Thursday, June 30, 2016

painting by numbers

my grandmother
when she would visit us
from boston,
while my mother lay in a hospital
having another baby,
would buy us paint by numbers
kits
to keeps us quiet.
geese flying
over swamps, churches,
that sort of thing.
oil paints
with thinners
and linseed oils,
brushes, rags.
it's a wonder we didn't
set the house on
fire as she hung
over our work with a
Winston
hanging from her lips.
I hate those kennedys
she always managed to
fit into a conversation,
which wasn't really
a conversation, it was
just her talking,
staring at the tv
and yelling at us to keep
the paint between
the lines.
later, after the paintings
had dried
she would line them up
on a window sill
to see who had done
the best job, giving that child,
my older brother
who had my father's name,
a dollar and the rest
of us nothing.

i don't think she really cares about me

I wonder if my new
doctor
really cares about me.
she doesn't call or email,
or text.
nothing.
I haven't received a notice
to have
some mid life
testing done
in a month. no bags
to put my
personal
internal belongings into
and send
to the lab.
I could be dead for a week
and she wouldn't
know.
maybe I should call
her and tell her i'm okay
except for the allergy
thing, which
she has no clue whatsoever
with which
to solve.

that's enough

I have no bling
to speak of. as a child
I had rings
and watches, all cheap
from cracker jack
boxes, even a chain,
which was really a dog
collar,
in case
a gang fight
broke out
between the ruffians
in hillcrest heights.
never used,
nor was the pocket knife,
rusted closed,
only needed
to cut fishing line
when a turtle
or eel
took the bait, or to carve
my initials
into a picnic table.
the only shiny thing
I have these days is you.
that's enough.

the left hand

your left is weaker
than
your right hand.
which holds true
for the arm when
throwing
a ball. how awkward
and untaught.
it's just the way it is.
being pushed
by a parent
settling the spoon
or fork between
your fingers and thumb.
the pencil too
to write or draw
or play an instrument
with the same.
how sad it is for the left
to be
used so little.
holding or catching things
as a last resort.

the white shag rug

she had rug
burns on
her spine, you had them
on your knees.
they took forever to heal
long after
the thrill had
gone and you both met
someone else.
love hurts.

what now

it's the first year that my
father
doesn't have a garden.
no tomatoes, or peppers.
no corn, or lettuce
growing in the small patch
of dirt outside his window,
next to the air conditioner
unit.
I can't see he says,
to me. I don't know if
things are ripe. or if
they need water, or what.
it's all blurry.
we both stare out at the
squared patch of unturned
soil. the green wire fence
bent by rabbits,
who also wonder, what now.

what year was that?

because she has little or no
memory of the past
after ten thousand
bong hits,
I can say anything to her,
make up any story,
saying things like
remember the time
we sky dived into
the grand canyon?
she scratches her head,
as she rolls another joint
and nods, pushing
back her hair, grey at
the roots.
yeah, sure she says.
I remember that. yeah,
that was fun.
what year was that?

t-bone

I don't eat meat.
or wear fur, or leave
a carbon
foot print
anywhere that I can.
I recycle.
separating the plastic
from the metal,
the paper
from
the glass.
I like fish though,
she says,
moving the lettuce
around on her plate,
pausing, waiting for
me to finish gnawing
on the bone
of my T-bone
steak.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

i saw it on tv

we'd like our ten foot ceiling
wallpapered the woman tells me,
hands on her
hips, swiveling on high heels,
pointing
with sharp red nails.
the whole ceiling.
I saw it on a tv show.
two different papers, stripes,
but all meeting
at a point in the middle.
how much?
how much do you have, I tell
her.

freed from captivity

in or out of jail
makes
no difference to my friend
jake
the snake.
he glides through life
on a beer
coaster.
one beer leading to another
and another
until he wraps
his car
around a pole
or a parked car.
his wrists are calloused
from
handcuffs.
a small pony tail swings
from
the back of his fifty
seven year old head
holding hardly
a single grey hair.
he has no worries.
on bail he goes the fountain
to see his
friends who
hug him and slap his back,
after being
freed
once more.

self employed

she flies
all over the country.
taking
her business self along
with her
notepads and tablets,
phones
and laptops.
she's doing things I have
no idea
as to what they are.
she's probably in a meeting
at this very moment,
saying things
that other people will
write down
and take notice.
right now
i'm in a chair with a towel
around me,
wet from
the shower,
drinking instant coffee
and looking out
the window
as a moving truck unloads
a broken futon.
the new neighbors have awful
taste
in furniture.

hot donuts

your flattery
has earned you a box of donuts.
here.
they are warm,
still gooey and hot,
boxed before they even
hit the shelf.
I picked out all your favorites,
fancy to plain,
saying to the lady
in pink, behind the wide
counter,
and one of those, and one
of those,
two of those, etc.
the affection is mutual.
enjoy.



eight chain linked fences

your sister
holds a grudge against your father
for being born
small and premature.
it's fifty years
old, the grudge, but not stale,
or tattered
by the years.
instead she's kept it fresh
and new
with each retelling.
it's a strange tale
of how your mother hopped
eight chain
linked fences to go slap
a woman
your father had been seeing
on the sly.
at the time your mother was
carrying your sister
for six months,
still
in the womb, but yelling,
i'm sure even then
at the injustices of the world,
all aimed at her.

a pack of luckys

who didn't smoke
back then. each with his
own brand,
his own style of stamping
a new pack
hard against his hand.
the strike of the match,
the inhale,
the rings they would blow,
at thirteen,
cagneys and bogarts
already
in their striped polo
shirts
in the shadows of
the playground
where bad girls would come
around.

your floor

all eyes are on the buttons,
each lit
with a number
above our heads.
no words are spoken.
it's early morning
there is nothing
new to be said.
good day, good morning.
each
exiting the box
as the door slides open
to go on their separate
ways.

what i want

I want a poem
to be
a clear cold glass
of water.
something that will
soothe
my parched soul,
tell me things in
a different way,
things I already
know.
I want it to be sparse
and to the point,
not full
of words beyond
my education.
I want to read it aloud,
then again,
letting it quench
my thirst.
I want a poem to wake
me up
to what is possible
when paper
meets a pen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

the new rude

it's a new breed of rude.
no need
in saying hello
when passing by, or holding
a door.
letting someone
out before one goes in.
no need to signal
your turn,
or show kindness by
letting someone pass
before you.
it's okay to yell in
a crowded room and to
ignore,
stay on your phone,
staring deep into
its dark abyss as you cross
the road.
a thank you goes unsaid
these days,
for anything bought
in any store.


all this

everything is sinkable.
don't let
your life fool you for one
minute.
who hasn't
felt
the surge of the sea
sucking
them under, tasted the salt
water
in their lungs,
gasped for air,
too scared
to even pray as you sink
into the deep end
of disaster.
some holes are large
and you go fast,
while others are smaller,
letting you sink
slowly,
making you believe
that all this, all this
will last.

a closer heaven

the undead
who are us, don't understand
what lies
below
the surface.
some think it's upwards.
in the clouds.
but maybe it's nearer
than that.
heaven being just a kiss.
a moment underfoot.
ice cream.
kindness.
your mother's stew.
we make too much of what
death might
bring or not bring.
we take too little time
on what's
the right thing
to do here.

the next day

somehow you wake
up in Alaska
in an igloo. there is a small
woman beside
you cleaning fish.
she sees that you are awake
and comes over
to rub her nose
against yours.
she says something in a language
you've never heard
before.
her skin is brown, her hair
is black as oil.
she points to your
bear skin cape
and nods. you put it on
and look out
the rounded door of the ice
block you are in.
there is nothing but
white ice, white snow,
even the blue
sky seems determined
to be white.
a penguin walks by,
stopping to look a you.
he shrugs
and moves on. there are
no answers to your dreams.
there is only
the next day.

the waiting

if you wait long
enough
nothing will happen.
that love won't fall through
the roof.
that new job
won't appear.
you'll still be out of shape
and fat.
that book won't read itself.
a stray cat will not
suddenly
be in your lap.
the retirement homes
are full of people
that waited
too long for something
to happen.
something different that
would give
meaning
to their lives.
they wait for something
else now.

balance

the wheels
need to be balanced
in order
to get a smooth ride.
adjustments are in order.
a tap here,
a tap there, some weight
on the inside,
now air.
slow down
and take the corners
with care.

Monday, June 27, 2016

bring potatoes

sometimes I have
three or four red potatoes in the bin
for a year.
things grow
out of them,
potato like arms
and antlers, whiskers.
potatoes seem to last a long
time.
if I was ever going
to a take a long
trip somewhere, run away
from it all, without
taking much,
i'd bring some potatoes along.

things happen

your neighbor,
two doors up,
a shaggy blonde with long
nails, who works at
the strip
club
is pregnant.
she says whoops,
when you see her out
in the parking lot
washing
her lexus
in a string bikini.
things happen, she says,
shrugging and
touching her belly
with both hands,
somehow explaining
the entire process
of continuing the species
with two
words.

the clean house

it's a clean house.
swept
and wiped, dusted and mopped.
the mirrors
sparkle,
the counters shine.
hardly a crumb
is found.
books along the shelf,
a place for everything,
everything
in its place.
it's not a house I can
live in
or visit for very long.
i'll bring it
to its knees
with the likes of me.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

without words

I could listen
all night to music without words.
just strings
and woodwinds,
cellos and kettle drums.
the harp
and cymbals,
violins.
give me that kind of
wind
with you in my arms,
and the night
will be splendid,
without words
being said, words
being sung.

red lips

your red lips
are undefined.
speaking volumes
of mystery
about who are, who
I desire
on this summer night.
how they part, and pout,
or shine
into a smile
beneath
the half moon sky
as we say
hello,
or is it
goodbye.

under the shady tree

what's new
doesn't stay new
for long.
a dent a ding, a scrape,
soon followed
by the dulled sheen,
the weathered
shine
of once
shiny paint. still
you try
to keep love
new,
parking beneath
the shady tree, going
at it with
hands
and polish,
the chamois cloth.

the taste of it

the taste
of it, the sweet or bitter,
salt
upon
your tongue,
the soured bite,
or bland.
each
day chewed and swallowed,
each
meal
between sun ups,
and downs
different than the ones
that came
before it.

we sit

we sit
as the clouds cover
the sun,
the sun goes down
over the slant
of middle income
homes,
the pool settles
into a sheer lacquer of blue.
we sigh,
and say
where has the summer gone,
the year.
what's become
of all these months.
children spread
out
to places we'll never go.
books
read, never to be read
again.
so much time
absorbed
and let go. we sit
and all the questions
go unanswered
as the clouds
cover the sun,
the sun goes down over
the slant
of middle income homes.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

shark bite

she shows me
the scar on her leg,
lifting her dress
up along the thigh.
see, she says,
that's where a shark bit me,
pointing at the shredded
dark patch.
I nearly died
from loss of blood.
but it's healed now.
the leg is strong.
in fact I go out dancing
every weekend.
maybe we can go dancing
sometime.
ummm. yeah. maybe.

i'll change, i promise

when younger
and in love, or lust,
or infatuation,
whatever the case may have been,
you promised
to change
when things began to crumble.
i'll change, you said,
holding her hand,
you'll see. I promise
to be a better,
more caring and loving man.
and you did for a week or two
but in time
fell back into your old
ways.
watching sports,
playing sports,
staying out late with your
friends. but
now, you shrug when things
go awry and say,
you know,
if it's not working, you can
go,
this is who I am.

the nature walk

the children
with their long pole nets
reach over
the rail
and scoop small turtles
off the logs
as they sun
and rest.
hard shelled and green,
their patterns
made in yellow stripes.
each kid holds
one, stroking their
backs,
searching for the heads
that have slipped inside
on long necks.
all is well
until one child, louder
than the rest,
raises his arm,
his hand
holding a turtle
and smashes it against
the sidewalk.
such is the world we
live in.

released from captivity

they release
your friend from jail after
37 days
of confinement.
the sentence shortened by
good behavior.
20 less days in the jump.
he attributes
it to working in the kitchen
with the other
inmates
and coming up with a new
recipe
for scrambled eggs.
jalapenos, he says, on the phone.
I just cut them
up in tiny little pieces
and threw them in
with grated cheese.
everyone loved them.
even the guards.
they made me write down
the recipe
before I left.

nothing new

what's unwritten will come.
nothing new
or original.
the sun has risen and set
too many
times
for that to happen.
there are only so many
colors
in the rainbow
notes on a scale, words
formed
from letters, but you
go at it.
why not, typing as you listen
to a song
that sounds
familiar.

Friday, June 24, 2016

red white and blue

I saw a long line the other
day down at the hospital
so I went over and asked
what was going on.
what's up with the line.
I asked a man sitting on
a fold out lawn chair,
wearing a pair of red white
and blue underpants.
he was sipping on
a Budweiser. we're here for
the early sign up at the burn
clinic, what with the fourth
of july right around
the corner, it's best to
sign up early, he said.
gots to be prepared.
last year I nearly put an eye
out when my son threw a
bottle at me with a firecracker
in it. it's still a little blurry,
that's why I wear this patch.
at his feet was a box of fireworks
and matches.
rockets and roman candles.
ace bandages and Vaseline.
want a sparkler, he said,
stroking his long beard
with three shortened fingers.
I bought them for the kids,
but they want cherry bombs
this year, they're tired of
sparklers.
they grow up so fast.

the empty nest

her first night
in the empty nest makes her
go to her son's room
to sit upon
his bed.
the books are there,
all lined
still on the shelf,
one fish two fish, blue
fish, green.
the stories
that she read.
the toys in the closet,
the stuffed
bears, George
in his red vest,
the posters of teams
he adores.
shoes upon shoes for
each sport.
clothes folded, by her,
on the dresser,
on the end of the bed
that fit no more.
the empty nest is not
easy, she thinks,
as she lies down,
as she used to do
beside his sleepy head.

he dreams of water

he dreams of water.
great
pools of blue, wide
wet
surfaces
that the stars at night
skim
upon, he dreams
of swimming,
his arms
cutting into the black
liquid,
his feet kicking him
forward
to the shore.
he dreams of water
while above him
as he sleeps
a pipe
leaks, splashing his
legs as it drips upon
the floor.

the red sports car

I want the little black
or red two
seat sports car.
the kind with the retractable
hard top
roof.
six speed, leather seats,
sixteen inch tires,
Sirius radio,
blue tooth.
I want it now, before
I change my mind
and come to my senses.
I want a lot of things
though
that I can't have, that would
seem to fit
just right. I want to feel
the wind in my hair,
sort of,
have people stop and gasp,
saying who is that man,
just look at that car
and who is that glamorous
woman with him,
is that hollygolightly?

no charge

there's a bug
in my ice tea. a one inch
bug
with wings,
antennae,
thin legs, he's dead,
drowned
I imagine, caught
under the ice.
I've already taken a few
sips.
stirred in my sweet
and low.
squeezed out the lemon
wedge.
he has little dot black
eyes
which stare back at
me as I hold the glass
up to the light
showing
the waitress.
oh, she says, I do see him,
let me get you another,
not surprised at all.
no charge.

like a chicken on a june bug

he's from Richmond,
a mere
hundred miles from
ground zero,
and yet his syrupy
accent
denotes the deep
south, the civil
war south.
Dixieland with
bars and stripes,
front porch ice tea.
cotton and tobacco fields.
he elongates each word,
using phrases
you once heard in movies
like gone with the wind.
when you laugh a little,
you almost expect
him to pull out a sword
or to slap you with
a glove
asking you to duel,
in a one shot turn and fire
gun fight, but no sir,
no,
he's too polite.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

the clock maker

I've been fixing clocks
my entire
life
he says. my home was my shop.
he spreads his arms out to show
me the clocks
on his walls and work bench.
you name a clock
and I've fixed it. go ahead,
name one.
timex, I blurt out.
no, he says.
that's a watch,
not a clock.
what about a swatch?
he looks at me and closes
his heavy eyelids.
that's a watch too he says.
cuckoo clocks.
grandfather clocks,
those are my
specialties. anything from
the black forest
in Germany.
what about those clock
watch computer things
you wear on your wrist
I ask,
tapping my empty wrist.
ever fix one of those.
you have to leave now he says.
as the sound of a cuckoo clock
starts clucking,
the little bird popping
out of his door.
I look at my phone for
the time.
ten minutes late, i tell him.

her cupcakes

i ask her
to marry me because of her
cooking.
baking in particular.
i'm not sure what
it would be like to kiss
her, but
she isn't romantic
in that way.
heaven's forbid if we ever
made love.
no.
it's pretty much all about
her cakes and pies.
the icing,
the eggs and sugar,
flour,
mixed just right.
maybe that's enough to
make
a marriage work
and survive.

not in the cloth

I never quite
think to set anything on fire
when i'm
angry about some vague
political issue,
or when the home team loses
a big game.
I never think
to turn over cars,
run out into the street
to loot
the local drug store,
or trash the city.
it hasn't
occurred to me
to shoot bullets into
the air,
throw bricks and Molotov
cocktails
at police cars. shouting
badly rhyming slogans
in loud fist
pumping chants.
i'm not a good rioter
at all.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

cry me a river

she would cry
at weddings. birthday parties.
funerals.
soap commercials,
a cute
dog in a cage
at the pet store.
flowers made her cry.
hallmark cards.
happy news.
sad news.
a sunset,
the full moon made her cry.
I wondered sometimes
where all these
tears
were coming from.
it's probably why it
didn't work out,
and she left.
i saved all my tears
for that moment.

i scream out the window

I scream out the window
for the man
to pick up the three leaves
that he's
pushing towards the truck
with a leaf blower.
he can't hear me though.
the motor is so loud,
and he has earphones on
his head.
i'm getting cranky these
days about things
like this.
don't even get me started
on turn signals.
I wonder if it's something
serious.
something in my head
pressing on a nerve.
drinking used to help,
but not anymore.
I should get an MRI
of my entire body to see
what's up, or maybe, just
maybe
it's beyond that.

the open marriage

I can't talk right now,
my wife says on the phone,
whispering. my date just walked
into the bar.
oh, I say. does he look like
the picture on his
e harmony profile?
sort of, she says.
shorter and less hair,
but what are you gonna do?
he's holding a bouquet
of flowers from safeway with him.
I laugh. loser.
well. I just wanted to say
that I left dinner
in the fridge
for you. chicken and potatoes,
green beans.
and there's cherry cobbler,
on the shelf in the back.
great she says. thank you.
will you be coming home
tonight?
I see you took your overnight
bag with you.
maybe. you never know
about these first dates.
but i'll text you, if we
decide to get a room.
oh, and don't forget to walk
the dog before you
go to bed, and give him one
treat not two.

i get it

your instincts are normally
correct
on many things.
no need to analyze
or overthink most decisions.
the first one is right.
you didn't need to read the entire
boring book
by Gladwell
about the process of blink,
to get it.
you get the idea right away
by the cover.
it would have saved
you a lot of money
if you had
gone with that instinct
in the first place.
which holds true
for just about everything
in life, take Betty for
example.

how far is vegas?

it's unclear
how we arrived at this destination
without
a map.
but here we are, sitting
in the car
and staring
into the grand canyon
while parked at a steep edge.
it's big, I tell her,
as she applies lipstick to her
lips
in the side view mirror.
should we get out
and look,
maybe take a picture for
facebook
or something. people should
know that we were here.
do we have to she says?
do you have any gum?
I hand her a stick of chew.
what caused this, she says,
snapping her gum,
throwing the wrapper out
the window.
I dunno. something.
who knows.
okay. well, I've seen enough.
let's go, how far
is Vegas from here?

call someone

with age
comes delegation.
call a plumber for the leak.
an electrician
for
the fizzing wire.
don't go up on that roof
to tack down a tile,
or under the car
to fix anything.
many things were once
easy to do yourself,
perhaps.
but easier now
by someone else.

unplanned for

one fall
not far off, but far enough
away
that you
make no mark of it,
you'll turn
to someone
and say that you miss work.
that you
miss
the action of being
involved
with things.
there will be sadness
in your voice,
not joy, but resignation
to a different
life
unplanned for.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

the best meal

the best meal
is simple,
a slight of hand.
an easy task made fresh
and carried
out to the table.
together you sit,
and slowly
with fork and knife,
eat.
the smile of love,
the nod of thankfulness
on both your
faces.

where life ends

sometimes you can pretend
to be serious.
it's hard, but you've learned
over the years
to not make
sarcastic remarks at everything.
your mind races with
wise guy remarks.
you can hardly
hold the words
in your quivering mouth,
but you do,
biting your tongue,
funerals and weddings,
serious events,
like that, where life ends.

the chicken ranch plan

let's go to a chicken
ranch
my friend jimmy suggests
after drinking
way too much beer
and being rejected by every
woman who came into the bar.
a chicken ranch, I say.
you mean a cat house.
whatever, he says.
cat house, chicken farm,
whatever it's called these days.
I need some affection.
how much money do you have?
we both take out
our cash and lay it
on the bar, counting
soggy ones,
and fives. some nickels
and dimes, pennies roll out,
making the bartender shake his head.
it adds up to thirteen
dollars and change.
not enough, jimmy says wistfully.
nope,
I say.
but we could get a chicken
sandwich somewhere
and cup of coffee.

long gone

the collars
on the hook
indicate
dogs gone. long gone.
tags, still
on, the little brass name
plates dulled
over time.
their leashes too,
hang free.
a dog dish, one
for water, one for food,
both bone
dry, on a shelf
now,
unreached.
a rubber ball, a shoe once
chewed,
a bed,
rounded and soft,
still
with the hair
they shed.


want some

most days
she's happier than a new
box of candy.
shaking the full
box with the sweet
hard
shells
of good and plenty.
hear that, she says,
putting the box
up to my
ear. that's me.
want some?

it wasn't me

the bottles were lined
up neatly in the confines
of her white medicine cabinet.
carefully, while running
the sink water
and flushing the toilet,
I picked up each one
and read
the label, trying to
understand
the true nature of her.
some were once a day
prescriptions while others
said take twice a day
before meals.
some said do not drive
or operate farm
machinery after taking
this medication, and
one said you may feel
lethargic and weak
after taking this pill.
your libido will diminish
and you will lose
all interest in those
that love you.
finally, I knew that
it wasn't me after all.

Monday, June 20, 2016

happy feet

out of the blue,
my foot, as if detached
from me
begins to tap
against the floor,
as if it wants
to dance.
all it takes is for me
to hear a happy
tune on the radio
and off it goes,
sliding and twisting,
tapping
as the rest of me
sits still.
I watch it and smile,
I like the way it keeps
the beat,
has a life of its own,
somehow.

what i miss

sometimes I miss her cooking.
the smell of it,
the table full of plates.
the oven going, pots
boiling on the stove.
I miss that about her,
especially when i'm hungry
and settling
on a peanut butter sandwich
for dinner.
i miss another thing about her
too, which was almost
as as good as her cooking.
sometimes i think about
that when i'm walking the dog,
or staring at the clouds,
or lying
in the great empty space
of my bed ready for sleep.
but that's it, that's truly
all i miss about her,
the rest gave me a headache,
and so it goes.

have you seen my husband

have you seen
my husband, the woman says,
running into me at the park.
she doesn't use
his name, which to me indicates
he's in deep water,
hot water,
a swirling typhoon of troubled
water.
rip tide.
nope, I say.
you haven't seen him?
No.
she looks into my eyes, squinting,
trying to figure
out if i'm lying
or telling the truth,
taking the man's side, as most
men would.
are you sure, she asks again.
and like Peter, the apostle,
I say no for a third time.

did i tell about the time

I tire of my own stories.
having repeated them so often,
refining them
with better words and phrases,
adjectives and
metaphors.
embellishing too much,
stretching to the limit
the elastic truth.
a new adventure might be nice.
a new
disaster or tale
to be told,
a love gone wrong,
a job from hell, something
to tell,
and fool the boredom
out of this life.

leaving it just so

she would
move things, an inch to the left
or right,
closing drawers,
adjusting the blinds,
the lights.
she couldn't leave the house
if things
weren't just so,
just right.
and even then we turned
around
to go back
and make sure the oven
wasn't on.

the life we borrow

he talks of fish,
as if
he's talking about a lover.
how the early
sun rises
and falls upon his face,
warming him.
how he slips into his high
boots
to wade out into
the low tide,
casting out into
the calm sway of river,
then waiting. she'll come
he says,
she always does. you'll see.
my bucket will be filled.
and tonight we shall
eat
by the fire, our cheeks
full of this life
we borrow.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

there is no wind

handshakes
go around, who are you,
what do you do.
i'm so and so,
that's my kid over there.
the resumes
flow out
as small sandwiches
are served,
cut vegetables.
someone has made melon
balls,
which the dogs
seem to like.
into the night, the bugs
come out,
the string
of party lights is dim
under a full
moon.
there is no wind.
in time after the poetry
is read,
and the music played,
a gentle sigh
as one erupts. everyone rises
from their chair,
turning towards
the door, pleasantly
tired.

ten days at sea

the travel
brochure came in the mail.
i had
taken a cruise once with this
line of ships
and they haven't
left me alone since.
the pictures are of blues skies,
calms seas.
beautiful men and women
sipping
colorful drinks
while lounging on white
chairs in the sun.
it wasn't that way at all
when I was there.
it rained
and everyone got sea sick in rough seas.
it had it's moments though.
my significant
other at the time had forgotten
to bring her bipolar
medications and tried to push me off
the ship,
over a rail, after asking
me repeatedly where I had
been hiding.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

old time religion

the tough part
about religion is that they
make you work
so hard
to be a part of it.
the kneeling
the praying, the getting
dressed
and leaving the house
to get where they
want you to go.
and be on time.
there's a lot to learn too.
the prayers.
when to stand,
when to kneel, when to thump
your chest
or sing.
sometimes you feel like a monkey
on a string.
you used to know all of this,
back when
the church was
in Latin
and they burned incense
all day
making you dizzy, but now,
as the years have passed
and they started
playing guitars
and dancing in church,
you feel clueless.

knowing your limitations

the call of the wild
does not call you.
you have no desire
to camp
or hunt, or fish,
or climb
icy mountains. there is
not a bone
in your body
that wants to skin
an animal,
chop wood and build a fire.
you would not have survived
the Mayflower,
staring out the port hole,
asking continually,
are we there yet,
or traveling
across the continent
in a covered wagon
dodging flaming arrows
by disgruntled native
americans.
you've realized your limitations.
yours revolves
around a bed
and room service, a mint
on your pillow
before turning in.
a complimentary robe
and wi fi.

to swing

it's a gaggle of girls.
broads
Sinatra might say
who gather at
the glen echo park to dance
on the hardwood floor.
swing.
they are dressed
as if it's nineteen forty
four,
before VJ day,
with a war still on.
polka dots and bows.
it's hot in there, and their
curls
droop flat
after dancing with sailors
and soldiers,
who were.
no alcohol, except
in flasks
left in the cars.
the music is loud
and boisterous
as the dresses fly up,
the men with boyish hope
in their eyes.
the shoes click
across the wood.
it's a fantasy world.

the operation

she points to where the surgeon
will cut.
dragging her finger as
if a scalpel across her hip.
then another
up the front of her leg.
she draws an imaginary
ball and socket
in the air, a post that
will be set into the bone,
then wraps the wire around
her thin leg.
she's unafraid.
i'm weak, and need to sit
down. I decide at that point
to be more careful
with my legs.

the steps

his hair, blown white
with years.
steadying himself on the park
steps
leading up
to where the ridge lay,
where the water began,
the ducks moved
silently along the blue.
he climbed,
stopping halfway, then
continued.
it didn't seem that long ago
when he ran up
these steps.
then back down to do it again.
when he reached the top,
he took a deep breath and looked
out
across the sunlit water.
nothing had changed.
the world
looked the same.
everything had changed.

the one in the middle

not all her children were
as loved
as the one in the middle.
she was golden.
the peacemaker.
the one who always called
on mother's day.
on sunday.
who brought dessert
to family dinners.
the others were different.
not mean,
or awful,
but different. less caring
than the one in the middle.
this made her
wonder
if she held that one more
lovingly
in the night
when she cried.
what had she done wrong
with the others.

Friday, June 17, 2016

mrs. burnette's peanut butter pie

the recipe catches your eye
in the small town
gazette.
mrs. burnette's peanut butter
cream pie.
you study it
as you eat your lunch.
birds flutter nearby
for croutons from your salad.
without looking
you toss a few into the air.
peanut butter pie,
you say to yourself
quietly,
reading the ingredients.
milk, sugar, eggs.
peanut butter. creamy. a half a cup.
there is a photo of mrs. burnette
besides the recipe.
a small bio
telling you how long she's
been baking cakes and pies
for her friends
and family.
it looks like someone told
her to smile,
a thing she wasn't used to doing.
you can handle this.
carefully you tear out
the recipe
from the thin paper, fold
it and stuff
it into your pocket.
it's been a good day,
and you hope so too for
mrs. burnette.

the soft life

the child has everything.
his life
ruined
at the start.
his hands are soft and will
stay that way.
there is no fear
of hunger,
of losing anything
that's lost.
another will appear.
it's what parents are for,
no matter the price,
the true cost.

breaking even

the close shave.
the road
not taken where the bridge
was out.
the almost
thing that nearly happened.
the fallen
tree, the storm that blew
in
the moment you left.
you can count
them on one
hand, the miracles
of your life,
you're almost breaking
even.

i brought waffles home

lilly worked at Ihop
the night shift,
when it was mostly
cops
and truck drivers,
dead beats
and losers coming in
half lit
on cheap wine, or beer.
the tips were okay.
sometimes she'd peel off
her pink uniform
and leave it lying
at the foot
of the bed in a pastel
puddle
of stained clothes.
I could smell the syrup
on her body,
the slickness of fried
eggs and bacon.
hashbrowns.
sometimes her pen
would still be in her hair
as she snuggled up
beside me.
I brought waffles home,
she'd whisper, kissing
me on the cheek before
falling into
a deep sleep that freed
her from
the life she was living.

the scream

you wake up
to someone screaming.
you don't know if it's a good
scream though,
or a bad scream.
is it murder, or sex
going on
next door.
you wait for another clue.
it gets quiet
fast.
too fast perhaps
for either.

i'll have a salad

can you take
the blue cheese out of the salad,
she says.
feta or goat cheese if you have it.
and the onions.
oh, and i'm allergic
to red tomatoes, so if you
wouldn't mind,
please remove those too.
and I see there are nuts
in this salad
as well.
I have a severe reaction
to nuts, so
let's take those out
too. ummm, and greek olives.
do you have just
plain olives,
black, slice thinly though,
not whole or halves?
I like my lettuce shredded
into small pieces,
can you be a prince
and do that.
cross cuts, not against
the grain.
and if you have cucumbers,
take the skin off
and dice them up.
oh, and put the dressing on
the side.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

the other side of the tracks

she wanted to make
love
in the back seat of my car.
drive
over the tracks
she said, all the way,
I don't want a train
to hit us.
good idea, I told her,
steering
the old ford
over the cinder stones
and rails,
stopping under
a canopy of trees,
full with spring rains.
this is good she said,
crawling over
the seat. come on.
leave the radio on, she said.
but my battery,
I told her, I don't want
to kill my battery.
she rolled her eyes
as her blouse came off,
then her jeans.
what are you doing, she said.
popping
a can of black label beer.
finally I got in back.
then a train came.
a long slow train no more
than ten
feet in front of us.
the engineered looked down
and waved,
I thought I heard him call
out her name.
finally, the caboose appeared,
dull red,
with an old man on the back
stoop.
hey marcy, he yelled. waving
a flashlight.
a whistle blew.

names and numbers

my mailman,
Ming,
calls me by my full name
when he steps
onto the porch
to slide the mail into the slot.
sometimes I see
him coming
and open the door
before he gathers
mail from his deep leather
pouch.
he says my name, first and last,
as if he knows me.
the circulars and bills,
the rare letter,
handwritten.
Christmas cards. packages.
I wonder if he knows everyone
in this way.
lying in bed at night,
his grey uniform removed,
his feet still moving along
the paved
route of his life.

car love

I love cars
she says.
all sizes. all colors.
shiny cars.
wood grained,
sleek metal.
I like to ride all
night in a new
car, or an old car.
I love the smell of cars.
the sound the engine
makes. the way the tires
press and squeal
along the highway
when they come across
a curve.
i'll get into strangers
cars
if they pull
up beside me and wink.
if the seats are leather,
if they're
polished
and clean.
i'll ride in any car
if it makes me sing,
makes my
heart skip a beat.
what kind of a car do
you have?

giving birth

you see in the old
movies,
black and white,
the women gathering around
the bed
of the pregnant woman
as she groans
and prays to God
for the pain to end,
holding her hand,
yelling out for someone to
boil water.
get me the whiskey
the doctor says,
smoothing down his white
mustache,
throwing his black bag
open to take out
a saw.
there were no men around,
they were on the front
stoop
smoking, and pacing.
things have changed.
no one is boiling water.

scratch off

I won't do another test
your father
says to you, weary on the phone.
I've
done all that they've asked.
they've examined me
inside and out.
to hell with them.
I want the operation now.
I want to see
again.
I want to drive,
to read,
to shop
and stick another twenty
into the scratch off machine
to see what I've won
or not won
just one more time.

off the chain

she's out.
the dog has left the house.
jumped the fence,
looking back
with a long tongue,
smiling.
wild eyed.
the dog
is off the chain,
beyond
the gate,
the leash, out of hand,
nearly out
of sight.
she might come back,
she might not.
you wonder
why she left in the first
place.
with food shelter
and love
in abundance where
you stand.
oh well.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

another monday

it was hard
to pretend to be interested
in jobs
that you didn't want.
sitting stiffly
in a blue suit
in a chair
across the desk from a serious
person reading
your folder of
feathered
accomplishments.
you knew that they knew
that you weren't
a fit.
that deep down inside,
past the shined
shoes,
the resume,
the blather that you
charmingly spoke
that you didn't really
want to work there,
but you did. you signed up,
and Monday came,
then another.
it took years to break free.
you tried to fool them,
tried to fool
yourself, but it didn't
work.

fancy this

this came from Ireland
she says, pointing
at the chandelier,
watch how the light dances
when I turn it on.
the vase is from Florence.
the glass ware
on the shelf is
Waterford crystal, all
of it, she says.
they don't make it anymore.
there are figurines
perched about,
cows and cats,
birds.
penguins.
she's holding a hotdog
in her hand,
taking large
bites.
there is mustard on her blouse.
relish on her chin.
a small dog is licking
her bare foot.
all of this is irreplaceable,
she says, so be careful.
in the other room,
down the hall,
her husband calls to her.
your show is on.
hurry up,
it's starting.

one can of black beans

I wonder sometimes
about the can
of black beans I've had in
my cupboard
for ages. I've lost track
of the years.
the date on the side
is smudged. there is a photo
of a bowl of black beans
on the blue label.
I hold the can in my hand
to see if it's bulging
with botulism,
but it feels smooth all
the way around.
I shake it for no reason
at all and listen
to it. it sounds fine.
I should keep it
for emergencies.
you never know.

on the old road

overnight
I've become my grandfather.
the radio tuned
to npr,
as I hug the right lane
on the interstate,
drinking coffee.
i'm wearing
loafers
and a plaid shirt,
comfortable khaki
pants.
I stop a few times
along the way
to go to
the bathroom
making small talk with
the man behind
the counter
at the gas station
who hands me a key
attached to a two
by four.
when I turn the key back
in I ask
Omar
if he knows of a good
place to eat
in this town.
he points across the street
to a pizza hut.
it's good, he says, if
you like pizza.
thanks I tell him,
then check my wallet for
coupons.

famous quotes

as a child in elementary school
the assignment
was to write down
something President Kennedy
had said. a famous quote.
most of the children
wrote down, ask not what
your country can do for you,
etc.
but I wondered if there were
times when he
also said things like,
we're out of milk, or
who's been drinking my scotch?
did you see the legs
on that woman?
set up a meeting?
the teacher was not amused,
which affected our relationship
for the entire fifth grade.

the laminated photo

you want to change the photo
of you
laminated on your license.
you want a different
picture.
but down at the dmv
they don't care about your
vanity. go away, they say,
come back in five years
when it's time to renew.
you want to wear a suit
and look
more serious.
have better lighting to show
your eyes.
maybe have a book in
hand as if
you're reading.
or holding a bouquet
of flowers, about to give
them to someone
to make them happy.
you want your picture to
reflect how wonderful you are,
not this photo,
this black and white
mug shot,
showing disdain
for so much we have to endure
in life.

the dog walker

he was almost a different
species of man.
a missing link
of sorts. the high forehead,
the hunched
posture.
always with a shirt tucked
in below his chest.
a dog walker.
you'd see him with seven or
eight dogs,
all on leashes,
strolling in a large
circle
around the neighborhood.
the dogs didn't care
about him, or what he looked
like,
his grunts, they just wanted
to be outdoors,
walking
in the sunshine, like him.

spare parts

they take out her
kidney, like it's nothing.
sew her up,
send her home,
and off she goes about
her life,
with one less organ.
she has others.
in a few weeks
she'll be back at work.
smoking
and drinking, getting
another tattoo
and riding her Harley.
life goes on,
the wounds heal.

mornings are hard

mornings are hard.
especially
around perky people.
you know
what i'm talking about.
they are cheerful,
talkative,
full of energy and life.
full of coffee.
they are bright lights in your
blurry eyes.
nails across the blackboard
of your soul,
saying horrible things
to you like
hello and good morning.
how are you?
what a beautiful day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

dim the lights

I like the low
lights now,
friendly lighting if you will.
it hides
the dust,
the dirt. the cobwebs,
not to mention
crows feet
and furrowed brows.
give me the lit candle.
the struck match
upon the wick.
be done with the over head
light,
the open blinds,
the floor lamp,
give me shadows now.
the subtle shades of dusk,
or dawn.
keep me from the middle
of the day, bring
me an eclipse, or the curtains
drawn.

the early bell

how easy it was
to put my head down in study
hall, upon the hard desk,
the first class of the day
and sleep.
to dream about a girl
who may or may not know that
I existed.
my face creased from
my folded arms, boxed ears
from elbows,
red faced and mashed,
going down
the hall to the next
class
when the bell rung.
we all needed more sleep.
it was too early
to learn, to think about
anything
but girls. not much
has changed.

the preacher

your brother and his bible,
the pages
worn, underlined in
yellow,
key words, key points.
salvation ironed
out smooth
in the index.
the parables
stale upon
his tongue.
it used to a weapon
in his hand,
a plow
that he pushed through
the fields. no more.
now it's a pillow that he lies
his head
upon, finally surrendering
after all
these years
to silence.

the boy under

they pull
the boy from the lake.
blue
and still,
white as the snow
that lay upon the cracked
ice,
his skates still on,
coins
in his pockets,
a small knife, a rabbit's
foot.
marbles.
the things boys keep.
other boys will go under,
drown,
as this one did,
but for now,
this one will do,
for a winter sorrow.

the mirage

this desert
has me crawling. tongue
dragging with thirst,
burned brown
under a white sun.
vultures, black stripes
in the sky,
circle slowly.
the mirage of you
is over the next dune.
a cold glass of water
in your hand,
under a cool
umbrella of tall palms.
I always knew
that you, or someone
like you, would save me.


hold my handbag honey

i no longer want to hold
a hand bag
while she changes into a new
dress
in the dressing room.
waiting outside
with the other stiffs,
bored silly,
shaking our collective
heads, wondering
how we got talked into this.
of course i'm all
smiles when she comes
out and spins,
pirouettes and says,
what do you think of this
one. she looks into the mirror,
dipping her head,
moving her hair,
too loud, too short?
this is a maybe,
i have five more to go,
i'll hand this one out
to you
when i change. don't lose it.
it's one thing if it's
Victoria Secrets, but another
if it's Macy's summer sale
on floral
peasant dresses.

comfort over style

there was a time
when I preferred shiny
and new.
clean and polished.
something fresh, right
off the shelf.
no more.
give me the worn pair
of shoes,
the tattered jeans,
the shirt
with a tear and button
missing.
give me comfort over style.
I say the same
things about you.

be done with it

the car
rusts in the garage,
propped up
on four cinder blocks,
the wheels
taken off,
the hood up,
wires stiffly rising
like medusa's
hair.
seats are rotted,
the yellowed foam
billowing out.
he leans with flashlight
and book,
studying what needs
to be done next
to get it back on the road,
restored
to new.
you want to say tow
it to the dump and be done
with it.
but you say that
about every failed
love affair,
so you don't.

the empty house


the house, once pickle green,
has faded.
boards are screwed tight
onto frames
where faces once
looked out.
the doors are nailed shut.
signs posted.
this property condemned.
the chain link
fence wraps
bent around the scrub brush,
the overgrown
thickets,
ivy scrolls along
the chimney,
tightening its grip
on crumbling brick.
the living have left,
the dead too.
maybe there was love in
this house
at one time.
maybe there were children
in the windows.
maybe someone came home
from work,
ate dinner, watched tv,
then kissed his wife
goodnight.
maybe.

the rest of the world

some are always looking
for another way,
a different way,
not settling for the nine
to five,
the time clock,
the shallow grave of work.
the mill,
the cubicle,
the rake. they see outside
the lines.
crossing over,
it's not courage,
not bravery it's fear
that keeps them from joining
the rest of the world.

Monday, June 13, 2016

grooms that will never come

it's house full of dolls.
eight hundred
and thirty seven to be exact,
the round
short woman says with a lipsticked
smile.
then she begins
to tell the story of the dolls.
where and when
they were bought or
bargained for.
heartless and wide eyed
they stare with a muted gleam,
made of porcelain
and silk,
each in a dress
or costume. all girls.
some stand, some sit, some are
on the dining room table
in wedding dresses,
pointed to the door,
awaiting grooms
that will never come.

churning

I remember
how her leg kept shaking
all night.
a slight tremble,
shuffling
the sheets, the blanket.
it churned.
that one leg
stirring in the dark room.
if the bed was milk
we'd have butter
in the morning.

turn off the lights

strange, isn't it,
the way the days keep turning
into nights.
the way we sleep it off,
engage,
disappear, eventually
from sight.
how hard it is to be left
behind, to be
the last one standing,
to turn
off the lights.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

the sweet middle

the middle
is sweet. those years between
the cradle
and grave.
the wisdom
gathered, the bones
still
strong, the eyes
unblurred.
these are the golden
years, where
both the beginning
and end
seem so far off.
such are the illusions
we live with.

they are with you

there is no grave
to visit.
no need to kneel on cold
ground,
at the stone
above turned dirt.
there is no
need to be where others
aren't.
below the earth, beyond.
they are with you,
always.
in the pocket
of your soul.

black ants

the landlord wants
his rent,
disregards the mice,
the ceiling crack,
the weak air
seeping through dust
filled vents.
the landlord sleeps
on feathered beds
of soft money,
easy money,
not spent on the upkeep
of paint,
or trembling stoves
melting ice, strings
of black ants.
the landlord wants
his rent.

the line

I see my mother
at the line.
the frozen rope stiff
from one pole to the other.
sheets, blankets, clothes,
all
heavy against the sky.
there may be snow on the ground.
she's in her boots,
a thin coat on.
the sun will come out
and it might hit fifty by three
o'clock in the day.
at five
as the sky darkens,
she takes a basket out,
removing each pin one by one.
folding
and carrying it all in,
smiling with red cheeks
to me in the window.

the rare gem

even with six or seven
years
of schooling
after high school, you still
don't know enough
about anything.
but you know this.
pressing keys with your rapid
fingers,
making something
out of nothing,
hoping for luck, for a meteor,
that rare gem
to hit.

hot and spicy

the wasabi burns
your nose,
makes your eyes bleed
with tears,
places a puddle of sweat
on top of your smooth head.
it takes a minute
to speak,
your throat frozen
from the spice and heat.
someone says, good?
and you nod yes,
reaching for water
and more
trouble with another
fork full
of meat.

going under

when they rescue her
from the water, from
the churn, the chaotic
swirl
of converging streams
that pulled her under,
when they pull
her up
blue skinned
and gasping, eyes wide
in the west
Virginia sun we head
down stream,
being more careful
and fearful
as our paddles slip
under
the cold rocked river
that cradles us.

the imperfect life

an imperfect life
is every
life.
a crack in each
mirror,
a pebble in every
shoe.
don't let the bling
and smile
fool you.
be kind
to those that limp,
your day
will come
too.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

filling the jar

how quickly
the penny jar fills.
it sings
with coins as you toss
them in
at the end of each day,
along with
nails and pins,
screws.
odds and ends
from your work pockets.
money, like love
can grow,
be spent,
fill the jar of you,
which one can you live
without,
is unsure.

one child

your second child
never came.
one was all you
received
for this lifetime.
but enough.
three would have been fine,
no more,
no less than that.
a girl in
the mix would have been
welcome.
old age
reaps
the love they have
for you and women seem
to do that
better.

clean

not a crumb
is found along her counters.
no spills.
all
has a place, and put
away.
a bottle of spray
and a white cloth folded
sits
near the sink.
ready.
no dish unclean,
no pot
or pan awaiting scrub.
each fork
and knife nestled in shine
in a closed drawer.
it's a clean
kitchen.
scary clean.
she can never set foot
in yours.

unheard

her hearing gone bad,
stuffed with the cotton
of years
and aging,
just a word or two
slips in,
a whisper, a small creek
of sound.
her eyes focus
on your lips,
wide with confusion.
trying to discern
your questions,
to no avail.
the muffled sound makes
her sit still,
appear dumb,
until you both give
up and look
elsewhere.

things grow

things grow
beyond your repair. your
scissors
your axe,
the ground cover
has taken over.
bushes that may be trees
have risen
from the ground and bend
against the fence.
ivy
grips the brick,
the slab
that has turned green
by nature.
your path has narrowed
to the gate.
a home has been made
for the outcast,
whatever
snake needs a cool
unfettered place
to coil and rest
before striking.

Friday, June 10, 2016

the safe

I turn the dials
on her.
my ear to the cold walls
of the metal box
that she is.
click click click.
but the safe
door doesn't open.
I pry it with sweet words
and flowers.
nothing.
I take a hammer,
a blow torch,
a bomb, finally, to see
what's inside.
it could be anything,
it could be love,
it could be
nothing.
something this hard
it might be best
to leave it shut
and go on
about our lives.

vote neither

so much happens
under the table, behind
closed doors,
in secret.
whispered voices
are upon us. big
smiles and flag waving.
the truth is part sunshine,
part shadow.
few stand naked
at the podium
and say here it is.
make of me
what you will. vote
yes or no, but this is
who I am. imperfect
and flawed, but willing.

this place is a zoo

the zoo
keeper drops his keys
one night
and the monkeys make a run,
going from
cage to cage to let
out their friends.
there is a stampede.
elephants,
giraffes, zebras and tigers.
they disperse into the woods
along rock creek
park. but the monkeys
stop first for a beer
at the zoo bar,
where you sit
and listen to the Dixieland
band.
monkeys love music,
keeping beat
with both feet
and hands, each hardly
different.

cherry wine

when you heard about
the high school friend passing.
you were stunned.
he was fun.
vibrant.
he cheated on every test
in physics class
by looking
over your shoulder,
stealing your hard earned
knowledge.
how easily he seemed
to glide
through life
with never a book in hand.
always late.
a breeze coming into the room.
everyone's friend.
he signed your yearbook
with words like
thanks for letting
me cheat on the exams, pal,
I owe you
a bottle of cherry wine,
which never came.

buying affection

money cannot buy
happiness, or love,
or
affection,
but this gift
of a long wooden
back scratcher
you got in the mail
for father's day
comes close.

the picnic

in black and white,
the photo
doesn't tell the story
at all.
it suggests fun,
the picnic table,
the smiling faces
of children.
a nice day at the park.
but you remember
it differently.
how it soon rained.
how your parents fought.
the angry
way your father drove
his car,
the way
he went quiet, your
mother crying,
staring out the fogged window.
how the sun never quite
came out again
for either of
them.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

lights and music

they, they being the doctors
in masks.
work under steel bright lights,
sheets of white,
on a sterilized stage with
music playing.
how easily
they open up
the human body to let air
in,
blood out.
shifting shiny instruments,
all sharp,
from hand to hand
to move things, remove
things.
make you better, to keep
you living.
but it doesn't always go that
way.
sometimes it's just
the lights,
the music and the curtain
pulled
to no applause.

slippery

I like to say that she slips
in and out
of my hands
like a fish,
but then i'd have to say what
kind of fish.
cat, shark, flounder, gold.
sunfish.
it's a long list,
one i'm not secure enough
to pick from.
so let's just say she's slippery
but beautiful
just the same in or
out of water,
or hand.

but that's me

sorrow being holy ground,
i say
nothing to the woman crying
curled
onto a bench
in the sunlit park.
shadows
not reaching her
in the heat.
I think it would be better
to cry
somewhere else
I want to tell her.
maybe over there
where it's cooler, by
the water,
on the rocks,
under the shade of trees,
a place
where no one would notice.
but that's me.

a season

you know nothing about
trees
and have no desire to learn
anymore
than what you see,
from green to gold to bare,
then back again,
and because of this
our love won't last
a season.

fixing the door

how often did he say
he needed to fix
the door.
the squeak when it opened,
the loose hinge.
screws turning out
over time.
the knob bent to where
a hand would push
or pull.
it needed paint.
fissured by sun,
and rain.
the gaps a half an inch
along the panels
letting light in.
how many times did he
smile and say.
I need to fix the door,
but never did.
so now you stand there.
setting
the screws, a bucket
of white paint
at your feet,
a can of oil for the hinges.
in hand.

boardwalk prophets

the beach
prophets, look like prophets.
pushing
carts
down the boardwalk,
carrying all
that they own.
bearded, and worn,
carved thin
by weather and age.
they've taken the time
our of their
wandering
to hand print a sign
saying repent
the end is near.
you need coffee, a place
to sit, read the paper,
hoping
there's time.

the arc of color

an arc
of colors spills in paths
across
the sky. half round.
violets and blues.
red.
between the wires,
the clouds
a rainbow appears.
how strange
the world is
at times,
making you believe
that all
is well.

cheaper gas

gas is cheaper
down the road, he says,
as I drive
his behemoth car
down the highway.
don't stop here.
it's three cents cheaper
ten miles
to the left.
let's go there.
they know me there.
I want to top the tank
off
in case it storms,
or I run out of milk
and bread
and need to go out.
I drive,
rolling the window
down
with a broken crank.
I give it gas,
then swing
the wipers back and forth
to smear the window
of bugs.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

something missing

something is missing.
you feel it.
something gone,
out of place,
taken.
you aren't quite sure
what it is,
but then know
the second she kisses
you, a brush
of lips
upon your cheek.
a shoulder pat.
her love
has moved on.

no mints

you set your one bag down,
stare at the double beds,
deciding which one.
there are large glassed
framed pictures of herons.
there are shells
and ships, as well.
the pillows are stacked
decoratively upon one another,
as the a c unit
churns like a Harley against
the wall.
the curtains swing
in the cold
breeze.
the phone blinks, there are
plastic cups,
maps,
a television
and small bars of soaps,
a bathing cap.
something like fish smells
in the hall. you hear children
bouncing
on a bed in another room.
when you leave for the day,
the room is back
the way it was when you arrived,
your cups taken,
your wrappers and papers gone,
the bed made,
the pillows stacked,
but no mint.

the unopened book

from my orange chair,
settled into sand, just far enough
for the waves
not to over take me,
for the breeze to envelope my
pinked skin,
I watch
as the bathers dip a pale toe
or leg into the sea
and scream.
the bikinis are too small,
the men
with bellies
like melons, strutting proudly
from the pier to the far end.
there is no
shame in our bodies
at the shore.
it's okay
to be who you are, or to sit
with an unopened book
and take it all in.

on base

two mice
in a maze of sea green hallways
and checkpoints.
it's all navy. blue
fatigues and boots.
there is no cheese awaiting
either one
of us as I hold his scripts in hand.
radiology to the left,
the blood lab
to the right.
x-rays, down the hall.
like meat
they weigh him
as I wait in the hall on
a plastic
chair.
they can't get the chain
off from around
his neck.
I hold his wallet, his keys,
his phone, help with the chain
like a wife
would. patiently I wait
in the narrow hall
as walkers go by, wheelchairs,
young sailors with sleeves
rolled up,
muscled for war. I wait for
the results of my ancient
sailor father,
but at the end of day
in Boone Clinic,
we know both know the same
as when we came in at 0830,
which is nothing.
the commissary awaits.

Monday, June 6, 2016

luck helps

there is no
such thing as magic, real
magic.
there is no wand,
or spell
to break or make
love.
it's something else,
something beyond
imagination.
luck has nothing to do
with it either,
but it helps.


ship wrecked

as much as I like
coconuts
I couldn't survive on an island
after being ship wrecked
with just that.
or bananas
for that matter.
i'm not adept at spearing fish
or cracking poor turtles
open
for soup and sandwiches.
I don't want to write the word
help
with giant leaves and logs.
I prefer
the islands in a chair
on the white
sand.
with a drink in hand.
a blue and white striped towel,
a book.
maybe some shrimp without
shells
in a small bowl
to snack on and of course
you,
in a bikini putting lotion
on my shoulders.

the rust

what seems
like rust is rust.
a decaying of metal
in the rain.
the years
of neglect, of softening,
of being
unpolished,
or washed, or even touched
with
one hand
in affection.
no gentle
wiping of the chamois
cloth.
things need to change
if this marriage
has a chance.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

home before dark

be home before dark,
my mother
would say
from the couch where she slept
most nights
after my father ran off
with doris, the neighborhood
Avon lady.
she never asked where we were
going at eight a.m., carrying
fishing poles and a tub
of night crawlers
found under rocks the night
before.
she never asked if we had money,
or food,
are we bringing water.
never said, be careful,
don't drown. don't talk
to strangers.
it was just be home before
dark.
that said it all,
then she lay back down
and tried to sleep some more.

Art

he was approaching eighty
when i met him.
a four inch paint brush
in his hand.
a tall
string bean
of a man with bad teeth
and a can of Budweiser
in his pocket.
his red hair, thinned,
was pushed back
with grease.
his eyes bleary with drink,
his ears too long
for his narrow face.
he said anything to anyone.
cursed the line that wouldn't move.
shook his head
at the world he was
stuck in, and couldn't leave.
he talked about
world war two.
called them japs, and krauts.
showed me his scars.
his bullet wounds.
the tattoo of the ship he was
on that sank
when torpedoes hit the side.
he wrote his phone number down
on a little slip of paper once,
a week before he died
in his one bedroom rental
in logan's circle.
he wrote his name, the numbers
in perfect script handwriting.
legible and even,
he may have been Catholic.

tuesdays

we need Tuesdays.
you don't think you do,
but you do.
we need nothing
hours.
a month to rest,
call it February.
we need an island
without trees.
we need to be still
and listen.
a day
to sigh, to stall,
to think about what's
coming next.

soft rain

in the late afternoon
she falls asleep
first
as the rain comes down.
you feel her
heart slow, see
her eyes close. her hand
still in yours,
together
on the long couch below
the window.
you are soon to follow,
but first
you need to listen
to what the rain
is telling you.

the devil inside

life is more
simple than we make it.
eat,
drink, learn
and love, work.
be kind to others.
but things get in the way.
we want
more, always,
the devil inside
betrays.

renters

the renters don't care
much.
as long as the water works,
the toilets flush,
the lights flick on,
the bugs
are kept out.
they don't care about the paint
on the walls,
or the hardwood floors,
or the loose screws
in the cabinet doors.
they'll be gone soon,
leaving much
of what they brought behind.
bananas gone black
on the counter,
a dirty frying pan
on the stove.
a wet load of laundry
in the machine.
a closet full of old shoes.

time won't let it

the old bowling alley
is boarded up now.
I can see the long bricked
building behind the barbed
wire.
a car, its burned out
carcass
sits in the back lot,
the seats gone,
the engine
gone. the hood up.
I remember on a Saturday morning,
throwing a ball
down the shiny lanes
in my rented shoes.
hearing the jukebox
play wishing and hoping
by dusty springfield.
the ping and rattle
of the pin ball machines,
eating fries
and drinking cokes.
keeping score with a pencil.
you can go back,
but it's not the same.
the world can't stay as it was.
time won't let it.

the cure

her bedside manner
is good.
four stars.
the cold compress
for the fever,
the aspirin, hot tea.
a thermometer
for beneath your tongue.
she even takes
your pulse,
tells you in a sweet whisper
let me get something
for that cough.
you are in no position
to tell her
how much you adore her
in that white dress
and hat,
those shoes. you want
to ask her what
she's doing Saturday,
but you aren't quite
ready for that.

going somewhere

the trains are funning slow
today.
the tracks are cold
in the steady rain.
we stamp our feet and look north,
look south.
we dip our hats to stay dry.
we are all going somewhere,
eventually.
with or without these trains
that may or may not
arrive.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

the land line

the phone is ringing downstairs.
the land line,
so you know it's not important.
only two people ever
call you on that line, that you
actually know.
it's ringing all over the house.
is there a room
without a phone?
and yet. the conversations go like
this.
there's no one here by that name,
and no, I don't
have any clothes to give
to the purple heart pick up
this week.
the rest of the calls
are from other countries,
frenzied men and women,
mispronouncing your name,
selling
drugs that men your age
might need.

morning snake

how fat the black snake
was.
a rope, a hose of life,
coiled in small bones,
slicked skin,
gliding through the green grass.
head up,
tongue, as pink as gum
tasting the morning air.
how you stepped back,
watching your feet, wondering
fearfully
if there were others.
then the woman came out,
drinking her coffee
and said, pointing,
oh, I see the snake is back.

dinner for one

I remember settling
back
into a chair, the black and white tv
on.
the volume up
because of the dogs
and brothers
and sisters fighting
throughout the house over shampoo,
or clothes.
I remember, setting my once
frozen
dinner upon the tv tray
and peeling back the foil
on my swanson
tv dinner, knife, fork,
a folded napkin,
a glass
of grape juice, too young
for red wine,
and eating slowly.
i enjoyed the tiny chicken
legs, the funny
tasting mashed potatoes
dripping with butter,
and apple sauce, so
hot it burned
my lips and tongue
upon tasting. my mother was at
work.
a waitress down the street,
my father was at sea.
somewhere in
the south pacific.
dinner though was served.

the housekeeper

I yell down the steps
to my housekeeper, I ask her
to put the coffee on
and that i'd like
two eggs over easy,
bacon, toast.
there's no answer.
I yell out again, still no
answer.
and bring the paper up,
I say, now ringing the bell
I keep on my nightstand.
but I don't have a
housekeeper, I need one
though, so it's practice.

into the woods

you wander
through the woods
aimlessly.
the animals get still and quiet,
wondering
what you are doing there,
off the paved
path
with your stick
and boots, stepping
carefully through the soft
ground.
they whisper
to one another, snake to snake,
bird to bird.
fox to fox,
let him pass, he's lost,
he's thinking
about some girl, it's what
he does
when things don't last.

turning the pages

the book
was satisfying. you dragged
it on
as long as you could,
delaying the end.
savoring
each word, each page,
checking
the back to see how many
chapters were left
before setting it on
the nightstand
and turning off the light
for sleep.
people
can be like that too,
you want
them around
forever, with more
pages to be read, more story
to be told,
more of them with you.

Friday, June 3, 2016

not now, i have a headache

she used to get a lot
of headaches.
mostly when I was around.
she'd grab the side of her head
and rub it, or place
a bag of frozen peas on the vein
she claimed was throbbing
in her temple.
otherwise, on the phone,
twenty miles away, she
seemed happy. very happy.
I can't blame her.
sometimes
I give myself a headache
too. I suggested a lobotomy,
or acupuncture,
or perhaps an exorcism
by Father Damien over at
St. Bernadette's,
but she declined.
sadly, over time,
it did get in the way
of our romantic interludes.
she used to wear a laminated
placard
around her neck when I visited,
that read,
not now, maybe later,
or in the morning.
I feel a migraine coming on.
don't touch me.

from the sea

sea glass
rises, swept in with the tide,
shards of glass
of tossed
bottles, cups, saucers,
plates
from ships at sea,
things throw from the sand,
or off the pier.
it all comes back
in smoothed cold
edges, pieces of
violet, vermilion,
tangerine gems
and blue.
how beauty is born
despite us
at every turn.

fit as a fiddle

they want blood out
of my father
before his cataract surgery.
a vial or two will do,
the blood pressure is high,
the heart beats too fast.
he resists.
what if they find out there's
something wrong with me,
he says.
you're eighty-seven, I tell
him, what could possibly
be wrong with you
after decades of drinking
smoking and eating
charred red meat?
not to mention lying in the sun
every minute that the sun
comes out.
you're fit as a fiddle, I tell
him putting my hand
on his shoulder.
fit as a fiddle, he says back,
mocking me.
we'll see, we'll see, wont we.

love and dead animals

something's dead
in the attic
she says, holding her nose,
pointing towards
the ceiling.
maybe you should
go up there
and see what it is.
you go, I tell her.
you smelled it first.
no, it's your house, she says,
handing you
a flashlight
and a broom.
go with me, I ask her.
if you loved me, I mean
truly loved me,
you'll help me remove
a dead animal
from
the attic.
no, she says. you can't define
my love for you
with the cleaning up of
dead animals.
be a man and go up there.
i'll hold the ladder.

salsa red

after a long
dry marriage of compromise
and nods
in quiet agreement
over
nearly everything
from beds
to movies, to dinner.
she decided this new life
would be different.
the colors
she would choose
would
show others who she really
was,
not all browns,
or greys,
or blue.
there would be red.
salsa red.
let's do the ceiling first
she cheered,
and began
her new life.

the chosen one

there is one
knife in the drawer
that always
finds your hand
first.
it's different than the others.
wider,
heavier,
has a certain twist
in the handle, giving
it a
je ne sais quois.
are the others jealous,
perhaps.
but you know what you like
when you need
to smooth butter
onto a toasted slice
of warm bread.

tell me everything

the less
we know. the better.
or so
they say.
but it's not really true.
I want to know
it all
then
decide on what to do,
what to say.
don't hide
your feelings,
let me decide when it's
time to go
away.

don't touch

don't touch,
you told your son, hot.
no.
don't do that.
pulling his small arm
back.
holding
his pink fingers
together.
still he reached out,
he had to know
on his own,
despite your warnings.
his scars will be same
as yours.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

small things

her eyes,
dipped in brown
ink
glimmer wet
with morning light.
her soft
cheeks, her rise and shine
whisper
into your ear,
how small things
can the make
the world
just right.

the moral dilemma

the moral decision
of whether or not to push
the cart
back to the store
after loading your groceries
into the car
is trying
your soul. it's a long
walk in the heat.
you could leave it next to the light
pole,
out of the way.
or let it wobble in the spot
you drive away from.
or you could push it back
to the curb
and slide it into place
with the other carts
against the store wall.
some days you are too tired,
or lazy to be good.,
maybe no one will notice.

bad fruit

I knock and press a finger
on the melon
that sits in a large box by
the entrance
to the door of the grocery
store.
a fountain of red
juice squirts out
from the soft shelled skin.
already rotted before june
begins.
I look at my shirt,
and study the pink rorshach
stain.
it's telling me something.
everything
is telling me something.
it's tiring to think this way.
bad fruit, an omen.

the undertow

the undertow is strong today.
the life guards
are standing in their chairs
blowing their
whistles,
waving red flags.
the wind is fierce.
the waves crackle with water
from the deepest
parts of the ocean,
cold and brittle
against white legs.
on the shore they press
their hands
against the chests of swimmers
who went too far
and under,
now blue without air
in their lungs. at night
I feel the pull of that same
ocean,
working against the blood
in my veins, wanting more
of me than i'm able to give.

the small black comb

for years
you had the short black
comb
tucked into the back pocket
of your worn
dungarees.
too young for a wallet,
for a set
of keys.
it was the comb that kept
you together,
being the boy
you were supposed to be.
finding a window
that reflects,
a mirror,
a toaster to slide it
through your hair,
even the part,
create the wave with
that elvis
stand hanging down
across your young face.

i want that

how you long to bite
into her.
the cream filled
pastry that she is.
her quiet way of being
the only
thing in the window
you look at.
how the bell rings on
the door
when you enter,
and you point,
with a hungry heart
and say, I want
that.

the good mechanic

when someone says
he's a good mechanic, you understand.
a good plumber,
a good
roofer.
it means not that they
are good people
who go to church,
or who are faithful to their
wives.
it means something
different.
something that will keep
you going back
to fix
whatever issue
appears in your life,
fixed by hands
without a lie.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

how to win her over

i tell her about my
cooking skills, about what i can
do with butter
and eggs,
a little milk.
i hold in my hand
the large black pan
that was stored under
the collection
of pots i never use.
in my other hand I hold
the silver
fork, as if a wand
about to perform magic.
she puts her hands on her hips
and smiles. rubs her stomach
and licks her lips.
she's in awe.
i may have won her over
with these scrambled eggs
and toast.

legs are good

the collection company calls
and asks me
if i'm home today.
I am I say.
we need your money now,
not three weeks ago,
or yesterday,
but now.
jimmy will stop by to pick it
up.
cash only.
you like having legs that work
don't you?
he asks,
yes, I say.
legs are good.

taking a cruise

i have second thoughts
about being
a passenger
on the Mayflower
going into month three
of being at sea,
eating this salty meat,
drinking rain water
caught in my hat.
it seemed like a good idea
at the time.
I'm not really a pilgrim,
never was, never
will be, I just wanted
to travel and see the world,
find out for sure
if the world is curved
or flat.
it seems curved.
and what will we do when
we get there.
will the stores be open,
will we be greeted
at the dock
with gifts and flowers?
I hope so, because I don't
have the energy
to kill animals, make coats
out of them,
or build a mud thatched
dwelling.