Saturday, April 30, 2016

historically low rates

it's bad news,
the early call, the late night call.
it's never good.
sometimes it's
a medical issue,
an accident, a death,
a tragic break up
with crying on the other end,
or sometimes, as it is lately,
someone with a florida
number
trying to get you to refinance
at these new
historically low rates.
they can't believe they
have a human
voice on the line, and struggle
to pronounce your name,
before they begin
their rap.
you don't hate them, waking
you up, like they do
in the middle of the night,
but there are things
with a knitting needle
that you imagine
doing to them.

the fish monger

I could bring you back
some fish, he says, maybe some tuna,
i'll sell them
to you cheap. my buddy's got a boat
and we're going out today.
you like tuna, don't you?
sure, I tell him, but I think
I already have three or four
little cans stack
in the cupboard. green with Charlie
on the side.
oh no, he says, there's nothing
like fresh tuna
caught right out of the ocean.
he's been drinking a little,
and continues
with his selling of the fish
he may or may not catch.
you don't like fish?
fish is brain food, it's good
for you. it makes you
more healthy and smarter.
okay, okay, I say, as I listen
to the exhaust and pop of another
can of beer on his end.
who doesn't want to be smarter.
i'll take one large tuna
if you catch any, but with
the head cut off and fileted
into nice steak sized portions.
how about two, he says. two tunas,
wrapped in newspaper, you do
the cutting?
sure. sure. okay,
bring me the stinking fish.

mornings like this

the cold and rain
allows you slip back under the sheets
and sleep
some more.
how nice it is
to be nowhere, to go nowhere,
to not have a clock
to punch,
an appointment to keep.
the world has
slowed down
to a near stop.
only the sound and smell
of coffee brewing
is in the house.
you need mornings like this,
to handle
the rest.

Friday, April 29, 2016

she wanted to go camping

she wanted to go camping.
I didn't.
she wanted to hike along
the mountain trail
and make camp beside a stream.
fish,
gather rocks and sticks
to build a fire.
she wanted
to bathe in the cold water,
study the birds.
listen to the wolves,
the crickets.
the sound of nothing but
wind
circling the tops of trees.
she wanted to sleep on the ground,
be one with nature.
I didn't.
I suggested the holiday
inn, right down the road,
with room service and a bar.
so we never went.
she went with her next boyfriend.
he was wearing
a red plaid shirt
when i saw them together.
they both had on
their back packs and boots.
they were studying a map
marking their path.
this made me happy,
seeing her happy.

sunshine

there are those
that are too happy, too bright
and sunny, so much
so
that you can hardly look at them.
it's hurts your eyes
to stare into such
unequivocal joy.
pure sunshine.
you feel like they might be
faking it though,
because you know
about the money problems,
the divorce,
the kid in rehab, the old
car. the doctor's report.
everything
coming from their mouths is
candy.
peachy.
rosy.
you want to take them by
the hand
and tell them to sit down.
to cry.
to curse the world and all
the bad luck
they've run into. but you don't.
you aren't that good
of a friend,
and you're feeling a little blue,
yourself today.

pill happy

a pill or two,
or three
to sleep, another for the food
you ate.
one for
the headache,
another for
affection.
a pill to wake up with,
a pill
to stop sneezing.
a pill
to lower your blood
pressure,
to improve your mood,
to be likable, lovable,
numb
to a world that's
blue.

business as usual

when the boy
becomes a thief, it's hard
to understand.
a dollar here, a dollar there.
when he robs
those he loves not with a sword,
or gun,
or knife, but
with a fountain pen,
you shake your head
and wonder why.
it's not evil, or malicious,
it's just business as usual
for him.

the fainting spell

in the big store
you feel like
you might faint, so you say
I feel kind of dizzy
to no one in particular,
grabbing onto
a rack of clothes marked
seventy per cent off.
the fluorescent light is
a million black dots,
like buzzing flies
trying
to congeal and go dark.
there is the warm glow of
sleep approaching.
you worry about hitting your
head on the tiled floor, so
you take a seat
beside an old woman with
knee stockings
and a sandwich in her hand.
ham and cheese.
she stops eating to look
at you.
there is lettuce between her teeth.
are you alright, she says.
you look pale,
like you might faint,
or something.
it's the lights in here,
she says,
the music, the smell.
you have to eat something
when you shop here,
she puts the sandwich
in front of your mouth.
you take a bite, then her drink,
the long straw finding your parched
lips. you suck in a gulp
of soda and murmur thanks.
I come here every day, she
says. you have to pace
yourself.

finding gold

your knees hurt
from panning gold. from kneeling
in the wet ground
beside the stream.
your hands are cold.
you find enough to get by.
shaking the tray
until a few
golden pebbles glimmer
in the fading light.
your back aches, your vision
is blurry.
it's a hard life.
no one's to blame, perhaps
if you had
never found that one
large stone,
things would have changed.

the ring

it's the diamond you see
first.
large, grape sized on her finger.
her hand
stretches out
across the table.
flat, and empty, except
for the ring
that catches light.
what else is there to talk
about,
but the ring.
everything else is diminished
by it's power,
or so she thinks.

how it happens

how it happens
is hard to know, how one
goes
one way into darkness,
the other
a higher road.
what decides
our fate, our destination,
a whim,
a feeling,
a conscious decision,
or something else beyond
us,
beyond reason.
a kind and loving God,
or one
who does little
but watch, and wait.

the apples

the dead
gain luster the moment
they pass.
we shine them
up like apples.
hardly a worm is found,
or spot gone
soft and brown.
they are forever red
or green,
picked ripe in season,
rarely left to rot
upon the ground.

the world you live in

the less you say,
the wiser they think you are.
think, not know.
still, impressions are
everything,
as you babble on and on
about nothing.
passionate about the mundane,
observing
the simple ticks and troubles
of those around you,
including you,
writing them
down to go unread or read
in this silent world
you live in.

fitting in

when young
things were altered.
your legs grew, your arms,
sleeves
had to lengthened,
pants let out.
shoes
were discarded for
larger shoes.
you adjusted everything
each year,
more happy, more sullen,
who should you be,
everything so undecided
for so long,
taking great care to change
to fit in,
until now.
where you hope not to.

the velvet rope

after the decorator
designed the room, picked
the colors,
mauves
and red, a touch of grey.
a long couch,
restored to look like
an era long
since gone away,
placed on the mantle
the antique vase,
they put up a velvet rope
in front of the entry
way. stately lamps,
a muted
chandelier hung low.
from the hall you could
see but not enter,
or touch the new room.
old but new.
the oil painting they
paid too much for
because it looked like
a couple who resembled
them, on the beach,
along the coast
against a sea of blue.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

what happens in the dentist office stays

I begin by telling my dentist
how beautiful she looks today.
did you lose weight or something.
fall in love?
my god there's an aura about you.
heaven must be missing an angel.
why thank you.
very kind of you to say. I am
actually seeing someone.
you are quite perceptive.
she turns her head, blushing.
can I ask you something, I say
to her, it's sort of a favor?
sure, anything.
well would you mind removing
this mole from
the side of my forehead.
see it, it looks an abe
Lincoln copper penny stuck there.
she says, what?
I can't do that. that's crazy.
i'm a dentist. look, I tell her,
i'm here, you're
here, you have all these
sharp instruments. you're practically
a doctor. numb me up and scrape
that sucker off. i'm sick
of looking at it
and answering questions about it.
oooh, what's that, people say.
better have it looked at!
I have cash.
oh, but I can't do that, she
says, putting her hands into the air.
i'm not a dermatologist.
shhh. alright, alright, calm down.
shut the door, I tell her.
I take out a hundred dollar
bill and slip it into
the pocket of her smock. not enough?
okay, playing hardball. I slip
in another hundred.
it's yours, I tell
her. go out with your new guy,
dinner movie, whatever.
no one needs to know,
I whisper to her.
it's between you and me.
go grab a scalpel or something
and zippity do da. okay?
stick a band aid on the wound
and no one is the wiser.
I slap my hands together
and rub them back forth.
no. she says. now don't ask
me again, or i'm going to hurt
you. now open wide, I need
to stuff your mouth
with some cardboard
and take a few x-rays.

things changed

before things changed,
a bar was a place where you could
go and talk,
meet people, make friends,
stir up a romance even,
if the planets aligned
and the stars
came out.
someone might write their
number and name
on the back of a match book
cover, or napkin
and say call me. kissing you
on the cheek before
they left.
there might be one tv
in the corner,
a black and white
tv with rabbit ears,
maybe a fight was on,
or a ball game, or nothing.
there was a grown man or
woman behind the bar
with a rag
wiping the counter clean,
filling up
your drink before
you asked for another.
they called you by
your first name.
there was a dish of nuts
every six feet.
ashtrays.
the music wasn't so loud
that you couldn't talk.
there was food, real food,
not squid chopped
into rubbery fried gaskets.
not hummus, or
olives.
there was no spinach
artichoke dip.
but things changed.
not for the good either,
I tell you.

a days work

the man
in the purple t-shirt
with the leaf blower
blowing one leaf
down the sidewalk to the truck,
politely stops
to let you enter your house.
the smell of gasoline
and oil
burning fills
the air. the heavy
machine idles
and vibrates in his hands.
when you go in, he fires
it up again,
increases the power,
him and the blower,
louder than a jet
pushing the solitary leaf
down the sidewalk.

the fur collar coat

once, when we were eleven
or twelve
throwing snowballs
at cars
as all our friends
were doing
behind the bushes
at the round about,
a man,
came out of nowhere and
grabbed two or three
of us
by our skinny necks.
he had a perfectly round
red spot
on the side of his face,
a slush
of melting snow
dripped down the fur collar
of his fancy coat.
it looked like an old woman's coat.
he was angry.
smoking a cigarette, cursing.
we all wondered who
threw that one.
who aimed perfectly
through the narrow slot
of the car window
and made a direct hit.
he corralled us
near a pay phone where he
proceeded to call
the cops,
which gave us a chance
to run.
we did, him chasing
after us,
slipping in his suede boots,
we made
more snowballs,
aiming and firing as he
slipped and stumbled.
later, each of us took
credit for the perfect throw,
saying he deserved
it anyway with that coat.

blocking the door

you notice
that when old people,
even
middle age people enter
a grocery store,
once in, once past
the automatic door,
and rubber mat,
they stop.
this is where they need
to think.
ponder this new world
before stepping into
the produce section.
the lights and noise
seems to immobilize them,
they need to
regroup, look at their
list and adjust
their clothing.
some will blow their
noses,
or take a flyer from the basket
to see
what's on sale.
others will open their
enormous purses and take out
a fistful of coupons.
they don't care that there
are other people
coming through the door
behind them.
they're in. it's their
store now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

the small boat

your boat is small.
too small for everyone
to get on board.
some swim,
some sink, some hang onto
the side.
you've been
in the water too,
cast adrift
by a love one,
but you survived
just fine, as they
will.

giving

the gift
is more than the box,
the tenderness
of wrapping,
white bow,
and note, hand
written,
signed, with love.
yours always.
the gift is meaningless
inside.
it's more
than words, or money,
or anything
you can buy.
it's the act of giving
that saves
us all from ourselves.

no less strange

in time
we are all abandoned.
whether at birth,
or before,
or late in life
when those around you
fall.
enough years alive
will leave
you alone,
no different, no less
strange
than when you
were born.

getting on base

you can't get onto
the army base
without a strip search,
a vehicle search,
dna testing, blood samples,
a questionnaire
filled out of your known
or unknown
evil associates. they want
your name, address, id.
when was the last time you
beat your wife?
get out of the car,
spin around,
stand on your head.
go there, go there.
sit here.
wait.
wait some more.
someone will call your
name.
it smells like an army
base.
cut grass and oil.
bleached to a raw shine.
the dumbness of
green recruits at the gate,
waving you
forward to where you have
to leave
and make a U-turn
and go to the visitors
gate.
we are safe and paranoid
behind these bsrbed
fences, the red white and
blue flapping
stiffly against an empty sky.

the last reunion

in time there
will be only three people left
to attend
your high school reunion,
but you suspect
one person will be
the woman who organizes
it every other year.
her job since graduating
has been
to gather everyone together,
again and again.
searching
for former students
and teachers to attend,
and notifying all
of who has bought the farm.
she is relentless
in her pursuit,
begging you to come.
to bring pictures, to bring
memories,
to bring your own beer,
or chicken
to throw on the grille.
the days of the hotel ballroom
are gone.
no one cares much
anymore, checking
the maybe box, saying that
maybe they'll come.

things your mother threw away

in shop
you made a key chain
out of long strips of plastic.
four colors
woven into
a thick strip of rope.
then there
was the wooden pot holder
carved in wood shop.
using the jig saw,
then fine
sandpaper, the drill
for pegs
with which to hold
whatever it is was to hold.
the ashtray,
a thin plate of metal,
ball peened
and battered by
a hammer. and the bowl,
fashioned out
of clay, then glazed
and slid into the mysterious
kiln where it came
out shiny.
your goggles made your
small face
sweat and turn
red
under the heat and pressure
of the seventh grade.

solitaire

one card
leads to another.
a red three of diamonds
on four
of clubs.
the jack
of spades
onto the queen of hearts.
the ace
aside
with the club
two.
red nine on ten.
it's raining,
the light is dim.
the air cold.
it's quiet. you go
on, flipping
the cards, before
the next shuffle,
through all fifty-two.

the pink bush

you have no green thumb.
nothing grows
that you plant.
weeds and ivy seem to be
your thing.
you survey your square
of land
and ponder pavement,
gravel.
maybe a wooden deck
from fence to fence.
but in the corner is a bush
you didn't even know
you had.
it's blooming a pink
bright color.
maybe you do have skills
after all.

dog in the car

the dog in the car
laps
his tongue at the window.
let's out a bark.
the doors are locked,
the owner somewhere in
the strip mall.
a crowd gathers,
some in tears, we have
to save this dog.
where is the owner they
chant,
someone lights a torch
another
ties a rope into
a noose.
we have to save this
dog, they yell.
get a hammer, break
a window. they don't see
the bowl of water,
or that the car is running,
the air conditioning on.
finally the man
returns and they chase
him around
the parking lot,
catching him, then teaching
him a lesson
by beating him
with their handbags.

loved the book

it's a bad movie.
you loved the book,
read it twice,
you keep it on your nightstand.
you imagined
each character to look
and be a certain
way.
you bought the ticket,
the popcorn,
sat down
in the darkened theater
and waited
for the story to unfold.
it didn't.
who were these people
these actors
filling in for
the ones you created
in your mind.
the music was all wrong,
the plot
thinned,
the ending too long.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

answering the bell

some days you can't answer
the bell.
you sit in the corner,
blood in your eyes.
the sting of punches still
pulsing
in your side.
you look across the wide
canvas
to what's ahead.
someone splashes water
onto your face,
sews up a cut over your eye.
sponges your neck.
go get em, they say.
you can do it.
watch out for his left.
the bell rings.
you lift yourself
on heavy legs,
out of bed, and begin
your day.






daisies

he doesn't see,
or if he does, the line of daises
in the grass,
growing wild.
he does nothing to avoid
them.
perhaps he's taken
notice.
flowers have a way of grabbing
your eye.
perhaps he remembered
in a quick flash
a girl knew in school,
the flowers he bundled
neatly in his small
hand to give to her, to win
her over.
her smile and blush,
then running away.
he pushes the mower
forward.
trimming everything to within
an inch of the cold
earth.

the first day and the last day

in preparation
for serving time in jail.
bring cash.
bring clean underwear,
t-shirts, white
is preferred.
socks.
the rest will be provided.
green jumpsuits,
a spring like mint
for misdemeanor offenders,
a bright summertime
orange for
felony inmates.
two to a one man cell.
one gets the cot,
the other a cozy
corner near
the head and sink.
pillows, sheets and a
striped blanket
will be provided.
no phones.
a thirty minute call is
five dollars.
three squares,
curfew at seven to be
back in your cell.
sixty days, and you're
a free man again.
keep your head down,
look no one in the eye.
there are two days of time.
the first day
and the last day.
see you when you get out,
unreformed,
but wiser as to the ways
of not getting caught
the next time.

the time portal

did I leave a candle
lit, she asks, as i drive
away, already ten miles from her home.
I don't know, I tell her,
you had about twenty of them
going, two or three
in every room.
we have to go back, she says.
the cats might knock one over
and burn the house down.
i turn around and say nothing.
I get very quiet.
i want to say something about
the century we are in.
electricity, lights with switches,
but i don't.
i don't say anything about
the butter churn in her
kitchen either, or the well
in her yard, or the goats
and chicken. it's best not to talk
about these things,
or this sweater she knitted,
how it itches and gives
me a rash.

the mirage of you

I have no
interest in the desert.
the hills of white
sand,
cactus,
lizards,
the lack of water
or shade.
the ever present
sun,
white against
the pale blue sky.
my lips are parched
just thinking
about it.
the mirage of you
walking
towards me.



Monday, April 25, 2016

through the glass

each to his own glass
window.
whether cracked
across, never fixed,
fissured,
or spider veined,
or those stained
in ornate colors.
the glass where the bird's
beak hit,
or rock.
the window that never opens.
casement, or wooden,
a lock
on each,
the rounded attic
port, the crank rusted,
the panes thick
like bottles, or thinned
to a wafer.
each to his own way of seeing
the world,
rose colored, or through
the glass
darkly.

the starter dog

she wants a dog,
but not a young dog, not a pup,
not yet.
she needs a practice dog.
so she gets a fifteen year
old pug
from the pound,
an hour away from execution.
the thin blue
lenses of his eyes
makes him
bump into doors when he
struggles
to move about the slippery
floor.
he can't hear.
he sleeps and snarls
all day
in his round soft bed,
coughing, wheezing.
he's unwalkable, no tricks,
no nothing
given in return.
isn't he cute, she says,
holding him like the baby,
she'll never have,
his grey fat
body limp in her arms.

please, stop

my mother, in her fifties, once
began a conversation
about her needs, and by her
needs, i mean
her needs
in an intimate way.
she had recently remarried
a man, who for lack
of a better description
would give Hitler
a run for his money
in the evil department.
he's not a loving man,
she said, we hardly ever...
stop, I told her.
I don't want to hear
anything about this.
I don't want to
have that image in my mind
please, mom.
in fact, let's pretend
this never subject came up.
let's talk about you baking
a cake,
or decorating the Christmas
tree, or
knitting a pair of booties
for one of your
grand kids. in fact, i'd
love to have your
recipe for pot roast, i'll
hold while you get it.

digging a hole to china

your father had all
the answers, such as what would
happen if you kept
digging a hole
in the ground without stopping.
you'd reach china he'd say.
smiling from his lawn chair
in the back yard,
sunning himself, a glass
of ice tea at his side,
talking to our neighbor,
Edwina, about her garden.
her in her red shorts and
white blouse.
he seemed very interested
in her garden.
laughing and talking it up
with her about asparagus,
and lettuce,
tomatoes. it almost
seemed like he was
ignoring your questions,
your ambitious endeavor,
as you dug your hole,
towards china.

you look familiar

you can't remember her name.
she looks familiar.
you know her from some where.
maybe you were married
for a short while
in the eighties,
maybe you had children
together, maybe.
but for now, her name
escapes you. the memory
is gone.
have we met you say,
shaking her hand
at the party. you look
like someone I used to know.
so do you, she says.
so do you.

permanent press

I notice the ironing
board
in the basement, unused
for years.
what with permanent press
now,
who needs it.
not to mention my casual
island wear
that needs no pressing.
and the iron,
it's silver face,
cold, stone like
on the shelf.
a few drops of water
still inside,
the spray starch, the can
still full,
beside it.
there must be something
I can iron, smooth out
one night.

the attaack dog

you check the crime
report to see what kind of
crime
has occurred in your
neighborhood.
some petty thefts,
a tire stolen,
jewelry from a local
business.
a pie is missing from
a window sill.
no serious mayhem
has occurred lately,
but still you lock the door,
turn on the alarm,
position
your attack dachshund
by the window
with his spiked
collar, you notice
blueberry on his nose,
crumbs on his paws.

no one home

the key won't
turn,
the door won't open.
you knock,
pull and push, you
jiggle the silver
key
against the tumblers.
you peek
through window. you ring
the bell.
say loudly, it's me,
open up.
there is no
one home.
not even you.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

changing the world

the man
leaning on the jackhammer,
rattling
his bones,
chopping pavement
in the hot sun,
is happy.
he knows what he
has to do,
and accepts the lot
that life
has given
him. there is no desire
to drive the truck
to be a boss,
to manage men.
this hammer in his hands
pushes all of
that aside.
the world changes
because of him.

it's all good

and you?
what's new?
nothing, nothing.
same old.
how's the kid, work?
things?
good, all good,
can't complain.
that's good.
still with what's his
name.
you mean bill?
yeah.
we're still good.
that's good.
you two are good together.
we are.
and you, seeing anyone?
no, well, sort of.
he's still married,
but getting a divorce as
soon as the kids
are out of school.
well, that's nice.
it's a good start.
yeah,
I have to say that
things are really
really good.
well, I have to run now,
but it's been nice
catching up. it was good
to see you again.
I hope to see you soon.
me too.
yes. have a good day.

the spatula

you called
dibs on licking the spatula
when you're mother made
a cake,
but your sister, who was
smaller
wanted some too.
so you gave her one side,
you had the other.
both of you sat at the near
empty bowl,
happy in the sunlight,
licking
while your mother
slid the pan
into the oven.

just a phone

but he was so smart
they say
of the man, the genius.
yes,
he was basically a bad
person
to his friends, his
children
his wife,
a narcissist to the nth
degree,
but he was so smart.
look at what my phone can
do. I can't live without it.
all because of him.
we are not worthy.

beach shells

for some reason
I've kept all the shells
we gathered
along
the shore, kept them
lying on the table,
under the light,
white and golden,
some with a silver
shine, black streaked,
flecks of red.
each different.
it's hard to throw them
away, as each good
memory is
of a loved one.

keep rowing

there's nothing wrong.
there's a lull,
a gap.
a Saragossa sea
in your life.
the calm
is alarming.
are you in the eye
of the hurricane,
or out
of it.
we'll see, keep
rowing.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

the list of fears

you have feared many things
in your life
over the years.
speaking in public,
speaking in private,
the needle as a child,
the dark closet,
what's under the bed.
death and disease,
losing someone,
someone's cooking.
the alley,
the long way home through
the woods.
bullies.
women, even children
have scared you
with their searching
silver eyes,
blue with the flames
of youth.
the knife, fires.
rats and snakes.
hurting someone, being hurt.
it's a long
list of fears,
add flying to that,
doing seventy on a two lane
highway.
falling, a good book ending.
at times even your mother
has scared you, standing in
her apron at the stove.
your father with whiskey
on his breath, a cut
above his eye.
your son, no longer young,
no longer
needing to hear your words
of wisdom, or wanting
your love.

finding the middle

as I go off to sin
somewhere
i see ginger pulling into
the church parking lot.
she's an angel
in white. there's an actual
halo over her.
she waves to me with her
Bible, also white,
and shakes her head.
she yells out the window,
i'll pray for you,
to which i yell back,
thanks, slapping cologne
on my face from a bottle
I keep in the glove
compartment.
i need a woman like that
in my life.
if we could only find a middle
ground, somehow.

back seat betty

he loves
to smoke, holding the freshly lit
cigarette
out the window
of his old
Cadillac.
the ashtray is full
of grey dust,
butts bent over,
some with lipstick
on them.
I hold one up to him
as he drives
along,
betty he says, staring
at the butt.
we went out last night.
I look in
the back seat.
some of betty's clothes
are back there.
shoes, a skirt.
an empty bottle of merlot.
he lights another
cigarette with the one
he's smoking,
crushing the old
one into the ashtray,
what can I say, he says.
blowing a string of smoke
rings at the windshield.
we can't seem to
stay away from one
another.

her man in black

all day she listens
to johnny cash,
his endless playlist of songs,
she turns up her phone,
I love him,
she says.
the way he sings, wears
black.
a man's man.
I love his deep voice,
the way
he stands tall
in the saddle. I really
like that.
it's not singing, I say,
begging to disagree.
it's more like
talking.
I could talk like that
if I smoked enough
cigarettes and drank
enough scotch.
you're no johnny cash
she says
and you'll never be,
so don't even go there.
watch me play this washboard
I tell her,
dragging a scrub
brush across it then
lowering my voice
to a low low point of
sexiness.

the great barn

she envisions dancing,
weddings,
events in black tie,
she points to where the band
will play
under the arch
of the great barn,
the beams of wood
still solid
after a hundred years.
her eyes
go around the empty room,
as she points
at where the tables
will stand,
the art, the lamps,
the flowers.
the kitchen will bring up
food,
we'll open
up the barn doors on nice
nights
and let the moon come
through. it will be grand,
she says.
you'll see, watching
as a bat
beats its leathery wings
across the room.

the baby shower gift

maybe if you weren't so
lazy and stupid
you'd understand what i'm trying
to tell you,
your soul mate Carla
says to you
as you bend over and try to get
a knot our of your shoe.
you don't listen to me,
you never do, you just nod
and say okay, or uh huh.
you ignore me when i'm trying
to tell you something.
you know we have a baby shower
to go to today,
and you were supposed to pick
up a gift
at the baby store, but did you
do it? no. once again, you've
proven to me who you are.
now i'm stuck and off you go to
play softball with your equally
stupid friends.
what time will you be back?
i'm not cooking dinner tonight,
I won't have time.
I don't know, maybe never.
okay, well have fun.
kiss me on the cheek, I don't
want you to mess up my lipstick.

look at those arms

you stand in front
of the mirror
in the morning, still wet
from the shower
and admire your arms.
what nice arms
you have, you say to no
one, flexing them,
curling your fist,
stretching them out like
a weight lifter on
the beach. people should
like you for your
arms alone
and ignore the rest.
it's a good thought to
begin the day with.

surprised

the roasted chicken,
half cut
surprises you in the morning
when you see it through
the little window,
still in the oven,
one leg in the air.
all night resting in the shallow
pain.
it smells good,
but you suspect it's gone
bad. you are always
surprised when things
go bad,
sour milk, bread
tinged in green,
the lettuce, browned
and limp. us.

shelf life

the extinction
of life,
animals, birds, species
of fish.
due to climate change,
or us,
meteors
falling from the sky,
is fine.
there is a shelf life
to everything.
from shoes to love.
be glad there is no
brontosaurus
still alive, lumbering
down the road
in the morning, mindlessly
crushing cars,
delaying traffic
on 395.

Friday, April 22, 2016

knee against knee

it's easy
to see who is or isn't
getting
it.
and by it, I mean it.
the faces tell
all.
the spring in the step,
the smile,
the gaze,
that far away look
of happiness.
thinking about the last
time
and when the next time
might occur.
hands held,
shoulders nuzzled,
knee against knee
beneath
the table.

letting it go

the old horse.
sweet and shy,
the sway back brown horse.
flies
batted by a stiff tail.
eyes matted
with tears gone yellow.
unable to walk
far.
away from the smell,
the end of life,
hardly making it to the back
fence to lie
down and die.
but she did. she did.
despite
all efforts to keep
her standing
in the stall,
to gnaw carrots and be
brushed by
a kind unwilling hand.

in orange again

I made a plea bargain
he tells you on the phone.
my court date
was yesterday.
so i'm going back
into the jump
in may.
if you have any work
before then let me know.
it's a ninety day stretch
this time,
but I could use a break.
three squares,
laundry done, some clean
living
behind bars.
let me know, I need some
cash
for the commissary, for
cards,
for dice to roll.

work and money

I've known people
who love to work.
whether selling shoes, or
shoveling coal,
cars, or meat,
encyclopedias door to door.
they get lost
in work.
a safe haven from others.
from small talk,
from love,
from pain.
the steel mill, the farm,
hands on the potter's wheel,
sunrise to sunset.
work
and money. work and money.
all day long.

alice

if you don't have anything
nice to say
about someone,
come sit next to me,
alice often said.
she lived to be
an old woman,
skin and bone,
a recluse in the end.
bitter and brittle.
but sharp.
sharp teeth, sharp elbows.
how nice or painful
it would have been to
have known her.
the things you could have
unlearned.

fast food

the pigeons
are fat.
the rats too, bellies dragging,
they lumber in twilight
towards
the park cans,
the dumpsters in the alley.
the people too
are large.
the eating is endless.
the drinking.
there is no more planting
or plowing,
or harvesting.
not a muscle used
to eat.
it's yelling into a speaker
as you drive
through the narrow
turn.
holding money out to
a woman
in the window.
her arms too short, too
large
to give you your change.

an rx of sorts

normally,
you can eat three slices of pizza
from the large
box delivered,
still hot, not piping hot,
but hot enough that you don't
have to turn the oven on
and reheat the slices.
tonight though,
you eat five pieces.
somethings is bothering you.
it's an emotional thing,
with you and pizza.
you doubled down on the meat
too.
pepperoni and Italian sausage.
tired of diet ice tea
you go for the coke
in a liter bottle,
twelve tea spoons of sugar in every
glass, you mumble to yourself
as you pour the carbonated
brown sugar water
onto ice.
so what.
you are unsettled about the day,
the week.
people.
pizza and coke seem to help.
an rx of sorts.

the gift

they want you to take
your shoes off
before entering the house.
three dogs,
two cats and a white rabbit roam freely.
you sit at the bottom
of their stairs
and untie your shoes.
your clean shoes.
your new shoes.
you set them in the row
next to their shoes.
they stare at your socks
and look at one another
before saying as one,
come in.
it's okay to come in now.
the rug is old,
the color of oatmeal
sprinkled with brown sugar.
strands of it dangle
in the air like weeds.
you are confused,
but accepting of crazy people.
it's a gift you have.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

tell me about it

if you talk to enough
people
long enough and give them
a drink or two,
or three,
you'll see they are no
different
than you, or anyone else.
the problems are all the same.
the anxiety and angst
not original.
friends and work,
money,
illness, parents and children.
siblings.
it's an easy list
of troubles.
live long enough and you're
on it,
or living with it, telling
someone about it.

between the lines

it's the wrist
against the car, polishing,
giving shine,
the broom
pulled against
the floor
corralling dirt,
it's the brush against
a wall,
being pulled down
then up,
applying paint.
it's the motion of an arm
reaching out
to take a dollar
to give a ticket,
it's the wave of the ocean,
persistent,
doing what it was born to do.
it's the mundane
that fills
the world, the rest,
love and death, art,
falls between the lines.

old boots

i'm done with these boots.
but not done.
not completely.
they sit on the bottom step,
the laces knotted,
the soles muddy,
dried and grey.
the fabric worn,
a tear where
my leg would slide
into the bottom, my foot
snug and warm.
i'm done with them,
but not completely.
i'll let them sit for awhile
where they are.
it's something I do with
everything,
everyone.


going home

it takes time
to drive home, the curve
of mountains,
the slice of road through rocks.
a coined moon,
as silver and polished
white
as any moon seen.
it takes time to get home,
to find my way
through
tunnels, over the rattled bridges,
past the farm yards,
the lights already
out as everyone but you
is asleep.
it takes time to get home,
to travel alone,
the miles clicking past,
as you wait
by the window,
patiently for me.

the baker

it's less
about the kneading of dough,
the rolling
and cutting
into stars
and flowers, it's not
about the baking,
the rising,
the sweets of it all,
the icing.
it's beyond that now,
beyond
the pleasure of smiles
as they bite
into each new pastry,
nodding yes.
it's something else. it's
a way of life,
a way of living
without being told to stay
or go home.

they yellow plague

the yellow
dusting of spring
across
the cars, the sills,
puddling
in dry pools upon
each street.
the tentacles
of pollen
making your eyes
water,
making
you sneeze, cough
as you breathe.
it makes
you want the ocean.
the deep blue
cold.
the comfort of waves
embracing
you
bringing you back
to life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

the marriage begins


in the new house
he measures
from top to bottom.
carefully,
side to side.
presses
tape into an x
where he decides to
hang
the picture,
as discussed.
he takes the nail
that waits
between his clenched
teeth
then drives it with
a hammer
into the wall.
the picture goes up,
balanced on a stiff wire.
he stands back.
she comes into the room
and says no.
we need to move it three
inches to the left.
the marriage begins.

running to the bank

some how you finish
the job
you're on
and get paid. having gone through
the myriad of
touch ups,
lines more accurately drawn.
filled in holes, again,
sanded, smoothed
the walls
and doors, beyond
reason.
somehow you've answered
every torn piece of blue
tape
the owner stuck
on each spot that concerned
him.
hundreds of torn strips,
some made into arrows,
pointing at the ceiling.
shadows that come and go.
a flurry of blue,
is that pin sized drip from
me or you?
he politely asks,
while you scrub
at an invisible spot
on the floor.

the art of art

I've tried
art.
mangled a few dozen
canvases
with landscapes, sea
scapes
of roiling waves,
gulls,
a cove, out of focus
sail boats,
and blotted
swimmers. I've tried
to go the Hopper
route,
simple and sparse.
a story
between the lines of
nothing.
but failed.
Jackson Pollock is
more my speed, my
cup of tea,
spilling,
tossing paint, straddling
the white board,
splattering
is all
about me.

not knowing

it's the unknown
that's
unsettling, what lies
beneath
the sea,
the still lake,
what's beyond our sight
or reach.
so much
is unknowable.
the dark side of the moon,
the stars
already gone.
so much unlearned
or seen
until it happens
or you arrive.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

the apple

each apple
to its own destiny.
its own
way of life.
being picked or
chosen
to go on, or left
to ripen
on the tree
then falling to
the ground unused.
sometimes it seems
less a choice
and more
of what's written
before you
were born.

forgiveness

the man
who parked his car
in the center lane
then threw himself off
the bridge
left a note
apologizing for backing
up traffic.
it was a list of
apologies.
sorry to his wife,
his children,
his parents, everyone
he had let down
in his life.
he was sorry for disappointing
anyone since birth.
but he lived
and everyone in time
forgave him,
everyone
but those stuck in
traffic
on the bridge for
five hours.

Monday, April 18, 2016

how's the weather

despite your mother's
life long fascination
with the weather,
the weather channel
being her source
as well as the window
out to her backyard
where snow would rise,
rain would puddle,
winds would bend her trees,
it is the inside weather
that concerns her now.
the heat
within, or cold. that breeze
from an open door or fan
above the table.
the thermostat raised
or lowered
by a strange hand, someone
she sees everyday,
and yet still
doesn't know. how you miss
her asking,
from seven miles away,
is it snowing
there too?

the old police car

a car, a former
police car with large wheels,
black
and dull,
the searchlight still
on the door.
decals removed.
baby moons. an elderly couple
inside.
the man at the wheel
swings it into
a spot beside you.
fast and smooth.
when he gets out you see
that he no arms.
he's wearing slippers,
not shoes.
into Walgreens they go.
the same as anyone
in an old p0lice car
going down the road.

nothing

the televangelist
tells the audience to put
their hands
on the television.
to reach out
and surrender, to ask
that their
bursitis be gone.
get out your checkbooks.
I know it's you, he says,
eyes popping out,
a band of sweat
across his tanned brow.
there is someone
out there with a hurt knee,
he must come
forward
and kneel and touch
the screen.
I feel another man with
blurred vision,
come, come closer, believe
and see more clearly.
there is music
and speaking in tongues.
there is chaos.
you don't want to get up,
but you put your
slice of pizza
and beer down and go
to the tv. you touch
to top of it,
concentrating on your shoulder.
nothing.

the healing

healing takes time.
more time
now than it did when you
were twenty
or even thirty.
the pain lingers,
the joints and tissues
taking their
time to mend, to send
the blood through,
to heal.
not so the heart though,
acceptance
works wonders
when moving on.
the heart has a memory
of how it's done,
becoming more
efficient with each love
gone.

stick or snake

discerning stick from snake
is not an
easy thing to do when
riding fast
on your bike
down the wooded path.
it's not unlike
the day, the business
of the day,
discerning who will
bite, and be poisonous
and who
will be easy, making you
unafraid.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

getting saved

on sundays,
after your older brother
found God,
was saved, after he
applied the stickers to his
car,
He is risen, said one,
all will kneel
said another,
on sundays, in his new
suit,
his bow tie,
he'd pull back the sheets
and covers
from your tired
body
and say, get up, we're
all going to
church.
he'd go from room to room,
waking everyone.
his new Bible under his arm,
the gleam
in his eye boring through
you,
as you lay still,
hungover
from last night,
the scent of sarah
still
on your mind.

the open sea

tired of the painting
of the open sea
on your wall
you take it down, remove
the nail.
fill it
and move on.
you carry the painting
down
to the basement,
to the laundry room
where you hang
it over
the washer and dryer,
it's where
all the old paintings
go.
in the room
with laundry, bins
of papers,
of photographs,
of things you don't want
to see anymore.
you remember the day you
bought it,
how wonderful it was.
the colors, the white sails
of the distant
ships,
the roll of waves.
not summer, but after.

this perfect day

it's perfect.
the memorial service.
the memories shared by sons
and daughters.
the colleagues.
her former students coming
back to sing
her praises.
the day is perfect.
the sky blue,
the trees blooming with
spring.
the cathedral tall and forever
there
beside the small
sanctuary.
a woman sings a Scottish
song,
or two.
forgetting the words
in mid stream,
but recovers.
that too is perfect.
everything, but us, about
this day,
this dying, this remembering,
this memorial is perfect.

sunday morning

I have a theological
question for you
she says
as she paints her toe nails
a bright strawberry
color.
you're still in bed,
listening to the birds
squawk outside
the window.
if there is a God,
why is there so much pain
and anxiety
in the world.
you look at her,
concentrating on each
toe, dabbing gently
the color onto each small
nail.
God seems mean sometimes,
she says,
ya know?
are you awake, can you hear
me?
yeah, I heard you.
it's a mystery, one that we can
only
find the answer to by
dying.
seems unfair, she says.
screwing the top back onto
the nail polish.
she adjusts the cotton
balls between her toes,
and blows on them.
I can tell you the answers,
but first
I have to kill you.
what's up with that?
I dunno.
ihop for breakfast?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

are you driving?

you ask her about
the monkeys, the flying monkeys
sitting about her
cold castle, they are
wearing what looks
like doorman clothes,
gold braided jackets,
little hats,
gloves
curled pointed boots.
they are picking fleas off one
another's wings.
she dismisses your inquiry
by saying,
oh them.
they work for me.
it takes a while for her
to get ready.
the green pallor of her long
face needing
attention. she irons her
black cape.
uses a lint roller to get the
monkey hair off.
her nails, dagger sharp,
have to be painted red.
she has to boil
something in a cauldron
before we go and asks you to stir
with a long black spoon
while
she goes to the bathroom
to powder her nose.
read this curse out loud,
she says while you stir,
handing you a laminated card
with four lines of rhyming words.
when she comes out
of the bathroom
she asks if you're driving
or should we take
her broom,
to which you say, i'll
drive.

the smooth road

the road pavers,
weary in the afternoon sun.
the steam
of black
tar filling the air,
browned ribbons of heat
seeping into
their eyes
their lungs.
everyone wants to get home
the line
of cars
stretch backwards
for miles,
easing through
a narrow one lane
of orange cones.
to make the road smooth,
any road,
there must
be pain and sacrifice.


Friday, April 15, 2016

into sleep

on these things
you think of,
memories, kind
and sweet.
the friends who have
washed away
on some distant
wave.
the bustle of time,
of youth
spent.
the blessings of people,
who come,
who leave.
on these things,
you take
to bed, to the pillow,
the sheets.
to the dark
room
that holds you as
slip into a welcoming
sleep.

small things

the world
will surprise you.
small things mostly.
the blue
bird on the sill.
the handwritten note
from a loved one
almost
lost.
there are days when
the sun
and clouds are magical
together.
when the moon is a moon
first seen
as a child
from
his bed, gazing out
the window
not far from sleep.
the world will surprise
you
with the kiss of a fall
breeze.
the smell of grass
freshly cut,
cinnamon,
coffee, the touch of her
hand
upon your shoulder.

friday cookout

it's Friday,
that means your neighbor
will be firing up his complicated
grill
and charring
meat out on his patio.
he'll put on his tall
white hat,
his apron, bring out
his long utensils,
the knife and fork,
a bottle of some secret
sauce. a slab of meat
lying on an enormous plate.
the smell and smoke
finds its way
through the creases
of your window
making your stomach
growl with hunger.
you shoveled their walk
this winter.
cleared it of snow,
and yet still no invite.

we remember

so many
of the animals in the woods
die in relative
silence.
there is no
parade, or party, no
outpouring of grief.
no funeral. there are
no animals of the same
ilk
lining up
and giving speeches,
saying things
like remember
that time he found
a giant nut
and shared it with all
of us?

get a job

the united nations
denied your ex wife's
plea
and application to become
designated
as a world victim.
get a job, they said in
unison, in forty seven
languages,
all as one banging their
shoes and heels
against their school
like desks. get a job
and stop whining
about how meager
your alimony is.

the saddest sound

is there any sadder sound
in the universe
than the sound of a can
of whipped cream
sputtering at its end
as you shake it,
pressing futilely at
the nozzle
trying to top off a bowl
of strawberry jello,
chilled and ready for
your spoon.
if there is such a sound,
one sadder, I know not
what it is.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

in training

while training for an upcoming
3 k race
to cure
sleep apnea
I stop in the park and
rest for awhile.
I've already run a half
a k,
so I deserve it.
I lie down on a bench
with my leggings
and orange running shoes,
my head band
and wrist monitor
that informs me of my
progress.
I see people eating their
lunches. sandwiches and apples.
a woman over there
in yoga pants is licking
an ice cream cone.
although it might be frozen
yogurt.
this makes me think of the food
that I will reward
myself with after this workout.
I love running, so much.
but I like
lying on a bench
in the sun even more.

the apple pie

just because she sends
me a photo
of the apple pie she made
in her brick oven
doesn't necessarily mean
that she wants
to be more than friends.
apple pie is not a metaphor
in any sense of the words.
or is it.
and in questioning if there will
be a scoop
of vanilla ice cream
going with that hot slice
of pie
would that
be asking for trouble?

the sanctuary

the interior of your car
is a sanctuary to which you can
yell out any word in the English
language without repercussions.
there's no parent, or child around,
no one of any consequence to your
life is within earshot.
you ask many questions along the way
to work, driving in insane traffic,
dodging defensively the wild ones.
usually you begin each sentence
with the words
what the ...
it feels good to curse.
sometimes you say it a few times,
and answer your own questions.
you discuss the traffic with yourself.
it's a relief in some strange way
to let the obscenities roll off
your tongue like linda blair
in the exorcist with her head
spinning around like a top, and no
one the wiser.

the court date

for his court date
he decides to cut off his pony
tail
and comb whatever hair
remains
to the side.
parting it like a five
year old boy
standing in front
of the mirror before school,
his mother's large
hand holding his head still
for the task. he shaves then
buttons up a clean white shirt.
new pants.
steps into
the slippery new shoes.
perhaps this will persuade
the judge of his
innocence, or desire to turn
over a new leaf
and stop
the things he keeps doing.

the lonely

when the house
was completely painted
and finished,
the canvas cloths put away.
the brushes cleaned,
the cans tossed,
or marked
to which room each belonged,
when she put the check
in your hand,
and said thank you,
it was then that she looked
around the room
and said aloud,
I think the color needs
to be just a little
lighter, don't you?
when can you return
and do it once more?
to which you replied,
in the spring. let's do it
again
in the spring.

the reconciliation

because you didn't attend
the viewing,
the party before,
the party after, the funeral,
nor did you send
flowers or a card
he may not talk to you for
a few years,
but in time someone
else you both
know may pass away,
you can reconcile
then.
catch up, plan
lunch when time
and death permits.

the long nights

he used to wait
until the sun went down
before pouring his first drink.
then he thought,
why bother, why
wait. i'll pull the shades,
and get to it.
once settled in
with his cut lime, his tonic
water, his cubes of
ice in a tumbler,
then gin,
he'd sit by the window
and take out his phone.
he'd begin to call
each person he knew that would
listen to his long
list of grievances,
always adding how much
he loved
the person before beginning.
soon it was dark,
he opened
the curtains, the blinds,
to see
just a plain moon
blinking through
the soft clouds to which
he toasted
before staggering to bed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

the vacancy

the vacancy sign
is on,
so you pull in for the night.
it's a small place,
a spot outside
the door
you check in. one bag,
one night.
you sit on the bed
and take
your shoes off.
hit the tv on.
you lie back on the flowered
bedspread.
on the stiff mattress,
thin and worn.
you listen
to your neighbors next
door talking
about the grand canyon.
there's a picture of it on your
wall.
then nothing
for awhile.
you turn the light off,
undress.
turn off the tv.
you get a glass of water
setting it next
to the phone,
next to the heavy lamp
screwed in
to the wall.
you hear the couple
next door say goodnight
to one another.
you say it too.

the quiet

it's noisy
in here. everyone talking
at the same
time.
the clink of glasses,
the cutting
of knives,
the wandering
eyes.
you can't wait to get
out and go
home. lie in the silence
of your room.
put the phone on mute,
let the door
bell ring.
leave the world
alone.

don't tell anyone

don't tell anyone
I told you,
she says, then proceeds
to say a name,
a sin,
another name,
she mentions a motel
at the edge of town,
and asks
if I've ever been
to the diner
next to it,
or if I know a waitress
who works
there named Tammy.
skinny redhead?
she used to be a teacher,
but lost her job,
because of something
that I can't really talk about.
she's breathless
with not telling me
everything
she wants to tell me.
I nod no to everything,
please, go on, I say,
although
I already know
the whole story. why
stop her now though
and spoil her fun.

the pull out bed

there was the night
you spent
on the pull out bed,
which during
the day
doubled as a couch.
bars and springs
at your back like a medieval
torture device.
no angle, no position
brought you
relief.
you slept no hours,
no minutes.
you could hear the soft
snore
of her
coming from the other
room.
her in her bed,
her queen sized bed.
her pillows,
her water.
her dog curled at her
feet.
it wasn't the only reason
you stopped seeing her,
but was on
the list.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

gift card

I didn't really need
another pair of black shoes.
so what.
I have them now.
the birthday
gift card of ten dollars
off from dsw
spurred me on.
at night i set the new pair
with the other pairs
of black shoes,
all in a row.
they seem happy together.
it's good to
have new friends.

the building

i regret moving
into the Roosevelt apartment
building.
although the lobby
has been upgraded.
new plants. paint.
a new black and white tiled
floor.
but the hallways are
long dark tunnels
that lead to Moscow.
cabbage boiling.
goats,
chickens. children
moaning.
there's a blood stain
outside
the elevator
on my floor.
someone put sand on it.
someone broke into my cage
in the basement
and took all my Christmas
decorations and photo
albums.
it's best to avoid
eye contact
in the elevator
and to hold your breath.
they're pulling
possum out
of the pool to have it
ready by
memorial day.
i can hardly wait.

whistling

I associate
whistling with pain
or craziness.
the dentist with needle
in hand,
whistling,
the crazy person on
the street,
whistling.
the ex wife
twiddling her thumbs,
pondering her next
move,
whistling.
the tax lady,
her fingers clicking
on the adding
machine.
whistling.

the island diet

let's go on a diet together,
she says to you,
as you dig out
the last spoon of ice
cream from the small tub
of ben and jerry's
chunky monkey.
do we have any whipped cream
left, you ask. needing one
squirt to top it off.
nope. I used it all on
the jello we had yesterday.
so what kind of diet are
we talking about?
no bread, no pasta, just cardboard
tasting food?
no, not at all. it's the new
island diet.
fruits and vegetables, fish.
natural things.
pineapples and coconuts.
what about wild boar?
boars are natural and run
wild all over many islands.
maybe in limited amounts.
we need to get ready for
our cruise this summer.
I tried on my tent dress
the other day and it was kind
of tight.
okay. let's do it, but first
it might be a good idea
to finish off that bacon
in the fridge. why waste
it and it will go bad in
a few weeks if we don't
eat it. right? right, she says.
scramble up some eggs
too, toast?
whole wheat for me, you tell her.
one pad of butter.

Monday, April 11, 2016

three hail marys

her knees
are calloused from prayer.
she is so
good.
an angel.
so you wonder why she prays
so hard,
so often,
always at church.
always
at confession.
what sins could she possibly
be confessing.
it must
be because of you,
no other reason comes to
mind.

pbj

as I spread
the peanut butter across an
open potato
roll
with the wide knife,
the only knife
I use for this particular
task,
then the grape jelly,
some hitting the floor,
I think of
an island
where I could go.
white sand, blue water,
palm trees,
music in the background,
from the south pacific.
plenty of bikinis
to go around.
a cold drink in hand.
shades on. stretched out
covered in coconut oil.
snapping my
fingers for another pina
colada,
another sandwich
without the crust,
salmon, perhaps, or shrimp.
anything
but peanut butter.

marriage proposal

you decide to marry her
based solely
on her pot roast
and mashed potatoes.
mushroom gravy.
green beans, and sour
dough bread,
crusty, right from
the oven, warm.
there's a few other things
too, that
have won you over,
but mostly it's
the pot roast.
in a few years you might
regret it,
but for now, you're
hungry.

whole lotta love

the scratched record,
led
zeppelin,
a whole lotta love,
skips
at a certain point
and you have
to get up
to lift the needle
to push it
forward.
your mother stamps
on the floor, yells
through the vent to
turn it down.
the room is full of smoke,
a casement window
cracked open,
beer cans,
shoes are off,
everyone is in state of
utter disarray,
and comfort.
there is no tomorrow.
not for perry, or axe,
or jim,
or henry, or
dana. this is the life
they will stay in.
somehow you
escaped.
you still have the album
pinned to your
wall, but they're
gone.

the unloved

the unloved
are no different than
the loved.
although
they seem to be more
happy,
more inclined
to give up their
seat on the bus,
hold a door,
say good morning.
how you long to be
this kind.
one of them, more
alive.

day labor

he says, i'm not afraid
of hard work.
I like to work. i'll get
down on my knees
and do what needs to be done.
but once paid,
he changes his point of view,
finds a cheap
wine, a woman, a place
to rest,
a place to be rich with
what little he's made,
a place
to take off his worn clothes,
his shoes.

in the bite

there are so many
apples
to choose from,
grapes, pears,
peaches.
how neatly they lie
in their beds
with the same,
the shine of the stores
light
upon them.
the glossy skins,
or felt
sides. you decide
in time
which,
but it's only in
the bite
that you return again
for more.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

sugar maple

in the light,
in the fall, the one tree.
a blood tree
full
of red leaves
shines bright in the narrow
lane of sun.
each day
you pass it, stopping
at the light,
waiting your turn
to go home.
each year it blooms,
it dies,
it returns.
so do you. so do you.

animal instinct

you need to put
your dog on a leash
the woman tells you early
in the morning
as you walk your dog
behind the houses,
near the woods.
do you have a plastic
bag?
has he had his shots?
there are rules, she says,
what's your name.
the dog growls,
you growl.
you bare your teeth.
the world is civilized,
but the primitive
animal in you
still comes out.

open house

young
couples holding printed
sheets
of paper,
the house, the price
the number of rooms,
park sideways
in the lot.
they look in every
direction like new borns,
at the trees, others walking
by. birds in flight.
they smell the air.
walk through
the open door
to the open house, past
the swing
of the yellow sign.
the staged furniture
stiff
and bright against the freshly
painted walls,
the buffed floors,
holding its new shine.
someone has put a candle
on the counter
filling the rooms with
the sweet scent of cinnamon.
up then down the stairs,
a moment to pause and stare
out the back window
at the woods.
whispers.
she opens the oven door.
he touches
the stain on the ceiling,
rises and falls
on his heels to listen
more intently to the squeak
in the floor.

piano legs

her mother
told her she had piano legs.
at ten that was
hard to overcome no matter
how many men tried.
the meanness was
a yellow breath
coming out of her. she wouldn't
die.
hanging on
to life with sharp nails
at ninety five.
why mothers hate
their daughters is a mystery.
and yet,
beneath it all
there was always hope
that she'd
see things
differently, in time.

the sweater

the seams
have split, the buttons
dangle
from the old sweater,
oatmeal in color,
a braided thing
with coffee
stains,
moth
bitten,
stretched out of shape
from being hung
on a cold black hanger
in the closet.
still,
you try it on,
button it up.
in the pocket is his
lighter. silver,
a blue flame when struck.
a pack of lucky strikes.
a ticket torn
in half, another
bet lost.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

his happiness

you want to tell
your father, that it's over
for white
shoes
and a matching white
belt.
sky blue pants.
you want to carefully nudge him,
saying
that he doesn't need to dye
his hair anymore
at eighty-five.
forget the vitamin C
wrinkle cream too.
you want to tell him
about
cell phones and the new
tvs
that aren't in a set
of dresser drawers.
there's
music other than Sinatra too,
benny goodman,
but you don't.
his happiness is his.
not yours.

the fiesta

the police
do nothing about the noise.
the music
blasting through the walls,
shaking
your dishes,
your teeth, your porcelain
collection
of Baywatch dolls.
the police want no part
of it.
they ask you to record
or film
the drug use, the seven families
that come
and go. the pit bulls,
and other assorted dogs.
they want you to help
them get to the bottom
of your noisy neighbors.
provide evidence
that you can't sleep, or
live this way.
the neighbors laugh
when they see you, raising their
beer cans mockingly
in jest. they wave
and nod their heads,
pushing back their hats.
they know
there is nothing that can
be done by you or anyone.

love finds a way

she once threatened to boil
your dog
in a pot on the stove.
how she would find
a pot that large to hold
his enormously fat
body, might be a problem.
but you got the message,
and made amends
for telling her this
will never work out.
love finds a way.

they'll be missed

these are all good
things to say.
she was a good woman,
a good man,
you were lucky to have such
a friend,
a mother, or
father.
you were blessed by them.
they will be missed.
but you don't really know
these strangers
who barely walked
in the peripherally
edges
of your sight.
the words come out as
stale clich├ęs.
a handshake or hug
might be involved,
but you don't know, not
really what
kind of people they were.
the murderous intent
they may have held,
the mayhem
of their minds.
good or bad, whose to know
these things, only those
that were held or held them
in the cross hairs
can do that.

afternoon matinee

when you get home from work
you see the small brown
wrappers
on the floor,
a path leading to her,
who sits in her robe
watching television.
there is a box of chocolate
covered cherries
in her lap.
chocolate on her face,
her lips.
her fingers.
want one? she says,
tossing a cherry to you.
striking you
in the forehead.
there is wine involved.
a bottle at her feet.
I love this movie, she says.
it's so me.
gone with the wind is on.
to hell with Rhett,
she says.
I don't need him anyway.
she wipes her
tears with the sleeve
of her robe,
then pops another cherry
into her mouth.
the credits roll.

warm toast

she stays in bed
long past the hour.
long past you
who is in the kitchen.
she lies
under the blankets. warmed.
a slice
of browned toast
not wanting to budge,
but wanting butter.
a slice
of you to melt upon
her.
coffee would be nice
too, she says
from her chambers.

the grey day

it's plain,
without salt, without
seasoning.
not quite without
taste,
but just barely.
it's that kind of day.
non eventful,
a yawn,
a stretch, a peek
out the window
at the shadowed
sky filled with rain.
it's a book you've
read,
a movie seen.
it's the museum of weather
where nothing
has changed.

Friday, April 8, 2016

turtle sunrise

a flat black
turtle,
the pentagon of his shell
unsheened
in the dull
light of an april
morning. it hardly
moves in the wash
of cans
and wrappers, cigarette
butts. lime colored
tennis balls.
the neck out, a green
tube of
flesh.
he's quiet
and calm, floating
with the debris
on a slimy log.
a smaller turtle is
beside him.
junior perhaps,
or just a little fellow
also resting,
saying little,
taking a nap. it's all
fine until a man walks by,
on his phone,
and spits in the water,
trying to get them to
move.
they don't. I do.

she's in town

he tells
me about the coffin that his
mother will reside
in for eternity.
the lining, the plush
thick padding.
the ruffled edges.
the polished hardwood,
marine varnished,
with brass plated
hinges
and locks.
no cremation for her,
he says.
she'll be in town,
in a rare exclusive spot
where anyone can visit,
have a word
or two with her.
sit on a stone bench
nearby and enjoy
the scenery.
the river, the woods,
the small pond with ducks.
the planes
from the airport
in the sky.

infection

the man,
sneezing,
with bleary eyes,
red rimmed, nose inflamed,
coughing,
offers his hand to shake.
you stare
at the hand and wince.
but you shake.
when you leave
you immediately wipe
the hand
in the wet green grass outside
his house.
hoping that it's not
too late.

the motel fire

the old motel
near where the interstate
connects to
roads heading south,
roads heading
north, and east,
an easy jump to
the airport,
is on fire.
it's late,
and the patrons hardly
have time to grab
their clothes
to run outside in the cold
to watch it burn.
most are hourly patrons
wearing
leather, or stiletto heels,
some with whips
still in their hands.
the men
in black socks,
hold their briefcases,
bare skin
pinked by
the frosty air.
there is sadness all
around,
as unfinished business
stays unfinished,
and the cars drive slowly
away, back
to wherever they live,
in whatever town.

cargo shorts joe grocery store

I can't shop there anymore.
they are too friendly
in their cargo shorts
and Hawaiian shirts.
some with hats, others with
large island
necklaces dangling from
their necks.
they are hip and cool.
serving wine and small crackers
with bits of cheese
on them. they are
talkative.
they are all over the store
being helpful.
saying clever things.
so it looks like you're
going to make a sandwich
tonight with that meat,
eh?
the teller says, tossing
it into a bag.
I love sandwiches too.
that meat is out of this
world. I had some last week.
I bet you might slice up
those tomatoes too, right?
some cheese, some lettuce?
yeah, I thought so.
and pickles, who doesn't like
a pickle with their
sandwich, raise their
hand?
got a date?, he says, winking.
bottle of five buck wine,
some candles,
and our special non allergy
massage oil. oh, and a five pound
almond chocolate bar.
he rings a bell, and all
the other clerks start clapping.
you the man,
he says, as I cringe and leave
the store.

smells okay

the bells go
off in my head to not
buy the crab
meat stuffed into
a plastic tub with an
orange marked down
price
sticker on the lid.
I pick up the tub
an spin it around
for a thorough
examination. sell
by Friday, which was
yesterday.
I give it a smell
and shake it.
a pound of lump
crab meat from somewhere.
it's hard to read
where,
the print is too small.
how can you go wrong
at four dollars
and ninety seven
cents for a pound
of lump crab meat?
but you go down
the pharmaceutical
aisle to pick up
a few
gastronomical aids
just in case.

not quite the end

there is the funeral,
the wake,
the viewing, the small
gathering
three days before, pot luck.
the larger gathering
the day after.
the speeches,
the eulogy, the photos
displayed.
i'm running out of
things to wear,
and gaining weight.
the invitations keep
coming for the deceased.
a social butterfly
until the end,
which isn't really
the end.
the year later memorial
date has been circled
on the calendar
as well.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

thinking about it

the black cat
and you have grown apart.
she's afraid
to approach you, though
she cautiously moves
sideways
as cats do, getting closer.
her green eyes are sharp
in the morning light.
you talk to her,
saying ridiculous things
like,
hey kitty, want some milk,
come here, come here
sweetie. where have you been?
but she's not a dog.
she's not a horse, or a cow.
she's not anything
you're familiar
with.
she's a cat.
you set the saucer of milk
on the stoop.
rattling the dish against
the cement.
she peers at you from behind
the tire
of your car.
she's thinking about it.
pondering her next move.
so are you.
we're all thinking about
something.

how late we working?

there are gaps
in his life,
dark holes of memory,
where he lived,
what happened, when,
there is
a blank spot on his brain
where nothing
is remembered.
some teeth are missing.
there's a scar
on his arm,
the smudge of a tattoo
blue
green on his neck.
a girl's name.
he says he's turning over
a new leaf
though,
getting things together,
he says this while
taking out a cigarette
and lighting it,
letting the smoke flow
through his nose
like an old dragon.
he sits down on the stoop.
says, how
late we working today.
I have a court date at 3.
he unties the rubber band
that holds back his
hair,
then ties it again,
letting the pony tail
fall to his shoulders.

the fridge

do you smell mold in
there,
the condo board
leader, with a clipboard
and pen
says, stopping by
to see what you boys are
up to in there.
there was a man
dressed in white who
left a refrigerator
out on the lawn
the other day.
do either of you know
anything about that?
he was about your height,
your age,
your weight.
we gave the police a
description of the man,
they're looking
for him right now.
so if you have any information
about this refrigerator,
it's best that you tell
me now.
she puts her pen to the
paper, and waits.
nope. I say. I don't know
anything about it.
well, if you do. here's my
card and number.
by the way, no putting
trash in the dumpsters,
those are for tenants only.
you are forewarned.
are you sure you don't smell
mold in there?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

tomorrow land

I am disappointed
by the future that was promised
to us
as children.
time travel,
the jet packs.
living on the moon,
our minds enlightened,
no longer bothered
by race
or creed, polyester
or wool.
each to his own
way of thinking, dressing
the same in silver suits,
all equals
in the eye of God,
or whatever machine
deemed worthy to pick
our fate. it's basically
the same, we eat, we drink,
we work,
make love and sleep.
little has changed,
which in a strange
way, for the most part,
is good.

the bridal shop

in the morning,
on Saturday, near the coffee
shop where I go
for a cup espresso,
a paper and a scone,
I see them.
the women, young girls,
excited
and exhausted by what
will be. waiting
outside the bridal
shop.
there are no men or boys
to be seen
as the women gather
in the parking lot.
gulls landed
on fluttering wings.
all sizes, all shapes
and colors.
they are in a quiet frenzy,
hugging, talking,
beaming. they are three inches
off the ground,
standing at the door,
waiting for someone
to open and turn the key.

you go, i'll wait here

it's on my list, she says,
flipping through
a travel guide
to Indonesia. I want
to go there.
I want to live there
for a week or
two, not stay in a hotel
and be a tourist.
I hate that. I want to eat
their food,
listen to their music.
be enchanted by
their culture
and ways of life.
I want to be one with
them. those Indonesians.
doesn't that sound like fun,
she says.
me and you, in another
country,
expatriates for a week
or two?
some questions don't
deserve an answer.

three bikes

your new bike is nice.
a hybrid.
black, two wheels,
pedals.
spokes. the rest.
now you have three bikes.
two too many.
you think of selling
the other two
on craig's list,
but you won't. you
don't want strangers
coming to your house
to look or test ride
your old bikes. complaining
about something
to bring the price down.
they might rob
and kill you too,
so why bother.
so the old bikes will sit
with their airless tires,
leaning against
the pool table
that you also never
use.

incorrect, try again

it's nearly impossible
to keep up with your growing
list of passwords.
numbers and names,
obscure places you've
been. people
that you've known,
alive and deceased.
some are so clever
you can't even remember
them ten minutes after
typing them in.
some are the same,
each account, each site,
each bank being opened
by your birth date,
or age attached
to your dog's name. you write
them down.
but in weeks or months
you forget where they are
and have to start all again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

ginger moved?

the woman next door
to the apartment
you're painting comes
out to get her food delivery,
a bag of white boxes,
black plastic
containers, lids tight,
steaming. two heavy
egg rolls swinging low
by her knees,
another menu too,
for another night.
she pays
the delivery boy, then
turns to peek into
the open door of where you
are working, avoiding
the wet paint, and you.
she looks in and says,
with loud surprise
in the empty room,
ginger moved?
to which you say, who's
ginger?

black ink

you could
if you wanted,
make everything wonderful.
people,
the world.
work and all that it
holds.
you could paint
all of it a sky blue,
the color of happy.
delve in
bright primary
colors,
of red or yellow.
this is what you could do,
if you wanted
to.
but no.
it's easier
to tell the story
with
the scrawl of black ink.
the hard truth,
the hard pavement with
just a flower
or two
emerging.
soft blades of grass
somehow finding their
way through
this madness we call
life.

the fire

I remember
my mother standing in the street,
smoke in the air,
firetrucks
around the corner,
crying
about the baby
that died in the fire.
she had seven
children at the time,
one in her arms,
the rest scattered,
two at her feet.
I remember watching her
bend
with heartache
not knowing who these people
were, and yet
broken as if the child
was one
of her own.
it almost made me understand
why she had
so many.

what i want

impatient
for many things,
spring, for one.
warm weather,
a pizza to arrive,
a call.
a hand written
postcard from afar,
a heartfelt
letter.
fruit in season.
a shoe
sale at nordstroms,
okay, not that, I was
thinking of someone else
and got distracted.
but some things.
some
things i'd like right
now.

the lightning bolt

she believes
in God, practices
her faith
religiously,
but has an issue with
the sex
part of the rules,
sex outside
of marriage to be exact.
who gets married anymore,
she wonders
out loud,
but I feel guilty
afterwards.
and you?
all the time,
I say,
but it doesn't seem
to stop me,
if things go that way.
i'm thankful though
for a forgiving
and compassionate
God and hope that His
patience
will not end,
that He will not angrily
throw a lightning bolt
my way.

rosa's maid service

i prefer
to get home late,
when it's nearly dark.
the house looks much
cleaner then.
the dust and shoe marks
on the floor,
less obvious.
the unwiped counter,
the dishes
scattered on each table,
in twilight
the mess is somehow less
annoying and less
a pointed finger
at my laziness with
cleaning.
i stare at the coupon
that was slipped
under my door,
Rosa's Maid Service,
ten dollars off
the first visit.
perhaps, tomorrow,
when the sun comes up
and i feel
i need it more.

what love is

the cat shows her love
and appreciation
for all that you do
by dropping
a dead mouse at
your feet
as you sit on the couch
watching television.
no words are said.
no exchange
of pleasantries.
just thank you, you say.
how nice,
as you go into the kitchen
for a dust pan
and a broom, setting
out cheese
and traps for other mice
that might be
running loose.

the armed guard

the armed guard
lugging warily the white burlap
bags of cash
and coin, lumbers
from the block
truck, metal white,
meshed
and thickened
by fear of robbery. he
looks each
way before entering
the bank.
one hand
near a gun, a radio on
his shoulder.
all day, he does the same.
fearing life,
fearing death,
keeping his job
by protecting what isn't
his.
no different from me,
or others walking by,
I guess.

leave it at that

it's too easy to take
a dream and pick it apart.
unpuzzle the pieces
of its vague
heart, make something
of it, write about
what it means,
paste it in a poem
call it
inspirational, or
revealing. it's just a dream
brought on
by too much drink,
bad food,
the window being open,
the cold air
against your bare feet.
an angry word or thought
left hanging
in the air.
I like dreaming.
I like the color, the escape,
the unreal realness
of it all, but I want
to leave it at that,
don't drag it into the light
of day,
pretend it's
something that it isn't,
something akin to
poetry.

vacancy

the empty apartment
has much to say. these floors,
hardwood, both blonde and brown,
scratched, corners
webbed in grey.
the avocado refrigerator
round shouldered
and stocky
like a Russian aunt.
your steps echo
against the thin walls
as you listen to
the clunk of the radiator,
hearing the whistle of
the broken window.
the toilet that never
stops running. there is
the rust ring in the tub,
a drip of soft
brown water clicking.
how many have
come and gone
from here, have jiggled the key
to turn the lock,
have rested
their heads on
striped pillows.
sat on a chair in front
of the window
and ate, watching who
came and went in the courtyard.

listening

it's a day of listening.
the cab driver
with his radical world views.
the butcher
as he slices a few rib eyes
and wraps them,
expanding on his
take of love and death.
his hands and apron bloody.
the barista, with her
weather report
and knowledge of the amazon
jungles. the woe is
me diatribe of
the young that the world
is spinning too fast
towards an end.
the bartender. wiping his
clean cloth across the thick
polished bar.
pouring a gin and tonic,
talking wistfully about
remember when.
before the highway cut
the town in half. how the trolleys
ran. how people came in
here and talked, not
stared at their phones
or the television.
there' a part of you that wants
to join in,
but not today, today,
you take the time,
and listen.

calling rhonda

the angel on your shoulder
is tired.
tired of debating
the good and bad things
that you do, or don't do.
he wants a break,
a vacation, but he worries
you'll go completely
to the other side.
you worry about this too
as you feel
the pinch of the pitchfork
on your other shoulder,
hearing the whisper for you
to call Rhonda,
the alley cat,
to see what she's up to.

donations

someone tells you
that they saw you the other day
on the street.
you tell them it wasn't you.
it was someone that
looked exactly
like me.
but it wasn't me.
no, they said, i'm sure
it was you.
you were standing at
the corner with a red
can, a sign, you
were reaching
into the windows of stopped
cars for donations
to your own personal fund.
impossible, you tell
them. it couldn't have
been me, I never work
that corner.
I prefer the intersection
of union and king.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

the things she needs

you send the steak
back.
so tough, too thick
and browned
to cut.
you try. taking the sharp
knife and press
down.
not a drop of blood,
or juice.
it's leather.
the waitress sees
you struggling to chew
the piece you finally
convince to break
free,
but she says nothing.
the whole room
is gnawing
at this beef. the Thursday
special
with cold vegetables,
bread,
a glass of wine, tea.
she worries about the bill,
the tip.
the things
she needs.

her safe

while asleep
I find the dial to her
heart
and put my
ear to her chest,
slowly turning,
listening to the clicks,
trying to open
the door
to who she really is.
to understand
the beauty or darkness
that lies within.
she may be sleeping,
or awake,
it doesn't matter,
she's knows I
can't get in until
she says so.

wild flowers

on a whim
I purchased then
tossed the seeds of wild
flowers
in the yard
of dirt and ivy.
weeds.
two or three envelopes.
the photo on
the front showed
purple and pink,
passionate colors, bright
and glorious
in whatever sun
they grew under. blue and
yellow stars.
nothing came.
winter iced the yard.
the rains.
the stamping of my feet
coming and going.
then it happened.
there they were.
the flowers were everywhere.
delicate petals
defying everything,
including me.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

in the woods

let's meet in the woods
she tells
you cryptically.
on neutral ground.
behind the oaks,
the maples,
the pines.
our feet ankle high
in leaves,
in soil,
ivy and twine.
let's go where it's dark
and quiet.
let's strip off our clothes,
leave our books,
our lies,
our families behind.
let's see who
we really are.
let's meet in the woods.
bring your heart,
i'll bring mine.

another day

your factory work ethic
contributes
much
to how sore you are in
the morning.
the ache
of yesterday still lingering
in each stride,
each reach of an
arm over your head
to open
a can of something
to eat.
you see a line of smoke
stacks
on the horizon
fuming blue
and grey and feel good
about that.
there is work to be done,
to be had.
this will keep you
going. keep the dog's
tail wagging,
a roof over your head,
the dream of love
within reach
for another day.

the poetry class

when she taught poetry
she'd stand
in front of the class and pace
back and forth.
staring at the ceiling,
reciting poems she'd memorized.
sometimes she'd forget
to set her purse down,
keeping it strapped
around shoulder.
if she saw something out
the window, she'd stop
and say, oh look at that.
a firetruck is going by.
there were times you felt
that you learned nothing from her,
and then other times,
like today, you realize
how much you did.