs, paris,
i say. the baguettes are
wonderful over there. i'd die
just to sit in a café
right now and order sparkling
water.
i'm falling for you, she says.
let's go. let's go to paris,
just me and you. tonight.
it would be fun and spontaneous.
what about my cat? i tell
her. i'd have to make
arrangements for my cat.
how about next weekend?

keep driving

she was an unregistered nurse
living in sin
on the other side of the tracks
with a man
twice her age, but there was
something kind about her that
appealed to me.
the way she walked on those legs
didn't hurt either.
she also worked the night shift
at the local diner,
pouring coffee, putting plates
of eggs and bacon on the table
for truckers and men who
couldn't sleep at night,
like me.
so what's your story, she said
one night, as the place emptied
and it was just me and her,
the cook in the kitchen
scrapping the grill
before closing. I've got no
story, I told her.
today is the first day of the
rest of my life.
having never said anything quite
that dumb, we both laughed
at the same time. don't leave
she said and walked away,
taking her apron off slowly
looking back, winking.
when she came back
she asked me for a ride home.
i need to count my tips
and refill the ketchup bottles,
she said,
then i'm ready.
I said okay. i'll be outside
in my car. the white chevy,
baby moons, dice hanging on
the rearview mirror.
really? she said, climbing into
my grey prius.
we didn't get very far,
the first red light,
when she reached over and kissed
me. putting her hand on my knee.
I could use a man like you in my life,
she said. someone who doesn't
talk too much. someone
I don't know anything about.
but i'm just passing
through, I told her and it would
only be one night. perfect she said.
I know a place.
keep driving.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

equally yoked

you need to find
someone you are equally yoked
with, the pastor says to you
in a private consultation
in his chambers, which is the pantry
off the kitchen
of his church. outside is a sign
that reads in bright red letters,
open for prayer.
pancakes every morning at 7.
you say the words equally
yoked out loud.
he nods.
you think of cows, of cattle,
oxen. is there a difference
between them,
one is slow and dumb,
the other a little faster,
maybe smarter when it comes
to finding the best
grass to chew on.
yes, the pastor says, putting
his hand on your shoulder
in a gesture of comfort and
compassion. equally yoked,
he says again, think about it.
I have to go now. I have
pancakes to make.

art versus hunger

each of her easter eggs
is a gem.
small curved
versions of the Sistine
chapel.
the last supper,
the mona lisa
Raphael and Da Vinci
have nothing
on her.
you almost hate to crack
one open
against the sink,
but in your other
hand is salt.
and what is art
when
held up against hunger.

i do

the noose,
the plank, the firing
squad.
it's not hard
to find
an equal comparison
to
standing at the altar
and saying,
I do.
the guillotine
comes to mind
as well, not to mention
a pool of quicksand.
it looked so easy going
in,
but now I'm sinking
slowly
with no way out.

needing help

the small boy
runs as fast as his narrow legs
will go
trying to get the kite
into the air.
he sees the other kites
up high.
red and yellow,
white tails waving against
the clouds.
he wants so hard
to get his there.
but the hill is high,
the wind
isn't right.
his arms too small to make
it rise.
he stops
finally and looks around
wondering where his
father is.

the middle years

the middle
is a place to be.
the beginning
or end
much less preferred.
the middle is fat with
waiting.
with a sense
of this will
never end.
there is a lawn chair in
the middle. summer days.
children
and dogs.
a house, work.
the middle puts
you to sleep thinking
this is how it will be
forever.
no longer hungry
as in the beginning, not
yet full
of sweet melancholy
at the end.
the middle is a bed of roses.
a cut lawn,
a night of gathering
in front
of a t.v.

the morning poem

she wakes up with a poem
in her mouth,
a small pebble of truth
that she must
quickly spit out.
she hurries out of bed
to get it down.
you hear her in the other
room at the keyboard,
typing.
clicking out the letters
to form the words,
the lines
that she will later
read to you
and at some point have
memorized. you will
tell her how wonderful
it is.
how talented and kind
she is with words.
then you'll make love,
both happy with
what's been done.

throwing the bone

it was nothing
to throw a dog a bone
into the yard,
still greased from the pan,
warm,
almost clean of meat,
but enough to
send them flying.
all afternoon the dog,
or dogs
would work the bone,
chewing it down
to nearly nothing,
grinding with wild eyes,
sharp teeth.
remembering who they were
not
collared pets,
trained animals,
but still beasts.

not enough

you bring
everything you have
to the game,
but sometimes
it's not enough.
what isn't meant to be
wins out.
a younger person
would sulk
with this news
soaking in, try
harder to make it work,
but not you.
you understand
and turn
to go back down
the open road
again.

Friday, March 25, 2016

jagged stars of light

when touching
the wet outlet with your
careless hand
the electricity
runs through your arm,
your heart, into
the other arm,
then settles into your mouth
with the dull
taste of metal chips.
the jagged
stars of unseen light,
rattles you, stings,
tells you things about
death and life,
you'd rather not know.

buying happiness

they say
that money cannot buy
happiness,
but I tend to disagree,
just last week
I purchased
a long stick of wood,
with a claw hand.
on any given night,
I reach over and down
my back
to find the spot
I can't other wise reach,
and scratch
a persistent itch.
I am as close
to being in heaven
as I may ever get.

that part done

from the top of the stairs
I could hear
the women talking, my wife's
friends, having an early
afternoon cheese and wine
party, after all it was Friday.
and me home from work early,
showering, resting finally
in bed, the door cracked open.
I listened as their voices
got louder, the pitch
higher, seagull against seagull
fighting for the same
spot of sand. how they skewered
their husbands, laughing as one
said she used an egg timer
to time their romantic interludes.
the others laughed, and talked
of the dirty clothes they would
wear, no make up,
how they would not shave their
legs, to keep their husbands
at bay. the migraines they would
have. meanwhile the children
played in the yard.
that part of love being done.

we will become

it bewildered you,
as a young boy, tramping through
the woods,
no path, or road
beaten down to follow,
up the ridge,
where the trees thickened,
how did these things
get here.
the avocado stove,
the white
refrigerator,
a washing machine on
its side,
the rusted door swung
open with the remnants
of a nest, sticks of straw
inside. who made this effort
to bring
these things here, leaving
them?
you touched each one,
forcing the oven door open,
turned the knobs
on the lifeless range.
how strange life seems
when things are out of place,
abandoned, not unlike
the old
we will become.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

we are here to help you

when I get home from work
the living room
is full of friends and family,
a few strangers who look
familiar from the mall.
they are sitting in a circle,
smoking, drinking coffee.
some are on their phones,
others talk amongst themselves.
what's happening, I ask.
still in the hallway
looking in.
we love you, they all say as one.
we love you and want to
help you. I look around the room,
off to one side
is a pile of clothes.
then another pile.
a pyramid of pants and shirts,
shoes and socks. the kitchen overflows
with coats, some with the tags
still on them. things are hung
on all the doors,
new clothes, old clothes.
there is a trash can full
of receipts and labels,
the sticky size strips that
I've pulled off and left on the floors.
you have a problem, someone
says gently, easing me to the center
of the room where an empty chair waits.
we are here to help you with your problem.
someone else takes the large
bag from macy's out of my hand, then
the other one from kohl's,
and says, let's begin, who wants
to start us off?

the first time

how fondly
you remember your first
credit card.
filling out the form.
your income of
four thousand dollars that
year
doing odd jobs,
shoveling snow,
mowing lawns.
washing dishes
in a local restaurant.
still living with your mom,
despite her
insistence that you move
on with your life
at sixteen.
how proud you were to make
your first charge
at Montgomery wards.
a sweater,
a belt.
a pair of white keds,
a multicolored head band.
you paid it all off in three
monthly payments
of eleven dollars.
you still have the card.
it's brittle now.
chewed at the edges from
overuse.
stained with dirt and grime
of decades gone by.
the store is long gone.
it was your first.
you always remember fondly,
your first.

then what

to each his own
faith.
his own belief in what
is true
or not true,
what makes your
day brighter
or night less
dark
is up to you. it's
hard to imagine
that this
is all there is,
and if so,
then what?


unlearned lessons

we'd like to believe
that books are apples.
each eaten
will bring us the good
luck of knowledge,
put us on a more civil
road.
that schools
and classes
will slay the beast
that lies within us.
we'd like to think that
teaching is the tool
to understanding,
towards peace.
how right and wrong
we are
so often.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

you talking to me, no

I can't make my neighbors say hello
when I wave to them, greeting them with
words like hi, how are you
tonight. some weather we're having.
I think they might not like me
for some reason.
or maybe they're hard of hearing.
or from another part of the country
where being friendly and normal
are not permitted. they never respond.
whether we're all out shoveling snow,
or in the rain,
or it's a bright sunny day.
I get nothing in return.
sometimes his wife will run
into the house with her groceries
so that she doesn't have to suffer
the pain of my hellos.
it makes me sad. makes me go
into the house and stare into
the mirror trying to figure this
thing out.
they've only lived there two years
though, wall to wall, my yard
against their yard. so maybe things
will change. maybe not.

better not to know

there's a part of you
that wants
to look into the window.
to peek
into a door,
listen to a conversation
that isn't yours.
there is a strange desire
to know what's
no business of your own.
to look under a bed,
peer into a closet,
see what's hiding
in an attic, to find
out things you wish later
you didn't know.

the math of love

the math of love
is hard.
the equations are mysterious
and vague.
it takes
a large black board
and boxes of white chalk
to figure out
exactly how it
all works.
even then the answer
is nebulous.
how to bring two people
from different
planets
together, to keep
them together
in an orbit
around one another
without crashing,
or falling from the sky.
how to be one
without being one
and losing both.


three down

I have news, my friend tells me.
good news.
you'll appreciate what i'm
about to tell you.
I promise, he says.
I wait.
I keep working on the crossword
puzzle.
a six letter
word for not caring,
begins with an a.
you fill in the word,
writing apathy in ink,
which helps you with
the down clue
for the y.
a three letter word
for a milk that isn't
really a milk, and doesn't
come from a cow.
soy, you write.
don't you want to hear my
good news?
I look up, and say what?
what's the good news?
i'm giving my body to science.
I want them to use me.
my eyes, my heart,
and whatever recyclable
organs there are inside of me.
the second i'm dead it's all
there's for the taking.
that's nice, I tell him.
looking back at the crossword
puzzle. author of the Premature
Burial, three letters going down.
Poe you write.

maybe this will work

I am no one without you.
which is a lie,
but a purposeful lie
to show you how I feel.
how can you abandon
someone
like me. no one does that.
well,
hardly ever, at least
not since early
spring.
perhaps my desperation
and lack of
self esteem will
win you back.
my begging, my showing
up on bended
knee pleading my case,
telling you how much I've
changed, my
cards and letters,
the flowers sent,
chocolates, I know you love
chocolate,
the way I carved our names
on a tree.
surely we can work this out.
if you'd just say
something, anything,
pick up the phone, drop
the restraining order,
meet me for a cup
of green tea. I am no one
without you.

ground control

your father
with a cell phone
is lost
in space, calling from
a capsule
in the nineteen sixties,
floating high above the earth.
his voice mail is still
in Spanish and is somehow
full.
I can't hear
you major tom,
this is ground control,
can you hear
me dad, can you hear me?
put the phone
up to your ear, no the other
way. right side up.
stop yelling, we'll get through
this.
don't touch any buttons.
ignore the beeps.
ignore the messages
coming across the screen.
stay calm.
this is ground control,
your son. we have a problem.
take the phone into the
bathroom,
fill the sink with water,
drop the phone into the water.
then call me on your
land line.

the same moon

we used to talk
about the moon. describing as
we saw it from where we stood
on the same night
at the same time
so many miles away.
it's beautiful, she'd say,
yes, you'd reply.
silver and white,
a clock without hands.
a destination,
an orb without a string.
you'd say how much more
interesting the moon is
than the sun, and she'd
agree.
that's what lovers do
under the same moon,
on the same night so
many miles away,
they agree.

lemon tart

you pace back and forth
staring out the window.
waiting for her to pull
up and put a small bag
of easter cookies
between your storm
and door.
she makes the best
cookies. you have
the pot on for tea,
cold milk ready.
a small plate, a knife
and fork in case
there's a lemon tart
or a blueberry pie
left too.
she's late with her
cookies. how cruel she
can be sometimes.

wrong turn

the cop fills out the ticket wrong,
saying you turned
left instead of right a minute
after three pm on a rainy
afternoon.
he was sitting there with his
friends in blue,
the party lights on, getting
each car who did the same.
making their end of the month
quotas to stuff the local bank
with money.
so you go to court, but the judge
is not amused by your self
defense, he says that the cop
made an honest mistake, it
was later, it was cold and windy,
he says, rainy.
anyone could have done
the same. exactly you say,
exactly. to which he says
is that sarcasm I hear coming
out of you?
small town, small brains, large
fine.

your movie

who would play you in a movie
she asks as she
breaks off a piece of sourdough
bread she just baked,
and hands it to me.
hmm. i say, biting into the soft
warm doughy bread.
would it be a documentary,
or a feature film?
black and white? I love black and white.
an indie film? I prefer those.
mysterious and only shown
in small venues.
the kind of movie where you
walk out and shrug, saying,
it was good, I think.
and of course
no loud music or special effects.
she shakes her head
and looks at me. who, she says
maybe an unknown, I tell her,
maybe I could
play the role,
but with lots of make up
for the transitional aging parts,
and a stunt double
for the action scenes.
and you, I ask her, who would
play you?
Angelina Jolie, she says,
without hesitation.

a new pair of shoes

maybe a new pair of shoes
will brighten your day.
a pair of pants
to go along with them,
a shirt of course,
a top hat and tails,
a cane, yes. something
fancy and debonair.
maybe you need a sleek
dog with which to have at
the end of a leash,
a driver, a man at the door
to say good morning to
you as you leave your estate
to go about your day.
maybe a maid named Isabel
who will wave from the window
with her duster.
all of this comes to mind
as you chase the trash
truck down the street
with a bag of shrimp shells,
in your boxer shorts
at seven a.m.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

steerage

because of your lame
health insurance
that covers nothing except
amputations
and heart
transplants,
you stop by the minute
clinic
for some prescription
medicines.
something for
the fever, the headache.
the onset of
flu.
you sit in a small plastic
chair,
in a small enclave.
a water fountain
hums next to you.
you listen to the coughing,
to the rattle of bones
shaking. you pray.
finally,
a nurse comes out
and points at who's next,
saying a name
as best she can.
all eyes are on her.
this Florence nightingale
in a mustard stained white dress.
it's the steerage section
of the health care world.

new hours

i'm changing my hours,
just to let you know.
I will be working from ten a.m.
until 3 p.m.
from this point forward.
after that
i'll be taking a nap.
at noon,
i'll have lunch.
in the early morning i'll
be reading the paper
and drinking coffee,
writing
stuff like this.
I know it will seem like
nothing has changed,
but I just needed to post
it, so that there
are no misunderstandings,
and that you don't
call or bother me
before or after
work hours.

the horses

they love horses,
these women. why, you aren't sure.
it's one of
differences between you
and them.
men and women that
you can't explain.
they hang pictures of them
all over their house.
the ribbons won,
the calendars of horses.
saddles and boots
are scattered everywhere.
they give their horses sweet
names.
they can't wait
to get to the stable
to ride them,
feed them, see if they have water,
or wash them slowly,
check their teeth, their hooves
in old age.
I have to go see my horse
today,
they tell you, throwing
carrots and oats into the trunk.
i'll be there for a few hours,
maybe later
we can get together,
watch the derby.

lost hours

you find
the lost hour
between the cushions of
your couch.
there it is,
stuffed down,
under the paper,
a plate of food,
a drink
balanced on
the side.
the remote still warm
from your hand
watching what?
reruns
of another era.
maybe it's more than
just an hour
down there, it could
be half a life time.

the wonder

whatever you've chosen
to do
with your days,
no matter the work,
there is a point where
you stop,
take a small moment
and wonder
how it is that you got here.
no epiphany, no
great awakening of spirit
or heart,
just plain
wonder at why
and how, you got where
you are. then back
to work you go.

Monday, March 21, 2016

yelling

there was always yelling.
loud pitched voices,
the higher decibels of the young.
seagulls we
were in the small house,
batting our wings
against one
another,
flying towards the table
for crumbs.
always yelling coming from
one of us,
at the top of the stairs,
from the basement,
from outside in,
from someone
about clothes, or toys,
the unasked borrowing
of everything
we possessed,
and the neighbor with his shoe
banging against our
shared wall,
he didn't stand a chance.

sideways

you go forward,
the clock says so.
the sun falling, the moon
rising.
the calendar too.
the roads all have arrows
pointing that way,
although it doesn't
seem like forward anymore.
sideways is more
of a direction.
you move on though.
it is what you do with your life.
feeling each day
go through your hands
so easily.
if there is one,
is the next life like that,
you wonder.

the fiftteen minute appointment

I spend a few hours
trying to make a doctor's appointment
with a physician
assigned to me
by my new health insurance carrier.
it takes awhile to get
a live person on the phone.
I've repeated my insurance number
so many times,
I almost have it memorized.
they ask what the issue is.
I tell them, it's a long list.
night terrors, allergies,
my left foot falls asleep,
a headache if I don't get coffee
in the morning. i'm afraid of heights
and Indian food.
i'm getting older and want
to stop it, or at least slow it
down.
okay. okay. the person says.
i'm sure the doctor can address
all of these ailments.
we have a Friday, three weeks
from now, eight a.m. i'm
putting you in for a fifteen
minute visit, so limit your questions.
sure, I tell them, sounds good
to me, but if I suddenly get healthy
again, i'll call and let you
know.

i work for windows

the delightful man on the other line,
who says his name
is sam Jackson
living in Malibu California
wants to help clean up my computer.
he says he works
for windows, and has noticed
a large sampling of error reports
coming from my system.
he doesn't seem to know my name,
but does have my land line
number, so it must be legit.
he sounds like my friend who
owns a Pakistani restaurant
in the city. the same cadence
and accent to his words.
he tells me to put one finger on
the control key, the other
on shift, another finger
somewhere else.
I ask him about my feet, I tell
him that I am limber enough
to use a big toe on my keyboard
if need be.
he repeats his instructions,
but is getting impatient. he wants
to know why I'm laughing.
I tell him that I just thought of
something funny
that my cat did the other day
and that it has nothing to do
with him.
he doesn't believe me, and curses
in English and a few other languages.
you are wasting my time, he says.
then hangs up abruptly.
it was going so well, my computer
was that close to being fixed.

your big chair

your neighbor
likes to borrow things.
a cup of olive oil
for instance,
sugar, eggs,
two slices of bread,
once.
she needed a garden hoe
one spring day,
but you never saw
the flowers,
or the hoe in return.
as she packs
to leave, move on
to another city
you see the movers
carrying out the things
you've lent to her.
you see the pictures
you've set out on
the curb for trash,
a coat you once wore.
books, magazines you've
tossed.
a big chair with a rip
that she
sealed with duct
tape.
you hear her telling
the movers
to be careful, not
to drop it. you loved
that chair and feel
strangely happy
that it's found
a new home.

the sunday paper

you have the intention
of reading
the entire New York
Sunday Times
today. this Sunday,
the day it's bought and carried
home with coffee
and a warmed croissant.
you plan to
do the puzzle, at least
try the puzzle
without cheating.
the magazine first,
then backwards
into the news. sports.
commentary,
but it sits for the most
part on the couch,
partly read,
skimmed, pages turned.
it's too much.
maybe as the week goes on
you'll get to it. dip into
arts and leisure,
book world. city life,
things that
have happened so
long ago.

i'd like to buy a pie

you see them up
ahead.
dressed in black, a horse
and buggy.
a man, a woman, a child
or two.
you hear the hooves
against the pavement,
as you drive slowly
behind them.
the man waves you past
with a whip,
so you
maneuver around
to the side of the wagon.
you wave and smile,
to which you get nothing
in return.
you're hoping there might
be a pie stand
up ahead,
so you yell, pies?
out the window.
they shake their heads,
pies?
you yell again, is there
a pie stand
up ahead. i'd like to
purchase a pie or two.
this seems to anger them
as the mother,
in a white bonnet, black dress,
takes out a shoe fly pie
and flings it
towards your head.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

stay with it

some things never come
clean.
no matter the soap
or bleach,
no matter how hard you
scrub
and wash.
the stain won't come out,
the dirt remains.
the white
will no longer be white,
the blue
faded, the greens
a pale memory
of when it was bought.
but still
it's folded. it's hung
in the closet.
it's worn despite all.

no love here

jokingly I called her house
the no fun zone.
a place of work,
a small eastern bloc
country,
grey, surrounded by
barbed wire and fence.
into my hands would go
a shovel.
a bag of dirt or stones.
I listened
to what the birds were
saying
struggling on the feeder
for small bits
of seed.
I stared up at the tall
trees that whistled
in the wind.
I hammered nails, turned screws,
painted doors,
gathered fallen leaves
for the fire,
I then rested in my
own arms
at the end of another
hard day.

life continues

your mother would
disappear
and go off, driven
by someone
to have a baby. within a
week or so
she'd be there again,
bringing home
a new boy or girl. she'd be
back at the stove,
back at the clothesline,
hands on
the vacuum.
pushing her black
framed glasses up over
her nose.
saying
something to the neighbor
as you leaned
on the sill
staring out the window.

a place to stop

the broad field.
the empty stretch of land.
a boarded house
at the edge,
where the road is.
an apple orchard gone bare.
a swing
on one strand still
blowing
back and forth,
no trees to lessen
the wind.
a rag doll, a rusted bike.
the remnants of
a family
in flight. this property
condemned.
not a place you'd think
to stop
and eat your lunch.
but you do.
it seems important
to remember all of this.

sunday mass

full of Catholicism
at the age of twelve,
the incentive of fear and guilt
in full bloom,
I used to wear
a button down short sleeved
shirt to Easter Sunday
mass. canary yellow.
it seemed right.
loosely tucked into
my khaki pants,
a brown belt to match
brown shoes.
hair combed, shiny
with brylcreme, parted
evenly on the side.
catechism in hand.
an envelope with four
quarters rattling around
in my pocket.
church was after the cellophane
was ripped
off the easter baskets
that my mother set out on
the dining room table.
seven. all different colors,
glimmering, translucent
in the overhead light.
chocolate rabbits,
and yellow peeps,
jelly beans,
easter eggs dyed
by our hands the day before.
by the time we got
home from church there
was a ham
in the oven, filling the house
with warmth, my mother,
excommunicated by divorce,
was busy with scalloped potatoes,
unsmiling at the stove,
asking how church was.

dinner adventure

I feel a little queasy
I tell her, as she spoons
another helping
of Indian food into my dish.
rice and what not. buffalo?
this goat
might be undercooked, i
say politely,
taking a fork
to break the crust of skin
from the pink white
meat.
oh no, she says.
that's the way to cook it.
eat up. there's more
in the kitchen.
have you tried the kale, she says,
reaching across
the table
with the bowl of a green sea weed
looking vegetable.
I boiled, baked and stir
fired it,
after about thirty chews,
it should go
down.

the two o'clock appointment

bottled up
they sit in the waiting
room
on plastic chairs,
drinking coffee
browsing
old magazines, home
and garden,
cosmopolitan,
hunting and fishing,
men's health
and shape. psychology today.
some twitch, some have
already
begun to cry,
some have notes in
their hand
documenting the abuses
of husbands, or wives,
parents
long gone. children
and work. everyone there
a little bit
out of their mind.
the place vibrates
with anxiety and pain.
finally the door
swings open
and a woman with owl
glasses
in a grey suit,
looks around the room,
calls out your name.
batter up.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

dancing killer whales

the water zoo decides
to no longer train the whales
to jump
and spin, to make whale like noises
to delight
the crowd.
we have a heart now they announce,
breeding wild animals
as circus clowns seems wrong.
putting hats on
them, and little dresses,
teaching them
to slap their fins against
each other
will no longer be done.
sometimes they eat
the workers, but we expect
that from time to time.
they are killer whales after all.
and we, in our
wet suits, look like fish.
stupid fish,
or prawn.

a new house

bank of
America calls you with a fraud
warning.
it seems
that someone in china
is trying to buy
a new house
with your card.
is that you, they ask.
what part of china,
you ask them.
near a waterfall, I hope.
if it was me i'd like
a nice view.
hardwood floors,
thatched roof,
three bedrooms,
maybe a little bamboo,
walking distance to coffee
and food.
a carport too.

fax me

who doesn't have
a business card?
even my dog has one,
a stack
of embossed cards
with his
picture on the front.
a stack of chewed bones.
will bark for free,
it reads.
even people without jobs
have cards.
their name
and number, saying nothing,
but that.
maybe a silhouette
of a tree,
or house, or bird.
you have a stack of cards
with a rubber band
holding them altogether.
lawyers, doctors,
massage therapists, firewood
salesmen.
cell phone, home phone,
fax.
does anybody fax anymore?

toast

like burnt toast
the argument hangs in the air.
the blackened edges
of bread,
charred
and leaving crumbs
along
the counter.
no use in scrapping off
what's done, inedible,
you throw it away
and open the window,
knowing that
the day will be long
in front of you.

Friday, March 18, 2016

we were young once too

we were young once too.
our music
misunderstood, our hair
long,
our clothes,
laughed at
by those older,
the way we spoke
and carried ourselves.
we believed in change
and revolt.
no different than now.
we were young too
once upon a time,
marching like
they are,
studying the ways of
elders,
so as not to repeat
what we did and become
so tired, so blue.

late again

my father
coming up the stairs
in hard boots
was heard
throughout the house,
as was his
voice,
his whistle, or cough,
red faced with weather,
the barrel of him full
of smoke
and whiskey.
how on edge we'd be
waiting
for the smile, or growl,
an equal chance at
both when
he came home late at night,
with supper
cold.
his pockets empty, limp
flowers in his
hand
as he wiped the pale
remnants of lipstick
from his jowls.

sailing home

from the window
of the plane she can make
out the fields.
the straight lines, the grids
of corn
and wheat, green rows against
the ruffled dirt,
yellowed tractors,
red barns and silos,
silvered thumbs along
the flat plains.
this once dust bowl,
this land
of despair and hope.
all prayers revolving
around rain
and harvest, the farm
homes,
white as cathedrals
with clouds of life
that come and go beneath
their roofs.

the wind in the courtyard

you can feel
the circling of things.
paper thin
survivors.
people you haven't seen in years
appearing,
remembering, sharing stories
of when,
each to his version
of what really happened.
the parents gone, or nearly
gone. the children
no longer children.
the old neighborhoods
still there,
but less some how
than what they were.
you can feel it in their
voices,
having traveled this far
through the calendared years,
caught in this strange wind,
the small wisdoms
learned, collected
and turned into one.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

ladder work

the aluminum ladder
pulled longer by the blue rope,
leans
up against the brick house.
there are windows
to be painted.
trim, siding, a dormer
or two.
since falling though
three years ago
you are more careful,
more thorough
in setting the feet,
checking the ground,
the wall,
wind. you fill your lungs
with imaginary courage
then climb.
you can only escape
death so many times
before it's your time.

notebooks

my notebooks.
each dated, each full of information
for work,
or pleasure, numbers,
addresses,
times and names.
sketches and ideas.
each book the same, the covers
either blue
or grey, cheap spiral
notebooks.
dozens of them fill
the bin.
reminders of my immediate
past, never to be thrown
away by my
hands, someone else
will have
that to do, their task.

small pleasures

I could barely contain my joy
when pulling up into the driveway,
arriving home from work.
tired and sore.
a cardboard package was squeezed
between the front door
and the glass storm.
special delivery, overnight,
urgent, express mail,
the wrapping read.
I ran inside to open the box,
taking a steak knife out
of my cutlery drawer (I like that word)
to cut the thick tape to view
my long awaited order,
two days of pacing, tapping
my feet, staring out the window
for the brown truck to pull up.
listening for the siren of it's
diesel engine.
there it was finally.
three four pound bags of
eucalyptus mint Epsom salts.
quickly I ran upstairs and hit
the hot water in the tub,
carefully pouring out two
cups of the white salts
into the steamy heat. as I did so,
I realized that
the small pleasure in life
have somehow won over the larger ones.
and strangely
i'm okay with that.

the small bird

your grandmother's cuckoo clock
from the black forest
never worked
unless she reached up
and spun the hands
to get the bird
to come out of his dark
wooden box
to make his sounds.
the long chains held
the cone weights
and there were sentries
at the door
of the bird.
in time she grew shorter,
no longer
able to reach up.
her hair became white,
her skin pale.
bent over,
but she could
point at the clock
smile,
and remember.

get me out of here

did you find everything
you need,
the clerk asks, coming over
to your aisle to respond
to the blinking light
and your loud
cursing. is there anything
more I can do
for you., he says, swiping
his id card
across the red register
light.
yes. I say.
help me find the code
for these apples
so I can get out of this store.

the stew of faith

she mixes new age
with old
age in her stew of faith.
part catholic,
part
Buddhist, one part
common sense
and breathing.
she has an orange mat
with which to roll
out on, and in a lotus
position, pray.
she's sketchy on sin,
on life
after death,
sex before marriage,
Darwin, but this mix
of beliefs
work for her,
gets her through
the day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

the new personal trainer

my new personal trainer amy,
all one hundred and twelve pounds
of her, shows up
bouncing like a bunny
in her pink tights
and new lime green work out
shoes.
okay, okay, she says
cheerfully, clapping her hands.
let's start
with some stretches,
she turns on some music,
lively urban music with rhyming
curse words and says, let's
reach down and touch our toes.
why, is my response. for what?
they're very far away, I tell her.
i look down at my black
high top chuck taylor's.
can we start with knees,
I suggest. after all it's
the first day. she's still bouncing
on her toes, not one
ounce of her is jiggling,
which is disappointing.
have you had your coffee yet?
I yell out over the music.
I can warm us up
some cinnamon rolls if you'd like.
she comes over and puts her
hand on my back, then pushes
me forward,
my arms dangle towards my
feet, further she yells, go
for it, feel the pain.
which i do. it sounds like
sticks crackling in a barrel fire.
somehow i make it, my fingers
touch my toes. great, she says,
as if something wonderful
has just happened.
mt. Everest has been climbed.
okay, let's run in place now.
let's get the old heart going.
i begin to run, but not in place,
i run around the room,
the dog comes down after hearing
all the commotion
and starts running too.
he begins to bark and nip
at my heels. okay, okay, amy
yells, enough running. let's
do some more stretches. let's
lie down on our backs and breathe.
I got this one, I tell her.
but would it be okay if we changed
the music. I've got a Sinatra
record over there by the stereo.

what's happening

she scared you
with her screaming. her long
nails
digging into you.
the way she kicked
her legs high into the air
and spoke
in another language
to a God you never heard of.
her eyes rolled in her head
like bing cherries
on a one armed bandit.
this went on for some time,
as you lit a cigarette
and thought about
baseball, what
was in the fridge.


thin sliced please

the guy behind the deli
counter with the hair net
and blue smock
leans over
with a slice
of Virginia baked ham
offering it to you.
you've already made him
go in back for a new rump
of boar's head ham,
not the store brand.
he rattles the brown tissue
paper that it lies
on, and says, here take
it. you say no. but that's
good. that's fine.
no, he says,
here, it's for you now.
take it, taste it. I cut
it for you.
you refuse, you hold
your ground, which makes
him angry, throwing off
the weight of the half
pound that he's already cut.
he restamps the package,
hands it to, reaching
awkwardly over the counter
between jars of pickles
and olives. he yells
cheese? perhaps a nice waldorf
salad to go with that?
no thanks, i'm good you say,
leaving with your ham.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

this size

some babies sleep all night.
your son was like that.
a sweet smile
on his thin lips.
his blonde hair.
his brown eyes closed.
the smell of his life
still with you.
the blue room,
the mobile above his crib.
you remember
feeling sad
for tomorrow. for him no
longer being this size,
innocent, safe
before the rest of the world
gets inside.

i don't care

it's mostly fiction,
seasoned with the salt and pepper
of truth.
some good,
some bad.
all of me and none of me.
I don't get defensive
or feel angst
about any of it.
I write what I want.
what's down is down,
inked.
written. to be read or not
read
makes no difference to me.
it will all evaporate when the sun
burns out, so
read or don't read,
I don't care that much,
if something bothers you,
move on.
turn the page, hit the button.
let it be, go watch
tv.

new friends

annoyed by another
sales call,
unwanted and persistent,
i hang up
without a word.
he calls back
and leaves an angry message.
all day
he's at it.
doing what he does,
making new friends
like me.

not enough

tilting the carton
towards
the cup
you see that you are
out of cream,
a few drops
fall out, hardly
making a difference.
a small thing
like that becomes
part of something
bigger, the whole
day begins and ends
with not enough
of something
that you want.

making the move

I was talking with my friend jimmy
at the local pub
the other day when he asked me what I
thought about dating again
at this stage of life. lonely and
freshly divorced, he wants to get
back into the game.
I looked at him and shook my head.
it's crazy out there, I said.
I had to get a part time job
just to cover all the chardonnay
and calamari I've been buying.
what do you mean, he says. don't
the women pay half.
I smiled and took a sip of my
gin and tonic. some do, I said,
but most run to the bathroom as
soon as the check comes.
hmmm. he said. so, tell me,
is there kissing on the first date?
does that ever happen.
yeah, sometimes, sometimes though
you get slapped if you make
your move too quickly, or pepper sprayed.
I look up into the light and tell
him to look into my eyes. see that?
yeah, he says, I can see the redness.
so, be careful, some of these
women are hellcats. just because they're
knitting these days doesn't mean
they aren't dangerous.
i blink and drip
some eye drops into my eyes.
so what's your move, he asks, I used to have
a move back in high school, but
that's a long time ago.
I mean, do you go with your
left arm around the shoulder,
or across the front. what is it these
days, buttons, snaps, Velcro? I used
to have a hard time with those hooks.
hooks, whew, I say. four hooks
was like cracking a bank safe.
my move? depends, I said. sometimes my
shoulder hurts, so I have to make
my move with my right arm,
reaching slowly around the back,
maybe gently playing with her hair
if it isn't a wig.
or if my knee is stiff, or if my allergies
are acting up, I do
this nuzzle thing with my head,
like a cat, into her neck area.
women love cats.
jimmy takes out a pen
and starts writing all this down on a napkin.
it's best though, I tell him
to wait until you get the green light
from a woman. let them tell you when it's
okay to make a move, if ever.
the green light, he writes down
in capital letters, underlining it.
a nod, a wink or if they go into
another room and come out a few minutes
later with a body stocking on,
teetering on a pair of stiletto heels.
something like that
is what I call a green light.
so how many dates before...?
before what I say, tapping the bar
to get a refill. put some alcohol
in there this time I tell the bartender.
how many dates before what?
you know, before you're spending
the night with one another.
spending the night? I say, wide eyed.
whoa Nellie.
unless you want to get married again,
you want to avoid that as much as
possible. it's best to take a quick
cat nap after it's all over
then quietly get dressed and go
home. put everything in one pile
so that later that night you
aren't scrambling around looking
for your shoes and socks, keys
and phone.
jimmy grabs another napkin
to write more of this down.
you want your visits to be timed
so that you avoid family, parents and kids.
ex husbands, etc. once you meet all of
them, well, it's game over.
jimmy taps his pen on the bar,
dang, i'm out of ink.
I need another pen he says,
it's okay, I tell him.
I think that's enough for one night.

beat the horses

some whip their horses
to get them
to perform, run faster,
get around the track.
they live their
lives with a whip
in hand, heels dug
hard into the side,
children feel its sting,
husbands and wives
even friends have felt
it upon their
backs. in the end
they never win.

things you can't change

most of what
you've worried about
has never happened.
and yet,
you still do, but
maybe a little less
lately, having gotten
older, slightly wiser,
careless with caring
too much
about things you
can't change.

Monday, March 14, 2016

fresh milk and eggs

where are the milk
men.
the paper boys,
the girl scouts with
cookies
at the door.
where is the fuller
brush man, the avon lady,
the encyclopedia
salesman?
what happened to door
to door, the time when
the mail came
twice a day, where are
the men in short sleeved
shirts and thin
ties selling bibles,
selling salvation
in colored pictures.
where is the delivery of
fresh milk and eggs,
juice
in the metal box
set on the porch?
where is anything you grew
up with,
and used to know?

the fight

the blood
of the fight is on the canvas.
the skin
split over
eyes and lips,
the rising of dark lumps,
a cracked tooth,
a bent bone.
the crowd roars
at unconsciousness.
it's what they paid for.
what they
came to see. men
and women
searching within for
some kind
of relevance, a strange
sort of peace.

never for long

we walk past
the iron wrought rail,
twisted black,
the steps leading
down to a basement door,
concrete
crumbling, a stained
glass
window
in an empty church,
the one white cloud
between the trees,
a peeling board.
so much
around us, so much
beauty
in what we don't
see.
even you get ignored
from time to time,
but never for long,
and never by me.

a new talk

it's an alarming
conversation
that I have with my son.
now filled
with full grown angst
and wonder, we talk.
we speak no longer about
how far
a ball was hit,
the run
the tail back made,
or the catch
against the wall
in the bottom of the ninth.
this is a different
conversation,
one of quicksand holes
in life.
referring to jobs and love.
how did it get to this
so soon, him
no longer on my knee,
him becoming unsure
about tomorrow,
becoming me.

what to say

he calls to tell you
that his mother died. seventy-nine.
heart disease,
unable to walk, to get up
out of bed.
she liked camel
cigarettes
and good scotch you gather
from what he says.
it's an odd conversation.
finding clichés
that sort of fit.
sort of don't.
awkward things are said
about how she had a good life,
a long life, whatever
that might mean.
she was a good mother,
but all of it sounds empty,
hollow and weak.
you hardly knew here,
or her you and you finish
off the talk
by saying, she loved baseball,
didn't she.

never alone

there is spell check
to help you along,
math check
with your tax product
download.
there's the mirror
to fix your tie in, or
find the lettuce
between your teeth, friends
will often point
at what might be stuck
to your shoe.
there are neighbors
to tell you about your
yard, they want to help
you get rid of weeds,
or point at something
your dog left
on their lawn.
there are police warning
you to slow down,
directions being read to
you as you
drive, on your phone.
the mortgage company
that keep calling
to help you save money
by refinancing your loan.
the world has found a way
to take care of you,
to embrace and know
everything there is to know
about you
so that you hardly ever
feel alone.


the new dog

the new dog
is not like the old dog.
he doesn't watch tv,
barking at each and every
animal he sees.
rushing the screen
to bite elephants,
whales, birds
and chimpanzees.
he's not at the window
growling
at the sweet old neighbor
as she plants
tulips in her yard,
on her knees.
this dog isn't chewing
holes
in my pockets
where gum or candy, or
a single honey cashew nut
might be,
no. he's more like a dog.
a real dog, dumb
and sleepy, wagging his
tail when I come home.
he not hiding for doing something
he doesn't want me to see.
when in a cage
he's not sliding the bolt
with his nose to get out,
not going through my mail,
or dragging his bag of dried
food to his dish
and pouring. the new
dog is not on my desk
late at night
browsing the web
for other dogs
he'd like to meet. truthfully,
this new dog is boring.

out to pasture

it took a while,
but you may
finally be broken.
ready to ride
into the sunset.
fit to be tied.
ring worthy and waving
the white flag,
obedient, loyal,
no longer
answering to the call
of the wild
but ready and willing
having sown
all your oats,
for the far field,
the slow life, out
to pasture.

time travel

she loves the nineteenth
century.
the wooden spindles
and rail,
the thick wide frames
of blonde oak,
the plaid
curtains. a narrow piano
with a bench is
against a bricked wall,
church music
neatly stacked.
her long dress touches
the floor,
covering her boots. she
shows you her quilts and rugs,
the butter churn
in her kitchen.
a crocheted pot holder,
the words love
and home, both framed,
stitched above the door.
there is a shelf over the stove
where bread
is warmed, she shows you
the box where baby birds
once born
are incubated, a pipe
to inhale heat,
to keep them warm.
she points out
the bottled glass of a window
pane, marred
with chips and
cracks and says, there's
Elsie, i'll fetch us
some milk in a little while,
but first have a seat,
let me stitch up
those pants.

weather hope

the sun
teases us, slipping
out with a warm
face
to lighten up
the grey,
the sleeve of green
water that runs between
empty trees,
reaching to be more.
we believe
in the weather to
guide us.
to allow us a different
point of view.
to give us hope
as winter
fights to hang on.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

free cycle

the neighbor is moving.
she set her bike
with flat tires out
on the sidewalk
with a label
saying free cycle,
a chair
beside it, a stack of cookbooks,
a lawn mower
and some fishing gear.
by morning
it was all gone.
in the darkness
someone walked away
with everything, finding
it all a new home,
a new basement or
a garage for these dusty
things to dwell in.

soul mates for an hour

I felt cheated
by the last love of my life,
my nineteenth soul
mate in
three years.
I felt like she didn't
give me
enough attention, she never
wanted to hold
my hand,
scratch my back,
whisper sweet nothings
into my good ear.
I never got the hallmark
card signed, with love,
never a wink,
a pinch, a flirtatious
touch.
she was always a arms
length away,
like we were soldiers
marching
off to war. but sometimes
I miss the loneliness
of being with her,
and wonder
what she's doing now.

a new tube

you'd rather throw
the tube
of toothpaste away
than
roll the bottom
up nice and neat
in little folds
to squeeze out
those last few dollops
of crest.
you like the new tube.
the unopened one.
right out of the box,
before
it gums up at the mouth,
hardens
and stiffens
from not putting
the cap back on.
you like everything new.
the shelf life
of things in your life
have grown
shorter and shorter.
it's inexplicable,
something your therapist
needs to address
real soon.

too much

they give you too much
food these days.
the dish is filled,
overflowing
with pasta
and meatballs, bread and salad.
a bottle of
wine.
the oil poured in a shallow
dish.
more pepper, the waiter
asks?
lifting the long pepper mill
above the table
to crank out
a shower of black specks.
dessert? sure, why not.
you can hardly move
at the end,
barely able to get
your wallet out of your
back pocket
pocket to pay
the bill. please come
again,
the girl at the front says
as you waddle home
to sleep it off.

the short drive

madness
is a short drive away.
who hasn't
veered
off the road,
crashed through
the detour sign.
we sometimes need a wreck
or two
to find the road
again,
to show us
that we need to keep
two hands on
wheel,
stay buckled up
and to keep our mirrors
fixed
to see what's
left behind.

the morning walk

up before daylight
arrives.
peeking out the window
at the wet
street.
the small dog
being walked, the woman
with a red
umbrella,
walking slowly
in the fog.
she's there every
morning at this time.
her life
is on a clock, as
most lives are,
the minutes giving
way to hours,
folding into days.
it's good to have a
routine
to save you from so
much wondering
about what to do next.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

faults

when someone points
at your tire
from another car
and you roll down your
window to say what,
they say, your tire,
it looks flat,
you shrug and say I know.
I know all about it,
then roll the window up.
you are not good
with people pointing
out your faults.

champagne love

it was a champagne
love affair,
the loud pop
of infatuation,
followed by
fizz
and bubbles,
the rising
of poured glasses
to each set of lips,
but by morning,
the bottle had warmed,
gone flat,
there was little
left to talk about.
maybe too much was
now known.

being busy

because
you are so busy, you
prefer
instant coffee, instant
quaker oats,
in the bag steaming
of vegetables,
Velcro.
you hardly have
time
in your important day
to take a call
so you let
voice mail
do that.
you'll get it later,
no time
to talk, just a wave
will do.
you skim books, skim
the paper,
take a short cut home
to avoid
traffic.
you are a very busy person.
who's at the door?
who cares.
you need a nap.

case dismissed

you have a dream that
judge judy
is yelling at you.
telling you to quit waving
your arms
and to look at her when
you speak.
you try to show her the evidence,
the Nordstrom bill,
the photos of her kissing
your son's karate teacher
behind the strip mall.
the piles of laundry in
the basement,
the dishes in the sink.
the pad lock on
the bedroom door.
she slams her gavel down
and keeps asking
you the same
question over and over
again to which you have
no answer.
you have no case she says.
your wife is right.
you need to give
her everything.
your son, your dog, your
copy of catcher in
the rye. you get nothing.
that's it she yells,
case dismissed,
i'm done with you,
now go.

extremists

i cringe when he
brings up politics, leaning
so far to the left
he'd be
black listed in the fifties,
his wife too.
her red
beret tilted,
her pamphlets printed
and ready to
be air dropped onto you.
the other friend
leans right.
oil and war are on his
mind.
sharpening our bayonets
to keep
the landscapers
and nannies out.
building the wall with
one insensitive
brick at a time.
if i were a turtle
i'd recede
into my shell and wait
until it all is over,
hoping for Thomas
Jefferson, or Lincoln,
or even Taft to come back
to life.

down on the farm

being a farmer
I enjoy the extra hour
that
daylight savings brings.
out in my backyard
raising from seed
corn, and lettuce,
tomatoes,
string beans.
tending to my crops
in my ten by ten
townhouse yard.
the extra hour
makes all the difference
in getting produce
fresh and on time
to market. it's nearly
nine o'clock at night,
and there's still
just enough light
to chase
the rabbits out,
to pluck a ripe
pepper or two.

Friday, March 11, 2016

two dolars and fity cents per night

the room, with warped boards,
a blind
man at the desk. a boy
to hand you a key.
rocking chairs
on the porch, striped
mattresses
on the bunk beds,
no sheets, no pillows
to rest your head.
two dollars and fifty
cents a night
in ocean city Maryland.
a pink cape cod,
with peeling shingles
on the board walk.
a view of the wide
ocean from the front,
an extra dollar for
those rooms.
the smell of fried chicken
in the air, suntan lotion,
salt and sand,
taffy being spun.
all of it in the air,
through the unscreened
window held open
by a stick. the racket of bells,
the clatter of pin
ball machines,
the hum
of people down below,
overfed and burned
walking as one numb mob
to one end, then the other.
it's nineteen sixty-eight.
you're on vacation.

unspent

unspent money,
the coin and paper saved.
scraps
of a life worked,
now turned
over to lawyers,
siblings,
a child,
as you slip into
the cold dug
dirt, a grave.
how carefully you kept
the balance
to the penny.
knowing how long it
would last, but in
the end
you take with you
what you started with,
which is
nothing, the time
has moved so fast.


proper english

it's hard to keep up
with the vernacular of our
time.
I just started using
off the chain
in regular conversation,
when I hear someone
say that they're living
off the grid. what's a grid?
I wonder.
I write this down in
a little notebook.
next to, she's so random,
and peace out.
it is what is is, I respond,
but that's old now.
hardly ever used
anymore, because it's
an empty string of meaningless
words.
people look at me,
shake their heads and walk
away.
I need to find a young
hipster to bring me
up to speed.

the morning

you're not a shallow person
in the morning.
you have lowered
your expectations not just
for her,
but you too.
it takes a while to regroup
after a night
of sleep
and extracurricular
activities.
cold water helps.
both drinking and a
shower.
coffee. silence is welcome.
it takes about two hours
before you
expect either one of you
to look human
again. unlike the rest
of the day,
you're not a shallow
person,
in the morning.

party time

the invitation
on a thick rich card
with raised letters in
gold ink,
expects a response.
one or two
guests?
any special food
requirements,
will you be staying
in town
overnight.
formal wear.
gowns and tuxes are required.
open bar,
sit down dinner.
the gift registry is
online.
crystal or silver
is preferred.
this makes you think about
your own cookout
on Saturday.
texting everyone with
a yo, come on
over, bring a dish
and a fork.
ribs and chicken,
brownies for dessert.
a keg and boxed wine.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

a light on

sleep comes easy.
it's the other hours of the day
that you find
hard.
the conversations,
the work
the needs you've decided upon.
sleep is a blessing.
a kind relief
from being who you
need to be
to keep things going,
food and shelter,
a light on
in the hall.

a place unlived in

how different is a house
unloved,
unkept, no curtains hung,
no paint
of any color
but white.
no rug spread below
the feet of chairs,
a table.
a simple sofa
beside the window.
how unlived in is the place
without
a kind hand
to hammer a nail
and center a picture
over the mantle.
winslow would do, or
just a vase
with fresh flowers.
at night without lights
you would think
it makes no difference,
but it does,
more so as you find
your way up
the dusty staircase.

not always

part indian,
part spanish, part horseradish,
part mustard.
german, I see that too
in her.
she's a club
sandwich.
a zesty treat of a girl.
this sparrow
sized siren who lies
between
the sheets,
the rye bread of my
bed.
dressed in the translucent
leafs of lettuce.
the indigestion later
is worth it,
but not always.

buying fish

so many fish
so many fish, their cold
grey bodies, still
limp from the sea,
with flat eyes
in tact, unseeing
the ice
they lie in.
trout and cod,
rockfish, mackerel.
laid out in lines
with their own kind,
marked up or down
per size
and weight, freshness,
perhaps. you hope.
the date of capture a small
ink smudge on
a sticky tab.
you choose none of that
and buy
the clean cut of pink
salmon, palm sized,
farm or wild, matters little
to you.
you like to buy
food without eyes,
or heads
or the things within
them, still in place,
but now unused.

to skin a cat

while stroking his beard
he tells you with a wink,
a grin,
a grizzled smile, showing
his bad teeth,
his grey tongue
that there is more
than one way to skin a cat.
you want to ask him
why would anyone
even want to skin a cat.
for what reason?
but you don't say that,
he's invited himself
to sit next
to you outside
in the arcade and drink
his black coffee with you,
a familiar face.
what are you drinking?
he asks. not one of those
girly drinks
all sugary and pink
with sprinkles, is it?
he laughs, throwing his
head back. what looks
like ashes comes out
of his mouth, his eyes
water, then he starts coughing,
really coughing.
the kind of coughing that
might result in 911 being
called, but he stops.
finally.
he points at your drink
with a long yellow nail,
and says, do you mind if I
have sip of yours,
got a frog in my throat.
you look at him, and say no.

clothes make the man

if clothes make the man
I am a fourteen year old boy
leaving the house
in khaki shorts
and a white or blue t-shirt nearly
every morning.
sneakers too, but expensive sneakers,
pumas, not those ankle
breaking chuck taylor
high tops that give you no
support.
I might have a marble
in my pocket, a rabbit's
foot attached to my keys.
life saver candies stuck together
from when the pants were washed,
gum, real gum. not the thin
fruity kind, but
the thick pink kind you
can blow a bubble
the size of a child's head
if need be and pop it
with a loud bang,
making grown ups
shake their heads.
i'll be wearing white socks.
no belt.
no briefcase.
maybe a baseball cap,
dirty with sweat rings
and a rip where my dog
chewed off the top button.

home cooking

I miss my mother's cooking.
her heavy handed
seasoning, salt and butter,
sugar when needed.
whole milk.
the red sauce with meat
on her spaghetti.
everything tasted fine.
you never left the table hungry,
despite there being seven
of you, that makes fourteen
hands and arms
reaching for what
was placed in the center.
I remember the sweat on her
brow as she sat at the head
of table,
saying grace with a smile.

a list of lovers

you make a list
of lovers that you've had
throughout your
life.
so far it's been Russian
roulette
and you've walked
away from
the table, so to speak,
unscathed. perhaps
poorer and weaker
in the knees,
heart broken, or not,
but you've survived.
whether it's a long list
or not, doesn't matter,
who hasn't made
their own list
then tore it up before
anyone with prying eyes
could find it.
quickly you light the match,
and let it go,
as many did to you.

plumbing issues

i'm bothered by how
the pipes
in my house are making noise.
a thump,
a burp, a loud rattle
and shimmy
of the old bones.
will it all explode?
will the joints spring a leak,
and send the floors
crashing into one
another like a soft cake?
gently I slip into
the steamy bath, just big
enough for two,
being careful not make
any sudden moves.
this could affect Saturday
nights date plan.

new in town

you're new in town.
which is good.
nobody knows you
and you don't know them.
it's good for everyone
all around.
perhaps you'll turn
over a new leaf,
be a better person
with a change of scenery.
maybe not.
it might take a week or
two before
they find you out,
and you them,
but it could be a nice
week of ignorant bliss.

almost there

the teacher stares
at her calendar,
her mind wandering towards
wine
and beaches,
the finish line is so close.
just months away.
the children
look out the windows
with glazed eyes
on this early
warm morning.
hard to crack a book
and recite poetry
when the cherry blossoms
are in bloom,
the trees becoming green,
and full,
or learn
why a frog lays eggs,
difficult to
concentrate
on an obtuse angle,
an equation
waiting to be solved.
there is so much more
to learn
outside these walls,
if they'd let us.

upside down

seeing a car upside down
on the side
of the road always surprises you.
you slow down
to see the chaos.
the firemen are there,
blocking
as much of the road as
possible
with their long truck.
an ambulance spins
its lights, the back doors
open and ready
for business,
a stretcher is out
rolled towards the motionless
car, the turtle
on it's back.
someone is tossing sand
onto the pavement.
another man is holding a flare
and telling you to go
around, go right.
keep it moving. but you have
to look.
the car is upside down.

half wrong

they don't know,
these weather men
weather women.
half wrong, half right.
telling you
what the next day
will bring.
pointing at radar
and charts,
the numbers in a windowless
room.
but you listen.
you pack your picnic
lunch for tomorrow,
knowing better,
but leaving
an umbrella behind.

the grudge

some can, some are able
to hold
onto the anger, embrace
the grudge
for years on end.
they feel safe
in darkness, the terror
of forgiveness
or love
is too much to bear.
it's easier to dig
the trench,
hide behind the barbed
wire of their life,
lay low never thinking
of repair.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

beyond slide rules

the twelve boys
in math class, analysis,
your senior year.
mr. reber
with his thin mustache
and worn
grey coat, patches
on the elbows.
preaching even then about
401 k's,
and the stock market.
the smart boys,
the ones who went off
to MIT
and Harvard,
John's Hopkins.
how you were there too
you can't explain,
you were
so different from them,
barely passing each test
or quiz, always asking
for help,
but they came to you
for other things
beyond slide rules
and equations.

the darkness within

you knew boys
who would put a dead cat
on the railroad tracks.
hunt frogs
with bleached needles
on the end
of long sticks.
they were bad boys.
lighting on fire
Halloween bags of candy
as children screamed,
slashing tires
on the school buses.
peeking into windows
late at night,
throwing rocks
at cars. crank calls
on the phone
feigning death of sons
or daughters.
you knew them by name.
they knew you.
you were there for some
of these things.
stunned and amazed
at the cruelty within
them. how easy it was to go
another way.
never to cross
paths with them again,
yet you know they're
out there, somewhere.
a part of this world,
as you are.

the new friend

he helps her move.
you see him
in the yard
taping boxes, marking
on each
the next room
where it will go.
he's new,
a friend, she says,
unable to say the word
boyfriend, quite yet.
you see him with a rake,
a broom.
the trunk of his car
open
and full of all the things
she owns,
and seldom used.
he carries out the heavy
things
to the rented truck,
chairs and tables,
boxes of books,
while
she's more concerned
with clothes
and shoes. put that
in the back, she says,
no further, all the way
to the end.
there you go. you're
so helpful.
thank you.


boiling water

boiling water,
the steam rising
from the deep
pot.
the gas turned
high.
how quickly
things change
under pressure
and flame.
how soon
what we hold dear
evaporates
from sight.

first stop

your first rented
apartment
was on the ground floor,
two thirty five per month
including utilities.
it backed up
to the woods, beyond
the woods was a racetrack.
you stuck
a stick in the door
to keep intruders out,
the sliding
window too.
sometimes at night,
you'd open the window
or sit out on the slab
of patio and drink a beer,
swat the bugs away
with a newspaper.
you'd listen
to the races being called.
you could see
the light glowing beyond
the trees, smell the barns,
the grass,
hear the stomping of
hooves and the muffled
roar of a crowd
winning next to nothing.
you didn't know where you
were headed next,
but it wouldn't be hard
to top this.

the new beard

he grew a beard,
a thick grizzly mush of
hair.
dark and wooly,
around his chin
and lips,
up to his ears.
he felt more
manly
with his new look.
more rugged,
more wild
and virile, but
she didn't like it,
so he shaved it
off.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

whose coat is this

I don't know the coat
that hangs
in the hall closet.
it's not mine.
it doesn't belong to me.
there is nothing
in the pockets.
no name, no tag, no clue
as to who may have
worn it last.
yet it hangs there
against my coats,
between summer and winter.
rain and wind,
each season to its own
cloth and form.
i'll keep it for now,
perhaps the hands
that own it
will return one day,
maybe not, but I have
time to wait.

the slow meal

I wonder if a spoon
fed
love is better than a feast.
a table
where you
pull up and go at it,
both having your
fill, or
does small portions
work better,
better for the long run,
slow indulgence,
the light kiss, the touch
of hands being
the wiser road,
fast food
not making a meal.

i'll send you some of mine

i'll send you one of mine
she says,
maybe two or three,
i'll put them in the mail.
look for them
when they arrive,
I've worked so hard
to get them right,
be kind
in your response,
I trust your gentle hand,
your
careful eye.
but they don't come.
and you wonder
was it weather, or work,
a new love,
an old love
blocking her words,
you wonder
why.

the sigh

a breath,
a simple sigh of air,
taken in
and let out.
a short form of
despair.
it will pass, this thought
of discontent,
it will go
away.
as does much of what
brings you
disappointment
in nearly each
and every day.

garage sale

these instruments
left behind. the tuba
no longer
blown. its brass
gone green,
the violin with strings
detached,
a drum
now numb and flat,
the broken sticks beside it.
the music
has ended, but what
glory
there was in sound,
as fingers
and hearts
moved fast along
the scales, feet tapped,
raising hope, fielding
pleasure,
putting something akin
to love into
the air.

the winter birds

the winter birds
have no worry in their
black wings,
curved beaks,
finding enough
to keep going, months
moving
neither fast or slow,
but as they
should.
they find enough in
trees, along the scrub
brush,
the melted snow,
patches of grass, weed.
the winter birds
are calm
in flight, in life,
always having, finding
what they need.

leave it alone

you see the mountain.
it's peak.
the bluish ragged
line of cliffs and hills.
the snow cap,
white in the sun.
it's there.
do you want to go and climb
it.
no.
not really.
the ropes and tools,
the special boots,
and dried
food. a lumberjack
shirt. red plaid, perhaps.
lugging water and maps
up the side.
the rescue helicopter
whirring
above you as you
teeter on an edge crying,
calling for
your mother.
your fingernails dug
into a hunk
of shale.
you want to leave
the mountain alone,
it's not bothering anyone.
you want to enjoy it from
a distance
like so many other things
in life.

marie is in love

marie is in love,
much to your disappointment.
she's off
the grid,
the map, the autodial.
she's found
someone, someone not like
you.
but someone geographically
closer,
someone with
a real job and available
on holidays
to do the things
you don't want to do.
someone not allergic
to children
or cats. marie is in love,
but not with you.

the tunnel life

it's a tunneled life.
a life
underground.
digging.
burrowing, going deep
and dark
into the soft
soil
making holes
where there were none
in the shadowed light.
the front
paws scratching
at the earth, the teeth
gnawing
at what's in the way.
the need to go under,
the desire
to be below
ground, hidden
with only those of
like ilk.