Tuesday, May 31, 2016

so was she

a box
within a box, within
another box.
tied in ribbons.
beautiful paper,
cut and taped
to perfection.
nothing rattles,
or shakes,
or moves within.
empty,
but it's very
pretty.
very nice.
so was she.

post office top ten

as a kid
I liked to look at the wanted
posters
stapled to the bulletin
board
at the post office
while my mother sent a letter,
or bought stamps.
every criminal looked like
lee Harvey Oswald
back then.
skinny and bewildered.
each with three names,
and a white
t shirt that i imagined
was yellowed
around the collar,
maybe it had a ketchup
stain on it too.
criminals looked skinny,
unmuscled
except for the occasional
fat cat
like capone.
wanted by the FBI
the poster read.
the top ten.
i imagined the next
ten were even worse for wear.

thin mints delivery

thin mints
come to you in long narrow
boxes.
you ordered six.
it's only you,
but you'll find a way
to make
them disappear.
the girl
scout is happy.
she checks you off her
list.
her father behind
her,
making sure
the money's good.
time to pour a cold glass
of milk.

never out from under it

her broken foot,
her broken heart,
her troubled children,
the mice,
the bugs, a lost job.
the wet clothes
left
in the machine.
the lights go off,
the bills
not paid, the bounced check.
there's rust
in the pipes,
a towed car,
a key mislaid.
the broken tooth,
the busted
lip,
the dog has escaped,
there he goes,
without a collar,
without a leash,
to die in the street.

summer carnival

the summer carnival appears
in the far end
of the parking lot of the abandoned
mall.
a small mirage.
it rises on rusted
bones.
tired arms, blue with smudged
tattoos
gone old.
the lights flicker on.
candy swirled like
cotton burns sweetly
in the summer air.
hard scrabbled men and women,
luckless at love
and cards
take tickets,
some without thumbs,
or eyes.
others toothless under
the stars. it's show business.
the music starts, a pinging,
a clang,
a chugging of rides,
the children
arrive.

intuition

you have an inkling.
a tingle
of knowledge, a hunch
perhaps.
a foreshadowing
of events
yet to transpire.
you keep it hidden.
a pebble
under your tongue
a dollar
folded and tucked
into the small
pocket never used.
you know.
you know.
you know.

under the bridge

longingly he speaks
of the fish he caught
before dark.
along the river, hip deep
in water,
he says how silver it was
under the bridge.
how it fought for its life.
struggled
not to drown in the air
it rose into.
he talks about how gently
he carved it in two.
the head off, it's
belly opened by his sharp
knife.
the bones separated by his
hands with care.
with love he talks
about this fish,
how it crackled over the fire.
the butter it absorbed,
how it tasted
on his dry lips.
and then with his belly
full, and drink
in hand, he spoke of
how wonderful the world
is when in love.

the night

the night
is sinister. the vampires
are out.
blood lust
in their yellowed
eyes.
lovers are betrayed
on nights like
this.
the hard rain
is nothing but a curtain
of cold.
the night
is full of us in mischief,
full
of drink, full
of the dark side
of the moon.
our skin crawls, our
bellies ache.
we have just begun to
wander,
to be young,
ready to proceed, to make
our mistakes.

the other shoe

the other shoe
will fall, no worries there.
no hurry.
let it happen,
there is nothing
to do
to stop it.
it's part of moving forward.
onward,
towards
the place where you are going.
the other shoe
will drop,
let it and be brave.

Monday, May 30, 2016

the shark

when I see
the shark, his cold shadow
upon the sand,
his teeth long and sharp
pink
with blood
and the debris
of others
in his gaping mouth,
I do nothing,
but stand still in the shallow
sea.
fear turning my legs
to ice.
death swings by so closely,
rubbing its sand paper
skin, the narrowed gills,
against me.
those buttoned eyes,
without a blink.
It passes, I stagger in to sit
upon the shore.
shivering with all limbs
still attached.
my luck that he wasn't hungry
for more.

the apparition

the postcard
finally arrives, she's been ghosting
you for years.
a wisp
in the wind of
yesterday.
and now this, this handwritten
note on the back
of a card
sent from somewhere
far away.
hello, it says. how are you?
hope you are well.
then the word love,
and her name, you fold it
for the fire.
not even taking the time
to watch it burn.

the whip

the whip
of the world is upon you
for much
of your life.
from start to finish,
everything must
be learned,
everything must be earned.
there is no
other way.
despite the dole, the safety
net
of goodwill, good intentions.
it's still
putting on one
boot at a time
and working.

the fall

her snowy
hair, her brittle arms,
the broken
hip
tossing her sideways
to the curb.
the ambulance
arriving,
taking her away.
how close we are to
that.
how fast
the moon rises and sets
upon our
lives.

the open road

the open road
once appealed to me.
discovering what's beyond
this town.
I like detours
now.
closed roads.
roads that have endings
where there is a place
to sit
and rest, to eat and drink
and when night
arrives,
to sleep. I scissor
the map into a circle.
that's far enough.

red ants

you are anxious to leave
the picnic
when you arrive
not liking
the small talk, the big
talk
of politics
and life. you flick a red
ant off your leg,
shaking your foot
to rid yourself of more.
the opinions spoken are
set in stone.
a dog licks your knee.
no one is swayed or giving
in
to a new way
of thinking. someone mentions
the native americans
another abortion,
as she brings out an
apple pie
to set in the middle of the table.
there are soap boxes
around the yard
each
taking a turn,
fueled by beer, or
margaritas.
someone yells, the hot
dogs are ready.
which gives
every one a break
from being so smart
and well
informed, squeezing
mustard
onto the grill striped
meat rolled onto a bun.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

still at war

the man
with a white trimmed beard
rides in
on his Harley,
takes his place in the parade,
he's still a war.
still
searching for meaning
in what happened forty
years ago.
the dying and maiming
of so many.
a red white and blue
bandana is wrapped
around his
wrinkled brow,
a black flag waves
from the back of his bike.
he's not quite over
it.

rooms for rent

the man at the front
desk
is settled into his job,
a small
god
in a rundown
hotel
outside of town.
he smokes, he drinks.
he's looking at a girly
magazine.
rooms for a night, for an hour.
no questions asked
about luggage,
or where's the best
place to eat
near here.
the cash slides across
the counter,
then a key.
take the elevator to
your right, he says without
looking up.
just leave it in the room
if for some reason
you need to flee.

angels and devils

you put
the deviled eggs
onto the shelf
to cool.
next to that plate
is the angel
food cake,
also cooling.
neither of them appeal
to you
too much,
but there are together
about to travel
across the city,
to a barbeque,
on a bus.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

chop suey

the new picture comes
in the mail, as most things
purchased do now.
I unwrap it carefully and hold
it up to the light.
chop suey
by hopper. two women in a restaurant,
eating, sipping
drinks.
I like the colors, the starkness
of dark
and light.
I move it around the house
searching for a wall
that will hold it.
too large,
too small, too bright.
finally settling on the kitchen.
it will take some time
getting used to
as new love often does.

what is true

what is true
is more interesting
than that what
isn't.
the world is
seasoned with both,
fiction and non fiction.
we pick and choose
how much
of each we need to get the story
right
about the days
we live in,
how we tell the tale.

unzip me

unzip me she says
after finally removing
her make up
and spending time in the bathroom
with the door closed.
I can't reach that one hook.
they make it impossible,
these dresses
to hook or unhook
that one
particular catch
at the top. sometimes
I just pull
the whole thing over
my head.
that was an hour ago,
her voice waking me up
while I lie in bed.

the large boat

her father's boat
was fast.
large. its engines rumbled in
the oiled water,
rainbowed and rippled.
the ship was white
with red seats with which
to gaze out
over the bay.
it cut through the troughs
of blue, sailed
under the bridge,
gulls weaved in and out
of clouds,
settling
on pylons.
there was an island we went
to.
collected shells.
left our footprints in the sand,
rang
the bell that had stood
there for a century.
there was little to talk about,
the bright sun and wind
saying everything,
leaving us
empty in some strange way.

Friday, May 27, 2016

wet paint

the paint
dries slowly on this wet day.
still
soft to the touch
taking
your fingerprints with it.
each finger tip
a dotted spot of white.
you knew it wasn't dry,
but you had to touch
it anyway.
you will the next time
too.
your impatience, as you well
know, is always
with you.

the other bakery

she dolloped
a smidgen of love and affection.
a spoonful, a crumb,
a mere taste of her
attributes.
she did not spoil
the child within you
with any baked love,
no extra helpings.
you had to earn the right
to kiss her.
the tasks being
unknown, the lines sketchy.
there were other
bakeries more inclined
to you,
open for business, so
you went.

the other side of the moon

you are not an explorer
by any means,
the new
world would have remained
unknown
if you had anything to do with it.
what's over
that hill
matters not.
this is fine, where we are.
no need to see
the other side of the moon,
or mars.
take your shoes off,
relax,
come here and let's
kiss, just to start.

reading of the will

each brother and sister
brings a lawyer
in a sharp suit to go over
the will, to see how large
a slice of pie
they will receive,
that no one gets extra.
they leave
slowly when it's discovered
that there are bills
to be paid.
there is no money, hardly
enough for a box,
a shovel,
a grave.

disappointment

from across the room
you throw
the apple core, freshly
bitten into
towards the can
that sits
in the corner.
you miss. it rims out,
and rolls,
the dog quickly hops
up and grabs it,
runs off
to hide under the bed.
later he will
look at you with
disappointed eyes.

jumper cables?

his car won't start
in this cold.
he waves you down and makes
a frantic gesture,
waving his arms,
in the apparent international
signal
for jumper cables.
you roll down your window
and tell him
that you don't have any.
but you can call
someone to come and help him.
he doesn't understand you.
his language is not yours.
you become Koko the monkey
and begin to explain
that you are calling for help.
that a truck is on
the way, that he need not
worry.
it's exhausting. he curses
you and gives you the international
salute of discontent
as you drive away.

across the sea

she writes and tells me
about Vermeer
the girl with the pearl
necklace,
Rembrandt
and van gogh.
she talks about how each
town
is more charming than the next.
the culture
the history,
the quaintness
of it all. she takes pictures
of the village.
the town square,
the sculptures that have
existed for centuries.
and what are you up to,
she asks. anything new?
not much i say, just sitting
here in my
underwear, eating a tuna
sandwich and watching
judge judy.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

why not

let's go dancing tonight,
she says,
brushing her hair
in the mirror.
you look around the room to see
who else might be there.
it's just you.
we haven't gone dancing in ages,
she says.
catching your eye in the mirror.
the dog jumps
up onto the bed, circles
himself on your chest,
protecting you.
I want to learn how to salsa.
maybe we could take ballroom
dancing lessons, she says.
stroking her long full head of hair.
outside the window,
a pale moon has already begun
to show through the lessened
blue of the sky.
it's almost the most beautiful
thing you've seen today.
why not, you say.
why not.

no reason at all

as a child
one sister was a mortal enemy
one summer.
you took a wood saw
from your father's work bench
and sawed off
the head
of her favorite doll.
the one that cried
and peed
after filling it with
water.
she threw your baseball glove
into the creek.
put gum on your toothbrush.
you called her names.
she called you names.
it was a war
that lasted throughout
the hot
unairconditioned summer.
there was no truce,
no apologies.
it just ended for the same
reason that it started.
no reason at all.

some critics say

you need to be more obscure.
reference
mythology, history,
religion. uses larger words.
five dollar words,
not those that cost a mere
penny.
simple and clear gets you nowhere.
your poetic ambition
is too shallow. too mundane
and common.
fast food, if you may.
quit growing daises
and think more botanical
garden.
good luck. maybe i'll
read more then,
if you get there.

one day soon

I feel bad for my iron,
collecting dust on the shelf
in my laundry room,
next to the detergent
and fabric softener.
a pile of washed change
I pulled out of the dryer.
I hardly ever iron anymore.
no shirts or pants
needing the wrinkles pressed
smooth.
I say hello to my iron,
in passing. seeing my reflection
in its shiny face.
give it a little wave,
and say one day, one day
soon, i'll plug you in.

all is well

he was so used to pretending
that he was happy,
that all was well,
that sometimes he actually
felt that way.
life had that new car
smell.
that sweet shine of just
purchased.
it was hard to keep up
though.
the air eventually came
out of the tires. there were
door dings,
a crack in the windshield
where he hit
a black bird
carrying a worm to its nest.
he could only smile, part
time now.
when out and about.
he couldn't wait to get home
to let it end.
to let the face frown,
cut a lemon with which
to suck on,
and keep it that way.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

his new love

he shows me a photo
of his new girlfriend.
she's long legged
and tan,
a mop of wild black
hair upon her head.
her lips are pouty.
she wants something. you
can see that
in her dark eyes.
she's doing something with
her hand, holding
it out into the air.
she's wearing what looks like
white napkins
strung together by thread.
she's twenty one, he says.
she lives far away,
in my country. but I love
her. I met her three
weeks ago when I went home.
I am going to bring
her here once I get divorced.

his illness

his hand would shake,
so he steadied it with his other hand.
then it too trembled.
he changed the subject.
looking up into the sky.
it's going to be warmer
tomorrow he'd say,
clenching
a smile, hoping you'd
look away.

home cooked

you drive and drive.
hills and valleys,
narrow bridges,
old roads becoming new.
new roads
unmarked.
somewhere, there is a place
you are going to.
she has a piece of salmon
waiting,
over cooked and dried.
string beans,
and small potatoes,
glittering with olive oil,
the hair of pepper
and salt
as they roast
upon their brows.
what you won't
do for a home cooked
meal these days, even
a bad one,
is beyond you.

first impressions

her piano
had old keys.
the ivory yellowed, brittle.
ebony chipped.
the pedals
sunk
and were slow to rise.
some strings were broken
and curled
out from the top
like wired black hair.
the dull off key
sound
it made when striking
hurt your teeth,
but it looked good in the window.
a baby grand piano.
a vase of white flowers
centered.
who's to know from
the street
the wreck that it was
and that she
couldn't play a lick.

you mght feel a little pinch

as a child
you often fainted when the dentist
held up
his steel sharpened needle
above your tiny mouth,
o shaped and trembling.
the thick spectacles
of this man
about to stick
a pointed syringe
into your gums, reflected
your horrified face.
there were stars,
a black
cold blanket of bliss
upon you.
sweat beaded on your
pale wide brow,
the blood gone
out
to other regions.
when you awoke your mother
would be standing there
holding her
purse
saying, it won't hurt
and you'll get ice cream
later.
you might feel a little pinch.

red peppers

a devil
is among us. his demons
too.
pointed tails,
and horns,
crimson red
like peppers.
you can feel them walking
about.
in the shadows
in the sunlight,
inhabiting the weaker
of faith
or the holiest of
holies.
makes no never mind
with the devil.
he finds a way in
when you crack open
the door,
peek at or enter
places
you shouldn't go.

still here

the dead are never quite
dead
enough.
they keep
reminding us of when
they were alive.
each day,
some thought crosses
our mind
of them.
for better or worse.
there is no
tying of lose ends,
no closure
whatsoever.
they rise
and stay alive,
as if they were here,
but quietly
so.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

unreachable

the things you have
mean less to you the longer
you have them.
what you want
is new. outside your reach.
behind the plate glass
window
on fifth avenue.
the stars too.
those dots of
teasing tinsel, unreachable,
a scalloped
moon.
a place to go and be someone
other than the person
that inhabits you.

boiled eggs

you stand over the stove,
over a pot
of boiling eggs.
three white eggs,
extra large
bubbling
and floating, shaking
in their shells,
bouncing
against the side
of the pot.
it's been longer than
three minutes.
it might be five.
they are starting to crack.
some of the white
stuff
is poking out.
you're not bored with
yourself,
although it may seem
that way,
watching these eggs.

something of interest

do you have trouble
sleeping
my therapist asks,
running out of things to ask me,
having skewered
parents and siblings.
ex wives.
a dog.
nope.
sleep like a rock.
i'm tired
by the time I lie down
and my head
sinks into a pillow
or two.
I see she says.
do you dream?
always.
technicolor.
what are they about.
some scary,
some fun,
some erotic.
oh, she says. suddenly
sitting up,
and crossing her legs.
tell me
about those.
finally she's found something
of interest.

love gone bad

in her other life
she was
someone else.
she was different.
her hair was longer.
she said yes,
when she wanted to say yes.
she slept
more,
she ate more, she had
more sex.
this life now
has put her in a box.
a colorless
box, with a lid
just barely open,
open enough to see what
she is missing
on the outside.
love gone bad
has tied her stings.
cobbled her shoes.
locked
the doors.

the readings

the gypsy down the street
waves to you
as you walk your dog.
there is a fifty per cent
off sign
on the post in front
of her house,
next to the sign that
says,
snow tires for sale.
readings of both hands,
half off,
the black print says.
she's sipping green tea
and standing on
her porch
in a rain coat
with a canvas hat.
half price, she yells out,
bring the dog
too, i'll read his paws.
all four? you say.
sure, she says,
why not.

his winnings

you ask your father
what he will do with his winnings.
a hundred
thousand dollars
clear
from the scratch off lottery.
he says,
maybe i'll get the washing
machine fixed.
the belt is squeaking.
in a year
the winnings are gone.
the money slipped
back into the machine
that stands
by the door, by the newspapers,
as you enter
the grocery store.
the line is long and grey,
and bent
towards something that will
never be reached.

not all is wasted

most of what you learn
is unused,
or is it,
maybe deep inside of you
you're still
solving quadratic equations,
figuring out
how long it will take you
to get from point
a to point b,
if driving at sixty three
miles per hour.
maybe you're
still diagramming sentences,
or dissecting frogs,
or sifting through T.S. Elliot's
The Wasteland
to salvage meaning about
your own life.
not all is wasted.

the plot waits

quickly
they purchase the burial
plot.
how can she possibly
live past
this.
they clean out her drawers,
take
her rosary beads,
her cross,
her tea cups from
Russia.
that vase, long empty
of flowers.
then she opens her eyes
and says,
where am I. what day is this.
the plot waits,
undug,
things taken are not
returned.

what we know

the wind
picks up, lifts what's
on the ground, spins
paper and leaves
into the air. the world
keeps telling
us that we don't know much
about anything.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

cowboy wisdom

the horses are out
of the barn
he tells you. too late
to close
the doors.
what barn, what horses,
you ask him.
what are you talking about.
I live on the twentieth
floor
in a high rise.
it's a metaphor, he says.
it means it's
too late to do the things
you should have done.
like sending her roses.
well, why didn't you just
say that?
i'm folksy, he says.
i'm wearing boots and a cowboy
hat.
look at me, I even have a
a strand of straw
hanging out of my mouth.

the break up meal

do you have any special dietary needs
the waiter asks me
as i loosen my belt
and shimmy into the booth.
he hands me the laminated
menu that blocks
all light.
only that my red meat is medium
rare, I tell him.
and that nothing resembling
carob or liver
touch my plate.
got it, he says. will that be
a twelve ounce steak,
or twenty.
let's start with twenty and work
our way down.
an extra saucer of mushroom
gravy would be greatly
appreciated too, and bring
the dessert menu, if you
will. I like to think about that
as i'm eating.
will the mrs. be joining you
tonight? no, we're no longer
together, but I'm getting over
it slowly and painfully,
one meal at a time.

the wheel

the shovel
is new. the spade holds
the harsh sunlight
in its steel curve.
the shoe box
holding
the hamster is light,
the weight of death slight
in my daughter's hand
as we go to the edge
of the yard
where the woods begin.
he didn't have
much of a life, she says
in her small voice,
did he?
she looks up
to me
as we walk.
all day long on that
squeaky wheel,
alone in his cage.
now he's free, she says.
no one wants a life like that,
do they?
no, I tell her,
finding a soft spot with
which to dig,
pressing the shovel into
the earth with a hard boot.
no one deserves a life
like that.

first cousins

Sinatra is singing
fly me to the moon, while we slow
dance
across the floor,
me and my cousin Marie.
we've both had a few cocktails,
and almost kiss,
our lips dangerously come close
to one another.
which would be scandalous,
seeing that she is
my mother's brother's
daughter,
first cousins.
but we get along so well.
we dance together
and laugh, and think the same
way.
we both like jello.
what is it with these archaic
laws.
why don't we live in England?

all those dolls

I have eight hundred dolls,
the woman tells me, as I enter her house.
on the dining room table
is a two foot tall
replica of Marie Osmond in a wedding
dress.
she's staring blankly with
her black Mormon
eyes towards the far end of the house.
I look in that direction too.
dolls are everywhere.
there are two rooms full of them,
sitting on shelves.
standing, some are in glass cases,
sealed in plexi-glass boxes.
many are dressed
in costumes. Dorothy from the wizard
of oz.
the tin man, the lion, the scare crow.
there are dolls sitting on the end of her bed.
legs folded, stiff backed
with porcelain.
I collect dolls, she says,
sweeping her short heavy
arm about the room,
we go into the basement, there are
more dolls.
all staring with simple smiles
on their faces.
cheeks forever puffed with words
that will never be spoken. I love my
dolls she says,
slightly out of breath,
do you have any children?

it's your immune system

it's your immune system,
the clerk
at the vitamin shop
says to you
in a heavy accent.
you sneeze several times,
then blow your nose.
he doesn't say god bless even once.
which you attribute to him
being fearful of offending
his own god, or gods.
he adjusts his turban,
and smooths out the sheer
lavender
sleeves of blouse. he's wearing
white slippers.
you need
vitamins. I can put you on
a plan.
come over here,
and sign up. I need one credit
card, an e mail
address,
and your signature at
the bottom.
I will have you not sneezing
in two weeks, or
seven days, guaranteed.
let's begin with some bee pollen.
he shakes the bottle
showing you the large
amber colored pills
you are to take twice a day.
do you have a truck or car?
he asks,
I have many boxes of pills
for you.
once you finish the paper work,
pull your car up
and I will wheel up your supply
of vitamins.
i'm not sure, I tell him.
I need to think about this.
okay. okay.
you want to be sick then, I
don't understand, but okay.
what if I took off 50 per cent
on your first order?
would you want to be healthy then?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

i have nothing to wear

she stands in her underwear
at the closet door and asks,
what about this dress,
holding up a long blue
dress with fake diamonds
sprinkled
about its night like fabric.
nah,
too something. too much. we're
not going to a broadway show.
it's a wake, a funeral.
something in burlap, or brown
sack cloth might work.
but I don't have anything like that.
she goes back into her long
endless closet. I can hear the hangers
sliding. finally
she takes out a short red dress
that rises above her knees.
low cut.
ummm.
too provocative?
maybe. but
save it for after church, okay.
and those heels too.

what lies ahead

afloat, skimming the surface
of lime
green water, not a care,
a wish
a bother.
my hand
pulls against the shallow
warm,
a sweet yellow sun rises
like a flower
in the sky.
i could spend eternity
in this position.
come with me,
let's float together
towards bliss, to what
lies ahead.

the bruise

how the bruise arrives,
you aren't sure.
yellow and blue,
a sea green against your ribs.
when did you bump
into something?
who knows.
the vagueness of the day
startles you.
even pain, small pain
is ignored
these days as you press
on towards
a moving clock.

i'm here

the postcard
arrives.
hi, it says. wish you were here.
on the front
is a picture
of the hotel
where she's staying.
she presses her red lips
to the back
of it. the smudge
dried. she
signs it, with love,
always.
if you aren't busy
with life,
come soon. i'm here.

a cafe in Rome

you meet her in a café
near the ruins
in Rome.
she's wearing dark sunglass
against her pale
face.
she looks like she's been
sitting there for eons.
dressed in black,
a coliseum cat
in the shade, sitting
in the same chair
drinking the same drink.
crossing those same
legs.
fancy meeting you here,
she says, sipping
delicately
from a straw. you can almost
hear the lions roar,
the Christians dying,
their futile prayers,
broad swords clashing against
one another.
we should just fall in love,
she says,
and end this. all of this
history tells us something,
doesn't it?
perhaps, you tell her.
perhaps.

hardly a shadow

hardly a shadow
makes it out of bed on
this slosh
of a day.
this grey string of
pearls
drawing a curtain
on the sun. hardly a muscle
moves
off the couch,
in this hourless day,
this morning where
a long list awaits, but
nothing gets done.

Friday, May 20, 2016

why men spit

it's rare to see a woman spit.
men spit all the time,
and scratch.
spitting is what we do.
out the window,
while playing sports,
biking,
or hiking. it starts when
you're a boy,
seeing how far you can spit.
we have too much
saliva.
it's science.
women don't understand
all this spitting and scratching
that we do.
they are much more demure
with their
spitting
and scratching.
it's rare to see a woman spit.

shower songs

sometimes you sing
in the shower.
Sinatra
or elvis.
Dylan if the throat
feels craggy
and old.
not a whole song,
maybe a few verses,
filling in with mumbles
for the words
you can't remember.
the bar of soap
is your microphone.
you don't sing too loud
or long,
no need to scare
the neighbors,
get the dogs a howling.

staging

the empty house.
staged
for the new buyers,
if they like the yard,
the roof,
the parking,
the way the toilets flush,
the oven heats.
there's
a red couch against one wall.
a plant on the sill.
a picture
of an ocean, waves
lapping
under a silvery moon.
small things.
a vase,
an indigo jar
that catches light.
there are
place mats on the table
as if
dinner is about
to be served.
no one cares about any of that.
does the house
sing.
does it feel
right, is this a place
I can sleep
and feel safe
at night.

the earth moves

things fall
when the earth shakes, cracks
open. roars.
anything loose
rattles, drops
and breaks, bounces.
we hold on to one another.
disaster
brings us together,
gives us
a deeper understanding
of what love is
or isn't.

forever

against the rail
that borders the thin lake
holding sky
and a setting sun,
the two lovers,
so young,
press their bodies
into one another.
whispering loudly
about fidelity and love.
she's holding a small
white dog on a leash,
his hands
are on her hips.
they are alone and surrounded
by others.
you sit on the bench
ten feet away.
decisions that will change
their lives
forever are about
to be made.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

the grammar witch

the grammar witch
sends you an email telling you
that it's farther,
not further.
she strikes you with the proverbial
stick
across your knuckles.
get it right dope, she says.
farther is used for distance.
further
is used for an idea.
I want to discuss this further.
or I can run
farther than you.
okay. I write back. what about
its and it's.
you'll never get that she says,
it's beyond
you.

wooden shoes

my friend Bridgette is heading
to Holland
for a vacation, so i ask
her to pick up a pair of those
wooden shoes they make over there.
she says okay, and takes
down my size.
maybe a half size larger,
I tell her.
I could put cotton in them
to keep my feet from blistering.
I have rather long toes.
good idea she says. what color?
hmmm. maybe a dark
mahogany, with a matte finish.
easy on the polyurethane.
got it she says.
maybe i'll pick up a pair too
and we can go
dancing in them.
can't wait, I tell her.

we have a goat now

one of her husbands
calls you late at night and says
how would you
like it if I did this to your wife.
but I don't have a wife
I tell him.
I shake her shoulder to wake her up.
do you know
who this is I ask,
holding the lit phone in the darkness
of the bedroom.
oh, that's stan, my husband.
we're not officially divorced yet.
he still loves me.
he wants me back, he's at home
watching the cats
and dogs. we have a goat now too,
did I tell you that?
goats make very nice pets,
if you didn't know.
he's so sweet.
they cry like little babies.

keys are lost

keys are lost.
money
dropped, a dog
hops the fence and runs
away.
the wife cheats
and finds
a better man,
you get fired from
another job,
your children change
their names,
leave town
with no forwarding
address.
weeds are sprouting
in your lawn.
squirrels
are in the attic.
mice in the cellar.
the meter
where you parked has
run out.
the pink ticket
blows like a long
wanting tongue
in the wind.
you find the keys in
the cuff of your pants.
it's a beautiful day.

her good shoes

the shoes tell the story.
those flip flops
suggest a lazy day
of meandering
about,
coffee, small shopping,
gazing at our navels.
the running shoes, prepare
to sweat
and stretch,
a long hike through
the wet woods
across the street.
the nice dress with a low heel,
maybe a matinee,
or lunch
with a white table cloth
and real flowers
near the salt shaker.
the black stilettos
tell another story altogether.
dim the lights,
draw the shades.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

the riot down below

there is a riot out in the street.
I can see that
from my window, five stories up.
cars are over turned,
fires burn.
there is unease about
the system.
i'm eating
nuts from a jar,
drinking hard liquor.
I have no interest
in the politics
below.
a good book, a good nights sleep.
dinner
and love
seem to be enough
these days
to keep me from marching.
they can have their turn.

alone

even the loved one
beside
you. head upon her pillow.
breathing,
full of dreams
is a mystery to you.
a stranger
in your room.
even a brother
is unknown.
a sister hidden in
her own
shadows.
what there is to know
about anyone
is known,
what isn't
stays
where it is. this keeps
you
strangely distant,
alone.

the tide

you want it to be more,
but you suspect
that this what it will
be,
no more, no less
than what it seems.
a younger man would be
distressed with this
revelation,
but not you. your acceptance
of each day
is new, and welcomed.
you are letting the tide
carry you out
to sea.
it's the sea you knew
as a child and know
even better now.

therapists in the food court

you overhear
two therapists talking one
day
in the food court.
their office is next to the Gap,
not the real Gap,
but the Gap outlet.
one is dining on
an Asian
dish, deep fried rooster
and rice and the other
is having a cinnamon bun
the size of her head
with a cup
of coffee.
they are discussing patients.
they don't
see you, or notice
that you might
be listening as you suck
on the straw
of an orange Julius.
she's a loser,
the one therapist says.
dates bad men.
can't hold a job, can't sleep
at night.
she wants to go back to school.
at her age. ha.
I almost want to tell her
to jump off
a bridge.
the other one laughs
and sips her coffee.
I have this one patient,
she says, who
thinks he's funny. he thinks
everything is funny.
he can't stop
joking around,
it's a cry for help really.
the insecurity
of these people is astounding.
I told him he needs to settle
down, get married
again
and take life more seriously.
but does he listen, no.
what do I care,
he can keep coming as long
as he wants to.
cha ching. she says, rubbing
her fingers together.
then the other one says, cha ching,
but louder.
they high five,
then head back to the office.

mother in law

it's hard for mother
in laws
not to be meddling, passive
aggressive people.
it's part
of who they are.
the second a child marries
into the wrong
family,
thinking that they are all
wrong,
they turn like an apple
fallen to the ground.
his wife can't cook, she says.
too much salt.
the husband
can't earn.
he's only from Yale, not
Harvard.
the kids are undisciplined,
shaking her head.
the dog sheds.
all of this
mumbled quietly
where it can't be heard
until safely in the car
and driving back
to Pennsylvania.

the dermatologist

the doctor points
what looks
like a drill to your head
and blasts
you with
a cold sting of liquid nitrogen.
that mole
will drop
off in a week, she says,
eating a sandwich
from the other hand.
what's that on the side
of your nose,
she says.
blasting your nose with
the cold
liquid. oh that's where
my sunglasses sit.
it's a callous.
oh. well, whatever.
that should come
off in a day
or two.
anything else you need
frozen off of you?
nah, I'm good.

cherrywood floors

these floors are cherry wood,
the woman
says to me, as I look at her
walls for painting and wallpapering.
she asks me to remove my shoes
and any sharp objects
that might be
in my possession. spit out your
gum she says, putting her open
hand close to my mouth.
I do as I am told.
do you know how many cherry
trees had to be chopped down
in order to make this floor.
no, I tell her.
thirty? forty?
three hundred cherry trees
she says,
that's how many.
an orchard of cherry trees.
do you know what a floor like
this costs,
a floor made out of cherry wood.
no, I say again.
I dunno. a hundred dollars?
pfffft. she says.
multiply that by a thousand.
sometimes we sit on the deck
and stare in to look
at our cherry wood floors.
you can't clean them
with anything but
cherry juice, or spit
from a llama.
how nice, I tell her.
how do you walk on them?
they're everywhere.
we don't, she says. we put
runners down, soft mohair
runners, and we stay in our
socks and bare
feet. how will I be able to do
any work with these floors?
I dunno, she says, but if you
harm them in anyway, ding, dent,
chip or spill paint,
you'll be liable.
my husband's a lawyer.
let me show you to the door.
send me your estimate
and here's your gum back, she says,
unfolding her hand
with my pink wad of gum
stuck to her palm. we look forward
to working with you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

checking the oil

there was a time
when I checked the oil
in my car
religiously,
pulling out the dip stick
wiping it,
putting it back
in again and then reading
the level
of engine oil.
sometimes, i'd take
a can of quaker state
out of the trunk,
pop it and pour
it into the appropriate
opening
in the engine.
I can't remember the last
time I did such
a thing. I just get in
and drive now.
the oil, like many things
I used to do,
is someone else's
problem.

we can do this, oui?

you get a postcard
from france, you know a few
people
who live there,
but this is not from
one them.
it's in French.
your high school French
fails you.
you can see your French
III teacher,
mrs. moak
scowling, shaking her
head of brillo
red hair,
snapping her stick
against your desk saying,
in French, we can do this,
oui?

someone holds you

there is enough
of everything that you need,
so why
worry, why fret
and pace
the room.
the basics are covered.
all your
daily needs.
why twitch, why blink,
why wring your hands
over these things.
it starts in the crib,
the cry,
then the bottle
comes
and someone holds you.

Monday, May 16, 2016

operators are standing by

your new doctor
is all
over
the social media.
I liked her on facebook,
but talking
by phone or in person
is an anathema to
her.
her e mails
are gentle though,
with a literary bent,
benign
in the sense of not
judging
you for your bad
eating
habits, keeping
at arms length such
things as kale
and Brussel sprouts,
or your consumption
of grey goose.
she suggests green olives
and to watch the toothpicks,
reminding you that
Sherwood Anderson
died with one stuck
in his throat
while consuming a dirty
dry martini.
and if you're feeling
depressed and saddened
like mr. Hemmingway
or dear ms. plath
please call
our hot line, operators
are standing by.

what did he look like

he was a handsome man,
she said
to the police, my poetry
professor nearing
the end of her long
career.
he kept trying to grab
my purse
as I sat in my car,
but I wouldn't let him.
we struggled
and I may have kicked
him in the mouth
with my boot. I felt
bad for that,
because he had
such pretty teeth.
I imagined he did well
with the girls. he had a nice
voice too.
not too high, or deep.
he was young and tanned.
blue eyed.
but not very strong.
he never got my purse.

no gym

sometimes your mother
would let you see the muscle
in her arm,
pulling back the sleeve
of her blouse
so that an enormous bulge
popped out.
all her children
would gather around her
and take their small
hands to feel this
solid rock
on her arm. comparing it
their own
puny skin and bones.
ironing, cleaning,
hanging wet clothes on
the line,
cooking, lifting
and chasing us
did wonders for her
physique.

page one

on the surface
her book cover was interesting.
the blurbs of others,
who praised
her at great length
were written in large
white letters
on the back flap.
once you pick her up you won't
be able to put her
down.
a fun read long into the night.
mysterious
and complex.
this is a powerful woman,
who won't take no for
answer.
you get the soft back copy,
and turn
to page one.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

coming up short

the magician saws
the woman in half, bloodless,
she's smiling
as he separates the front
from the back,
swirls the boxes around.
not a single scream
is heard,
no crunching of bones,
no fear.
he's happy with his work,
bowing
to the applause.
holding up the shiny
sharp toothed saw.
the feet sticking out of one
box wiggle,
while the arms on
the front wave.
then he puts them back together,
waves a wand,
and the woman appears
whole again, but shorter now,
much shorter.

more money

he dips
the stick into the pan
of his
accounts,
like oil, stares at the line
to see
where he stands.
half full.
down a quart
from yesterday.
more money is needed.
time to grind
the wheel,
plow the field,
stand
with a can
on the corner
where the rich
people go.

her shy side

her shy side
comes out
when you touch
her hand,
she blushes, turns
a merlot
shade of pink,
dropping her
eyes,
fluttering the lashes,
long
and dark against
her pale face.
it's all a plan
to swallow you whole,
lure you
into the web
of her
desire.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

boiling water

that noise you hear
downstairs, in the kitchen
could be
the pot full of redskin
potatoes
boiling over.
you lean your ear closer to
the door.
the smoke alarm
hasn't started,
you still have a few more
minutes
to do this.

the ice cube

look at my goosebumps
she says,
putting an ice cub on her leg.
cool,
isn't it. a fleshy field
of bumps.
we are bored people.
ice cubes
are holding our interest
at nine o'clock
on a Tuesday night.
the television
is on mute,
naked and afraid.
who hasn't been you offer
her,
as she moves the ice
cube
to her knee.
what? she says.
licking the drips
off her hand.

kindness

kindness
is often mistaken for
weakness.
but the kind
are
holding a secret.
they have a murderer's heart,
a skillful
way
of carving up
the toughest of foes.
don't nudge
the kind person,
a tip
I've learned,
embraced and know.

let's go boating

everyone over drank
in the hot sun,
got sick eating raw fish
and oysters.
there was wind rocking
the boat,
waves.
the whole world was moving
side to side.
then it started to rain
and got cold.
the captain picked up
the anchor and headed home.
we all huddled up
in the cabin
and shivered in our
wet summer
clothes. we talked about how
we would have killed
ourselves if we
had been on the mayflower.
someone said I hate boats
and fish, staring
into the cooler where a large
flounder
flopped around.
someone else said
me too, never again,
then we ran up the steps
to get sick
once more over the side.

the big crash

there was a crash
of twelve strollers
in the neighborhood
the other day.
it was a blind turn
down a hill before the sand
pit playground.
three babies
went flying
out of their seats
like little beach balls,
rolling out
onto the sidewalk
and grass.
their binkies and bottles
scattered
in the wind.
there was screaming,
and crying.
some women almost
dropped their
vanilla skim lattes
onto the ground while
others,
nearly
lost the calls on
their cell phones pressed
to their ears. one women
fell down,
ripping her yoga pants
at the knees.
it was mayhem.

holly

you've known
your share of holly
golightlys in your day.
fallen madly
for them.
weakened
by the spell that they
would weave.
all eyes and hips,
lips
and sass.
it was like
playing with mercury,
never quite
getting a hold of them.
shiny and silvery
in the moonlight,
hardly ever
seeing them
in the light of day,
gone
off to someone else
before
daybreak.

the applause

there is no
applause
at the end of most
work days.
there is no bow,
no encore,
no standing center stage
and blowing kisses,
accepting
bouquets.
no. it's not like
that at all.
it's going home
after a hard day of work
to unfreeze what's
frozen
in the ice box
and turning on the tv,
feet usnhoed
upon the coffee table.

Friday, May 13, 2016

the open space

it's sad
to see the large tree gone
down
in the deluge
of rain,
the trunk too old
to hold so much
water.
the winds helped.
how beautiful it was
as the seasons changed.
if it groaned as it fell,
you wouldn't know.
the workers take it apart
in small pieces,
grinding the great
oak down.
straddling it's long limbs
with chainsaws.
you think that you will
never get used to anyone
or thing passing,
but in time,
you do. in time you
accept the open
space that is before you
and move on.

riding the metro

the blue line
is on fire, the orange
line cars
have gone off the rail.
one train is trapped in a tunnel
of toxic fumes
and smoke.
they need to rename the trains
in the metro
system
to black,
skull and crossbones,
grey,
and doomed.
pray before boarding.
but they look nice going by,
the riders
holding onto
straps for dear life.

the butter cake

the waiter is from
Michigan,
he was married once,
has three children.
he tells you their names,
why they are named
after the seasons.
winter, spring and fall.
no summer.
the marriage ended before
that season
could be conceived.
he forgets the silverware
and water.
brings the bread out
cold,
without butter,
and gives your order
to her, not to you,
but he's very nice, very
generous
with his words of how
nice we look tonight
and that we are part of this
family,
this restaurant
family. you can hardly chew
without him
appearing
and asking a question
about what you do, where do
live.
he convinces you to try
the dessert,
his favorite.
raves about it, tells you
that the chef
invented it one night in a dream,
and now here it is.
a butter cake
with icing.
how can you not over tip
a man
so lonely.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

canadian club

when you sat
at the top of the stairs
and listened to your mother
and father fight,
listened to
the cursing, the dishes
breaking against
the wall,
you wondered
why they still had the tv
on. usually it was
Alfred Hitchcock
Presents.
finally, exhausting each
other with
verbal tirades fueled
by Canadian Club Whiskey,
they'd quit, or fall asleep
in separate chairs.
sometimes your mother
would have a cast
on her arm
the next day, a piece
of adhesive tape
holding her black framed
glasses together.
your father would
be in the kitchen
sweeping up glass,
and frying eggs and bacon
for everyone,
strangely serene.

delivery

you could kiss
the Chinese food delivery man
on the lips,
hug him
until he hurts
when he finally
arrives with your order.
you are that hungry.
instead you
throw in an extra
few bucks onto the tip,
which makes him
bow
and back away slowly
to his Hyundai
still idling
in the wet lot.
it's a heavy bag
that you rip into,
hardly waiting for a plate
to begin
eating your general tso
chicken.
maybe you should have ordered
less. skipped
the Peking duck
completely.
there is so much food
they've included
four fortune cookies.
you'll pick
the one that fits best,
and go with that.

you know

there are times
when you feel what's about to happen.
a small
tingle
of intuition
rings
a bell inside your heart
and mind.
sets a crawl
a feeling across
your cool skin.
whether good
or bad, makes no difference.
you know,
not exactly, but
know that something
is about
to go down.

not making plans

let's make plans
to do
nothing. to stay in all
day
out of the weather,
away
from the crowd.
let's
cook slowly in the kitchen,
then on the couch.
putting our feet up,
to hold hands
in a blissful
tiredness.
let's not talk about
tomorrow, of what could
be,
let's eat,
let' laugh, let's be
quiet in
the cloud of each
other's like.

your sins

it's a short line
outside
the confessional booth
this Saturday
morning.
you wait your turn.
maybe people aren't sinning
as much as they
used to
you think.
you remember when the line
went out the door
when you were a kid,
standing there
counting out a multiple
of sins on your fingers.
finally the last
person comes out of
the booth.
she's beautiful, she
straightens
her skirt
and smiles at you before
quietly going
to a pew to kneel and say
her penance.
your sins keep piling
up.

stay tuned

the hot air balloon
striped in primary colors
of red and blue,
once floating across the bright
sky
is seen on the news
burning,
hung up
on a long stretch
of power lines.
what happens next makes
you decide
to forgo that adventure
with your loved
one,
and stay on the ground.
stayed tuned
the newscaster says,
shaking her head,
is that tea you're drinking
making
you sick, robbing you
of your libido
and ambition. well you won't
believe what these scientists
are saying about ice tea.
stay tuned.
you put the glass of tea
down that you were drinking
and wait through
the commercial.

aging

she complains
about how men lie about their age,
why do they do that she says
while picking
up a new hair color,
and making
an appointment
to straighten out
those furrows in her brow
with another dose
of botox.
why can't men accept
their age
she says, rubbing a cream
into her face,
smoothing
lipstick onto her fattened
lips.
taking an hour in the mirror
to put on her makeup.
what's wrong with men,
women accept
aging so much easier,
she says,
as she steps into
a pair of hose that
tightens her waist, slims
her figure.

you wait

the thought slips
out of your
mind, never reaching your
tongue,
your mouth to
utter the wit
and wisdom of your words.
you had it
for a moment, the perfect
thing to say
to put a period
on the conversation,
then walk away,
but it's gone,
lost.
so the conversation
goes on,
you've stopped
listening, you wait.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

restless

the natives are
restless
in this rain, jazzed
under
the clouds, stuffed
with bad food
and coffee, not dancing,
but pacing
the stale rooms.
how much rain is enough,
they say.
driving madly
to and fro.
where is the sun,
is there a God,
who am I,
does anyone care,
or know.
let's meet under the bright
lights
of someplace.
before it rises, before
this deluge
reaches the point, where
we have to build
a boat, and row.

Monday, May 9, 2016

who will go

who will go
and see to it, see
to the boxing
of his life.
the placards, the books,
the shelves
of things that only he
held tight.
who will go and see
that the body
is buried,
the accounts closed,
who will take care of
the things not given
away,
just left for someone
to take,
unsold.
who will go
and do these things,
it falls to you, your
turn
at the wheel
once held by small hands,
windows
rolled down,
a wind in your face,
a wind you still feel.

it used to be rum

it used to be rum
that transported you to a happier
point of view.
hardly old,
hardly young,
in the saddle
of the lean long
bar,
decorated in blonde
ornaments,
dark eyed
women,
having discovered the power
of their charms.
how the music
played so loud, how loudly
you spoke,
perusing what
could be found.

each to his own

we are all cowards,
bent
inside to some part of our lives,
hidden.
we are children
in the closet,
under the bed,
hiding in an attic from
the boogeyman.
each to his own fears,
his own
way of dying slowly.

coming soon

a bronzed sky
settles in across the bow
of this ship
we sail on.
everything slips into the sea
at some point.
we try not to think too hard
about that
and drink,
our toes are stretched
towards
moonlight
coming soon, coming soon.

small talk

my friend
complains about his wife.
her weight gain.
her disinterest in sex.
her long hours
at work,
and her rotten son,
now his stepson.
it wouldn't be bad if
he mentioned any of this
once or twice
a year,
but every time we talk
or see each other,
he brings it all up.
I hate my job, he says.
shaking his head.
my boss is such a horrible
person.
he cheats me out of sales.
I listen, I sigh.
but finally break, I tell
him his life is a living hell.
to this he shows surprise
and says what?
why would you say something
like that?
from this point on
I never hear another word
about any
of it. we talk sports now.


still life

you must come
over and see my etchings,
Lydia
tells me on the phone.
I've been working on a charcoal
sketch
of a tree.
lovely, I tell her.
maybe you could do me, as
well.
I could pose
by the fireplace.
no, she says. I don't do
still life.
I like things that
are in bloom,
and full of vigor.

the sunset diner

I remember
getting carded for a drink
or going into
an R rated movie,
now it's a different
card they ask
to see,
the discount
senior citizen ID.
I shuffle into the sunset
diner
for the late
afternoon special.
I just saw a matinee,
half price.
It should have been less.
there are no Audrey
Hepurns left.
i'm wearing a pair
of light
blue pants with a white
belt, matching
white shoes, a banlon
shirt, black and a
a fedora with a wide
band.
I say hello to the ladies
in the corner booth,
tipping my hat,
asking them how the fish
is tonight.
cocktails are half price.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

the whole world in his hands

I look at my globe,
the one on my desk.
shiny in the overhead light,
metallic blue
with red lines,
black lines
going east and west,
north and south.
patches of green and brown,
so round, I spin it,
not unlike how God
does every morning
when he wakes up.
go ahead and laugh,
can you disprove this
notion. it's crazy,
I know.
but we're
so lucky to have air
and water,
coffee.
the New Yorker through
the mail
slot every two weeks.
the miracles
are endless.
I spin it faster,
with the thought that some
people might
fall off,
but no such luck.

the maddening crowd

you don't like
crowds.
never have. never liked
being in mix
of jostling strangers.
concerts, political
rallies, beaches on
the fourth of july.
you prefer
a limited number of people
in your presence.
the airport at
Christmas is crushing.
black Friday.
you don't understand
the madness
of the mob.
the yelling and screaming,
the whistling
and lighting of
matches for an encore,
one more song.

flesh wound

the bullet
won't go back into the barrel.
it's too late
for that.
the gun smokes in her hand.
it hit its mark.
straight through
to the other side of your
heart.
just a flesh wound,
you say.
plugging the hole
with a finger.
she blows on the barrel
and says, take that
you rat.
you had it coming to you.
just a flesh
wound you tell her, it's
nothing.
but I guess this changes
things
between us.

burning things

you build a fire.
watch it burn in the barrel.
the flames
etching
the cold sky,
ashes rising.
you put your hands
over the heat
rubbing them
together.
yellows and orange,
spits of red
and white.
the crackle of leaves
and dry wood,
sticks, timber.
it's a fine fire.
one you'll watch and wait
with throughout
the night.
you toss in all the things
that bother you,
watch them
go up, disappear
in the furnace.

how it goes

pick up your clothes,
do your home work.
take that finger out
of your nose.
don't let the screen
door slam,
let the dog out,
let the dog in.
make your bed,
put the seat down.
go brush your teeth.
take a bath.
use soap.
go to bed.
got to sleep.
time to come in
supper's ready,
go wash your hands,
sit down and eat.
leave your sister alone,
no fighting
in the back seat.
keep your arms
in the car.
no spitting.
nor cursing.
go to church.
say your prayers.
get a job, get married.
no, not that one,
choose a different one.
have some kids.
move close. how come
you never call me,
visit me.
I miss you.

folding money

he had a roll of cash
in his pocket.
folding money.
money that he liked
to flash.
always a hundred
on the outside.
rumor was, was that he
was connected
to someone in new
jersey. doubtful, but
it made a nice
story. when he died,
they searched his house.
knocked down
the walls,
tore it apart.
split open the cushions,
the mattresses.
there was nothing,
nothing but
the single roll
of cash.
the same roll of ones
that he'd been carrying
around for years, a hundred
dollar bill wrapped
around the outside.
his whole life
was about that.

finding a way

we veer
and sway, wobble
at times,
unable to stay
on the straight and narrow
line
that lies before us.
the road is not
like that. it's not
a clear shot.
detours,
bridges washed
out,
the mountain slides,
brush fires,
trails
unpaved force us to
take another way.
we veer, it's all
we can do
to get where we need
to go
at the end of any given
day.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

unkept

she whispers
into your ear a secret.
don't tell
anyone, she says.
promise me, this is between
just you and me.
I promise
you say, rushing home
to write it down
and hit send.

the viewing

in the mix
of suits and dark clothing,
women
in vague mourning, and yes,
there are flowers,
there are true tears,
but alone
he stands, the friend,
he keeps saying
over and over again,
how his best friend,
will be missed.
it is more his party than
that of
the deceased, so well groomed,
at last,
lying in comfort near the front.
music is played,
photos in new frames leaning
towards this dim light we stand in.
and the man
in the center of it all orchestrates
the sadness
with a thoughtful whisper,
the sympathetic smile, friendly
disingenuous pats.
our day will come, he says,
now an expert on death. look
how many are here,
we'd be lucky
to have as many when our
day comes,
it's more than luck you whisper,
letting go of his hand,
stepping away from
his fun.

there is the night

these other things we do,
between
darkness and light,
the selling and buying,
the changing
of clothes,
the cutting of grass,
paying bills,
fixing
the door that won't
close tight.
these other things
have their own collective
weight,
and tilt the scales
as to making one's life
seem trivial,
without meaning,
but then
there is the night.

what to do

a flash of rain,
just a sputter,
a morning shower,
it pings
along the rooftop,
fills
the gutter,
rushes out towards
the welcoming
arms
of a stream.
it changes your plans,
this rain,
this cloud burst.
but there is so
much more to do,
or not do, before
the sun
appears again.

what's real

the gore of movies
is a constant.
as is
the flash of skin,
the innuendoes of sex
and violence.
hard not to understand
and bring into
the real world
this fiction,
when so much
of what we watch keeps
going in.

not here

a shallow bowl
of rain water left on
the table
outside
ripples in the wind
of wings, hovering,
birds
deciding
on where to land,
to bathe, to drink.
they come close,
but change their minds,
as we all do
from time to time.

the needs of others

you have a coal miner's cough.
persistent.
it makes you bend
over in the morning to clear
your lungs.
people move away
from you when it starts
without a stop.
your face goes red,
then white.
in time you straighten up
and breathe as deeply
as possible, which isn't
very deep at all.
your blackened hands
wipe your mouth,
you go on with your life,
back into the mines.
people need heat,
need light.

the flat world

there is the flat
world
that you live on.
no turns,
no curve, no spin
to it whatsoever.
your life consists
of going to places
you've already been,
then back home again.
straight lines
from here to there.
where is this round
world you keep
hearing about?

Friday, May 6, 2016

eating an orange

I prefer to peel
the orange with a stab of a finger,
then work my way around,
separating in jagged pieces
the hard skin
from the fruit.
she's different, taking a knife
and cutting it calmly
into four even pieces, placing
the quarters neatly
on a plate. she takes a napkin
to lift an orange slice,
then bites.
meanwhile the juices
run down my chin, the back
of my wrist keeping
the drips off the table,
the seeds, as I wipe.

shadow

it's a shadow,
a long lean
wisp of
darkness
without light.
it holds your soul,
your life, what came before.
each step
you take, it's with you,
even as you sleep
it lies
upon the floor awaiting
your return.
without judgement of what
you do,
or where you go,
it's with you through and
through,
until the light is cupped
and shines no more.

the green shirt

I feel uncomfortable wearing
a green shirt, or pants.
any kind of green.
I end up staring at them
the whole day.
asking people, what do you
think of this shirt?
it's too green isn't it.
I don't look good in green,
do I?
but no one gives me an
honest answer, or they don't
care enough to give it
much thought. I find it best
to not buy or wear any more
green shirts or pants.
this solves the problem.

clear goals

my goals
are clear today.
get out of bed,
take a shower,
brush my teeth,
leave the house
and get coffee.
what comes next
is up to the Gods.
let fate prevail
and lead me forward
on this rainy day
in may.

turkey slices

she didn't like
the way I cut the turkey
on holidays,
so she'd cut
it in the kitchen
to save the embarrassment
of taking
the knife out of my
hand in front of
all our living relatives.
she was kind like
that, but I still believe
in my cutting skills,
and think often
of how that task was taken
away from me.

the wig store

just for fun,
you stop into the wig store
on king street
and pick out
a few to try on.
the elvis,
the ringo,
the joe cocker, the rita Hayworth,
and then
the billy idol. that one
you like best.
you've had each before
in various stages of
your life, but
why go backwards now?

enough

her dog,
blind, deaf, a greyish roll
of fatted flesh
and fur,
tumbles
down the steps.
unhurt.
he shakes it off
and goes towards
the light,
the thin veneer of his
blue eyed retinas leading
him to the balcony door,
he bumps his head
into the glass.
there he lifts
a leg onto a shoe
and pees, then
finds another corner,
a sand
box to finish things.
it's a long
day for the dog.
a long night for the both
of them.
neither quite ready
to say enough.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

the front desk

the woman who runs the front desk,
who has control
of the button
as to who comes into the building
or not,
is the queen bee.
if she knows you,
you're in, if not you have
to talk into the little square
speaker and state your case.
making minimum wages
she controls
the ebb and flow of the high rise.
everyone knows her,
stays on her side.
brings her cakes and treats,
butters her up with hellos,
don't you look nice today,
and goodbyes.
she takes the packages from
ups, fedex, the postman
and sets them aside.
she hands out the parking passes.
she knows the weather,
the news. who to call when someone
dies. she knows if
the mailman has come yet.
she keeps the maintenance men
in line.
where the Christmas tree will
stand in the lobby, don't worry
about it,
she'll decide.

born to be mild

he pulls up the sleeve
of his denim jacket,
the one with a skull and crossbones
patch and shows
me his zipper like scar
that runs down from his shoulder
to his elbow.
then another one on
his knee.
there is a gash, healed,
and pink on his forehead.
a few teeth are narrowed
and pointed from
hitting pavement, but filed
down nicely
for eating meat.
I love my Harley, he says.
you should get one.
I can't wait for the weather
to get nice again,
so I can get out and ride.
do you ride?
nah. not for me, i'm more
of a walker, although
some of those
scars are pretty cool.
yeah, he says. chicks dig em.

the baseball game

I want to share
some of what i'm feeling
with you,
she says,
as I clip my toe nails,
and watch
baseball on tv.
the dog comes over and runs
away with one
that falls onto the rug.
no use chasing him.
I've met someone, she says.
someone I really like
a lot.
actually, he's been
a friend for a long time,
and we
reconnected on facebook.
you don't know him.
I look up from the tv,
and say, what?
did you see what Harper
just did.
my god he's the next
mickey mantle. if he could
just get his emotions
under control.
what? did you say something
about facebook.
I meant to post that cake
I baked the other
day, but forgot.
I said that I met someone
and i'm moving out.
oh, I say. wincing as
harper strikes out and breaks
his bat over
his knee.
you're leaving where. the mall?
no, i'm leaving you,
for someone else.
I stop clipping my nails
and almost turn to her,
but Zimmerman has just hit
a long fly ball
off the left field foul pole.
I get up and let out
a yell.
I look around the room,
but she's gone,
the dog is on the bed chewing
on something.

the cold box

you have a photograph of her
standing
in a store
next to an open refrigerator.
she's not smiling.
she looks grim.
the light is bright
inside the white
metal box, not yet cold.
the racks shine,
the tags still on the edge
of the door.
she's in black.
a scarf around her neck.
she looks
angry. you had a way of making
her feel that way
on a daily basis.
taking this photo probably
didn't help things.

to the curb

it's hard
to sell old things that you own,
best
to set them by the curb.
coats and old boots,
the pictures
framed, the mattress, the toaster
oven
still filled with crumbs.
snow tires,
and the books you'll never
read
like fifty shades of grey,
one two and three.
drag all that junk
out to the curb,
and most of it will be gone
by morning.

it was nice

Venice was nice.
it was what you thought it would be.
the gondolas
the glass blowing, the cathedrals
and pigeons.
the canals
swaying with water,
the crowds
taking pictures,
posing on bricked bridges.
the history of it all,
Harry's bar.
even getting yelled at for asking
for a coffee to go
in a small bistro
was okay. but
it was a long
ways to go to get there.
a long ways back.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

the olive bar

as a child
i remember black olives
in a can,
jumbo, medium, or small,
pitted or non pitted.
my mother pulled them
off the shelf for thanksgiving,
placing them to wobble in a dish
with the word olives painted
across it.
she'd spend an hour or so
stuffing cream cheese in them
if her mother in law was coming
for dinner.
don't eat all the olives
before everyone gets here, she'd
yell from the kitchen,
sweating over
a boiling pot of chicken necks.
there were green olives too.
a muddied green
with a bright reddish
orange strand
of pimento
hanging from where the pit
was removed.
today,
I am overwhelmed by olives.
the shapes and sizes,
the textures.
bitter or less bitter,
some look like grapes
fallen into vinegar. frowning
from the brine
they lay in.
mountains of them stacked
in bins
with the sign olive bar
and their names
in script below
their special lighting.
things have changed
in the olive world, at least
for me.
don't even get me started
on cheese.

the grey bus

the shuffle
of the old being helped
off the bus
into the grocery store
is a bent
grey line.
it is what this day is about,
for them.
going out.
seeing the shelves
lined with things they once
needed,
but never will
again.
the world makes us circle
back
to where we began,
being cared for
at the hands of others.

the conference call

you try to arrange
all of your
telemarketers to call you
at the same time,
so that you can have
a conference call.
give them each a chance
to sell their pills,
their mortgages,
their roofs and replacement
windows. you want to give
each of them a chance to
explain their needs at
the policeman's fund,
the fireman's fund,
etc., some are in india
or china,
so it takes a lot of
planning, but it finally
happens. friends are made
as they all chatter at
once in their second or
third languages, you let them go
on and on with their spiels,
until finally you get
them to be quiet and you
tell them, as loudly and as
succinctly as possible,
No. and please
don't call again.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

the break up call

i know the call is coming,
it's been coming for quite awhile now.
I see her name on the little screen.
i see who it is, her picture beside it.
i let it ring and ring,
thinking perhaps she'll
hang up before I answer.
I dread these conversations,
they never go well,
in her mind I know
it's already been decided,
but i man up and answer.
hello, I say, hello, she says.
I think you might know what this
call is about, don't you?
I wipe the sweat from my brow,
gulp down some water and say yes, go on,
speak your mind. say what you need
to say. I feel the noose
around my neck. hear hatch door
unlock below my feet.
we need to go our separate ways,
she says, you are very non
committal. sometimes it seems
like you hardly care, one night
a week is not enough to keep
this relationship going. I need
more and so do you. it's for
the best, for both of us.
I sigh, and say yes, I know.
I should really seek some sort
of psychological help to get past this.
you should she says, going quiet.
I perceive this as an opening.
is there any middle ground?
I ask her. what about if I stop
by this sunday. it's your birthday,
isn't it.
i'll bring a nice card, chocolates,
flowers.
last week was my birthday, she says.
it's too late.
i'm sorry, but we both need to move on.
what about mother's day?
I ask. don't you want to see me
on mother's day?
let's move on son. it's time.
I hear the day care nurse take
the phone out of her hand,
then the rattle of a spoon
in a bowl of jello,
the harsh click of the receiver hanging up.
it's over.

where she's meant to be

her barn,
an immense collection of lumber
nailed together
a century ago, and raised,
stands wide
and tall in martinsburg
west Virginia.
the light slips through
the boards,
touches the crucifix
on the wall,
the rain too, some wind.
it sings,
this barn, it smells
old,
smells like yesterday,
you can hear
the boots against the floorboards,
hear the horses,
the stirring
of dishes in the kitchen
down below.
she leans
on the steps and holds onto
a post.
this ship will sail.
it's where she's meant to be,
where her
tomorrows will be,
the circle complete.

putting air in the tires

her religious fervor
would come and go in hot
spells,
cold spells.
it was a full service church,
she went to
to get a fill up, an oil
change,
some air in her tires.
there was
a language for everyone,
a mass
at all hours, one for the early
risers, one for
the night owls.
when her life straightened
out she forgot
about God for awhile,
set him on a shelf
she went about her life,
but keeping him within
arms reach
for the next time he
might be needed.

this world

you miss the pay phone.
the bottled
coke machine, red
and round shoulder,
sweating cold,
the counter fountain
where you
could get a grilled
cheese sandwich
and a pickle,
a handful of chips
for two dollars.
you miss
the gas station
attendant running out
to wipe your
windows,
the doorman, the thank
yous, come
again when buying anything
in a store.
you miss the tip
of the hat,
the good morning
salutation
from anyone crossing
your path.
it's a different world
than the one you grew up in,
and the next
one will
be less too.

Monday, May 2, 2016

the spies next door

the federal agent
knocks at my door, stiff in her
blue jacket, white shirt.
short hair.
she shows me her ID,
her gold badge and says
do you mind if I ask you
a few questions
about your neighbor,
he's applying
for a government job.
standard procedure, nothing to be
concerned about. she hands me her
business card.
sure, I say, come on in.
i'm making tea, please, have a seat.
I bring the tea out in two
teacups that I rarely use
and set out a plate of cookies.
she's not an unattractive
woman, but she seems a tad
manly in her demeanor. I wonder
when the last time was that she was
kissed by a man, a real man.
I want to observe her, to
find something usual
about her to write about.
one lump or two, I ask
her from the kitchen.
I peek into the dining room
and see her crossing
her legs. she has nice knees
and i suspect that she might be a runner.
with a snap she takes out her notepad.
no sugar for me, she says,
just cream if you have it.
when I bring the cream out I see
that she's already into the cookies,
in fact she's bitten into about
five or six of them and set them
back on the dish.
she's eaten the chocolate
kiss from the center of
the peanut butter cookie.
so, she says, sipping her tea,
wiping the crumbs off her lap.
how well do you know your
neighbor. she points to the wall
that adjoins his house to mine.
I lean towards her and cup my mouth.
I don't know him or his wife
at all, I tell her softly. they never
say hello, or anything. they are really
quiet people, which makes me suspicious.
I truly think they might be
Russian spies.
she writes this down.
I have cake, if these cookies
are a little stale, I tell her.
my dad sends me a tin every Christmas
from swiss colony.
they're always stale. no thank you,
she says. so what else do you
know or suspect about him.
well, I've never seen him with any
weapons, or anything, but
sometimes if I put a glass to the wall
I can hear them whispering to one
another, who whispers to one
another in their own house? oh,
and get this,
he's growing a beard.
I see she says. well. I think that's
all the information I need.
thank you for the tea and cookies,
we'll contact you if we need to know
more.
i'll keep an eye on them for you,
if you'd like. I have your card.
I stare at her card. is this a direct
line to the Bureau or your personal
cell phone. she takes the card and crosses
out her cell phone number,
then hands it back to me.
have a good day she says, walking
quickly out of the house. hello, can I wrap
up some cookies for the road? I yell to her,
but she's already back into her black
SUV and driving away.

wedding dancing

painful
to watch wedding dancing.
more painful
to drink too much and join in,
finding a child,
or an elderly woman
with blue
hair to swing with.
the aunts
come out as one, while
their husbands
eat, lean back
fat in their chairs and
talk sports,
or politics.
have you ever been to
a wedding where they haven't
played proud mary?
none that you can remember.
even at your own,
they did so, without request.
and when you look
at the solid
frozen slice of wedding
cake
still in your freezer,
you remember, sometimes
you'll take it out
and dance
across the kitchen floor,
spinning, dipping.
big wheels keep
on turning, proud mary
keeps on burning.

the sister's wedding

the picture
of her at the wedding
tells all,
her sister's wedding,
the sister
who would never marry, never
keep a man
or job very long,
that sister, the one
always needing,
always taking the wrong
turn
when given two choices,
or three.
at that wedding, the good
sister
stood behind
them all on the high step,
smiling
with her new man,
her head leaning
into his wide shoulder,
eyes squinting
into a white sunlight,
her fingers
crossed.

the winter clothes

it was the day
she put away her winter clothes.
in late spring,
neatly
into boxes.
sweaters and knits
to the cedar chest,
the careful folds.
long boots,
and boots for snow
placed back
into the dark corner
of a closet.
it was that day,
that she stopped and sat
on the bed
and cried.
remembering things.

the cutting

the butcher, with his wired
glove,
his white smock
stained
with the purple
arcs of blood, he cuts
all day
with sharpened knives,
each with its own purpose.
on his feet, he grows
weary in the cold room,
boots against drain,
the slap
of meat, the hooks,
the wrapping,
the scale tipping with
the weight
of each day slipping away.
it's a job, a life.
he knows no other,
it's too late for something
new, too far into
the day.

no matter

no matter
the weather, how quickly
it changes,
or slow, no
matter how many times
people hear it,
or are told,
they aren't prepared,
they walk about
unbooted in the snow,
without a coat,
or hat,
no umbrella
to hold as the rain
beats down.
the wind cuts into
their open
shirts,
their bare skin,
whistles and blows.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

love is like that

the slow fizz
of champagne, love is
like that.
the cold sweet
liquid
rolling down cheeks,
and chins,
upon breast
or brow.
the bubbles of infatuation
at midnight,
the corks sound,
happy in flight,
love is like that.
half drunk,
half tired, half in,
half out
of the bottle,
what remains
gone flat with time.
love too,
is like that.

beauty fading

the moon
sits still,
carved hard
and cold, an unwavering
milky eye
upon beauty,
fading, now
thinned, needing
disguise.
better when young
to find
more in life
than the mirror
that hangs upon
the wall.

inbetween

bored with me,
I bend
and twist towards something new,
an unstale view.
I let the wind
catch me
and heave me towards a new
a moon,
a fat yellow sun.
I want to be young again,
refreshed with love,
whether imaginary,
or real,
or perfectly
old and content,
spent and removed from youth.
this waiting, this vague
in between, this sameness
needs to go.

the unseen

his blindness comes slow,
a gradual crawl
concluding
at eighty seven years,
the blue
of his eyes, muddled
and thatched,
he's underwater, swimming
with his ears.
listening
to what comes next.
whose footsteps are those?
the past has left,
the future is here.

the end of beauty

the green of the goose's neck
is fluorescent, chrome
in color, a bright sheen
even in this rain.
a white stripe,
a red stripe, tight bands
around it's
thin neck, curled
and folded from being struck
by a car when
crossing the street.
it's not the end of beauty,
but close, that comes later,
when night falls,
and other things
take it further.

here, talk to mary

here, talk to mary
for awhile,
your friend says,
handing the phone
to his wife,
leaving the conversation
in mid sentence.
you hold the phone away
from your ear and stare at it.
shake your head.
this is the world we live
in now, you think, sadly.
you have nothing
to say to her, but you
are too polite and mannered
to hang up.

the argument

the couple next door
are having a fight. you hear a dish
hit the wall.
a glass.
there is more arguing.
there is a high pitched scream
and then the slamming of a door.
the baby begins
to cry.
you look out the window
and see the man
speed off.
shaking his head, scratching
his beard.
the woman comes out, holding
the baby,
she's in tears, standing on the porch.
there is nothing
you can do or say about any of this.
you don't know them.
they don't know you. but you know
the fight.
you don't miss it.

water bottles

you have left
bottles of water in nearly every room.
half gone.
some with spittle in the bottom,
the tops
screwed on.
they are like lone soldiers
guarding
each table where they sit.
waiting, waiting for thirst
to hit.
some are filled with fog,
others,
the labels are torn,
about to fall.
none are cold,
most are just luke warm
and alone.
a feeling that you have
quite often.

a bad feeling

a shiver
comes to you
as you lie in bed
on a rainy sunday morning.
a feeling of dread.
of doom,
a panicky,
nervous thought crosses
your mind.
what if
there aren't anymore
oreo cookies
left in
the jar. by the stove.

an early mother's day

someone tells you it's mother's day,
and you believe her.
you believe most things that she
tells you.
she's a straight shooter, like that.
so you go out and buy flowers,
as box of chocolates,
a nice card. you are a good son,
or so you try hard to make everyone
believe.
but it isn't mother's day, but you
decide to make it so anyway.
in your mother's current mental state,
she won't know the difference,
so off you go, flowers in hand,
chocolates, signed with love,
your son.

the dryer world

how quickly the dryer
eats
socks.
devouring them with its
great
white mouth, spinning
hot,
around and around,
dispensing of loose
change,
silvery
after being washed.
but no socks.
just one, or two, perhaps,
but never a matching pair.
the world is a strange
place
that we visit,
then also disappear.