Sunday, July 31, 2016

by a nose

by a nose
the horse wins,
wet
and out of breath,
does it care, does it matter
to him
or her
what the finish was?
there is still the stable,
the water
and oats,
the hands brushing
and whispers
of love
from the handlers.
only in the stands
with tickets
torn,
or tickets waved in
victory
does the world feel right,
or wrong.

out of hand

the dripping faucet
is a small
thing as is the screw
which loosened
and rolled
away,
leaving the door
half hinged.
a light bulb
dead
when you turn the switch,
a leak
in the washer
at your feet,
the squeak of boards
going up
the stairs.
a check in the mail
sent back
with insufficient funds
stamped
on the front.
each alone is nothing
to be concerned
about, but collectively
you take notice
and believe
that things may be
getting out of
hand.

in for the day

once
inside. it's hard to go back
out again.
the sun
whitens
everything, shimmers
along the metal
curve of cars,
the roads rise
in black and white
lines.
it's difficult to leave
your cool
nest and venture out
once more
into
the blistered
air
of july.

unedited

the unedited version
of you
is raw.
full of errors, misspellings,
lack
of punctuation,
but you clean the page up
well enough
to go out in public
and be
approved. accepted
as normal.
at home it's different though,
let the ink
fly,
let the thoughts run
wild, you fill the page
with everything and anything
your heart
desires, then crumple it
and toss it towards
the basket.

the comfort of anyone

she disappears again,
so I know she's met someone.
a new guy.
how quietly she slips
into love like
a well worn shoe.
hardly a month can go by
without wearing
them or
walking in the sand
alone, discovering
the ocean
without another voice
beside her.

imperfections

the rain does
nothing to make things cooler.
we'll talk
about this later,
when night falls.
when we sit on the front steps
and look for a moon
that isn't there.
the stars will be dim,
too close to the city.
something will make the dog
bark, spoiling
the quiet.
things are not always what
you want them to
be.
the imperfections of us,
make that clear.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

rock star

the clerk at the local
market
is a rock star.
his hair braided and long,
blonde
and down around his shoulders.
it hangs
in front of his
red vest hiding
his name plate.
his soft blue eyes seem shy,
but I doubt it.
I imagine at night
he's on stage,
singing,
playing his guitar,
kneeling in the lights
as young girls
scream his name.
bare chested and bold,
as he strums
and wails out his song.
I want to tell him that I
too once
had hair like that,
that long, that scraggily
and blonde,
but I don't, I think better
of it, instead
I take out my coupons then
push my eggs
and bacon,
my two percent milk,
apple juice
and prunes along the belt.

the king of ice cream

you are the king
of ice
cream, not the emperor as
the poem
goes, but a king, who
can sit
in the cool of a wind
blown fan,
and spoon
the sweet diary mix,
into your mouth.
hardly a summers day
can go by
without a thought of this.
cradling
the quart
in your lap, while
reading,
or watching tv.
and
the cat, patient as
any cat can be through
the ages
sits nearby, waiting
for her turn,
once the king has finished.

bring it to me

the needle,
taking thread through
its thin
hole, wet at the end
by her lips,
hardly stiff,
but manageable
as she guides it through
the opened eye
of steel.
what needs to be sewn?
a sleeve,
a seam, a cuff
undone. a dress.
how she could sit
for hours
and take our clothes
one piece
at a time
and sew, saying almost
done,
now there.

call it even

she told you that she
wasn't the jealous
type,
but when you saw the key
marks down
the side of your black
car,
you thought that maybe
she wasn't
being completely honest
with you,
as you weren't with her.
the flat tire may be of
her doing as well.
call it even.

the abstract life

life is hardly a circle,
although
it sounds good
when speaking of what comes
back around.
it's more
of an abstract painting,
a Jackson
Pollock canvas,
of energy
and doubt,
of paint slung and dripped,
splattered
with a mind of its own.
maybe in the end
it's something
when held up
from a distance,
and maybe it's not
anything, but a mess.

her blues

she can hardly
stop
from doing what she does,
staring
at the blue
thin veins
on her wrist.
each year, coming closer
to her goal.
neither pills, or
therapy
seem to work, each
a soft pillow
gone cold, barbed
with feathers.
she feels as if she
could
disappear at any moment,
by her hand,
or the hand of others,
walk off
into the blue.
the hesitation
in her voice
when speaking
saying more of where
she is,
and is going,
without me.

walking towards the ocean

it is the breath
of the ocean
that welcomes you, both
cold
and warm
sweeping in from an
impossible
sea.
the shimmering coals
of sand,
tiny
but one together
as you walk towards
your past, your future,
less of you
than the year before.
it is the ocean
that keeps
calling, bringing you
back for more, with
or without love
in hand,
this thing, this roll
of waves, this deepness
of blue and green
remains the same.

Friday, July 29, 2016

her new melons

you see marla
in the grocery store.
work has been done
you think as you watch her
bump into
the tomato pyramid sending
a few rolling on the floor.
there is a permanent look
of surprise on her face.
she doesn't see you,
the world is a blur
without her glasses, so
you yell.
hey marla, which makes
her turn and squint
as she pushes her cart towards you.
she's more blonde now,
teetering on heels, more
something else,
something you can't quite
put your finger on.
what do you think she says,
after saying hello.
about what, you ask,
these, she pushes
her breasts out, and looks down
at the two large scoops of vanilla
nearly pouring out
of her tight blouse.
they're new, she says,
just got them two weeks ago.
go ahead and feel them.
really?
yes, she says,
to which you say, well,
okay, then look around
to see if anyone is watching.
you poke one with a finger,
then the other one.
they feel hard, they feel
soft. mushy,
like melons going south
at the end of a long summer.
nice, you say.
they look great.
everyone loves them, well,
gotta run, she says. I have
a date tonight. new guy.
great seeing you again,
and off you both go in
different directions.

dinner guests

she liked to put
out the good china when her
mother and father visited.
her sister in tow, with her next
husband.
a new table cloth
had arrived, ironed hot,
and smoothed
before spread across
the table.
new glasses too. wine, water,
thick tumblers
for her father, who wanted scotch.
the silver polished.
serving dishes, saucers and tea
cups.
the coffee machine
with an exotic brew.
all day she'd cook,
and clean, dust and wax.
fold towels for the loo.
it was just a small house,
narrowed beside
two others,
blue vinyl hiding
the quick build of wood
and shingles. outside
was the sand pit where children
would play.
a swing and a see saw,
now broken,
but inside, her gourmet
books kept
her going, days before
the guests arrived.
the house full of food you
never smelled before,
and you, watching it all,
uncertain as to why or what it
all meant, wondering why
none of this ever done for
just you two.

the photo

a black and white photograph,
the edges crimped, the thick
skin
brittle
and creped,
but the dark eyes,
hair, the italian faces are all
familiar.
the future and past
all gathered together
near a table,
white clothed.
there is wine, empty
plates.
a bowl
in the middle,
fruit never to be touched.
aunts and uncles
before they became so,
your mother,
nestled between
the shoulders of her
brothers,
smiling, the mirror image
of one of your sisters
at that age.
most of the people in
the photo are dead now, or
close to it.
but then, oh then, how
they lived
and ate, listened
and danced to music,
fought and laughed,
made babies, one of which
was you.

try some of these pills

hallucinations
are not uncommon, suicidal
tendencies,
aggression
and dizziness may accompany
the taking
of this medicine.
take one pill with a meal,
at night.
do not drive, or operate
heavy machinery.
do not climb ladders,
or reach above
your head.
stay away from sharp objects,
small children
and pets.
if you hear sirens, or your
vision goes black,
call 911 immediately
if you can find your phone.
heart palpitations, speaking
in tongues
and vomiting may
occur, as well as dry mouth
and frequent urination.
if a rash appears,
do not scratch it or let anyone
touch the oozing
lesions that may
develop.
although this is an allergy
medicine, you may
have an allergic reaction
to it which
could cause immediate death,
or a long slow painful
one in a coma.
it's recommended that a living
will is made,
as well as consulting
a priest
before taking one of these
pills.
see your doctor for a refill
of this prescription.

more fish

when she died, my father
said, don't worry,
there are more fish in the sea.
you'll get over it,
give it time.
after thirty years
of him being in the navy
I believed him.
he must know a lot about the sea,
about fish.
that was the last time
I confided
anything so personal
and full of grief
with him.
I keep the topic to weather
and sports now,
grilled fish.

the girl from iowa

the girl from iowa
that i met in north Carolina
at a beach house
that was owned by
someone who lived in Maryland
used to put ketchup on
her scrambled eggs.
she'd burp and squeeze
the bottle,
pouring the ketchup out
in long lines, then making
a grid back the other way.
I remember staring
at her and saying, you really
like ketchup, don't you?
and her replying yup,
as she dug in, smiling
with her gapped front teeth.

best friends

your best friend
in high school rarely studied
for a test
instead he sat close
to you
and bumped your chair
whispering
for answers.
sometimes he'd copy
your French translation,
word for word,
getting you both
d's on the assignment.
he's a doctor now,
and you've lost contact,
but you can still
feel the chair
being nudged by his
tapping foot,
his psst pssst behind you.

nine to five

in some ways
they look like prisoners.
the long lines
getting off
the subway,
the buses, marching towards
their cells.
they are non resistant
and peaceful,
reluctant to stir things
up
and miss a meal,
or a chance at a better
view
from where they sit
on the seventeenth floor.
there are no chains,
no guards,
no watch tower.
but the sentence is long
and hard
with no means of escape,
that they know of.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

happy people

some people are too happy.
especially
in the morning.
they look at you and say
things like,
good morning, sunshine,
up and at em.
you're not a violent
person, but the idea
of throwing things at these
happy people does
cross your mind.
ahhh, another beautiful
day in paradise, they might
offer,
pulling up the blinds
and spreading the curtains
open.
just look at that blue
sky. listen to those birds chirping.
you know there is something wrong
with these people,
but you can't quite
put your finger on it.
while brushing their teeth, again,
they might come over and take
the pillow off your head,
pinch your cheeks,
and say something like,
let's go lazy bones,
times a wasting. we've got a whole
beautiful day
ahead of us.

deep breathing

one part of your lung
is a little
weak, my doctor tells me
while she stares
at the x-ray
against the light.
you need to do some deep
breathing exercises,
which will help to restore
it to its full
power.
immediately I think
of Isabel Leonard and wonder
if she's still in town
and not flown back to Italy yet.

i'll call you

I'll call you,
you tell her.
i promise as she writes
her number
down on a bar
napkin,
but the number sits
in your wallet
for days, which become
weeks.
at the end of the year
you stare the smudged
blue numbers
and can't remember who
this person is,
so you finally call to
find out, but the number
has been changed
or disconnected.
you kept your promise
though, you called.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

summer money

our skinny arms
would easily slide up into
the rounded shoulders
of red coke
machines
and pull out a cold
bottle,
releasing it from the rack.
sometimes there was
change to be found
in the little
doored pocket
of the machine, or
in telephone booth beside it.
coke bottles, empty were
two cents,
when returned,
quart bottles a nickel.
wooden crates
holding twenty four
were a quarter.
we wandered over to the bars
where in the gravel
lots
we'd pan for more.
drunks reaching for keys
and letting bills
and change
fall out before driving
home in a stupor.
we kept our summers going
in this way.
finding spare
change
and treating each new
dime
on the ground as if
a gold nugget.

i don't want to know

at a party
it's best not to ask
what someone does for a living.
they look at you
exhausted already with
what they are about to say,
but give it a try.
they explain
quickly with words
you've never heard before,
some ending in x,
how they spend
nine hours of their day.
in short time
you are looking for the man
carrying around
a tray of shrimp wrapped in bacon
and turning your martini glass
up into the air,
to finish it in a single gulp.

the gin blues

being drunk
is no fun. maybe for ten minutes
of lucid
hilarity
and twisted wisdom shouted
out into
an unlistening world,
but then
the world spins,
and gin doesn't seem
to be your friend anymore.
you are flying
in outer space,
floating
among the dampened stars,
the sparks
of your brain
begin to pulsate
as the vice squeezes
down.
what was in you,
consumed during the past week,
has a strong and urgent
desire to leave.
being drunk is no fun,
not for you
are anyone
within arms reach.

one drop of blood

the paper cut
lets
a small drop of blood
come
out
and drip in a candy
like drop
upon
the white shirt.
a stain that will
never wash out.
life
continues, but
now
with a different
shirt.

a soft moon

it's a soft
moon that rises over
our
arms, our legs, our upturned
faces.
bone white
with almost a smile,
a grin
a song in play
among
the scattered clouds.
who doesn't love a moon
like that,
the mystery
still in tact
about what anything really
means.
this moment.
what's to come,
what's in the past.

for karen

it's a slow
drive through the old neighborhood.
the houses
are small,
smaller than you remember.
flat roofs,
rough bricked with
casement windows.
graffiti walls.
the street narrows,
and turns below
the long licorice
lines of power
and phone wires
strung low.
you remember the hiding
places, now
overgrown,
the bowling alley
boarded up, the long wall
against where
you stood and swung
at pitches from your brother,
a strike zone
painted in. still there.
the sweet memories
of a first kiss
linger as you drive through,
as you slow down
to stare at the window
where you once looked
out at a world
you knew so little
about, but now do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

the thai cleaners

the thai restaurant
where we met is now a dry cleaners.
it looks
like the same
people are working
there though.
you go in, just to see
if any thing
looks
the same.
maybe a chair, or table
where we held
hands for the first time.
it doesn't.
there is the smell of
sweet chemicals
in the air,
a large oval rack that
moves mechanically
with plastic covered clothes.
the woman at the front
asks
if you have a number,
you say no,
just looking.
remembering.

two stories

there is always more
to the story,
another side, a different
angle,
there is your version
then hers
about how it all fell
apart.
neither right, neither
wrong,
but you'll tell yours,
and she'll go with
hers, as you both explain
how it ended
for the rest
of your lives.

the ice box

I remember my
mother
chipping ice out
of the ice
box when it had become
white and frozen
inside
not unlike the photos
I would see
in the national geographic
magazine
of the polar caps.
she'd pull the red stool
to where she could
reach
the top section
then begin to chisel
away
at the thick walls
of frosted ice.
it took hours as
we watched her
with our needs.
getting towels
to set at her feet,
catching the dripping
water.
she was quiet while she
worked.
her head inside the cold
square,
it was almost as if she
had left,
gone somewhere without us.

Monday, July 25, 2016

the iron curtain

the doctor's assistant,
from the eastern block,
with a little diamond
stuck to the outside
of her nose,
tells me to blow
into the tube,
seeing how high I can make
the red line rise.
testing my lung capacity.
you can do better, she says,
after I blow once.
go again, she says,
stamping her foot.
I do. it's a weaker blow.
once more she says,
harder, do it, now.
so I do.
it's the worst of the three
tries.
she sighs and writes down my highest
number.
sit, she say, I am going to
give you a shot
now, which arm?
either I say. roll up your sleeve.
the needle goes in.
I hardly feel it. she has
a tender touch
despite her steely ways.
I tell her that.
I tell her that I've never
received an injection with such
tenderness. i see a tear
roll out of one
of her blue eyes. go she says,
pointing at the door.
go. go have your
lungs x-rayed. fourth floor.

when the rake broke

after I broke my
rake,
raking
leaves and vines in the back
yard.
I didn't curse,
or shake my head,
I just threw it over
the fence into
the woods.
both pieces.
raking was done for the day,
perhaps that year.
at some point
i'll get another rake,
and start again
in the yard,
moving leaves and vines
around, crazy rocks
that never seemed
to be there before,
but i'm in no rush.
there's no one
pressuring me to rake,
or bag
the pile and take
it to the dump.
in fact, i'm happy that
the rake broke.

the storm

chaos arrives
and settles in for awhile.
it's a storm with
winds and heavy rain.
I've been
there before, who hasn't.
in the past
there was panic, grinding of teeth,
pulling of hair,
angst ridden sleep.
but not this time.
this time
I watch it happen, let it roll.
i take the sails down,
do what needs
to be done
to keep the ship afloat,
bailing water,
singing and old seaman's song,
until it blows away.

the rabbit fur

it was a coat
made from rabbits.
black and white, brown
spotted.
it must have taken fifty
rabbits, their
stretched
hides stitched together
to form this
unsightly garment.
it made me sneeze whenever
she wore it
out and about,
on a date.
I was happy when
we got caught in rain
storm one night
and had
to walk and walk
before getting
to our destination.
the coat was
sopping wet, the fur
matted
and running with
weak dyes. it smelled
funny too.
I laughed, she cried
when
the rabbit coat
died.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

the poisoned well

betrayal
is a poison.
it stays in the belly
for a long time,
forever, maybe.
it's hard
to let go of what
a sly hand
has done,
letting fall the apple
into the well.
it's not easy
to love again
with this taste
still in your mouth,
lingering,
unable to spit out.

the love unused

unsmelled roses
don't care.
beauty unseen
either
has no
grief. or music
not heard,
the farthest star
unwished upon
will not lose
a moments sleep,
but the love within
a heart
unused,
is tragic.

why bother

it's easier
with things to make
it black and white,
the literal interpretation
keeping
things clear.
but the poets
and theologians want
us
to see more.
to grieve
harder, seek joy with
more fervor.
think beyond the reach
of our hand.
life and death is not
an even
thing,
nor is good or bad
distributed
with a kind compassionate
hand.
what reason are all these books,
all this learning
with the end so close,
with darkness
encroaching perpetually
with every new rise
of a white sun.
why bother.

just give us candy

as a child
I questioned the piƱata.
why?
why are you blindfolding
us
and giving us a stick
to swing
blindly
at this colored
box on a string,
in the picnic air,
why are we reaching up
with our skinny arms,
trying to burst its
sides so that it will
rain candy.
just give us
the candy,
evenly and fairly, each
with his or her
own
amount.
what madness is this
thing
that we are doing.
we are children.
I learned early how to take
the fun
out of many things
that others in this life
so enjoy.

the last ride

at the carnival,
decades ago,
my son and I were in the spider
like contraption,
that spun us
around
rapidly, up and down, the long
tendrils of
the clanging machine
vibrating
like wings.
there was music playing.
REO speedwagon, or journey,
some such thing.
then it stopped.
some people screamed with no
way down.
finally a man
in a greasy white t shirt
approached
with a wrench and asked
if we had seen any
parts fly off.
no one said a word, they wondered
how it came about that
their life would
end like this.
at a parking lot carnival,
at the mercy
of the man with the wrench.
everyone will
get refunds and more tickets
to ride the spider
again, he said,
crossing his heart
with the wrench, just as soon
as I get it fixed.

it's just the way we are

I can hardly
walk by a watermelon
without rapping my knuckles
on it to see
if it has that nice
hollow sound, not that i'm
going to buy another
melon this summer.
I'm full of melon.
same goes for a woman
walking by in a short skirt,
I can hardly keep
my head still, from
turning around,
not that i'll chase her
down the street
and beg her to be mine.
it's just the way we are.
men.

the spin cycle

i'm losing things.
losing
sight of what's important.
keys
and wallets,
i'm lost
in the city
going down a one
way street with pink
tickets
flapping under my wipers
like tongues
mocking me
with laughter.
I can't find your number,
my credit card
to ring up a bottle of
grey goose
at the abc store.
that sandwich
I was eating
has fallen between the seats.
I have lettuce
on my knee, between
my teeth.
i'm in the spin cycle
of middle age,
middle that is if I live
to be a hundred and twenty.
i'm
waiting
for the rinse cycle
and bells to ring to say
that i'm done.

i never said that

I don't remember
half
of what I said
an hour ago,
i'm a babbling brook
when it comes
to words, so how
I could
I possibly remember what
you said, no matter
how well
your phrased it.
let's clean the slate
and say new
stuff.
okay, you go first.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

go buy some ice cream

a woman
approaches me in
the parking lot, she's mad,
her hands
are on her hips,
her face is pink
the color
of merlot.
you cut me off back there,
she says,
you didn't even look
or care
that I was coming.
I was doing forty, the speed
limit,
but you people have no
manners,
no sense of the road,
do you?
I have no clue what she's
talking about,
I looked at my one turn,
saw nothing,
then turned.
i'm sorry, I said, but
you have me mistaken for
someone else.
no, it was you. I know it
was you. I hope you're
happy about getting
to the store
before me.
I want to say or do the right
thing, but she persists
in the hot sun,
standing in the black lot,
confronting me.
a part of me wants
to curse her,
and tell her to leave me
alone, to go buy a gallon
of butter brickle ice cream
and have a nice day.
but it ends
before I can say anything
i'll regret for a week or more.
she's tired of yelling and being
mad,
so wobbles into the store
staring at her list
crumpled in her hand.


what's next

with the promise of beer
and pizza, your crowd
gathers
in the early morning.
there is lifting to be done.
boxes,
furniture.
pictures to be hung,
once centered
and marked
where the nail should be.
the carpet goes
down, paint onto
the walls.
tables moved
and chairs placed under
them.
dishes find their
way into the cupboard,
silverware
into a drawer.
the beds get made.
before long, everyone
after eating and drinking,
has left, leaving
you alone
to figure out what's
next.

the night shift

it made my mother nervous
when I drove her to work
at sunny brooke tavern
down indian head highway
in godforsaken southern Maryland.
she worked the four o'clock
shift, closing at one or
two in the morning.
it was a seedy, smokey
joint where you were frisked
before going in.
she worked behind the bar
in a pair of hot pants,
the uniform of the day.
her hair up in a black
tall bun, held together
with hair spray and pins.
on a low stage a country band
played.
at home were her seven
children, of varying ages,
from diapers to college.
slow down, she'd say, you're
driving too fast,
or hurry up, I'm going
to be late.
I can't lose my job.
I remember the sun coming
through the car window,
a yellow glow angled
onto my mother. her hands
in her lap, on top of her
large white purse
with gold clasps. her sequined vest.
she was excited and sad
at the same time
to be working, freshly divorced,
making minimum wage and tips,
fending off the men,
some of which
would drive her home on
the back of motorcycles, or
in their trucks, hoping
against hope, she'd give in.

a penny saved

always, always,
they preached,
save for the future.
put a little bit
away,
a coin in a jar,
a bill folded, tucked
inside a wallet,
open up a savings
account at the bank.
watch it grow and grow,
so that one day
you'll have
plenty to live on
when you turn old and grey,
unable to work
any longer.
and when you die
you'll have
something to leave
for your children, or
cats.

Friday, July 22, 2016

dead chickens

i'm so hungry, I could wring
a chicken's neck
and pluck it's feather
clean
off it's pink back,
if I had a clue how to go
about it.
but I don't,
i'm way too compassionate
to kill anything anyways,
and then eat it.
so I call in Chinese
food.
they know me by name
and number,
address, but ask just
the same what it is.
once that's out of the way,
I say,
kung pao chicken,
two summer rolls.
no MSG.
no shrimp tonight?
the woman says, looking
at my past orders. no.
I tell her.
oh, okay. twenty minutes.
cash or credit?
cash, as you well know.

lost in jersey

in a thunderous rain storm
we were lost in jersey,
missing
the bridge and tunnel,
the cloverleaf
into the city,
but we did find a total
wine store,
on some narrow grey street,
much to her surprise
and joy.
we loaded the trunk
up with her favorites,
then got back in the car,
a beat up old
heap with expired tags
and turned
the radio on, we
looked out at the city
in the rain,
beyond our reach
for the moment,
as we passed a cold
bottle of chardonnay
to one another.

not the diamond

spoiled milk,
gone
south, yellowed
and slick in the plastic
jug.
not quite green,
or black
with mold, but working
on another life
form
captured within.
the eggs too,
hardened in their shells,
still cupped
in the cardboard
bed.
the bread, long gone
hard
though wrapped
tight with a twist.
so many other things
that she left
behind,
as reminders
of what happens
when love ends.
that gold ring on
the counter,
but not the diamond,
not everything gets
left behind.

each day

each footstep
leading towards another.
each job,
each day erased from
the calendar, each new
moon
rising between the trees,
each night
alone, or not alone,
all adding up
to something, something
you can't quite
understand,
but accept.

what's not replaced

somewhere in this world
my wallet
lies on
the ground, or is in the hands
some nefarious
soul
becoming me,
he must be disappointed
by the lack
of cash
folded within.
slowly i swim through
the day,
on the phone
speaking to agents,
correcting the loss with
new plastic,
new identification,
new leather with which
to encase
my life.
everything inside is gone,
but replaced,
everything that is,
but you,
your hand written note
folded into squares,
saying
i'm sorry. I love you.

anger

even in the best
of times,
when the moon and stars align,
when the weather
is sweet
and sunny
with blue skies,
even then
you are surprised how
the smallest
of things
can wring out the dark
side in you,
saying words
you'll regret as soon
as they leave
your mouth.
the other side of
you is so near the surface,
despite
everything.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

running away

i'm running away from
home
my sister tells me one night,
sitting on
the front porch, which is really
a stoop of
concrete steps
that lead out to the sidewalk
where a blue mailbox
sits.
but you're fifty years old
I tell her.
so what, she says.
I've always wanted to run away
from home
and now I have the means
to do it.
I look out at her car.
it's red, a convertible.
there's a suitcase in back.
how's the new car?
it's okay, she says. but it
doesn't make me happy.
what does, I ask her,
trying to find her eyes
behind the sunglasses.
wine, she says. red wine
to be specific.
if anyone asks, you don't know
where I am, okay?
sure, I tell her.
beach, three days?
yes, she says. can I borrow
some beach towels, I
left mine at home.

the soft list

you make a list
of things to do.
closets to clean, oil
to be changed.
patch and paint the ceiling
where the rain
came through.
it's a long but soft
list.
nothing pressing, or
urgent.
people can wait for your
call.
it's not life or
death,
just a list of things
that come to mind.
you'll make it, then forget
what was on it,
setting aside.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

elmira white

I might shave
my beard off, jake tells me at work,
as he puts
another coat
of Elmira White onto
the walls.
someone told me that it makes
me look old.
there's too much grey in it.
but you are old I tell him,
so what's the difference,
he doesn't say anything
to this, he keeps
working the roller, dipping
the sleeve
into the tray,
rolling the white paint
onto the walls to make
everything fresh and new again.

no surrender

retire and do what,
I say
to the third person that asks
me that question
this week. surrender,
to do what.
travel?
movies, sleep in?
no, I say.
I think i'll just
continue working
and take
the weekends off.
maybe go
the beach when time allows
or up
to new York city
for a hot pastrami sandwich.
retire?
no, and do what?
what would there be to complain
about then?

Irma and Velma

no, my name is not velma,
but Irma
she says
on the phone.
I can hear a dog barking,
a baby crying.
a man
asking loudly
where his dinner might be.
I like the name
Irma, though
she says, maybe i'll change
my name.
but is there
a velma there,
i ask her, listening
to a dish breaking,
a tv on in the background,
a man asking her
who she's talking to.
get off the phone, he yells
and bring me my
goddamn dinner.
velma, sounds like the name
of someone
i'd like to be, she says,
whispering now,
holding back tears.
there is no velma here,
she finally says,
but I wish there was, i'm
sorry
that you have the wrong
number.

i see it too

when there was a moon
such as there is tonight,
full and round,
we'd talk
on the phone and say
can you see it?
do you see the moon
between the trees.
it was simple
and sweet, a brief
way of saying
we're both here under
the same light
in the sky.
connected somehow
by its glow, its pull,
its poetic magic,
all said
without words, just,
yes, I see it too,
sleep well,
goodnight.

choices

I miss running.
mile after mile.
the endorphins kicking in.
the easy gait
of legs
and arms swinging.
the burn
of cold air,
the sweet fatigue after
a good
run ended.
I miss the distance
traveled on foot,
along the river,
the woods,
the stillness of morning.
with age
choices are made.
onto the bike
I go, or the brisk
walk
whiles others speed by.

the garlic cure

in an effort to strengthen
my immune system
and rid myself
of sneezing and congestion,
wheezing
and heavy breathing
I start eating
whole bulbs of garlic.
I read somewhere
that garlic helps.
it doesn't seem to be
working.
although it's keeping
the vampires
and everyone else away.

the wad of gum incident

there was the time
when you were in high school,
slow dancing with Vivian,
your girl friend of three days,
captain of the cheerleaders,
the lights down low,
a gaggle of
other goofy teenagers
dancing too with
a beatles record playing
over and over again
on the turn table, while
upstairs her parents sat
sat on a long blue couch
watching ed Sullivan.
it was then that you dropped
a wad of gum
out of your mouth
and it stuck in Vivian's
long black hair
that went to the middle
of her back.
you struggled to get it out
with your teeth,
your lips
and tongue, until she finally
screamed and said
what are you doing?
the lights went up, the parents
ran down the steps
with a baseball bat to
see who might have been stabbed.
her girlfriends shrieked
when seeing the web of pink gum,
then they all cried, held hands
and gave me the evil eye.
fortunately you had more
gum, and began chewing on a fresh
piece, while you were asked
to leave.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

the dry field

you have to let
the field alone at times.
let a season pass
with no tilling of soil,
no planting.
no plow.
let it go. let it
be what it is.
flat and wide under
the sun and stars.
let it heal
over time. let the earth
turn,
let the slow
unseen workings
of death and new life
begin, then start again.

wandering

on the wrong trail,
I still
think that I can make it
home before
dark.
the trees all look the same,
the sun
a soft yellow blemish
going down,
right over there,
the owl
is still to the right
of me.
I can almost hear
the stream too,
a dark sleeve
of water
going somewhere.
follow that.
and i'll get there.

the right and left

given time
the energetic political
supporter
dressed
in red white
and blue, a tall hat,
with placard
in hand, stating who
they are for or
against will get old.
get tired.
get sensible and realize
that it's all a sham.
a game
of smoke and mirrors,
promises unfulfilled,
bold
dreams that will never
be had.
but for now, they rise,
they clap and holler,
stamp their collective feet.
they are full of youth,
full of everything
but a sense of history
and time, with
not enough yesterdays
behind them.

the heat

it's so damn out,
she says,
arching her back
and speaking
in her best sultry voice.
a cat
licking her paws.
why don't
you come over
here and make love to me,
I can barely
move
an arm, or leg, but for some reason
this heat
has gotten
me into some kind of mood.
don't spoil my mood, she says.
be a dear, be a sport,
be kind and hurry.
you know where the key is.
she waits,
letting the warm air,
stirred by her overhead fan
fill the space between us
not saying
a thing, until you finally
say.
okay, your arm twisted.

his favorite war

he talks about the civil
war
longingly,
his last name being the same
as a famous
general.
he looks off into distance
as if he
can still hear
cannon fire,
horses on the hill,
a bugle
being played.
he tells you that his great
grandfather
fought in the war,
lost an arm
on the field, but got
the best of them
in the end, despite
losing.
then he takes a swallow
of whiskey.
the amber drink
shining in the sun as
it dribbles
on his chin, into his grey
beard.
he tells you about
his father
who died
in a fire, falling asleep
with a cigarette burning
in his hand.
passed out
from drink.
this part of his story
goes quickly, then it's back
to gettysburgh,
summit hill
appotmatox. Robert E. Lee.

the board game

just about any board
game
ended in a fight with
your siblings.
hurry up
and roll the dice, get
off the phone,
it's your turn
was often said.
one brother played
to win, and not just
win but get everyone
to submit
to his strategy
and devious play.
the sister, at some point
always said,
I don't care about this
stupid
game, I quit.
throwing her pieces
and fake
dollars into the air.
but you played on,
through the rainy
summer nights,
your mother poking her
head into the room
to tell all of you to
quit arguing
and yelling. it's just
a game,
she'd say,
but hardly.

Monday, July 18, 2016

the daily news

the news
gathers like grey balls
of dust
in the corners
of your room,
under the bed, out of sight.
you'll get
to it, sooner or later,
sweep it
up and
get clean once more,
but soon
another paper
hits the porch
and you turn to the weather,
to sports,
to the style section.
the rest is too hard
to absorb,
the same
as the day before.

buying more

you have too many
shoes,
too many pairs of socks
and shorts,
shirts, all of the same
color.
too much of nearly everything.
is it a reflection
of growing
up with virtually nothing,
when you had to slip
card board into the holes
of your sneakers
to keep your feet
from bleeding,
probably.

but what now

she says that she knew
right away that it wasn't going to work.
then a kid
came along,
then another.
a cat a dog.
a fence around
the new house.
relatives and neighbors
tied
strings to us,
we were tethered by our
own doing,
with schools and sports,
weekend barbeques,
unable to escape a loveless
life
together.
but now i'm free, twenty
five years
later.
what's mine is mine,
with no compromise.
but what now?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

the unknown

no one truly knows you,
or me,
for that matter.
there is a part in all of us
that stays
hidden.
neither good or bad,
but an essence,
a true
value of who you really
are
from stem to stern,
within.
bits leak out, but not
all.
that core remains
a mystery,
which keeps us all guessing
for better
or for worse.

home before dark

as a child you were
told not to talk to strangers,
don't get
in the car or accept
candy
from people you don't know.
run home
when it gets dark out.
how fearful
we were made to be of the outside
world.
but not
fearful enough,
for everything you were warned
about,
that could happen, does
and more so.

wanting more

it's something like
wind
that picks us up and takes
us to the next world,
if there is one.
it's a light hand
that lifts
our spirit from our
shells
and pushes us from this
life
to another.
how hard we try not
to go there,
clinging to bedsheets
at the end,
grieving what has passed,
wanting more.

what the world needs

we think
of what the world needs.
an invention
not yet
conceived. it's hard though,
looking
around at all
the junk
in the stores, online,
in your own house.
what hasn't
been thought of?
what brilliant idea has
yet to come
to fruition.
the pet rock was easy,
the hulu hoop
and slinky.
silly putty.
you could be rich and never
have to work
again
if you could only thing
of one dumb
thing the world wants
and needs.







til death do we part

say steak is your favorite meal.
a juicy rib eye with
potatoes and gravy,
string beans.
a hot roll with
butter.
medium rare, say you can
eat this every night
for the rest of your life,
it's there waiting for
you when you get home,
it's there in
the morning.
you have a picture of this
steak dinner
in your wallet,
it's on the mantle,
you show people the photos
on your phone.
it never changes, this dinner,
this meal.
which is a good thing,
and yet,
occasionally you long
for chicken, or lasagna,
or veal.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

press three if you know your party's extension

it's a minor claim
for your car insurance, a week
old
small thing
that needs to be taken care of.
but
you never hear
from anyone.
no message, no e mail,
no text.
the phone prompts send you
on a dizzying ride
to nowhere.
press one, press two,
press three if you know
your party's extension, which
goes to voice mail.
you've read your twenty digit
account number so many
times that you will
die with it imbedded in your
brain cells,
you will stare out the window
of the senior home,
with a phone cradled to
your ear, still waiting for a human
voice to help you,
but to no avail.

finish it

I nearly fall asleep
when sally tells me a story.
I grab toothpicks
to keep my eye lids open,
stifling the yawns
that come
with both hands.
she can't finish,
it goes on and on.
with side stories, unnecessary
embellishments,
detours
and wide turns.
have I told you this story
before she says,
seeing me nodding off,
slipping off the chair.
most of it, yes, I say, hoping
to stop her,
but no. well, wait to you hear
this part.
she goes on and on,
tapping my leg to keep me
awake.

around we go

the day
is not unlike a race
at the track
but without the cheering
crowds,
the colorful silks,
the announcer
making it all more exciting
than it really is.
at some point
you do cross a finish line,
whether first or last,
and rest.
oats and water,
a nice shower,
throwing a nay to the mare
in the adjoining barn,
then into your stall for
bed.

The IRS tax scam

I can't resist calling
back the IRS scam on the telephone.
I take the number
down and return the call.
I am told that I am being sued
for tax evasion.
the high pitched voice
on the other end wants to know
my name, my social security number.
I tell him my name is jimmy hitler.
okay jimmy he says, then
explains how
I've been caught cheating on
my taxes and must make
restitution to keep me from
going to prison for years
and years.
I can hear a warehouse of chatter
in the background,
the dry winds
and baying of strange animals
of a foreign land.
I ask if I can bring him cash
in a bag, or a wheel barrow,
to pay off my debt,
which surprises him.
if salivating made a noise, it
would be the noise that i'm
hearing now.
he tells me to write my claim
number down, and a series of other
numbers which indicate my guilt.
this goes on for twenty minutes
as I make a sandwich in the kitchen
and put some coffee on.
I see a line of black ants
crawling across the floor
carrying great loads of sugar
granules, so I hang up the phone
to take care of that.

Friday, July 15, 2016

have you ever been to alaska?

you look like someone
I used to know
the woman says as she cuts
my hair,
gives me a shave
and trims my eye brows.
have you ever been to Alaska,
she says,
as her hands
rub a blue cologne
on top
of my head, then slapping
some gently on my cheeks.
nope, I say, inhaling
the fumes.
I was at the beach last week,
maybe you saw
me there.
maybe she says.
I used to be in the navy,
she tells me.
I hated it.
so I got out.
so now I do this.
she rubs my shoulders,
which surprises me.
that feels good, I tell her.
twisting my neck making
it crackle.
you have strong hands.
I was a machinists mate,
she says.
I like to give customers
a shoulder rub,
like the Asian women do
in the Korean barber shops.
men tip better
when you do that.
well, it's wonderful, I tell
her.
are you sure you've never
been to Alaska? she asks, as
she shakes out
the apron from around my neck.
nope, I tell her handing
her a twenty.
my sister's been there, though,
I tell her.
she took a cruise there once.
she saw some whales.
oh, she says.
I've seen whales too.
do you need change?
no, keep it, I tell her.


getting in line

I remember standing in line
with my friend john at the unemployment
office.
we did everything together back then.
we had long hair, and no skills
to speak of. we had
three semesters of community
college under our belts
and were virtually unemployable,
but willing to learn.
we were excited to see
how much money we were going to get
for not working,
for being laid off on account
of the economy, the oil crisis,
weather, something.
it wasn't much, but it kept us
going through the winter months
as we looked in the paper for more
work we weren't qualified for.
his death has not dimmed
the memory of us
sitting in those green chairs,
in a smoke filled waiting room,
heavy with loss,
talking about basketball
and girls, laughing without
a care.

do you have a boat?

she wanted to know if I had
a boat,
or a pool,
or a beach house
and I said no, but I have
a garden hose
in the back yard
that I can spray you with
if you stand still
and don't scream
like a baby.
she was not impressed,
so it never went any further
than me paying for
her dinner and three glasses
of wine, then walking
her out to her car
to be hugged, leaving
an etching of make up
on my shirt.

the advice book

for Christmas one year
your minister
brother, not the other two,
but the good one
who lives in the bible belt
with his doors unlocked,
sent you a book titled
don't waste your life.
a few years later
he sent the same book,
forgetting that he had sent
the first one.
it became clear what his impression
of you was.
you skimmed the fist book,
and got some nice
ideas about how not to waste
your life, none of which you
can remember right now
because you're too busy doing
all the things
he's not allowed to do.

the atomic red chair

the new chair
you received
in the mail
is too big. too orange,
too firm,
and yet there it sits.
it will take
some time to get used to,
but such is the price
one pays
when shopping online
after a drink or two.
the blue swatches are coming
though for another chair.
mid century modern,
and this chair can
be moved to a room
upstairs, while the new
blue chair will
take its place,
right there where no
one ever sits.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

let us pray

it's awkward at times
when
people want to pray together,
joining hands,
bowing heads
in a circle, or at a table
before a meal. happily
it's never me that leads the way.
I always look around
to see who
is or isn't praying,
squinting my eyes
checking everyone out
to see who might be a heathen.
I feel uncomfortable holding
hands with people
I don't know very well,
or even with those
that I do. my palms sweat
and I want to scratch my forehead
for some reason.
sometimes the prayer goes
on too long,
thanking God over and over again
for every little thing
under the sun,
while the food sits on the table,
hot and steaming
under our noses.
but I wait until the amens,
are said, mine included,
then dig in.

this ladder

this ladder,
with all its metaled
rungs, pulled up
by a rope,
hold you
upright, slanted against
another house
in the july
sun.
one hand grips a sill
while the other
dips a brush into a bucket
before
sliding it across
the dry wood.
your knees bend in the open
air, your
shins pressed against
the steel
for balance.
the world is a precarious
place
to live in.
slowly you go down.

only in the morning

at first it bothered you
how she only
wanted to make love in the morning.
what was wrong
with noon,
or midnight, or any other hour
besides seven a.m.,
she'd kiss you goodnight,
wearing her long vanilla dress,
bring in a glass
of water before turning
off the light,
as if you were a child,
then going to her own room,
to her own bed
down the hall
where she almost couldn't
hear you breathing.

the taste of yesterday

these women, some men
shop carefully
in the produce section
of the grocery store,
their carts pushed to one
side
as they study the fruit
and vegetables,
touching
and turning each peach,
each apple,
tasting one grape,
then another, looking off
as if remembering
what other grapes have tasted like.
what are they searching
for, tomorrows, no,
but yesterdays.
picking finally what suits
them,
placing
the onions, the potatoes,
the sweet corn
into bags, then moving forward.

in the shade

it's the kind
of weather that makes people
talk.
wiping
their brows
with sleeves, or
handkerchiefs. shaking
their shaggy
heads with
disbelief, staring up
into the sun
as if for the first time.
saying things,
like don't forget
to drink if you're thirsty.
work in the shade.

the note

how nice
to get the written
note in the mail.
a hand
taking the time
to press
against
a card, inside, and write
what's felt.
the learned
script
of words and letters
flowing
across the short
blank page.
paper gems with which
you'll save.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

generosity

generosity
of spirit
is like the weather.
it changes
from day to day, hour
to hour.
rain on me,
and I run for cover.
strike me
with lighting
and our day as one
is done.
bring snow
and ice
to my door step,
then
i'll keep
the doors locked tight.

without you

across a white field
I walk,
ankle deep in the fresh
wool
of cold snow.
the field
is flat, goes on forever
from one blue
line
to another.
there are other things I
should be doing,
but for now, this walk
takes
up my time.
I see the bloom of my
breath in front of me,
always
just beyond my lips,
my legs lift then fall
leaving behind
who I used to be.

to each queen a subject

I ask for so little
and yet
give so much, it is what
martyrs are made
of.
pity and blood.
a slow
whine
of poor me.
you despise me for
this
but stay with me
just the same,
unworthy of others,
aiming low
to keep your position,
such as it is,
in your life.
each queen needing
subjects.

the clean baby

when the doctor tried
to hand you
the baby, your son, you asked,
politely if they
could clean him up a little first,
squeamish that you are.
they seemed
stunned, but you were wearing
a new shirt,
pressed pants,
and had just washed your hands.
so they did.
you held him tightly.
and still do,
despite him
being in California
for the rest of his young
life.

this world you are a part of

there are four doors
that rise and fall
at the end of a low lying brick building,
a warehouse
now a working garage.
English is not spoken.
an Asian man, kevin, is the owner
and writes
down his price
for you on a yellow sticky
note.
600, condenser.
text me when you come.
the ceilings are high
and dark.
grease is everywhere,
disembodied metal, bent or broken
lie about.
sparrows fly on dark wings
inside the cavern
of cars,
the sound of machinery doing
nothing to drive them out.
a man with one arm
is turning
a wrench, while another man
is lowering
an engine into the open mouth
of a white Hyundai.
beside one bay is a fan which
blows in the hot still air of summer.
kevin writes down
your phone number onto a cardboard
sheet that he tears off
a box, setting it onto
your front seat. we call, he says.
one o'clcck, then he turns
the key in your truck.
you walk to the end
of the service road
and call a taxi to take you home
to wait
and wonder about this world
you are a part of.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

karma, coming around

it's second hand news
how
your mother's husband of forty
years has to crawl now
to let the dog out,
a bag attached
to his side.
the cancer
having torn a hole
within him.
you hear how he no longer drives,
or drinks beer, or smokes.
you wonder
if he prays now too,
alone with his one light on.
if he's stopped using the words
nigger
and kike.
slant eyes.
has his illness bettered him?
does he regret
abusing your mother,
watching her go mute with stroke
after stroke, belittling
her children,
promising to send them back
to ghetto
if they didn't get in line,
pay rent,
and keep the showers short.
it's second hand news,
and your feelings are mixed.
sorrow
and sadness fused with
a sense of karma
coming around, finally.

jiggle the key

habits being what they
are
give the world an inertia,
a spin
you can't free yourself from.
take
the family
beach trip
to ocean city.
the boardwalk. the hard
red neck scrabble
of it all. bikinis and leather.
bearded men
with ear rings, hogs
revved and revved again
in the gravel lots.
how the fried food
filled the air, the stickiness
of cotton candy
in the clouds. the
fried sticks of chalked men
and women
or rounded
out of shape patrons
roasting
in the july sun on too small
of a towel.
so you went, wife, and kid,
dog
in a kennel for a week.
the same hotel
where they almost knew you.
parking free. the beds stiff
and the rooms smelling
of disinfectant. no, let me
try. you have to jiggle
the key.
a book of coupons on the wobbling
dresser to buy
taffy and ride
the ferris wheel.

venting

your anger
about
the car mechanic
spills over into yelp.
a helpless
cry
of angst.
but typing it all out
seems to make
you feel better,
so in a way it's a good
thing.
nice to vent,
despite
not changing a single
thing
gone wrong.

breakfast

after a night,
then morning of passionate
love making, she says
i'll make us breakfast.
you like
oats don't you.
i'll cut up an apple,
make some green tea.
perhaps
a little cup of yogurt
with cling
peaches and raisins.
sound good?
you say yes, but think
no.
dreaming of bacon,
eggs over easy,
potatoes.

he knows

my husband
knows,
she says to me, whispering
in an overcoat,
a large
hat hiding her head.
we are in
an alley,
in the shadows.
he knows
I don't love
him
and about us.
what?
I say.
will he kill us, or me.
oh no,
he's not a violent man,
not yet.
we're safe for now.
kiss me.

making things up

a sheet of white
paper, bare,
a slice of white canvas
waiting
for your hand to apply
ink
no longer has any power
over you.
you can fill
it easily now with so much
time behind you.
the early
years were harder,
making things up
as you go.
that's no longer an issue.

Monday, July 11, 2016

coupons

with parts and labor
this life
will cost
you over a life time.
tags, title, taxes.
if you break even or leave
the kid a small
bundle of cash,
so be it.
no sense in counting coins
anymore.
enough is enough.
you could live out the string
without issue,
so why the coupons?

the brother

your brother spends
a few nights
on your couch, going through hard
times
brought on
by himself.
you have no rules
for his visit, stay, sleep, eat,
shower,
make it your home,
no smoking though
is allowed.
so it surprises you when at the end
of the week,
you smell
cigarettes in the air,
and see that he has
gone through all your papers,
your accounts, your
private
box of bills, clumsily
stuffing them back
where they were found.
how different you both are
despite the blood.

under the rain

a woman neither pretty
or bland,
but wide eyed,
waits beside
the door, out of the rain.
her umbrella close
beside her.
she peers down
the road,
to the left
to the right, checks
her watch.
finally a man
arrives, his hand above
his brow,
they kiss, look around,
then kiss once
more.
quickly they are gone,
hand in hand,
running under
the rain,
which is less important
now
than what is to come.

time spent

how death
invades our lives,
tickets bought,
turned in for flights
that won't
be taken.
plans changed, bags
unpacked or
packed
to leave or stay.
how the phone rings and brings
us news,
the grief measured
not in tears,
or memories,
but shrugs of disappointment
of how this
time
will be, or not be
used.

the fist fight

the only true
fight, fist fight you ever had
was with
a thug
named phil.
a smoking, tattooed
thief
who told you
to not jump over him
as he lay
in your path, head on the curb,
as you played
stick ball in the street.
you had
no recourse but
to jump over
him
to get to third base.
the fight was quick.
your nose bloodied,
your skill
at boxing apparent from
the start,
and then he had you
in a head lock,
which made you gasp for
air. quickly you answered
yes to his question of
are you giving up?
so he let you go, which
gave you a chance
to swing as hard as you
could
striking him square on the chin.
by now the parents were out
in the street,
so you were saved.
later, years later, you found
out he had become a heroin
addict in Vietnam,
and a dealer, getting him
court martialed.
there was no sadness in this
news.

twin beds

I remember the bright
light
coming through the unshaded
window
where my brother and I slept
in twin beds,
across from one another.
he rose early,
I preferred to sleep in,
our nights
being different, what with
him
at the books and learning,
and me
out
on the street in the hollows
of parks
with friends,
not all of which were
boys.

a place to call home

a place
to rest. a chair that fits
you
as you left
it so many hours ago.
your glasses
on the table where you placed them
next to a cup, now
empty.
the book you were
reading, turned
over to the last
page read.
it's a place
you like to call home.
where the rest
of the world
can't enter, where you
find
it nice
to be alone.

the other shoe

the other shoe falls.
but you
don't always hear it.
it could be a foot in
a soft
slipper, or just socks,
or a light heel.
or even barefoot.
the other foot,
is not always in a boot,
stepping harshly
upon
your foot, making you
scream
with pain.
sometimes the pain is
gradual,
a slow slow
falling rain.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

love stories

sometimes you remember
things in pieces.
a word, a look,
a moment that has passed,
thin memories of
love stories
that didn't last.
other times
its a movie, a full
length feature,
with subtitles and music,
a remembered cast.
the beginning middle
and end.
I remember you this
way, not the other.

another color

a can
of red paint, old, rusted
edges, a bent handle,
tattered
label.
a dried lick
solid
against the side.
a shake
reveals nothing,
but dry
shards of a color
faded,
once applied to a room
with joy,
but tired now,
now that things have
changed,
the years having turned you
towards
a different way of thinking,
another color.

without compromise

it's hard not to love
a dog.
four legs, fur, a tongue,
tail wagging
with delight
at the sight of you
finally coming home,
arriving.
it's hard not to throw
the ball
across the yard,
send it sailing
in an arc
across the blue sky
of his young life, longer
than yours is
at the moment.
hard not to love anyone
or anything that
gives it back without
compromise.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

getting there

there are places
that you want to go to,
but they aren't on any map.
no globe,
no sextant will
get you there,
or gps.
it's a different place,
one you can only
go alone
and be happy.
you've stepped onto that
sand a few times,
taking a dip
into the clear blue
waters of bliss,
but getting there and staying
there
are two different things.

reverse psychology

as a father i
often used
reverse psychology
on my son.
you don't want these green
beans,
pfft, okay. loser.
more for me.
then i'd eat off of his
plate. smiling and laughing,
exclaiming how wonderful it all was.
telling him how he
was missing out.
next it was his mashed
potatoes,
then his small portion
of Salisbury steak.
a buttered biscuit.
he didn't seem to care,
when his mother came back
into the room
after getting off the phone
with her mother,
since she hadn't talked
to her in nearly an hour,
she saw his dish and said
good boy.
you earned your dessert.
after which my son
winked at me as he handed
me the last green
bean on his plate.

what are we living for

I thought you were on a diet,
she says to me,
as she sits down
with an ice cream cone,
a double scoop of what looks
like rocky road
and mint chip,
each of us tapping our
cones together
before commencing with
with long licks.
yeah, mine starts after
this cone, I tell her.
as soon as I unwrap
that little piece of paper
off the bottom
of my sugar cone
and eat the little pointy end.
it's summer,
it's hot and I want ice cream.
I mean what are we
alive for if we can't
have an ice cream cone.
i'll lick to that she
says, bumping her cone
against mine again.
there's a drip on your shirt,
she says,
making me look down,
then tapping my chin with
her hand.
gotcha, she says. made
you look.

a fresh start

being the entrepreneur
that you are,
you decide to open up
a tattoo removal parlor
on the corner.
surely these people, once
they hit middle
age, and sober up,
when the blues turn
green, the reds a mushy orange,
and the skin
sags, turning words like
respect into
a soft mass of scribble,
surely they'll want me to go
to work on them,
and scrape
the skin clean once more.

moments of longing

there are moments
of longing.
whether for that little
sports car
with the retractable roof
or the brunette
who moved in
next door
and suns herself in
the back yard.
a blue
mid century chair
at the moment has your interest.
it could be
here by Friday,
you think as you stare
out the window
wondering
what her name is.

bon appetite

when you first learn
about cannibals as a kid
in school,
see the pictures of
men and women
boiling in a giant
pot over a fire,
you quickly, with your friends,
discuss if you could
eat someone.
what parts would be possible,
to cook
and bite into.
would salt and pepper
be involved.
ketchup.
it's a terrifying conversation
between twelve year
olds,
but funny
and doesn't effect your
appetite at all
when your mother
calls you in with dinner
on the table. your favorite.
pork chops.

here, hold my purse

i'll be right out.
I want to try this on, she says.
here,
hold my purse.
so I do.
it's a heavy purse,
I want to open it and see
what's making
it so heavy as she changes
into another flowery dress
in the dressing room,
I don't. but then again,
maybe just a peek.
unsnap the clasp and quickly
take a look.
but no.
I'd rather not know about
the things
that are weighing her
down.
too much information.
let's keep the unknown
unknown.
what about this one, she
says, coming out in her
bare feet
spinning around.
lovely, I tell her. lovely.

extended warranty

the warranty
only covers the things that will
never happen.
so goes insurance,
and whatever
extra
coverage they want to sell
on anything you
buy.
small drips of water
creating an ocean
of wealth, rarely
dipped into
to douse the flames
of your broken
machine or body.

protest

funny
how we warm up to death
in
the papers,
on the news,
giving us reason
to shout
and march, and then disperse
back
to our own
nests, bolting the door.
our protest
goes cold so quickly
these days.
a stale same
dish
gone hard in a pot,
besides another pot,
on the stove.

Friday, July 8, 2016

a slice of cake

a slice of cake
would be nice right about
now.
home made.
on a round white plate.
a cold glass
of milk.
a fork, a knife,
a napkin.
and you beside me
with powder
on your nose,
icing on your apron.

stop being you

it's not the money
it's the principle of the thing
I say
with a forceful
strident voice, one foot
on the proverbial
self righteous
soap box.
how dare they, the nerve,
the audacity
the outrage of their
callous behavior. who do
these people think they are?
but I settle down soon,
unable to keep up the vigor
of my position.
I calm down and slip
into a nice quiet
reflective place
after a drink
or two. I watch as
the sun slips under
the veil
of a summer black sky
set with diamonds,
without even the thinnest
of moons. how quickly the world
loses its power
over you
when you stop being you.

a change of course

you think about adding
muscle
to your frame,
maybe pump up those biceps,
work on the abs,
then go to the beach
after getting
a spray on tan.
but it's a lot of work.
so you buy an
ice cream instead
and put on a long
sleeve shirt,
grab a book and go
sit in the shade
at the park.

the rich uncle

the rich uncle died
on his boat in florida,
leaving you nothing, why would
he?
but as a child
you remember him
arriving in his white Cadillac
and white
suit from Philly
to visit.
he thought the front of your
mother's house
must be the back.
what with the chain
linked fence and dog
tied to a tree.
he gave everyone a five dollar
bill
at each visit. patting you
on the head
with a look of disdain
and sorrow.
he never stayed over
or sat in a chair,
but he asked where the liquor
store was
so he could load up
his trunk with whiskey,
the taxes being lower here.

the crowded trail

while riding my
bike
through the woods on the paved
path,
I see snakes
that I must swerve
to avoid,
foxes darting
through the brush,
the startled
frozen poses
of deer.
raccoons hissing,
eating
something
dead on the side
of the trail.
there is the shadowed
swoop of owls
holding mice
in their claws.
I swallow gnats along
the way,
wiping them out of
my eyes and ears,
but the hardest part
of the ride
is people.
hand in hand, strollers
and dogs,
plugged in to phones
and music
not knowing that your
pedaling near.

the magic rock

there is no such
thing
as a warranty, i discover
when
the air conditioner
breaks down
in my new truck.
you must have done something
to it,
the mechanic says,
or maybe a magic
rock found it's way through
the grille
and through
the engine
to locate the condenser
and puncture it,
thus letting out all the Freon.
yeah.
and people get
pregnant from sitting
on toilet seats
I say, not amused
at the twelve hundred
dollar bill.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

some mornings

some mornings are better
than others.
some
evenings too.
hard to know which
spot
you're going to land on.
something
pushes you forward,
a roll of the dice.
strange enthusiasm,
familiar
boredom.


leopard print

her one closet
held everything that was of
a leopard print.
shoes and skirts,
blouses,
hats.
undergarments.
she would have wiped
out the entire
leopard
population
if they were real,
but they weren't.
it helped
to bring out the animal
in you though.

direction

a gaggle
of black birds fly across
the blue
patch
of sky
as one.
how do they know which
way
to steer
their wings
then land. how do we
know
these things
as well.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

coffee talk

the man who approaches me
in the coffee shop
as I grumble to myself about
there being no half and half
on the counter
asks me what my politics are.
you aren't for trump are you,
he says, sizing me up, as
I step away and put the empty
container on the counter.
huh, I say. what?
you want to build a wall,
he says. who will mow your
lawns, watch your children,
clean your rooms, paint
your houses. huh? I say again,
looking more deeply into his
eyes to see if he's as dangerously
crazy as he's beginning to sound.
I paint houses, I tell him. so
I guess i'll do that.
finally getting the new
cold canister of half and half, i pour
it and stir sugar into my coffee,
i secure the lid, then take a sip.
the man hasn't gone away.
he's closer. in my face.
you want trump, he asks again.
no, I tell him, actually I
don't like either one of those
weasels. so my answer is no.
I have post traumatic syndrome,
he says. I fight for your
country and you want to kick
me out. why is that?
listen, he says loudly,
come over here and sit
down with me. let's discuss
this. ummm. no. I have to go
to work I tell him. I have this
thing called a job.
but it's been lovely talking
with you. good luck with
everything, maybe have those
meds adjusted.


confrontation

the one shoe.
black. my favorite
that can be worn with
anything,
with laces
lies under the bed,
still in tact.
where the other one is
I have no idea.
I ask the dog
who is curled on a pillow
on the bed,
and see a remnant
of leather
hanging from his mouth.
he shrugs
with that what look.
I have no idea what
you're talking about
his calm body language says.
I can't have
a conversation
with him about
these things, i'm not
good with confrontation,
so I throw
him the other shoe
too.

her new soul mate

I think I found my soul mate
again,
betty tells
me over cocktails
and calamari
at the local pub.
oh, do tell, I say to her,
dipping
a fried rubbery fish like
gasket
into a bowl of hot
sauce.
no kids, no ex wives.
he has a trust fund,
and lives on a boat.
wow.
terrific, I tell her
licking the tips
of my fingers
then guzzling my drink.
what else?
well. he's a little bit
older than me.
by how much.
thirty years.
and.
and what?
and he has a serious heart
condition.
he could go at any
time.
show me the ring, I say
to her looking across
the table.
it's a diamond the size
of a small
ice cube. I blink my eyes,
shaking my head.
wowza.
we have a winner. I say,
then we clink glasses.

the darkness

he can hardly see
but
he still knows where the black
olives
are on the shelf,
feeling his way around,
counting steps up
aisle six,
just down from the dill
pickles.
the pork chops too,
not far
from fish and chicken,
the frozen foods, his hand
reaching into
the cold bin
to feel the weight,
if the bone is in.
we adapt
to near blindness
as we do to all
darkness that comes
in time.

behind the wheel

is the way
some people drive a reflection on
where they
are in a spiritual
sense,
is it an indication
of distress
or chaos in their lives.
I think so.
the speed
and recklessness, the impatience,
the anger
displayed
continues when they
exit
from behind the wheel,
as it does
before the key turns.

Monday, July 4, 2016

holding a baby

the person holding the baby
in the photograph
is mildly happy,
a wide grimace showing teeth
stained with
lipstick.
an aunt perhaps,
or friend who stopped by
to see the small child,
finally months
after the well announced birth.
her hands are wrapped
around the baby's mid section,
holding it away,
as if he or she
might be wet,
or worse.
I suspect a boy, the clue
being the blue
socks
and bow tie.
a small suit that
predicts
what might lie ahead
and a look of annoyance
on his round face.

a sinkable world

a sinkable world
of dying things.
rebirth is harder than it looks.
see the ancient
pyramids
as an example,
full of things they
believe they'll need
in the next world.
don't bring me back as a dog,
or fish,
a cricket,
or bird on a wire.
let's call it a day
with this one life.

the soft bed

hand in hand
new lovers
walk towards the river,
discussing
nothing
of great importance.
those talks will come
in time, but for now it's
just this.
complements and kisses,
tender touches,
a soft bed
to build upon.

rescuing the past

each year I see
the woman who digs
walking
up king street in her blue dress,
less blue
with time.
her boots, still black,
but muddied,
a heavy sack
upon her shoulder.
she's bent more
now than ever, but plodding
along towards
the next yard
to unearth a shard of glass,
a cup,
a broken saucer,
each thrown away in another
century as
trash. on her knees she'll
unbury
with brush and file,
with a shovel spoon
and a keen eye for rescuing
what used to be,
the past.

the candle

the candle, solid
and white,
a hint of false
vanilla,
burns
to one side. filling the dish
with wax.
there is an unevenness
to the burn,
despite
being set flat
upon the table.
no wind
moves the flame.
just a steady hot drip
until a side
is gone.
it was a mistake
to light it in the first
place
where it rested
for so long,
some loves
are best left alone.

the slow rain

the slow rain
falls
heavy on the trees.
fills
the sleeve of a stream
tinted
green.
we can wile away this day
with nothing.
just rain,
the windows open,
a long stretch of hours
before us.
put some van Morrison on,
his sweet
sadness will put
a bow on it.

your finger is over there

I think one of
your fingers is over
there, under the grille,
I tell the man wearing
the red white
and blue flag underpants
after he
lights
a cherry bomb
that went off in his hand.
grab some ice
and your finger
and go over to the tent
I tell him.
not the hot dog tent,
the other one with the red cross
on the top.
they're sewing fingers
and thumbs back
over there.
he pours some jack daniels
onto the bleeding
wound,
and says, thanks man,
happy fourth.
go USA.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

the winnebago conversation

it's interesting, I say to her,
how as we age we
become more and more
like our parents.
what do you mean by that,
she says.
well, when you told me
about your desire to ride
around in a Winnebago after
you retire, seeing all
fifty states, it struck
me as something my father
might like to do.
you can be so mean sometimes,
she says. I know, I know,
but i'm not being mean now.
it's just an observation.
when you were twenty or thirty
or even fifty did the thought
occur to you to buy
a giant truck that you could
sleep in and drive from
here to California?
it takes a certain kind of
sobriety to think that way,
a nearing of death.
there is a moment of silence
then she says,
so I guess you don't want
to go with me then, is that what
you're saying?
yes. I tell her. not yet.
hopefully not ever.

the human torch

one year
at the carnival up the road
where
the shopping mall
used to be
they had a fireworks display.
we sat on the hill,
my son and I,
eating cotton
candy
and watched.
the small man who lit the fuses
ran to each rocket
with his lighter,
bent over,
his long
hair tied back into
a pony tail.
at some point he caught
fire,
but kept running to each
new rocket
sending it swirling into
the air
where it exploded with a loud
boom
and a spray of flowered sparks.
finally,
people from the crowd
knocked the man
to the ground
and rolled him in blankets
until the fire
was put out.
the ambulance came and there
was a quiet murmur
throughout the crowd.
my son turned to me
as they took the burned man
away and said,
I guess that's it for this year,
dad.

after seeing heaven

they bring
the heart back to life
by
thumping
on his chest,
breathing air into his
lungs,
they zap him
with electricity,
say a prayer,
stand back
and wait.
finally his eyes open
and asks,
what did you do that for?

a tree fell

a tree fell in
the woods
but no one heard it
because someone's
wife
kept talking.

namaste

rarely did she use
her yoga meditations while driving
home from class,
still in her yoga pants
and smelling
of incense,
instead
she floored the pedal
and ran every
yellow light as it turned
red.
she zig zagged
across the white lines,
the yellow lines,
the dotted lines,
trying hard
to get ahead.
sometimes she cursed
the slower cars, the pedestrians
with their casual gait.
she waved a stiff finger
at them while
speeding by, but always
ending a tirade with
Namaste.

the new religion

she holds up two
luscious red tomatoes, fat
and juicy, right of the vine,
you can smell
that real tomato smell
when she dips one towards
your nose at the farmers market.
she's an evangelist for
organic fruit and vegetables,
standing on a soap box
preaching soil and water,
seeds and love.
get down on your knees
brothers and sisters and dig the earth.
come to the church of organic
farming. throw down your chemicals,
your sprays, your anti biotics.
sin no more with your
hybrid corn, your altered
grains, your fattened cows
and chickens.
let those chickens roam free
my troubled friends.
for just five dollars, one
five dollar bill
you too can taste the salvation
of a home grown
hot house tomato. step right up
and taste the glory,
let the juices dribble down your chins.
we'll wait for you as you rise
from your seats and come forward.
don't be shy. sin no more with
your store bought demonic produce.
can I get an amen?
cash, credit or checks are welcome.


the art of giving

sometimes i
give a dollar or two, even
a five
to the man or woman
standing on
the corner with a sign
saying god bless,
veteran,
homeless and bereft.
rarely does it say bereft,
but it rhymed
so i'm using that word.
occasionally
they are limping, or
feigning a limp,
but neatly clothed,
and well coiffed.
again, coiffed is used here
only because
it's the first word
that came into my mind.
so I give
a dollar or two, but not
always.
sometimes i'm feeling a
little perturbed
and silently say get a job
you bum. keeping the windows
rolled up
while I drink my
five dollar cup of coffee.
life is hard for everyone
I think,
then my catholic guilt
kicks in
and i make a vow
to give
to the next one.

the cleopatra sister

don't use up
all the hot water I yelled
to my sister
as she
entered the bathroom
on the second
floor
with towels and magazines,
a drink,
the phone, cord
under the door.
it was the only bathroom
in the house
and once she got in there,
there was
no getting her
out.
don't worry about it, she'd
yell back,
locking the door
behind her.
go use the hose in the back yard,
she'd say,
tossing out a bar of
soap, or just wait your turn.
sometimes
the other brothers
and sisters would
come up
the stairs
and see you sitting
there on the top step.
she's in there,
i'd say.
it's going to be a while.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

party prep

bring a pie
he tells me on the phone.
cherry
or blueberry. one from the berry family.
vanilla ice cream too.
what else, I ask him.
some fireworks.
whatever you like. sparklers,
roman candles.
rockets.
we have fire crackers
and cherry bombs,
so don't bring those.
oh, and maybe a watermelon,
with seeds,
we might have a seed
spitting contest
later.
we have about a hundred or so
hot dogs,
beef franks.
and mustard, so that's covered.
one more thing.
a keg of beer.
better make it two kegs.
you know how people like
to drink. so that's it,
see you at one.
i'm filling the pool up now.

the wall between us

envy has
never crossed my mind.
I have
enough and need very
little to live
and be happy on.
what you have is yours,
what I have
is mine.
I covet nothing
that you possess.
this fence, this wall
between us
is just for show.
no need to cross the line.

storming the castle

we're going to storm the castle
my friend
Octavius says to me one morning
as he tightens up his
leather sandals
and lights a torch with
a bic lighter.
we're tired of low wages
and stale bread,
taxes. my thatched hut
is crawling with vermin.
my cable bill is killing me.
come on man, grab a torch
and your good axe and let's go.
what about coffee, did you
have coffee yet?
I was thinking of taking a walk
after I get coffee and a multi-grain
bagel. maybe down
by the lake.
no, we need everyone.
we've had it with this king.
you can get coffee later,
in fact i'll buy you lunch,
if we don't die when they pour
cauldrons of boiling oil
off the towers like they did
last year.
what about the archers?
I still have scars all over
me from the last time
we tried this.
I have Neosporin. put on your
thick sweatshirt that you got
in Nantucket last summer.
no arrows can get through that,
unless of course they use those
pesky flaming arrows.
come on.
okay, okay...let me sharpen my
axe. I just need a quick bowl
of cereal and to walk the dog.
go on ahead, i'll be there. promise.
front door where the moat is?
yup. okay. see you in a few.


Friday, July 1, 2016

she might be dead

I suspect
that the lady down the street,
four doors
down
from me, may have passed on
to the next life.
or perhaps
ran out of energy
or ink
with which to post a note
on my door
telling me not to put
my trash out
early.
I haven't seen her
blue car
in weeks, the one with
the coexist bumper sticker.
i've seen burly workmen
with white
shirts and bald heads
coming and going
from her house.
I can't say that I miss her,
but I wish her all
the best wherever she might
be and not
burdened by
the likes of my early trash
and me.

good books and bad

some books, you savor,
some you throw across the room
and say
I can't read this junk.
others hold
the door from swinging shut,
or balance
a table
on the tilted floor,
a thin
copy of a poet you don't like.
some books
are within reach, ready
to be read more.
others
collect dust, put either
high or low,
the hardest to reach.
your favorites are kept
nearby,
at arms length
in a moments notice.
those books you savor.

rare days

it was a mystery coming
home from
school as a kid.
what lay ahead,
unknown.
the door never being locked,
sometimes
not a soul around,
the dog
off his leash
on the porch.
no notes. no messages
left
to be found
explaining
where everyone had gone,
who knew.
but you could push a chair
up to the counter,
climb
up for a dish
or cup.
fill it with milk.
find the bread and construct
a sandwich
with whatever
you could find.
you'd turn on the tv,
and sit
back,
a calm in the storm,
your future
being planned and practiced,
honed.

the office lunch

you decide to take
the office out to lunch after
a grueling
day.
this means you pull up
to a drive
through window
and order a number four,
crispy with a large
drink.
you pull over and let
the air conditioning run,
as you eat,
discussing in your
mind
the progress of the year,
what's next.
what jobs need to be done.
the office wants to discuss
a raise,
a bonus,
retirement, but you'll have
none of it,
telling them
to be happy with the day
and to enjoy
the lunch.

where to

they don't know,
not everything, scientists,
theories persist, then
change
with a new found shard
of bone,
or orb
beyond the sun.
it's a guessing game.
as they wrestle
with the priests,
each with
his own claim as to why
or how
we came to be
and where we go,
when we leave.

the killing

the rabid dog
limped onto the street,
a froth upon his jowls,
sending us
to our porches
while our mothers screamed.
the fathers came out
with their guns.
how armed
the neighborhood was
with rifles
and snub nose 38's,
revolvers
and shotguns.
some were pulled from
waistbands, or holsters,
taking a break
from waxing their long
cars in the sun,
while others
dug into the closet
to spin bullets
into the chambers.
the men seemed anxious
to shoot something,
finally.