Wednesday, August 31, 2016

in the clouds

in the car
we'd play the cloud game
with my brothers and sisters
as our father drove us
to the eastern shore
where we would sleep in a canvas
tent staked into
sand, a mile from the beach.
I see a buffalo,
my brother would say, pointing
at his find. look, see it.
I see cotton candy, my sister
would say, then
tap my father on the shoulder
saying, can we get
cotton candy at the beach.
he'd flick his cigarette out
the window and say, maybe.
we'll see.
i see the bottom of a beautiful
woman, i'd shout out.
my head leaning out the window.
see the curves, see how
she bends over picking
up a beach ball
to which my father would,
put the sun visor up and say,
where?

a resting place

all the dry
white bones in the grave yard,
says nothing
to you.
puts no fear into you.
in fact
it fascinates you.
all the stones with names
and dates
carved in above
their resting place
gives you no chill,
no reason
to change the pattern
of your life.
did it for them?

you're fired

he puts his
feet up on his desk. lights
a cigar
and says, boy,
I hate to do this to you,
but you're fired.
to which you reply.
thank you.
thank you dear God.
he shakes his head
and says,
putting that slice of pizza
in my desk last night
was the last straw.
do you even know what you're
doing in this office.
to which you shrug
and say no, not really.
I thought a white collar
job might be interesting.
i have to say, the free
coffee is good,
and volley ball on Wednesdays,
the Christmas party,
has been fun.
truthfully the only
thing I've looked forward
to in coming to work
was meeting the new
secretaries and going
to happy hour.
i'll get my things and go,
which is a slice of cake
i haven't eaten yet
from todays birthday party.

don't tell anyone

all day
you carry a secret
in your mouth. it rolls
around like
a smooth pebble
chattering against
your teeth, waiting
to be spit
out.
how long can your resist
telling
it to someone, anyone,
even a stranger
will do. that bird
eating bread
from your hand.
you curse the moment
you vowed
to never tell a soul.

the end of summer party

bring meat and side dishes
to the party,
she says in her phone invite.
oh, and whatever you're drinking.
what about plates,
silverware and ice, I ask,
sarcastically, to which
she says. yes. of course.
oh and charcoal, if you don't mind.
and bug spray,
the yard is full of mosquitoes.
oh, and if you would be a dear,
pick up a few pounds
of cooked shrimp, peeled
and deveined, not frozen,
in a bowl.
look forward to seeing you there.

finding your religion

you have found
your religion, quite often,
usually in bad times.
a break up,
a lack of work, some sort of flu
that has you bent
over and groaning
in the bathroom.
your prayers are sincere
at these moments,
but then, in good times you
lose track of God for awhile.
the drinks are cold,
the kisses warm,
the hay is in the barn.
it's usually not longer after
this that
you find your religion again.

buy and sell

when my stock broker churns me
for another commission,
telling me to buy Harley and sell coke,
or saying in her soft voice,
maybe it's time
to dump Microsoft and buy apple,
you say nothing, at first.
what do you know?
your at the mercy of her now.
asking her just to keep you out
of a box behind the liquor store
when it's time to cash in
and fish.

the thin tv

and yet,
despite
not having to get up anymore
to change
the channel,
walk across the room
and adjust the rabbit
ears, the horizontal,
giving the side
a flat handed whack.
you aren't happy
with what's on tv.
and now
where will the spider
plant go,
the framed photo of your
son,
the cat?

three sisters

the three sisters,
once in a room side by side.
are no longer speaking.
each different
and alike.
each with the same
young
shared life, now at odds.
none which can
explain why, or how they
got to where they
are, unspeaking, some
grudge, a pebble in their
shoe that for the life
of them, and in spite
of all the love they share,
they can't remove.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

call me at 5 30

your father
asks you to wake him up at five a.m. .
call me,
he says.
I need to get up
and put eye drops in my
eyes
before cataract surgery.
I can't see the alarm to set it.
so you say, sure, okay.
you try to set your alarm
but can't quite
figure it out,
being a Swedish clock
with no English directions.
so you call your friend
betty
to call you
at five twenty five
to wake you up, so that you
can call your father
to wake him up.
she calls you
and says good morning.
you call your father, but
he's up already
having coffee on the patio
and squinting at
a newspaper.

the one in the air

she can't tell you
enough times how she used to be
a ballerina.
her eyes drift off
as she speaks softly
of being on stage, the music,
the applause,
how young she was,
how light on her feet,
on her toes.
her arms out like petals
on a rose.
I need to write a book about
my life she says,
as if it's over
at the age of fifty, as if
nothing else could come close
to those few years.
you should have seen me then,
she says, taking a picture
from her purse.
that's me, the one in the air.

old friends

they fall
through the cracks, quietly
slipping away,
disappearing without a sound,
a farewell
or goodbye.
they are ghosts, leaving
you,
your life, behind.
you turn around,
and they're gone, before
you know it.
but you keep walking,
holding on
to a new hand,
a new friend to walk with
stride for stride.

the other side

each day
you take a spoon and dig.
you grind
at the dirt,
gouge the rocks
and stones
out. tunneling
a spoonful at a time.
you are past the half way
point, nearing
the place
you want to be,
beyond the wall,
the barbed fence,
the guards
in their towers.
you have never been in a
rush to get there,
but time is short,
and for once you'd
like see what it is
on the other side
of this life.

Monday, August 29, 2016

drowning

drunk again,
he calls from a pay phone
at the beach.
a large
orange
shirt draped below
his waist, shoeless.
hopping
from foot to foot
from the heat,
his eyes red
with booze
and cocaine. it's where
the money goes.
where tomorrow goes.
where all his
yesterdays
have gone.
but in the sunlight,
against the pale
blue sky, the young girls
walking by,
he could be anyone,
anyone about to surf
a breaking wave upon
the ocean, taking
a long sweet ride.

the cat

the cat
warming herself
on the hood of a car,
opens
her eyes
when you come home,
she lets out a shallow
meow.
she is languid and lean,
an outdoors cat.
her tail stiffens
and flutters
while
her glass green eyes
catch sunlight.
she stays where she is,
just turning her
head enough
to look at you
going in, then coming
out with a saucer
of cold milk, placing it
on the stoop.
it's mutual, this distant
love affair.

a baby crying

there is a baby crying
next door.
through
the wall that separates you
from them.
it cries
for a long time.
you lie in your bed and listen.
you imagine
the mother coming up
the stairs,
the father leaning
into the door.
soon the baby stops,
it's a sweet sound,
the sound
of crying, then not.

in midair

your foot
slips on the wet spot
of the floor
for an instant
you air borne,
no longer a part of
the earth
but
aloft without wings.
the ceiling
is above,
the floor below,
and everything
of this world,
lying in between.
it's just a second,
a small
glimpse
of what tomorrow,
of what an afterlife
might bring.

paper bins

I start another bin
for papers.
bills,
notes, old receipts
and bank
statements. business
contracts,
summaries
of what's saved, what's
spent. cards received.
the basement closet
is full of these bins.
never to be opened,
sorted through
again.
decades old, i toss
another Christmas card
in after opening
it to see who had sent
it. signed love.
I miss you. hope
to see you again.
oh, yeah. I remember her.



one lost shoe

where's my
other shoe, not here,
not under
the bed,
not in the corner being
chewed
by the evil one,
my dog moe.
how could I lose one
shoe.
I look out the window,
not there,
not on the sidewalk,
or in a bush,
not in the bathroom,
not on
the steps,
or in the kitchen.
I make a few calls
asking
if anyone has seen my shoe.
it's black,
with laces.
size ten. scuff marks
on the toe.
my favorite shoe.
no one has seen it.

the singles meet up

they meet
at a meet up for lonely
singles.
each with a sticky name tag
stuck to their blouse
or shirt.
it's early afternoon
on a sunday.
there is drinking,
bar food,
the light chatter
of people being
introduced,
then moving on to
mingle. everyone is
over fifty,
approaching sixty
and beyond.
it is a cruise ship
sailing
without water, or a
destination.
heads turn, as a new person
walks in
from the hot sun
broiling the parking lot,
adjusting his eyes
to the dark bar.
there is no love in the air,
no particular like,
or lust even.
just a day in the life,
of searching
from someone right.
nice to meet you she says,
I have to go now,
my dog is in the car.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

so close, so far away

some days
you remember too much.
too much
detail,
words said.
you listen too hard,
watch
too closely the movements
of others.
you take
the temperature
of every room
you walk into. it's how
you are.
nothing has changed
with the years.
you observe, collect
absorb, you are removed
from so much,
but near.

you write a letter

you write a letter
to your older self.
you tell him
not to worry, i'm coming.
things will fine.
we'll be on the water.
you'll be happy
there.
you'll be in love,
with your last love.
she'll be beside you
when you die.
she'll hold your hand
and smile,
and say,
you can go now, it
was fun, a good ride.
out the window, you'll
hear the gulls,
the water,
all the things that you
loved as a child.
the sky will be blue.
blue
being the color you
adored
and painted throughout
your life,
but you won't be.
you won't be blue, you'll
be ready having written
the last
word you could write.

cash only

if you buy
three of these
you get the fourth one free,
today only.
closing, going out
of business,
everything must go.
no questions asked, you
make the call,
fifty per cent off.
no returns,
no trade in will be
denied.
a lifetime guarantee.
no middle man, no salesman
will call.
sign here,
on the dotted line.
it removes unsightly stains.
walks the dog,
takes the kids
to school.
it will change your life.
give you courage,
put hair on your head,
take hair off
your wife's chest.
you'll never need another.
batteries not
included.
if not satisfied in thirty
days,
too bad.
it's a once in a life
time deal.
sign here.
read the small print.
read the back,
cash only.
cash only.
no returns, we're out
to lunch,
we'll be right back.

what are you doing

in her flip flops,
holding
a cold beer in one hand,
down to her running
shorts and t-shirt,
the nozzle
of the power washer in the other hand,
she blasts
the mildew and debris
from her sun soaked
deck, watching it go
from grey, to wood again.
she lights a cigarette,
and cups
her phone between her
shoulder
and ear, as it rings,
takes a sip
of beer.
i'm power washing the deck,
she says
into the phone,
what are you doing.
she sees a bee and chases
it with the spray.

post card from Bali

your son
sends you a postcard
from Bali.
he has traveled
there with
his friend
and has already returned.
you stare
at the Indonesian
stamp
and markings,
the crimped edges,
his hand writing
that looks
the same as when
he was in the seventh
grade.
half script, half print,
not unlike
yours.
on the front is an island
sitting
in blue water,
a high cliff
covered in thick green
foliage.
he has returned, safely,
he thought of
you and sent
this card.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

tomorrow

the guilt.
catholic guilt.
is daily.
having not visited
my mother
in the senior home for nearly
two months now.
I see the bridge,
but do I cross the bridge,
no,
I don't. I think
about traffic.
I think about the time,
I think
that I need dinner, or something.
then I think
about
the endless hours
she cooked and cleaned,
sent us off to school,
read to us
before bed. I see her now
in the chair,
in front of a tv
in a strange house.
grey boned,
and weak, smiling with
my name still
on her lips. asking
where have I been.
tomorrow, perhaps.
tomorrow.

oh really now

I express my love
and lust for the little black
Italian
sports car.
convertible no less.
new and shiny
like an ornament to hang
on my
bare tree.
but she says, don't do that,
it's a gay car, to
which I laugh
and say,
I don't care,
makes no difference
to me.
i then shake my head
and button up my purple
shirt
with long silky
sleeves.

i saw you

I saw you
in the park, there was
someone who
looked like me holding your
hand.
you kissed him.
the same way
you kiss me when you're
happy.
there was little I could say
or do,
as I too
was being kissed
by someone who looked
almost like
you.

cheerful

a boy named
cricke, a gorilla
on the football team,
once put a broken mountain dew
bottle
under your back tire,
hoping
to flatten it.
he was in love
with Vivian,
who you were visiting,
captain of the cheerleaders.
you were in the way,
bringing her
a dozen fresh cut
flowers
from the grocery store.
years later
you heard that cricket
jumped off
a bridge.
perhaps from the lack
of love he received.
and Vivian, you saw her
once in a
bar downtown, she hardly
remembered you,
or the broken bottle, or
cricket, but she was
still very cheerful
as she sipped her chardonnay.

the open gate

the open gate
makes you push your eyes
to either side
of the yard.
who has come and gone
in the night, leaving
no trace.
without a sound,
not a clink of the metal
lock
or hinge, or squeak
of door.
was it just wind?
or someone
wanting in,
wanting more
of what they might not have
enough of.

blankets

so much of what
you believe to be true
is untrue.
this blanket
that was woven for you,
that covers
your young body
at night
slowly unravels.
each thread pulled
by you, or others.
soon you will
make your own version
of what is or isn't
true,
and bring it to your
son, to keep
him warm
and unknowing through
his early
life.

chipped

why you keep
the chipped cup is not known.
you turn
it around
so as not to cut
your lip
as you sip coffee
in the morning.
if you threw away
everything
and everyone
that was slightly
defective,
you'd have no friends
at all, or
cups to drink from.

real school

as kids,
in the seventh grade,
we'd skip school,
pretending to go to the bus
stop, but then
continue walking
across the d.c. line
on southern avenue.
we'd take
the A-9 Archives
bus to ninth street
in north west
d.c., the only white boys
on the bus,
each with a pocket
full of change and one
dollar bills.
enough to play pin ball
machines all day,
and eat
at a drug store counter.
a grilled cheese,
fries,
a coke.
at some point we'd stop
by the Blue Mirror restaurant,
a classy joint
on tenth street
where business men would
have lunch and watch
scantily clad women
jiggle on small
pedestal stages.
we'd linger near the door
as it opened and closed,
trying to catch
a glimpse of a leg, or
something.
if we did we'd yell
out, I saw her, I saw
them, then run down the street
as the doorman
chased us away.

the test kit

reluctant
to send in the testing kit
for colon cancer,
you respond
to your physician's
standardized
nag,
with a short e mail,
okay, okay. i'll do it.
quit nagging me,
i'll get to it. I've
been busy.
good lord, don't you ever
let up.
maybe later.

no more room

I put the styro-foam
container
of left overs,
a chicken salad,
with figs
into the fridge.
I squeeze it between
the Chinese boxes,
full of kung pao chicken,
and rice, and a large
pizza box
holding one slice
of pepperoni with
extra cheese. there is a black
box holding a third
of a cold
rib eye steak
from last Thursday.
a dollop of mashed potatoes
nestled
against the darkened
meat.
I don't want to open it
and look
to see how it's doing.
the lasagna
that I on ate on sunday is
wrapped in clear
plastic and sits on top
of that.
i'm nearly out of room,
to put more,
I need to stay home tonight.

on the bright side

on the bright, she says,
you have
your health.
you look at her and sneeze.
blow
your nose.
well, sort of,
she says. but life
is not all that bad
for you.
you have your wits
about you. you can't put
a price on that.
she stares at your
black socks
as you tighten
the terry cloth robe
about you.
there is shaving
cream in your ear.
well, let's look
on the bright side,
she says again,
playing with her hair.
it's a nice
day outside.

Friday, August 26, 2016

each to his own island

each man to own
island, his own place
of rest
and quiet.
each to his own silence,
leaving
what the day brought
behind. some islands
are liquid, some
in pill form,
some in books, or film,
or sleep,
some in the curve of a woman
who lingers
in the moonlight
upon his bed. each man,
to his own
island.

tomorrow they will come

she's impatient
waiting
for the ill to come through
the door.
so she paints a table,
using
a short brush,
with long strokes of white.
watching it
glisten, then dry
in the light. she
arranges books, her desk,
puts a vase
of flowers on the sill.
she brushes her hair
in a mirror, then
looks out
the window
as the sky fades from
blue
into darkness.
tomorrow they will come.

whispers in the leaves

there are no
rumors
in the animal kingdom,
no whispered
gossip
between the trees,
amongst the bramble,
beneath
fallen leaves.
the fish pay
no never mind
to what has happened
or what may
occur, by who, or when.
it's good
to not know, to not
care,
carelessly
about what is or is
not to be.

ice cream

ice cream
is your friend.
how you can lick and lick
at a cone
and be content.
just you alone
on the park bench
watching
the joggers, watching
you,
jealous as they run,
having none.

the charted course

for grief
for sorrow, you have no words.
you keep
your sighs to yourself,
you write in response,
small, clichéd
sentiments.
you want to throw rose petals.
you want
to shower
them in love.
touch their hand,
put your cheek
against theirs
and whisper something
that will help.
but the world doesn't work
that way.
in death,
the days ahead are charted
out, grim times,
and hard.

the hollows

as another friend
moves
away or
dies, a slight wind,
not dark,
but cool
blows against you.
the chill
makes you button up
and stick
your hands
deep into your pockets.
these hollow
spaces
will be filled again,
but not
the same,
each loss unique,
each
day ahead, unknown.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

the wheel and fire

they talk about the stone
age,
when fire
and the wheel suddenly
occurred
to someone
hunting animals
with a wooden spear.
then
the industrial age.
machines. factories.
the digital
age, where I don't know
what's going on
with all these
electronic gizmos.
i'm still in the pen
and paper
age.
keeping notes
with ink
on a loose leaf notebook.
but I do make
use
of the wheel
and fire.

in another life

hardly ever
do you hear, I was an
Egyptian slave
in another life,
pushing blocks of stone
onto one
another making
pyramids.
working all day
in the grueling sun,
being whipped
by the boss man.
instead you hear,
I was queen, or a king,
or prince,
deciding the future
of a country,
benevolent and kind.
you never hear
I was or a toll booth
operator,
collecting change.
sometimes I can feel
and hear the money being
thrown into the basket
before the light turns
green.

he has a farm

I don't like him,
she says, he's hard
to be around,
but he has a farm
out in the country.
it's very peaceful
out there. he has
pigs, goats, horses,
that sort of thing.
in the morning
the rooster crows
and we get eggs
from the barn for
breakfast.
but I don't really
like him, it's just
something to do.
ya know?

binge watching

you binge
on a show, staying up late
clicking
through the season
one episode
after another, it's
one a.m.,
yet still
you sit and watch,
they own you,
you are one of them.
it's so sad
when the season
ends.
the cliff hanger
teasing you.
what now to do
with your late
night hours, waiting
for the weekend.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

the maids are coming

you are giddy
over the maids coming
to clean your house.
but you have
to clean first. it would
be embarrassing to
leave it the way
it is
and let them see the dust
and clutter
that you live
in. you tell them,
Friday, that should
give you plenty
of time to vacuum
and change the sheets,
fold laundry,
and scrub those bathrooms.
you only have
48 hours
before they come,
better get busy
hiding the check books
and cash,
important papers,
and putting the key
under the mat.

street cat

the street cat,
fat
and slow,
cries when he sees
you. he
comes over
and weaves his thick
body
between your legs.
you get him a saucer
of milk. setting it on the porch.
he cries some more,
then takes a few licks.
he's trying to tell
you something,
so you listen
for awhile, but soon
go.
you have to go to work.
when you get
home,
you see the cat
under a car, sleeping,
he cries, but
lies there in the warm
shadow.
you yell out, hey,
lazy bum,
which makes his tail
swing around
like a black soft wand.


is it over

I can't get over
how painless
the shingles shot is
when injected
into my arm
by the Kaiser provider.
she's a german woman,
with harsh blue
eyes,
knotted hair,
I think of a cafeteria
worker
when I look at
her hands.
long and boney.
I can see her ladling a
spoonful of stewed tomatoes
into a Dixie cup.
I tell her, I didn't
even feel
that. is it over.
she laughs, rubbing
a cotton ball
against the point
where the needle went
in.
don't leave the building
for fifteen
minutes, she says
in her german
accent. okay, I tell.
putting my shirt on.

at the drive in

the year is vague.
somewhere in the late sixties,
when my father,
with his turquoise
chevrolet impala packed his seven
children in
to take them to the drive in.
I remember the movie. mutiny on the bounty.
with marlon brando.
we lay on the roof of the car,
on the hood, sprawled
out under the stars,
not caring about the movie,
the static filled metal
speaker hanging in the window.
the swings and playground
at the front
held more interest as did
the oversized shrimp
rolls from the concession
stand. deep fried and greasy.
popcorn and sodas.
together my brothers and I would
go to the bathroom,
astounded by the bathtub
like trough that we had to stand
over and pee in.
with other men and boys no
less. quickly we zipped up
and ran out of there.
my mother may have been
in the car,
bit I have no recollection
of her in the front seat.
I just remember my father,
snoring, sound asleep
as we left the car
and roamed the graveled
hills of the lot, our shadows
flickering under the bright
wide screen.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

not a good kisser

we were not good kissers.
our teeth managed
to bang against one another
when the heat
was on. i can still
taste the warm
blood on my lips.
her braces didn't help
either.
she had to watch what she
ate.
no chili, or stews for
her.
i would turn my head away
when she bit into
an ear of corn,
for fear of getting hit
in the eye by a kernel,
or one of her little rubber
bands, torn loose
and sent flying.
we were not good kissers,
so we eventually
stopped doing that,
and concentrated
on other things.

selfish me

i stopped lending things.
I've become
selfish
with age.
too many books I've
loved
have not returned.
please,
order your own dessert,
i'll say.
or no, you can't have
a bite of this or that
from my plate,
eat your own
misgivings.
i crave
the quiet, the softly
lit room,
the dusty book,
the tv on low,
a black and white
movie. the whole sofa,
not an edge,
or just
one pillow.

once gone

the less I hear
from you,
the more I want to hear
from you.
your absence
is large.
you are in every room.
in every
conversation
that isn't about you.
somehow
you've stayed
once gone.

in detail

I remember
other things. the smaller
things.
things said,
or left unsaid.
the bread
gone stale on the table,
the open
wine, left
warm.
I remember you staring
off into
the distance.
somehow without me,
despite
me being across the table.
a portent
of things to come.
I remember,
the waiter, how unhappy
he seemed.
distracted by his own
life perhaps,
giving me your plate,
mine to you.
how long it took to go
once done.
I remember how easy the sun
slipped between the changing
colors of trees
near the fountain,
thinking how
quickly the seasons arrive
then leave.

Monday, August 22, 2016

what about me

finally she gives
up on reading what you write.
she's done
with it.
too much to devour,
to digest.
to get.
he'll write more tomorrow,
i'll catch up
sooner later,
but it's not the same
when he doesn't write
about me, she says.
it's not as much fun
when it's about other people
and things.
I want to know what he thinks
of me.
what about me.
more about me.
but that ship has sailed.
there is no
me anymore.

the blue bruise

some cuts
appear out of nowhere.
on your hand
or leg.
a bruise too,
unknown until you rub
it's blue
circle, a bump.
sometimes blood.
hard to know,
when it happens, the hurt
the pain,
maybe when you lie
down in bed
tonight and review
the day,
you'll remember what
was said,
who snubbed you,
what nail brushed up
against your leg.

speed it up and say i do

at the wedding, I wanted
to yell out from my pew,
don't do it.
please, stop the madness,
they don't even
love each other,
but I didn't.
if there was no
wedding,
there would be no party
afterwards,
no drinks,
no food, no dancing,
no three tiered cake,
and oh how I love cake,
so I kept my mouth
shut
and bit my tongue.
we all make mistakes,
some more than others.
let the party
begin
before anyone comes
to their senses.

a place once home

maybe it was
the broken pipe, the raw
smell
of something
leaking,
the chain linked
fence,
or the rotted wood,
full of wasps.
maybe it was the back
porch wobbling,
the screen door unclosed.
or the dog
tied to a tree.
or the boy in the window
too old
for bottle,
but holding one
anyway.
maybe it was the dim
lights,
the blinds
half pulled,
the broken window.
the flat roof
where teenagers would
gather
to smoke.
maybe it was all of it,
or some it,
but it reminded you
of a place
once home.

keep your hat on

she liked to keep
her hat on when we made love.
just the hat.
she had
lots of hats.
wide brimmed and floppy,
white and black, some
for spring, mint green,
others for fall,
with splashes of red
and orange
in the band, ribbons
cascading down
the back.
I never asked her about
the hats.
they were a nice touch,
why question
anything when things
are going so
well.

no justice

the cop wrote
the ticket out wrong, so I gave
it a shot
in traffic court.
I made a right
not a left.
it was raining, I was two
minutes past
the sign that read
no turn after three.
so I went to court in a tight
fitting shirt and tie,
with my erroneous ticket,
practicing all
night and day
in front of the mirror,
stating my defense,
doing my best f. lee bailey.
the judge would have none
of it when finally my turn
at four in the afternoon,
came up.
the cop
made a mistake,
he said, banging his
gavel
at my dismay. he meant to write
right, not left.
pay the fine, but no points.
to which I replied from
back of the courtroom.
thanks a lot. shaking my head
at the injustice of the system.
is that sarcasm?
he shouted at me, to which
I said, meekly.
no your honor.

i like those hats

you like the pope.
his hats,
his gowns,
his little car made of
bullet proof glass,
the way crowds
adore him,
and cry in his presence,
hanging on
every word
and wave of his hand.
it's not a bad
gig
being the pope, but
only part time.
it might be nice having
a part time job
besides that.
maybe in retail,
or as a waiter,
getting out and seeing
how people
really are.

let's get together

you don't return his
call right away,
so when
finally you find the time,
to ring him
up, he doesn't answer.
he takes his
turn at not returning
your call.
this goes
on for a few years until
you run into each
other at the grocery store,
and you both
say together,
I've trying to reach
you, we should
have lunch or dinner
one night and catch up,
but you never
do.

unlearning

part of life
is unlearning what you've
been taught
at an early age,
stripping clean
what your parents told
you again and again
what to do.
how to live,
how to think.
as your son will
in time, do
to you.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

bad boys

the neighborhood had
bad boys.
bad boys who got decent grades,
and played
sports,
but were bored with being good.
so they cursed,
they peeped
into windows, or stole
hubcaps,
they lifted sodas
from the store, stuffing
comics
into their pants.
they knew somehow of jokes,
mostly about sex.
on occasion one would have
a playboy magazine
to share with
the other boys in a stairwell
away from parents.
but being
the good catholic boy that
you were,
you stood back
and watched.
listened. you believed in
sin,
no sin less than another,
still do, which makes
life difficult.

lately

while writing checks
on bill night,
sunday night.
ink pen, envelopes,
check books,
receipts and stamps,
a bloody mary with a stalk
of celery
snug against the ice
in hand,
I consider online
banking.
but no.
I prefer to make
my own
mistakes.
I even consider
removing all the cash
out from under
my mattress
and putting it somewhere
safer,
but no place comes
to mind, lately.

too much

too generous with praise,
I see
right through it.
I fold my
arms together, crossing
my chest.
protecting my heart.
I know a lie
when I smell one,
and the closer you get,
the more I sneeze
and sniffle, I know
what's up
your sleeveless
dress, your batting
lashes, your
luscious red lips.
there's more, much
more behind all
of this.

we are moth

why go
to mars, why send
a drink
over to the most beautiful
woman in the bar,
why
buy a lottery ticket
a hundreds worth
despite the odds.
because.
as men,
we are innately fools
for risk
and danger, and
often fall into the habit
of making
bad decisions.
we are moth.
you are flame.

enough

sometimes all it takes
is a slice
of warm bread,
butter, a knife with
blueberry jam
against the blade.
coffee,
and a breeze.
the quiet of early morning.
just gulls
floating lazy in the sky.
the ocean can be there
too,
across the still
cool sand,
the sun, just barely
up enough
to make it hot again.
that's enough
to sweeten
the summer
and make it memorable.

i like it, but

everyone
has a book inside them. a story to tell.
so they write
and write.
they take a creative writing
course down
at the local
community college.
they hand in pages of their
tale,
the other students
chew it up, spit it out.
we like it, they say,
but it needs more work.
it needs
to go somewhere.
it's boring.
I don't care about these people,
these characters
in your story.
show don't tell.
then at the mid way point
of the class
everyone goes outside to smoke
cigarettes
and make awkward
conversation about nothing
in particular. after ten
minutes out in the cold,
they rub the lit butts
of their cigarettes
out under their
shoes, then go back in for more.

close your eyes

once, many years ago,
i was on a job interview
where
I was asked to close
my eyes
and think about where I wanted
to be in five
years.
I needed the job, so I
closed my eyes, I leaned
back.
I thought about how I didn't
want to be here,
in this office,
with this person across
the desk,
studying my resume.
I wanted to be on a beach
somewhere warm,
with white sand,
blue water,
a beautiful woman beside me.
he waited, and waited.
I fell asleep,
a smile etched across my lips.
saved again from being
where id didn't want to be.

it happens

it happens,
you wake up and wonder,
where am I
who is this person beside
me,
wearing a prairie dress,
sleeping.
your wallet in her hands.
a dog at the end of the bed,
scratching, licking.
children
running
around in the hallway
with matches
and magic markers.
how did I get here,
how do I get out.

Friday, August 19, 2016

the bad children

other people's children
are so bad.
so sticky
and unruly.
they bob about saying
things
with high pitched voices.
the burn of blue
eyes
staring at you
with guilt and suspicion,
yes, you old man.
they are a fingernail,
bitten down,
away from
doing something
wrong.
touching, gnashing,
mean
spirited already
before the world
has even sunk
its teeth into them.
these children, not yours,
of course,
but other people's,
they need to
stay inside,
away. from us.
lay down a road
of candy and video games
and steer them inside.

the weight

what a crazy thing
the crying jag
is.
to spontaneously burst
out into tears,
sobbing,
clutching a wall,
or someone
to hold onto, to keep
from falling over
with grief and sorrow.
who hasn't been there,
been to those holy
grounds
that sorrow is,
or won't be
there in time.
and when you're done,
done for awhile,
exhausted you sit
and stare
at anything, trying
to find one thing that
doesn't remind you of
her,
anything that won't
start you up again,
folded under the dark
weight of
tears.

they say

they say
we lose parts of us,
the skin,
the hair,
the essence of our
life,
each breath
one less to be taken.
our cells
evaporating,
our memory going soft
and vague
inside the folds
of grey.
they say
a lot of things like this
to scare us.
to make
us tremble about
old age
and death.
to hell with them.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

somewhere in st. louis

somewhere in st. louis
she's sleeping or walking,
or getting hit by a car.
she might be
in her house, at the table
writing
a poem that she might send
me one day.
somewhere in st. louis
she's dealing with an ex husband,
her daughter,
her work.
old boyfriends, and new ones.
somewhere in st. louis
she gets tired and lies
down, stretching her long
legs out,
staring at the water stain
in the ceiling
that the workers could never
quite fix.

the great poets

poetry pains me at times.
trying to read
any of the adored greats.
it's puzzling, their words,
their long winded
ways of saying but not saying
clearly enough
what they really
want to say. it
makes me weary and dismissive,
but I plug on,
hoping one day to get it.
to be smart enough
to understand
and then applaud humbly,
their confirmed
greatness. but not yet.

write down that number

you see things
on tv that never interested
you before,
but now
you take notes
on the swinging bathtub
door,
the cream to relieve
crepe skin.
a machine to ease your breathing
when you snore.
a little blue pill
to keep you amorous.
there is a place
where they will take care of
you in
florida, it's near the water,
a nice
round pond,
with a walking path
and flamingos.
there are ramps
everywhere
and
everyone who works is dressed
in white clothes
and are smiling.

these tacos stink

it's the worst
taco, you've ever half eaten.
a hard shell, stale,
a load of shredded
ice berg lettuce,
unseasoned
boiled chicken and canned dice
tomatoes.
no hot sauce, no cheese,
no sour cream,
no guacamole.
but the music plays on.
the weak
drinks, edged with salt
get made. they greet you at the door
with hugs,
long hand shakes
with both hands,
tipping their sombreros,
laughing
with gold teeth.
the walls are painted
orange and festive,
the place is crowded,
and yet,
the tacos stink.

your numbers

we feel it necessary
to apply
numbers.
age, weight, height
date of birth,
of death.
the address where you live,
which child were
you.
how many times
have you been in love,
been divorced,
how many years have you
been alone,
or at this job.
the headstone
collects it all neatly.
a bookend
of sorts.
with all read and written
just below
the cover of
turned earth.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

the bell rings

how hard
to chase the dollar.
to make
ends meet.
to secure payment on
everything.
how long the day is
doing what
must be done,
hanging onto
that subway strap
and seeing
the flickering
world pass
by, along with years.
how different you
expected
life to be.
the bell rings.
it's your stop. only
thirty more
years to go.

in short

she found nothing
funny.
not a single laugh eeked
from her
mouth,
tight lipped
and scrunched as if a lemon
had just
been sucked dry
of all it's bitter
juices.
you used your best material
on her.
your imagination ran
wild with
new hilarious
observations. still nothing.
she might
give in a little and say,
quietly.
that's funny, but never
a laugh, never
a tear running down her
face with surprise,
never bending over and telling
you to stop. you're killing me.
the sex was bad too.

milk carton photo

you see yourself when you
were ten
on the side of a milk carton
as you pour
milk onto your shredded wheat.
your dog is in
the photo too.
that striped polo shirt
you used to wear.
you're licking an ice
cream cone. you look
blissfully happy.
it's an old picture,
one that your mother used
to have on the mantle
next to all your brothers
and sisters.
you guess it's time you
mend things
and give her a call.

happy feet

two left
feet keeps you off the dance
floor.
but you can
keep a beat
with your spoon
tapping it against the table
as the music
plays
and girls and dandies
dance across
the ballroom floor.
you're a closet
dancer these days.
spinning in the kitchen,
or the shower,
dipping,
gyrating to a song
playing
in your head,
or coming through the walls
from next door.

for the better

the neighborhood
has changed.
there was a shooting just
the other day.
a few cars
broken into,
robberies and mayhem.
someone set
the mailbox on fire.
a dog was stolen,
a car,
a bike,
you're almost afraid
to go out
at night. the neighborhood
has changed.
but for the better.
no one
asks you where you're
going, or
when you're coming home,
or what you're
doing with your life.

Monday, August 15, 2016

the blue crab blues

you've almost made it
through the summer without having
to pick and eat
crabs for seven hours
at a picnic table.
a table covered in newspapers
that no one reads
anymore, with
puddles of plastic
cups filled
with butter, vinegar
and the tools.
mallets and pliers, forks
and knives spread out
for any hand that reaches
for them.
tools to dig out the tiny
morsels of white meat,
if any
hidden between the crusty
sharp shells that bite
and make your fingers bleed.
you haven't had to drink
the beer and swat at the flies
while some one orders
hush puppies because
they're starving.
you've been lucky this summer.


the thick book

this book
won't read itself.
it sits there.
a cup
today on top of its
cover.
tomorrow a plate,
or mug,
or something else.
how hard it is to pick
it up
and begin
to read
the first page.
soon, one day,
soon
you say as your
feet rise up
to rest upon it.

the early army

you knew
early in life that you
would have
trouble with authority.
who were these people
bossing you around
in the cub scouts, making
you tie knots, forcing you to
study frogs,
to rub sticks together,
making a fire.
you felt constricted
in those dark
blue uniforms
with yellow bandanas,
hats.
testing your mettle
at such an early age.
what kind of tree
is that.
name those flowers.
point to me where
the north star is.
never again would you allow
such a thing to
happen
you said to yourself,
making a vow
at the age of seven.

in the pink

she wants a pink
wall.
she gets a pink wall.
with money
you get what you want
no matter
how crazy the idea
might be.
I give her month,
and she'll be calling
me back
for blue, worn
out under the glow
of pink.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

sunday night laundry

at the iron,
in the basement. a single
light swinging
from the rafters.
the washing machine
churning.
sunday night.
the cold floor under
your bare feet.
a basket of white
and blue
shirts,
awaiting to be pressed.
you think of
your mother on nights like
this.
how peaceful she
was to iron,
to steam
and spray starch
along a sleeve or collar,
smoothing out the wrinkles,
then placing them onto a hanger,
how still her world was
with us in bed, not quite
asleep,
her radio on low,
Sinatra,
the platters.
nat king cole.

being alone

come here, stand
by the light, by the window.
let me see
the lines in your face,
the worry or fear
of dying alone
etched in the corners
of your eyes.
let me brush back
those strands of grey hair,
let me see how your lips
are parched
and parted unkissed
for so many years,
let me touch
your hands, veined
blue
and raw from washing
so many plates
at the sink,
alone.

this day

you feel
as if this day has you
in mind.
the way the lights
are all green,
the way
the sun climbs
behind a cloud.
the way the room
gets quiet
and the drinks
stay cold.
you feel as if this
day
is one you'd like
to bottle
and keep near,
keep close for when
the world goes loud,
the air
gets cold.

closeness

I need more room,
she says, you're crowding me,
I need my
own space.
I can hardly breathe,
you're suffocating me.
what are you talking about,
you ask her,
putting your arm
into the same sleeve,
your foot into her shoe.
this is what love is.

hit the road jack

what's worse than a cold
cup of weak
coffee,
or a baby crying,
or being stuck in traffic,
maybe a kiss
on the cheek, or a pat
on the back.
or a text saying no.
we're done.
hit the road, jack.
or maybe
the scratch on a record,
skipping
for eternity
making you get up
to drop the needle
a line or two
down the disc. just
little things
to remind you
that Monday is right
around the bend.


closed forever

you press your hands
to the window
cupping your eyes.
chairs are on the table.
bar stools gone.
the lettering outside
has been removed.
your old haunt
is dead.
gone, closed forever.
not a soul inside.
how many songs did you
sing there,
how many
drinks did you sink
into your body.
bad food.
how many new loves
did you chase in that
smoky dark
alley? not enough,
you think as you look
up into the sky
at the stars
with the earth below,
still turning.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

the car singer

you are amazed at how
you know the lyrics to nearly
every song ever written,
ever played on the radio
from 1960 to 1970,
so when judy's turn to cry
starts playing
you join in.
you are in the music chamber
of your car,
the volume up.
you are in good form
while using
your high pitched girl voice,
singing
along, note for note,
with Lesley Gore.
sometimes people look
over at you
while you make hand gestures
emphasizing the lyrics,
but you don't care,
you are a professional
car singer,
and the show must go on.

it's a living

do you have jumper
cables
the man asks as you pull
into a 7 11.
his hood is up,
he's sweating.
he has a wrench in his hand
and three kids
in the car.
a dog too.
it's hot out.
but no, you don't have
any jumper cables.
can you give me five dollars
then, he
asks,
just to have a truck come
to jump me.
the kids, all with saucer
eyes,
brown as coffee,
the woman in the front seat
reading from
a magazine. the dog
near death, panting,
his mangy head
out the window.
you give him the money
then go into the store.
by the time you come out,
he's driven away.

the glass doors

will the doors look
like glass, she asks,
as you brush a coat of white
paint onto
the wooden panels.
I want them shiny
and smooth, you know,
like glass.
of course not.
only glass is glass,
but you don't say that,
instead you say, yes.
the doors will
look like glass.
in fact, at the end
of every rainbow
is a pot of gold.
throw a coin
into a fountain,
find a falling star,
make a wish, all of your
dreams will
come true if you truly
believe. yes, my dear.
the doors will
look like glass
and tomorrow you'll
be a child again
before you began to think
this way.

trinkets

trinkets
in the box. porcelain
elephants
rings,
and watches.
swept up.
things
that meant so much
for so
long
at one time,
now in a box,
about to be lost
forever,
the tenant gone,
everything is
tossed.

the boat trip

the small boat
bounces against the waves,
people are green.
it's a pretty day
from shore,
the sails, the white gulls,
the soft brown sand
that lies
beyond
the blue cove of water.
the small boat
sloshes
against the current,
rises and falls.
the captain
stares straight ahead
to the harbor, steeled eyes,
hands on the wheel,
the people are green.

the nanny

the nanny
tells you right away
that she has a masters degree
in physics,
and that she is just watching
these three
kids for the summer
to make ends meet.
the children, all under
six,
are gooey and loud
at the table.
noses run, cereal is on
their chins while
their small pink hands
slap at spilled puddles
of milk.
they pound in unison
their plates,
their faces red with
exhaustion despite it being
only nine a.m.,
the real parents, long
gone, are just a text away,
the zoo is planned.
school starts in two weeks,
she says,
tying a pair of shoes
on one child,
then i'm done with this.
do you have kids?

what's playing

it's going to be a hot
day, she says, swatting a fly
with her
slipper, missing.
I can feel the heat already,
don't you.
it's summer, I say to her.
it's still august,
we have a long ways to go.
she lifts her hair
up with her hands,
stacking the curls on top
of her head.
fanning herself
with the slipper still in her
hand.
maybe we can go to the pool
today.
but it seems too hot even for
that, or to a movie.
buy a tall drink
and sit in the cool shade
of air conditioning.
what's playing?
who cares, we can sit in the back
row and hold hands,
put our feet up
and let the hot day go by without
us in it.

pieces missing

who doesn't have a piece
missing.
live long enough
and they take things out
of you,
replace things,
stitch you back together.
live long enough
and the cookie that you
are begins
to crumble
in the milky cup of life.

to what end?

when the can
of radio wires circled
the earth
emitting a constant
beep
we covered our
heads, sweated, peered
upward into the sky,
gnashing our
teeth.
it was the beginning of
the end.
the red scare
would soon be in our
homes,
be everywhere.
soon, you were learning
how to crouch beneath
your wooden
desk to protect you
from the atomic bomb,
you were released from school
and told, under
the sirens wail
to run straight home.
to what end?

Friday, August 12, 2016

tomorrow comes soon

he's been drinking.
I can tell.
the way he keeps telling me
that he loves me.
that he thinks the world of me.
his favorite line
to say
when calling and drinking.
I can almost see tears of friendship
in his eyes
as he goes on
in some southern way,
the drawl coming out, the country
voice
of home cooking and fields,
horses,
livestock that he knew
as a child.
his rusted cars on blocks
in a driveway.
I love you, he says. you're
good to me.
i'd do anything for you,
my brother.
you let him roll on, listening
to the gurgle of beer
going down,
the sound of another cap
being popped open and tossed.
you listen,
listen to him talk about women,
how much he
needs one good woman
to make his life right,
to get him back on the right path.
you listen
and listen, hardly saying
a word until he wears himself
out,
then says, he has to go.
then one more time.
I love you.
get some rest, I tell him.
tomorrow comes soon.

book burning

who reads anymore.
I can't remember the last book
of fiction that I bought.
perhaps the world
according to garp,
or was it
the da vinci code.
someone gave me a copy
of 50 shades of grey,
then the next,
then another.
they sit on the shelf
against tom wolfe,
and twain,
upkike cheever and salinger.
it's hard to throw
a book out.
any book, no matter how poorly
written.

twenty nine dollars per night

a visit once
to little creek
near a naval base found us
in a one story motel
near a bar
that had on its sign,
Thursday, liver and onions night.
it was only
for two nights
that we were staying, bringing
our son to see
his grandfather
for the first time.
the drapes were thin, as was
the carpet,
commercial grade and smelling
of cleaning fluids.
a tv that may or may
not have worked
was chained to the wall,
teetering
on a bureau with missing
handles.
one bed was against the wall.
covered in a loose bedspread
the color of salmon
with starfish
embroidered in.
to the right of the bed,
perhaps where a man would
sleep was a coin machine
that took quarters.
this made the bed vibrate.
we put a quarter in,
just to see,
then checked out.

heading west

there was a time when it
was not unusual to hitchhike
across country,
or to a place just a few
miles down the road.
spare change or a few dollars
for shared gas.
it was a new world,
though mostly false,
a mirage,
a world of free
love and long hair,
underneath the giving
and open souls was the same
darkness that overtakes
so many
that walk the earth.
we'd stand at the side
of the road, thumbs out,
hair to our shoulders,
our sleeping bags
and small supplies rolled
beneath our skinny arms.
we were too young to know
much about the world.
we believed in the music,
the day glow art,
the spirited clichés
of that time,
the dancing, the beautiful
women who suddenly
appeared before you,
as if magic.

coin collectors

your brother and you
both had blue books with slots
for coins.
quarters, dimes, pennies.
the years
printed below the opening
waiting
for a mercury dime, or buffalo
nickel.
the kennedy dollar, shiny
and new was easy to find.
in time you both
filled the books
with a collection of coins.
he still has his,
the money untouched
while yours was slowly
emptied by the ringing bell
of an approaching
ice cream truck.

swing girls

her club, her group, her gaggle
of girls
were in a cult
of swing dancers.
there was something different
in their eyes,
a joy and enthusiasm
now found,
once escaped from the clutches
of marriage.
the kids gone,
the house nearly paid for.
no one to ask
where, or why.
weekends were for dancing,
although the men she found there
were odd, the girls
had fun,
how the shoes would kick
against the ballroom floors,
how the dresses
would fly.

fashion

your fashion sense
has not changed for nearly thirty
years.
khaki shorts,
a t shirt,
tennis shoes
and a ball cap.
it's the uniform you will
march into
old age with.
what are the options,
a seer sucker suit,
baby blue?

the shady tree

your father
could lean under the hood
of his car
all afternoon,
drinking beer,
holding wrenches,
smoking.
what he did under there,
you have no idea,
but it seemed
to draw other men
beneath the shady
tree where
he parked his car.
together they would stare
into the motor,
talking and laughing
with one another.
from the windows or
porches the women
would
hold their children
back,
and shake their heads,
not asking
questions
but happy to know where
their husbands
might be.

jumping off a roof

not all doors
open
when one closes.
sometimes
you have to go through
a window,
or take
a hammer and bang a
hole into a wall
to crawl out.
sometimes jumping off
a roof
is the only
option, hoping to
jump into the open
arms
of new love.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

chicken to die for

they travel
a lot. all over the world.
if they're not leaving,
they're coming back.
their passports are stamped
on nearly every page.
their luggage too,
with stickers of everywhere
they've been,
from London, to Paris,
to Katmandu.
they ask you if you've
ever been on a safari,
or surfed the Australian
coast.
what about Istanbul, his
wife says,
you must go there sometime,
or china, china
was just delightful this
trip around.
you say no.
but I do have a trip planned
soon.
three days in ocean
city. the fried chicken
on the boardwalk
is to die for.

they won't get in

you don't know why, but
some people rub you the wrong way.
it's a feeling,
nothing they've said
or done, yet,
just a feeling
and that's enough to keep
them at arms length,
to not engage
too deeply in conversation,
or ask them how
they're doing.
they don't always feel it too
though,
try to win you over.
this is when the dark side
of you takes
over, and you walk away.
they won't get in.

hands on

i still get the paper,
pick it up
off the porch and unfold
it as i
have my morning coffee.
from page one to the last
page,
I turn and skim,
read what interests me,
then i do
the bills,
taking out the paper work,
spreading it all across
the table,
the check book,
the envelopes and stamps.
an ink pen.
i like things in my hand.
to hold what
i have,
to read, to write.
to touch.
it's the same with you,
I need you here, not on the phone,
on the screen,
cold and distant
in pixel technicolor,
out of reach.

until we left

how it rained those nights
in mexico, the sea
below our balcony, the wind
pushing water
into our room.
you could see the storm
over the glassy
cove, mountains in the hills
painted blue.
how we watched from the bed,
eating, drinking,
making love.
waiting for the rain to end.
four days and nights,
it never stopped. no sun,
no light.
just the rain, and us in bed,
waiting.
we could have been anywhere,
but we were in mexico.
and in two years she would
be dead, and I would thinking
about this trip we took.
where the rain never stopped
until we left.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

something is about to happen

you need to stop now,
she tells
me.
put the pen down,
stop staring out the window
and waiting
for something to happen.
I look at her
in the doorway.
she's wearing
a coat,
and gloves, her walking
shoes are on.
let's go for a walk she
says. it's cold out,
find your coat.
but there are these
blackbirds on the wire,
I tell her.
tapping my pen against the blank
white sheet of paper.
that haven't moved
in over an hour. I think
something is about
to happen.

do you know betty

the gypsy
takes your hand and opens it
on the table.
the lights are dim
in the fabric draped room.
she's dark
and olive skinned,
green cat
eyes, her black hair
busheled
around her shoulders.
she nods, she says hmmm.
she says,
interesting. she moves
her finger lightly
across the creviced
lines
of your palm. then
she looks up at you,
suddenly, as if surprised.
do you know someone
named betty, she says.

the moscow mule

after two sips
of the Moscow mule,
the ice rattling in the cold
metal cup,
you lean on your elbow
and look across
the bar
to a woman half your
age. she's suddenly
beautiful.
after another gulp
you swear
she just winked at you.
you order another from
the bartender,
finishing
the first one.
you wonder what magic
will happen now,
if a time machine
will appear,
allowing you to go there.

say what

you wish you had an
interpreter to accompany
you wherever you go,
translating
the voices around you
into your version
of English.
you wish there were
subtitles
in yellow, like at the bottom
of a foreign movie,
perhaps a bubble or
balloon floating above
one's head
telling exactly what
is being said.
hardly a day goes by without
misunderstanding
someone, or you being
misunderstood.
it makes life harder
than it should be,
you think, as you
nod at the waiter,
saying yes,
to whatever it is that
he just said.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

a few good friends

I have a marble
that
was first won in a game
of marbles
when I was twelve.
shot out cleanly fron
the dirt circle
beyond our house.
one side
is flat, the top
egg shaped
with a sliver of a
green cat's eye floating
hard within.
there was no intent to save
it. it held
no special value.
but there it is in the change
bowl after
all these decades
having never found a way
to be lost.
not unlike a few
good friends.

the orange cat

all day
the orange striped cat,
wants in,
then out.
she makes you stop
your work.
her loud cry is learned.
after five
or six times
though of her pawing
at the door with her
scratchy voice,
you grow weary
of the game,
no longer bending
to her
wishes. you
let her stay out.
you
turn the music up, ignore
her.
kindness
and compassion having
limits.

from start to finish

no one
puts a gold medal
around
your neck at the end
of the week
or month for work
well done.
there is no anthem
played,
no applause.
you just get up and do
it all over
again.
this is how the world
goes
round.
not seeking glory
or fame,
just love and peace,
food
and shelter,
no time to play
in games.

Monday, August 8, 2016

what day is it

as a child
you never visited your mother
at St. Elizabeth's.
her short stint after a seventh
child
sent her whirling.
they asked her questions
like who
the president was,
what was it?
you never saw
the tiled walls,
the murky corridors,
forever long the green
paint
everywhere.
but you remember walking
by years later,
when it was still home
for the lost,
and seeing the souls
in striped clothes, and robes
wandering
the wide pastures
behind the iron bars
in Washington.
you remember thinking how
close we are to
either side of madness.

extra crunchy

peanut butter
has saved your life
more than once
from starvation.
what else in the world
can say that.
rescuing a human life
from
fainting and falling,
having to crawl
to the phone
to order pizza.
how you praise the jar
of extra crunchy
on two slices
of wonder bread
with jam.

safety pin

a button breaks
on your pants
making them slip
off your hips
and sag below your
waist. she laughs
while you hold them up
with one hand.
she offers you a safety
pin,
which you reluctantly
agree to.
i'm a nurse, she says,
don't worry,
I know how to handle
sharp objects
up against skin.
carefully she inserts
the pointed end into
the fabric
and pushes it closed.
there you are, she says,
patting you on the back,
now off you go.

the orange chair

I like your orange chair
she says.
is there room enough
for two. it looks comfy
and bright.
I tell her no.
it's not a chair for
sitting.
it's a chair
to be seen, not used.
so, stay off it.
especially
if your hands are dirty,
or you're wearing
muddied shoes.
come sit by
me instead,
and we can stare at
it together
and ponder
other things to do.

with school out

how little you know
about so much.
the ice berg
of knowledge
unseen below the surface.
your ignorance
is impressive, deep,
and cold
untouched until
something catches your
interest.
school is out.
it's been out for a long
time.
so lessons are harder,
come slower,
if at all.
but you try.
one book, one google
at a time.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

the wedding stabbing

the incident was on the news.
the caterer
has stabbed
the groom.
the cake was not right,
the bride asked for five
tiers
not two.
the shrimp were
undercooked,
but there was dancing
before the stabbing,
and music,
an open bar,
and a river view.
relatives came from as far
away as
Philadelphia
in their long white cars.
even the flowers
were wrong though,
despite being plentiful.
who knew the bride
was allergic
to daffodils.
the white dress was off
white,
not snow white,
not like the first dress
of her three marriages.
when he heals, her lawyer
husband,
will begin, under the bride's
advisement on
how to sue.

blue ink

ashamed of her tattoos
now at the age of fifty,
the butterfly
below,
the heart
on her breast,
the lightning bolt
behind her ear.
others too, decorating
her arms, vines and snakes,
a dagger on her calf,
she hides them all
as best she can
beneath her clothes,
the smock she wears
at the grocery
store,
the grey in her hair,
showing what
has become of
youth.

not enough

it's all most
men
need. the machinery
of work,
a place
to put muscle
and brain
to use, to pay for
all that
gives comfort
in this world, enough
to win the girl,
to make
new life. shelter
and food,
it's that simple
when young,
but then a day arrives
when
it's not enough.
the darkness
of the factory,
the oil and grease of
time
takes hold,
and the wonder is less
about
what has been won,
and more about what
has happened
to one's soul.

the water tower

you have no
geographical instincts.
but you
try just to same to find
your way
from point a to point b,
without
the gps
or phone or map.
your heart says go left,
but your
brain says right.
sometimes you roll down
the window
to ask strangers,
where am I,
not physically, but
in a more existential way.
who am I,
you might ask too,
but this gets not response,
and they answer
by saying.
you're lost, aren't you?
or they say,
do you know where the water
tower is?

the other world

a wave
approaches,
bottled green
in the sunlight.
a translucent roll,
rising.
you bend and duck
to accept the cold
wash
of ocean over your head
and back
chilling you
to the bone.
there was a time
when the beach was all
of you thought of
when summer came.
now three days
and nights are plenty
to satisfy
your need
to get away, and dive
in to this
other world.

black coffee

not unlike
a blood sucking vampire
you need
coffee,
strong coffee.
hardly a day goes by
when your eyes
and mind don't
wander
towards a coffee shop
you pass by.
the question now,
is do you have
five dollars
in cash
on hand, or more
if you go crazy and get
that
morning bun
and paper.
the sun has risen.
it's time.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

to an end

a certain wind
curls around your wrist
as you sit,
on a porch.
the warm air
reminds you of other summers.
ice tea.
a dog stretched
out in a puddle of shade
beneath
a dying tree.
your mother at the screen
door,
holding another
baby
in her arms,
looking out
to the street waiting
for your father
to finally come home.
it's a sweet blow
of air.
you're twelve or thirteen.
your shoes
worn,
the summer coming to
an end.
as other things are too.

fusion food

the word fusion
scares you
when it comes to food.
Cuban
with Chinese,
thai with
Italian.
leave it alone.
don't put
quail's eggs
on my rice ball.
I want my spaghetti
with sausage,
not eel,
or sea weed.
keep my steak
and potatoes pure,
don't let
those octopus
legs
show up on the plate,
stuck too
my green beans.

hot yoga class

you sign up for a hot yoga
class
in the city for no other reason
than
to lose weight and get
in better shape.
it has nothing to do
with thirty or forty
women in yoga
pants
standing on their heads.
you buy a blue mat,
because, well
you are a boy.
you bring a bottle of water,
and a note from your doctor.
you find a spot in the back
of the class, stretch out
your mat
and roll your arms around
in the air to get ready.
you touch your knees,
then shake your legs out.
a piece of paper is stuck
to one sneaker, so you get rid
of that quickly.
you want to take
it slow and observe,
see how it goes.
already you're sweating.
you can't understand
why there are no
fans blowing, no ac,
no windows open.
why hasn't someone put out
a bucket of ice,
or a cooler of beer.
it's hot as hell in here.
thank god you have a head
band on,
and wrist bands
and thoughtfully wore
gym shorts that still fit
from high school, although
a little snug in places.

left turn

with the power line
down
the cops come,
the utility trucks arrive,
detour signs appear.
a crowd
gathers to see
the long thick wire
on the ground.
the truck that hit the pole
steaming
from the hood.
there is nothing to do,
but wait.
people sit on the grass,
their homes
too hot now
to go back in, the power
out.
you should have gone
the other way,
made a left turn
instead of a right.
but life
is like that.

happy hour

an angry man
with a full dark beard
yells
at you.
mistaking you for someone
he hates.
what? you say, me?
touching your chest.
me?
yes, you, he says.
I better not see you in
here again,
or it's over.
what? me?
you say again, sipping
your drink.
and looking for a way
out.
finally he puts on
his glasses
to read the menu
and looks over at you.
oops, he says.
you're not him, sorry.
relieved, you order
another drink,
but see your ex girlfriend
across the bar
with a gaggle of her friends.
she points at you
and angrily says something
that you can't hear.
her friends all look at you
with daggers in
their eyes.
me? you say?
what?

but what?

tired
of working. of punching
the clock
and pounding
the pavement with your
old brown
shoes, catching the bus
in,
sitting at a desk,
digging
coal out of a paper
mountain,
you decide to quit.
to invent something
original,
something the world
needs.
something people can't
live without
once they've used it.
but what?

Friday, August 5, 2016

ravish me, she whispers

how dangerous it is
to purchase an entire cheesecake
when living alone.
the siren call
of its sweetness
whispers all night into
your good ear.
you toss and turn, trying
to ignore her.
i'm here she says,
right here on the shelf
below
the milk.
between the butter
and dried cranberries
that you'll never eat.
come
and taste me, slice me,
or not,
just bring the tin to bed
with you,
a single fork,
and have your way
until the last crumb
is on your chin,
your lips, your belly full.

night shift

persuaded by
the sun that has shyly
slipped
between
the covers of silk
clouds, you too
find comfort in lying
down
to rest.
putting the day behind
you,
letting the night
shift take over,
letting the stars and moon
come out and do
what they do best.

peaches

the sweet fruit fools
you.
luscious and dripping
down your chin,
the peach
is soft and smooth
in your hand.
what is summer for if
not for peaches.
you think summer will
never end.
peaches will always
be at hand.
love is around the corner.
the sweet fruit
fools you.

let''s not talk today

let's not talk today
your wife
tells you at the breakfast table.
we get along
so well when we
are silent,
not discussing
anything of importance.
you nod in agreement. okay,
but can I say,
good morning?
yes, she says, but that's
it, okay?
deal, you say.
buttering your toast,
crunching down
on the whole wheat
with raisons that she picked
out at the store.
she nods. doing a pretend
zipper with her fingers
across her lips.
you nod, then get up
to go to work. you both
wave.
then she says, wait a minute,
you aren't really
going to wear
that shirt to work
today, are you?
I hate that shirt.

it's raining

the weather
girl gets it wrong again.
but no
one seems to mind.
in her red dress her wand
her Doppler
radar
and gps
showing wind or storm.
it doesn't matter.
she has every weather tool
in existence,
everything but a window
to the outside world,
but
she makes the viewer
happy
with her smile, her
je ne sais quoi,
her bounce,
okay,
her legs and other parts
that have
nothing to do
with the barometer,
or wind chill.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

computer errors, we fix

I tell the telemarketer
from 'microsoft' to hold on,
i'm just now taking a chicken
out of the oven.
I put him on speaker phone, then
grab the little paint brush
to baste the chicken. that done
I peel a few small red potatoes
in the sink.
okay. I yell towards the phone,
continue with your call.
I am from Microsoft, he says,
my name is Jackson brown,
and we have received notice
of errors on your computer.
if you have visited
any questionable sites,
you may have infected your computer
with terrible mishappenings.
have you visited such sites?
I give out an audible gulp,
and say, well, maybe.
I mean i'm not in a relationship
right now, and well, after a few
gin and tonics...
there is chatter in the background,
other technicians from Microsoft
I assume. please do not worry,
I am here to help you fix it.
I continue basting the chicken
and look in the fridge for more butter.
I put the peeled potatoes into a pot
of water and turn the burner on.
how am I going through
so much butter lately, I say out loud,
scooping out the last of it.
okay, I say to mister brown.,
where are you, by the way?
I am in florida, st. Petersburg.
oh, I say, talking loudly
because the phone is on the shelf
where I won't drop
it into the sink.
I have a sister that lives in
cocoa beach. how's the weather? hot?
lots of lizards in florida,
I add in.
fine, he says. now, please,
are you in front of your computer?
I want to help you.
sure, I say, go on. i'm ready,
sprinkling some pepper
onto the golden brown bird.
I've got my computer right here
in front of me.
okay, he says, hold the control
key, and the shift key,
then press the letter R,
this will allow me access to
your computer screen and then we can
begin to clean up your errors.
should I make stuffing too,
I ask him.
or is that too much?
cranberry sauce?

the magic act

there is no magic.
not really.
nothing disappears
that easily.
no one gets cut in half
by a saw
and survives. but
there is slight of hand.
trickery
and deception. fast talk
and distraction.
not all them wear
capes
and hats, hold
batons, or say things
like allakazam.
some
wear suits and ties,
have nice offices
and need
a retainer.

looking for a tomato

after years
of passing by the farmers market,
you decide to stop.
you are low
on tomatoes.
two to be exact.
maybe you could buy some
here.
everyone has their own
recyclable burlap
bag, which makes
you feel unworthy,
and sandals. you could swear
that you just
saw someone wearing a poncho.
there is a feeling of left
wing liberalism
in the air.
a slight fog of medical
marijuana
and new Yorker magazines.
it is a gluten free zone.
there are peasant dresses
and men
with glasses on the tips
of their noses,
peering
intently at peaches.
everyone is pleasant
and happy to see so much
fruit and vegetables
on tables,
in bins and baskets.
it is a small Woodstock
without the music and mud,
a grateful dead concert
without jerry, but
in an hour or two it's gone,
not five.

the condo board

you see
the condo board outside
your window.
the brown shirts and hats.
boots.
one member,
holding a clipboard
stares at your house.
writing things down.
they approach
a trash bag set upon
your porch,
hours too early.
another points
at the shrubbery,
the front door
with a new unauthorized lock,
a shutter
which hangs loosely
from a hinge.
they confer in whispers
as you watch, shake
their heads,
assess
your property
then move on to the next.
in a week
you'll get your list,
the warning attached,
the fee, the fine,
the penalty
for not obeying.

self love

our phone
has become our navel.
how we bend
down
to stare
into its buzz and glow.
the soft warm
light of self
indulgence.
it is who
we are.
this device,
this box
of us, and everything
known about us.
in a daze,
we go about,
eyes focused
on who we are, who
we might become,
and each and every thing
contained
within.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

practice killing

four fighter jets
scream by,
they roar
low and loud
over the beach.
it makes everything shake,
even the sand
under our feet
vibrates.
everyone puts down their
book, cranes
their neck to watch.
the children point
with short arms.
it's
practice
killing, in formation.
hardly a few seconds
go by
before they're gone
a puff of white
behind them.
the muscle flexed we
go back to our reading,
the children go back
to building castles
in the sand,
finding shells.


the invention

you come with an invention.
but whisper it only
to a few close friends.
you don't want the world to steal
your idea.
you begin to dream
of a new house,
a sports car.
vacations to the south of france.
maybe rolling down
your window
and dropping change into
the cup
of the man who is on the corner
every day you
drive by.
the good you could do with
this money.
this new found fortune.

guilt

just looking at
the man
you decide that he's guilty,
but the other eleven members
of the jury
don't feel that way.
there's only circumstantial
evidence, but you protest,
he's smiling, just look
at him, you say.
how can anyone be happy
at a time like this.
to me that's a sign
of guilt, all that laughing
and joking around.
it means he's guilty,
perhaps not of this crime,
but something,
so I vote to convict,
throw him in jail
and throw away the key.
no one should be that happy
in this day and age.

hey baby

the women, on dates,
hand in hand
with men,
stop the woman pushing
a stroller.
a new stroller.
the hood pulled down,
a blue blanket
wrapped softly around.
inside
is a pink package
of a sleeping
baby.
a wisp of dark hair
swirled
wet upon his head.
they peek in and swoon,
they shake
with love and joy
wanting to touch
and hold
this new life.
meanwhile the men,
wait, stand back, light
cigarettes,
then as one
stare
at a woman getting out
of a car,
with long legs
and lipstick on.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

small things

how little
things make us happy.
the itch
scratched,
the thirst quenched,
the hunger
satisfied.
a sweet afternoon nap.
those stars
out the window,
a song, a book.
the quiet of you
beside me.
a single kiss
before good night.

beauty sleeping

I couldn't understand
why
she didn't want to work.
how mean was I to say
so often,
get a job
after the son was born
and soon walking.
but no.
she slept in, slept
through the years,
the decade,
as the child grew,
went to school,
to college
to California. get a job,
i'd say.
do something, help me.
but no. instead
she found a better place
to sleep,
someone with more
than what I could give,
more patience.
she sleeps
there now, undisturbed
as the sun
rises into noon.

snow

a field
of unspoiled snow
appears
while you sleep beside her.
no angel.
no devil, either of
you,
lying in the cool
room
unlistening
to the crank
of air, the blow of fan.
tired
to the bone
with summer,
the heat that wilts
your soul.
you dream and shiver
as the next season
approaches,
a field of unspoiled
snow.

the new girl in town

mary
who turns ninety one in September
has moved
to Miami.
finally leaving her baby blue
apartment
in the city.
she took almost nothing with
her.
just summer clothes
and shoes.
she tells me
that the senior home
is so cliquish.
they stare at me when
I come into the room.
they don't even say hello.
i'm the new girl
in town.
they don't wear make up,
she says,
or get dressed for dinner
or even lunch.
let them talk,
I don't care, i'll out live
them all
and be running
this place
in no time.
i'll have my own girls
when the new ones
arrive.

praying for the world

what's wrong with your knees,
I ask betty
when seeing her limping
at the mall.
there are large band aids
on her knee caps.
I want to say, rug burns?
but don't.
I've been going to church
a lot lately,
she says.
I've gotten into praying
more.
not just for things,
or me,
or for my dog, who was bitten
by a snake last week,
but for the whole world.
that's a lot of praying
I tell her,
looking at her bag from
target.
I bought some knee pads,
she says. taking them out
to show me.
like the kind construction
workers wear, but
I have to let
the blisters heal first
before I can use them.
I've been praying sitting up
in the pews lately, but
I don't think it's quite
as effective, do you?

bank fees

is there anything
else I
can help you with,
the bank
clerk asks you
after telling you that
your account
is overdrawn
and that you must
pay a fee.
no, there is nothing
you can help me
with to fix this erroneous
charge, you say,
but perhaps
there is someone else
at the bank
older than twelve
who might.
in fact give me the
smartest person who
works at the bank and let
me speak to them,
to which she says,
but i'm smart too.
and you reply,
no doubt, but not quite.

her sweets

I miss her cookies
and cakes.
her sweets.
the icing of her.
the meringue of her.
the way
she tasted
when bitten into.
I miss all of that,
but not
the toothache.

painted from memory

time has a way
of shaping the past
into a way we'd
like to remember
it.
we frame it
just so, using all the colors
that we need
to make it
right.
throwing out
what doesn't fit.
then we pound a nail
into the wall
of our memory
and hang it there
until the end of time,
and by then,
anyone that could contradict
our version,
our portrait
is long gone.

Monday, August 1, 2016

are you on your computer now?

the industry of scamming
is so sophisticated
now.
they know everything about
you, everything
but one small clue
to get you to open up
the vault
of your belongings.
they call from warehouses
in other countries,
with broken English,
and impatient questions.
are you on your computer
now they ask?
in the old days,
someone would just bump
into you
and take your wallet
from your coat pocket
with a deft hand,
take the cash
and be on their way.
I miss the old days.

bow ties

for some reason
my mother insisted we wear bow ties
to school
as small children.
white shirts with
red or plaid bow
ties clipped
on to our
buttoned up
skinny necks.
our hair was combed off
to one side,
a straight line part
leading back
to the cowlick.
we had brief cases too,
and shorts with
suspenders,
polished brown shoes.
we were miniature
congressmen going off
to kindergarten.
we looked ambivalent
and bored
in the photos,
about to start our day
with crayons,
and the alphabet,
kickball at recess,
and tuna sandwiches
for lunch.

the dead battery

it's a personal best,
I realize
taking
the pot roast out
of the oven without
the smoke alarm
going off.
the potatoes too.
and string beans on
the stove.
biscuits on the low pan.
the room is full of smoke,
but the window
is open,
and the fan going.
for once, I've
made a meal
without the screeching
pulse of the alarm.

we need more

survival
keeps us going.
keeps us in motion.
as it
does all life forms.
each seeking
food
and shelter,
whether nest or rock,
worm or insect.
only we need more,
a book,
a show,
love and affection,
a nice pair
of shoes,
or a car
better than his
or hers.