Friday, September 30, 2016

cold tea

in her pointed
shoes, toes squeezed
tight, reddened
with cold, she
picked up boxes of strange
black
tea in the yellowed store,
of warm light,
in February, no less,
on a day I was born.
a hard
wind up from the river
snapped
against us,
not enough buttons to go
around.
her black hair pulled tight,
a permanent
fixture, as I would
find out,
pinned atop her head.
she seemed impervious to weather,
or affection.
but it was more
about
the tea that day,
that first meeting, those exotic
blends stacked
in boxes
on glass shelves
that held her interest,
orange and pear,
the porcelain cups
and saucers
from china, from Russia,
not me.

they come and go

how swift the maids are.
coming and going unseen.
the key left on the counter.
the money gone.
the smell of pine trees
on the floor.
the dust no longer where
your finger found
it.
how strange to have strangers
move about your house,
touching books,
and shoes.
making a bed that
you lie on.
what thoughts do they
possess wondering about
your life, the stacks of
books and clothes,
the way you let things go,
then gone,
on to the next.

enough noise

the sigh
of sighs, the exhale
of a day
gone by, the room aglow
in
last light.
the glare
of a still tv.
muted.
hardly a sound is heard.
the neighbors
quiet,
not a dog barking.
not one bird
in the sky.
what noise do you need
right now?
no answer
given, enough noise
found
in just the sigh.

the pearl within

these hard shells,
tight lipped and black, the brine
of sea
latched
to their curved skulls.
what lies within,
a pearl, perhaps, or the soft
life
of a jelled body,
now ripe, awaiting what's next,
who isn't?

heart beats

the twist
of sky, a plume of violet
becoming blue
or is it grey, how the sun naps
behind
a thickened wall,
perhaps never
to appear again, and me
and you,
whispering to one another
as if the absence
of clothes
demands us to do so.
the window holds our attention,
for now,
the love lust sweat
upon us, drying,
our hearts
still tapping like feet,
like fingers and finally
like the water
falling
in fat tears against
the chrome drain
beyond.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

i could do that

I could do that, I tell
my friend Francis, as
we visit the art gallery.
I could make
that painting.
it's just splashing a gallon
of paint on a canvas while
it sits on the floor.
I could make about ten of those
in an hour.
well, then why don't you?
i'm busy.
busy doing what?
stuff, I've got a lot going
on these days.
oh really now, like what.
you don't want to know.
i'm working on things, things
that will be amazing
when they come to fruition.
so you can't tell me?
nope. it's a secret.
i'd need you to sign a
statement of confidentiality.
you exhaust me sometimes,
she says.

hit the button and pray

i'm setting the bar low
she tells me as she fills out
her profile
for e harmony.
i'm not in search of my
next soul mate,
or cell mate, she types,
I just want a date,
how does that sound?
perfect, I tell her,
and maybe add in,
have a human head
and a ten tattoo limit.
that sounds mean, she says.
okay, okay, don't,
but i'm warning you,
ever since the prison
system handed out
laptops to felony
offenders in the can
you're going to get a lot
of strange men writing to you.
oh, and if I was
you, I wouldn't put that bikini
picture on of you
in the hot tub,
or the one where you're
peeling a banana.
but, it's just a banana.
whatever, I tell her.
and take out the part about
you're a professional woman,
what are the options,
amateur status?
okay, she says. got it.
and no pictures of kids,
or plants, or cakes, or fish.
but men like to fish.
yeah, I know, but just don't.
and take out the pictures
of your best friends.
they're all too pretty and sexy.
it will reduce your chances.
okay, she says, staring at me
as she gulps from a bottle
of red wine.
anything else?
nah, that should do it.
hit the button and pray.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

for you, for me

it's a relief when the dog
dies.
half blind,
deaf,
his teeth awash in
pink.
it's a selfish thought,
the end
of walks, of carrying
him out to a bush
or tree
in the rain.
it's a terrible thing
to love and resent
a living thing,
but so it is
at the end of any
long life,
perhaps how it will
be
for you,
for me.

do that and then

be quiet,
come fast,
someone will know
and rat us out she says,
taking
my hand and leading us behind
the shed,
along the peat moss, the soft earth
which takes
our footprints.
we have to be quiet,
don't say a word, she says,
her hand pulling
me closer, the heat
of her making me forget
how wet my
shoes are, how warm the air
is, how dark
the branches fold upon
our clinging shadows.
promise me first
that you love me, she says,
straightening me
to find my eyes,
do that and then.

wanting more

there's no harm
in asking for more, is there?
for one last
kiss, or mad
session between the rumpled
sheets,
hardly cooled
from the night they were
slept on.
or drink, or spoon full of
what makes us
fat. there's no harm
in asking
for more. see how the birds
open their beaks,
how the leaves curl
and cup upwards
for rain.
why not live, and have more,
but more
leads to more
which isn't good, or is it?

the devil's black box

if this call has been recorded, well
then, please forgive me. I don't often use
language like this, except when
driving, or in line at the grocery
store behind someone with coupons,
talking on their cell phone. i'm sorry,
but my old cable box, installed by
grandma moses does not have an HDMI slot,
so my new television that sits on top
of my dresser cannot be used until
this is fixed. the box hasn't worked
in six months, but because it's raining
and I had a day off, I thought
i'd take care of this small, but
important issue. I'm tired of covering
the blinking lights with a sock.
I like to watch tv in bed
and eat snacks with my dog,
or current love interest, excuse me for living.
so, after an hour or more of screaming
into the phone, after you've cleverly
hidden your customer service number
for anyone over the age of 50, and yelling
my last name, the first three
letters of my name, my phone number,
and the word agent, agent, agent,
over and over again until I start coughing,
finally I have you on the phone.
I know it's very late or early over there
in India or Singapore, or wherever you are,
but please,
you have to help me. for the love of God,
or Allah, or a sacred cow,
send me a new box. that's all i'm asking.
a new cable box built in this decade.
is that too much to ask?

for sale

closed doors,
closed windows, the lights off.
the water
too. sign in the yard.
you press your face
to the window.
no one lives here anymore.
not her,
not you.
there was a time though,
a time
when
the heat was on, when
a dog
barked.
when a child
sat looking out waiting
for you to come home.

note in a bottle

stranded on dry land
you toss a bottle with a note
inside
out the window,
into the street to someone
passing by.
they look up and throw
it back,
yelling at you to be careful,
you're going to kill
someone throwing
bottles out the window.
you throw it onto the lawn
the next time
and watch it roll
to a stop.
you've written help, on
the note, your name
and address.
you tell them to send help soon.
to rescue you.
you've rolled the note up
and tucked it through the top
of the empty bottle.
you go and fix a drink,
then come back to the window
to wait, watching, hoping.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

of her kind

long and languid, stretched
out in her chair,
a cigarette between her fingers,
a bottle of beer
nearby, she reads her poetry,
blue eyed, black
haired, a smart wild look
about her.
she reads to the camera, plays
with the eye
that watches her,
seductive and hoarse, whispering
her words, impressed with
her own genius. how can
you not a love a poet
such as this, one of her
kind.

the small plate

I count two
scallops on the small plate,
covered in deep
fried
thin strands of what?
rusted colored
tumble weeds.
the menu said scallops,
where are they?
small white flecks of
something are in the sauce,
scattered
like pigeon
droppings. they might
be related to scallops,
but i'm not sure.
it's all fishy.
I search with my fork,
I know they're in there
somewhere. I am on a mission
to find
something on this
small happy hour plate
to eat.

i want that

if had this,
that would be a good thing.
that house that looks like
a swiss chalet.
i'd be happy then,
or her,
that girl,
yes, the one over there,
in the dress,
leaning over
to pick something up,
I want her,
then, then i'd be in
bliss.
or that car,
no the red one with the top
down,
or the boat,
the sleek white boat
on the water. see it.
they look so happy out there
in the sun,
waving to us.
I want that.
I want to be them.
they have no problems,
like we do.
why are we walking, we
should be on
a boat like they are,
our boat.

the little white pills

she takes a pill to wake up,
to counter
the ones she took
to fall asleep,
then there's other pills too.
all neatly aligned
in the medicine cabinet.
prescribed and dated.
one for this,
another for that.
things you don't want to know
about.
it's an all day thing,
rattling
the brown bottle,
unsnapping
the child proof cap,
swallowing,
drinking water
to wash them down.

tied up

the rope keeps the boat
from floating away,
tied to the pier
in knots.
and you, what
keeps you
here.
how many ropes are
keeping
you from sailing away,
from
discovering places
you've never
seen or been.

Monday, September 26, 2016

betting on us

God does not roll
dice
with the universe,
Einstein said, or something
to that effect.
but maybe there's a roulette
wheel
up there,
a black jack table,
a horse track.
maybe he's pulling the arm
of an old vegas
slot machine,
hoping for four cherries
to roll up.

the rain

the rain
surprises you
as you brush
paint
onto a board.
you look up
into the sky, unaware
of the clouds,
or the lifting of leaves
turned gold.
how can the season
change
so swiftly,
overnight it seems,
not unlike how
love comes,
love goes, unseen.

what's next

unset
the anchor,
leave no note,
drift
from port untethered
by what's left behind,
go
into the outstretched
arms
of blue
mystery.
an open sea of no
promises. raise
the sails.
keep a light
hand on the wheel,
let the wind
push towards what's
next.
let's see
where this goes.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

three days two nights

on the flat wall
of the cheap motel,
below the vacancy sign,
white with blue trim,
red doors,
white in the sun, a harsh
squared glare,
the faces
then bodies come out
to lean
and stare down at the boardwalk,
to the ocean
with all its
blueness.
you see them yawn, red
faced
from drink and sun,
sleepy,
half dressed, some smoking,
some with instant
coffee in their hands.
the gulls chirp,
diving into the water,
the littered rolls
of warming
sand.

your own sign

you want those that are crazy
to stop
being crazy.
those on the street begging,
stop
you want to yell.
get a job,
get a life,
anything would be better
than this.
it only makes sense
when it's you on your hands
and knees
cutting out the side
of a cardboard
box to make your own
sign,
then finding a busy
corner
to stand on.

no, go this way

do you need others
to tell you what's wrong,
rarely,
but sometimes
you do.
you need the nudge,
the kind
hint,
a hand to push or
pull you back
onto the straight line.
sometimes
you are in a fog,
going oddly
in the wrong direction.
you need
the snap of smelling
salts
beneath your nose,
a voice whispering,
no, go this way.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

then decide

I don't cast
my lot in easily.
I get close
to the fire to warm
my hands,
stamp my cold feet
beside its circle,
but steer
clear
of handling the wood
that burns, not touching
those coals,
red as desire, going white,
thick with flame,
a throaty roar.
I wait
for it to slow, then
decide.

the tumble of sleep

it's less slipping
and more
of a stumble into sleep.
so much
on your mind.
the room crowded
with decisions to be
made.
the knick knacks
of your day
teetering
stone cold and quiet
on some shelf.
a rattle of pipe,
or is it wind
wanting,
or answering
outside the window.
the bed is a flat table
of white sheets
that you lie
upon
and roll, never quite
getting to where
you need to go, shuffling
the papers,
reading between
the lines, unsleeping
with eyes
closed.

book review

half way through the book,
i stop reading
and ask myself,
why am i reading this book.
i hate this stupid
book.
it's boring beyond words
and yet goes on and on
grasping at some story.
the characters have names
i can't pronounce and i don't
care if they live
die, or reproduce monkeys
from mars.
the flashbacks are killing me.
i feel bad for the trees
needed to print this tomb.
i hold the closed book
up to the light,
it's four inches thick
weighs five pounds, at least.
i wonder how far
i can throw it without
wrenching my arm.
so go into the yard
to do so, heaving it towards
the creek,
scattering the wildlife,
the trees
applauding.

off the list

i am bad luck
at weddings, every one that i've
attended, including
all five of mine has ended in
failure for the bride
and groom.
i try to tell people this.
please don't invite
me.
the ship will sink.
i am the iceberg hidden
in the blue
gloom of the atlantic
about to scratch
a whole
into your pretty new ship.
save the invitation,
i'll send you a toaster
oven
or set of Tupperware,
something,
but please, for your own sake,
for your own potential
marital bliss,
don't put my name
on the list.

leaderless

the leaders are no longer
leading
the country
instead they are leading normal
lives
behind
the curtains,
safe
in the shadows.
the dumbing down of
America
has reached its
Walmart
zenith.
we are transfixed
on the simple
and meaningless
the throw away celebrities,
the gossip,
the calorie laden
junk
food of social media.
it's time once
again for another great
flood,
the clowns
are in charge,
blowing their brassy
horns.

Friday, September 23, 2016

the red bird

a lace
of stars not unlike
the cloth
upon
your grandmother's table
at
the holidays.
a saucer,
a plate,
a tea pot.
how small you were, reaching
up
to stare
at her clock,
the one with the bird,
painted red
and the pine
cone weights.
how she moved the hands
with a stick
making it appear
on a small tray,
and coo.
somehow these stars
remind you
of that.

points a b and c

the line is not straight
getting from point
a to point b.
it's a dotted line
with curves and loops,
stops,
starts.
so how did you get here,
arrive so quickly
with no path
to follow, taking it
one day,
one inch
at a time. you look
around at the others,
at those who have arrived
with you at point b.
they don't know either,
but together you
look out the window
and stare
pensively at point c
just beyond
the breaking waves.

the sales pitch

frantic with foam running down his mouth,
my inventor salesman
calls with the good news. your invention
has been approved for patenting. he yells
into the phone.
utility and design, as well as a one
year provisional patent.
isn't that great, he says, rambling
in his used car salesman way.
I can almost see him snapping his red
suspenders over his coffee stained
white shirt.
we are ready to take the next step.
now, here's the fees, here's what
you need to pay, to get this ball
rolling, to get your idea to
our engineers then to the manufacturer
then to the market.
i start to speak, but he cuts
me off and says, hear me out.
here's what you need. one check,
one single check for twenty thousand
dollars. you can use a credit card,
or a cashiers check, or personal check.
but that's it and you my friend
will be a rich man. we are talking
generational money here. your children
your children's children will
benefit from the decision you are
about to make. I let him finally stop
and catch his breath. I can almost
hear his heart beating like a rabbit
through the phone.
that sounds like a lot, I tell him.
no, he says. look at the big picture.
with the money you are making you will
never have to work again. this invention
of yours is a gold mine.
I imagine him at his desk, a finger
playing with the hole in his worn
brown shoe. tapping a pen against
the ball of his foot.
when can I get your check, he says,
with an audible swallow.
we are ready to work with you and
make you a millionaire, this will
surely happen. there's a pause.
let me sleep on it,
I tell him. okay, okay. okay. he
says. I understand, but please remember
we are up against a deadline.
keep that in mind.
borrow the money if you have to.
steal it, cash in your retirement.
sell your car, your blood, donate
a kidney,
do whatever you have to do to get us
that check.
we want this invention to succeed.
think of the people you can help
with this money.
think of those children on tv
with big eyes and bloated bellies,
or those mangy dogs in cages
in north korea.
don't let them down. you could keep
those animals from becoming a sandwich.
for God's sake don't cheat
other's our of what you can do for them.
okay, that's all i'm going to say.
i'll wait for your check, I have to
go now, I have another call coming in.

the indian ocean

she says, wouldn't it be nice
to go the ocean,
sit out on a wide porch
and watch the waves roll in.
which ocean, I ask her.
the indian ocean she says
sarcastically.
you mean native American ocean
I say, volleying back.
it goes on like this
for awhile until
she tells me she's tired
and has to go back to work.
it's hard being you, she
says. isn't it?
you have no idea, I tell her.
no idea.

my editor

my editor and former
lover
in ohio
writes to me and says
why can't you get that apostrophe
right?
time after time
I keep telling you how it
works, and yet
you forget.
she mentions spelling
too, and
the constant tag line
that I always seem to leave
on the end of a poem
trying to make sure
everyone gets it.
leave that line off she
screams,
using all caps in her text.
would it be too hard to actually
reread what you write,
she says.
I miss her.
I think she misses me.

call for the understudy

you call for your understudy
to step in
for tonights performance, you
can't go on.
your stage fright has finally
caught up with you
you are nervous,
sweating, your throat
is constricted
with phobic fear. what
were you thinking in
taking this role on.
the commitment, the energy,
the pretending
night after night repeating
your lines
which seem false and unsure.
surely the audience must know
as they sit there staring
at you,
row after filled row.
perhaps tomorrow, a matinee,
you'll change your mind.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

here, drink this

your doctor throws up her hands,
exasperated,
and pulls
out a flask
of whiskey
she's kept hidden
in the deep white pocket
of her smock.
she turns the bottle up
and drinks,
squinting
into the fluorescent lighting
of her office.
here, she says,
wiping her mouth with
her sleeve, want some?
you too take the bottle
and drink,
coughing at the whiskeys
harshness
as it rips against
your throat.
you move around on the examination
table,
your bare
legs dangling two feet
from the floor, the paper
gown
you have on wrinkling
and making noises as you
try to unstick yourself
from the vinyl surface
you sit on.
I don't know what the answer
is, the doctor says.
I can't solve this problem
you have. I don't know
what to tell you,
but here, have some more.
you drink up,
she drinks.
you notice her legs.
you're starting to feel
better about being sick with
these allergies.

just one word

say the word blue
and
she says bird, sky.
how she feels
in the morning when Monday
has arrived.
she'll tell you about the ocean,
a robin's egg.
a dress she wore
once
to the senior prom.
just one word,
such as the word
blue,
and she's off to the races
as you sit
and listen
near the phone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

henry and noel

as you slept in the front
seat
of your 1970 chevy nova,
parked on the side of an ocean
road,
henry and noel
made love
in the back
under the coarse hair
of an army
blanket.
you pretended not hear,
not to listen
to the grunts
and groans, the unsexy
grinding
of bodies
against the vinyl seats.
feet pressing
against the back
of where you sat.
the wind rose from the ocean
blew in,
the salt, the sand. the sun
partly covered
by clouds, was a bland
yellow melt,
struggling to be the sun.
the car
needed gas
to get home,
you were hungry.
soon they'd finish
and things would be different.
in a year
noel would die with a needle
in her arm. henry
would be seen pushing
a shopping cart
up the road
with things he had stolen,
drinking cough syrup.

bully boy

the bully boy,
his life set in stone.
his fierce
blue eyes.
knuckles worn
on the skulls of the weak.
his red ears, the tombstone
teeth
which seem to be gnawing
at a leather
strap
which binds him.
his world
is the sand pit now, soon
he will venture farther
into the world
and pretend he isn't who
he is
but always will be.

the restless heart

she takes her dress
off
and lets it fall to the floor,
it tumbles
softly,
like
so many petals of a flower
unhinged.
she turns the light
off
and slips into bed.
where are we
she says. I can hear
her breathing,
the small tap
of her restless heart.
we're here, I tell her.
right now,
we're here.

did you get my text

his ex-wife
calls. he takes the call
while I wait.
I sit
on the porch
and listen. he says
to her, Jeannie,
we're not married anymore.
what you do with your life
is not my
problem.
he looks at me and gives
me the thumbs up.
I return the gesture.
he lights a cigarette
and says,
blowing out a cloud of blue smoke,
yes. I did get
your text. did you get mine?
we'll read it.
I can't see you anymore
while
that man is living in your house.
stop crying.
why are you crying?
why are you telling me all this.
call the police.
there's nothing
I can do about it, and no
i'm not driving to culpepper
tonight.
we'll I have to go.
stop crying.
call me later. okay. okay.
bye.

beware

beware of enthusiasm,
it will lead you into dangerous
situations.
beware of
champagne love,
the bubbles evaporate
so quickly,
the bottle
once cold goes warm
and stale
by mornings light.
beware of those who know
so much
and need to tell others
what they know.
beware
of early risers,
courageous men,
men wearing medals,
flirtatious women.
women with more than three
cats.
those who love
the spotlight,
those who don't.
beware of good people.
no one is truly
good.
beware of the mirror.
it's not the truth.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

calling it a day

she settles
under the sound of a clock
ticking,
the shade of a cool tent
called age.
the sun is
swift against
the pale blue sky.
she throws out
the white flag and says okay.
i'm done,
this, this man
here, is good enough.
i'll anchor
upon this love,
if it is love
and call it a day.

at rest

his broken fingers tell
you something,
the gnarled
dirt still
there, tells you
something about work. his face.
a cliff
of life,
smoked
and drunk into the shape
it's taken.
love won or lost may
be part of it too. the plowed
skin,
of sun
and sea upon his brow,
his cheeks,
but it's his hands,
his fingers
that lie
folded upon his
buttoned
suit, old with shine,
is what you see,
telling you
something about him,
about what a man does,
must do
from sunrise
until sunset
until sleep becomes his
life.

pigeons

these pigeons,
what do they know?
what point
of view do they hold.
busy
with what?
their day full of pecking
at crumbs
we leave
behind.
grey winged,
black dolloped,
stone bead eyes.
hardly eyes at
all. what do they see?
how quick they dart
and fly.
their oiled feathers
tight
as jackets upon
their breasted bones.
how unlike
and like
we are, nothing
being what it seems.

dear anne

her poetry,
which I like, is raw
and bloody,
though aged over
40 odd years,
me me me.
the imprint
of forks
and knives still
in the meat. but
i read in her bio,
how she
poured over
dictionaries
a thesaurus,
mythology,
to find just the right
word,
or metaphor,
just the right phrase
and
length of line
to finish it.
to make it whole
or unwhole
on the printed page.
I say cut, cut deep and go.
let it bleed,
let it lay where
it falls
to the floor
and be.

Monday, September 19, 2016

your stripes

your stripes
define you. people stand
away.
murmur be careful
of the wild
tiger.
don't put your hands
inside
the cage.
how little they know
you.
the true you.
how
kind you are, how
merciful.
they only see the blood
in your teeth,
the flesh
in your claws,
the hunger that is
your life.

not a kiss given

it's not that one
day
becomes another, or
that nothing of great
consequence
occurs,
nothing new learned.
not a kiss
given, or received.
it's not about that.
it's more.
it's something
untouched within, that
worries you.
where does it
all go, how does
it all end.

die trying

be beautiful
we tell our children,
be wise
and smart.
don't embarrass
yourself,
or us. live a life
between
the lines.
be something more,
be nothing
less
than me, or die
trying.

the cold outside

these ideas,
these few
etchings
of words,
call them what you will,
are stars shining.
blips
of light
unimaginable distances
away, somehow
now here. how they flirt
with
your mind, your tired
soul. find
room to be told,
give you
enough juice to go on.
these ideas.
embers, warm and burning,
keeping
the cold
outside.

this is why we drink

is there anything else
I can help you with today,
the woman
on the phone says to me
after being on
hold for thirty seven minutes.
the third
call today after being
transferred,
then disconnected.
I have my nineteen digit
account number
in front of me, almost
memorized.
wait, I say.
you haven't helped me yet.
you've done nothing.
what's your name,
she says.
your social, your address?
if English is one of your
languages, press one,
if not, press two.
then tap in your account number.
what is your mother's maiden
name, the name
of your first pet?
I just gave you all of that
information,
can I put you on hold, she
says? your call is very
important to us.
no.
please, I just need to talk
to someone about...
enjoy the music, she says.
all lines are busy
please wait.

upside down elvis

the boardwalk,
along with other
assorted
homespun acts,
had
an elvis impersonator,
but
with a twist. he stood
on his head
in his satin
white
rhinestone embedded
jump suit
and strummed
his guitar.
it made no sense,
bow could you not drop
a coin into
his hat.
and laugh as he
mumbled
thank you very much.

the window facing the woods

it's a perfect window.
on the second floor.
framed, and set
in 1968,
facing the woods,
just the woods and a narrow
stream
that snakes
and changes its curves
each season
by wind, by rain.
it's hard to raise at times,
the sashes
wood, the screen
in place.
what thoughts were
had
that year, leaning out
of the new house,
as the world
went slightly
mad,
in 1968.

choices

it's hard to choose
sometimes
what you want.
sparkling water,
tap water,
water from a hose
on ice.
we have too many choices,
granite,
stone,
laminated or wood.
what color should my
hair
be this week,
which wine under fifteen
dollars will suffice?
no wonder we're
so confused, so distracted,
feeling
buyer's remorse,
unable to sleep
at night.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

the waffle iron

the first marriage
was a sham,
two children
walking down the aisle.
peach fuzz
and baby fat,
me in a white
disco suit, her in a
fluffy white dress
as if she was an angel
falling from heaven
or a three tiered cake
made by an aunt for Pittsburgh.
there was chicken on
every plate, asparagus,
and a limited two
drink open bar.
a local band
of long haired old men
played proud mary
and the hokey pokey.
a week later,
after a one night stay
in ocean city
at the Carousel Hotel,
she was carrying her new
toaster
oven across the street
to where her mother lived
and waited with open arms
and tears in her eyes.
in the other hand was
the wedding album
tucked into her blue
carryon on suitcase.
the lawyers and a local
bishop quickly
washed the whole thing
down the drain.
a relief for both of us.
I still have the waffle iron.

the fast begins

I decide to go on a fast
having read so much about
the benefits it provides,
but only
after this
last chocolate
covered donut
and glass of milk.
I shouldn't have eaten
three, but
people in some third world
country
or in oxon hill where I
grew up,
are hungry, not necessarily
starving,
but a tad hungry.
after I finish this
glazed donut though,
that's it.
a one week cleansing
of my body
and soul.
only water, no bread, no meat,
not pasta,
or pizza,
but then I notice
that I just opened
a bag
of waffle chips last night,
and what about that ice
cream in the freezer.
it might go bad.
not to mention
that left over rib roast
cover in foil
on the fridge shelf.
after I've taken care
of all of that, then
i'll fast.
i'll find my inner soul,
put on an orange
robe
and levitate.

another wind

forget the second wind,
you are on
your third or fourth by now,
getting up,
and going at it.
work
and love,
play
and sweat.
sucking it up, tying
on a new
pair of shoes,
putting the shine on.
how many more
winds
exist in these lungs,
who's to know.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

house calls

you tire of your day
job
and decide to go to an online
med school.
it's an intense six week program.
one hour a night.
but you only want healthy
patients,
young patients with
money.
you'll only do house calls
to keep the overhead
down.
all you need is a black
bag with a cross on
the side,
and a stethoscope, thermometer
and a blood pressure
gizmo.
you'll learn the name of that
later.
maybe a portable scale
and an eye chart.
you could put a siren on
your Honda civic too,
just for a fun effect.
cash only.
you begin to memorize
and practice saying
the standard doctor phrases.
say ahhh. tell me where it
hurts.
stop smoking.
stop eating at kfc,
and take two of these
and call me in the morning.
you're almost ready.

the dig

unearthed,
the spoon, silver,
bent nearly in two
stops
the construction of a
nine story
hotel
at the edge of town.
the yellow tape goes around.
the newspapers come,
television,
men from china
holding
cameras squat at the spot
where the spoon
was unearthed
and snap photos
at every angle
as it sits dull in
the morning sun.
what else could be in
there, in that
mound of dirt
being dug.
a broken cup, perhaps,
a shard
of plate,
a toothpick?

Friday, September 16, 2016

the dog

the woman in the pink sweat pants
opens her window
and yells out.
I can see her yellow hair,
her short
arms
as she leans
towards the yard below.
shut up
she says to the pit bull.
his striped back
furled,
his teeth bared as a stroller
goes by
being pushed
by a young mother.
shut up, the woman yells again.
shut the hell up.
quit barking.
he puts his paws
against the chain link
fence, where the gate
wobbles
and barks more fiercely.
she flicks
a lit cigarette at him.
yells again.
he keeps
barking.

where are you?

I yawn.
I stretch. i'm a cat
on the sill.
fat
and happy,
a pocket full of money,
stomach full
of food.
a drink
about to be sipped.
cold
with ice
and vodka,
a slice of lime.
I have three books
in front of me.
I yawn.
I stretch. i'm a
cat on the sill,
where are you?

did you say something?

it's a misunderstanding.
what isn't
these days.
who can converse, hold
a conversation,
talk face
to face anymore without
a phone in
their hand.
what did you say?
nothing.
oh, nothing.
sorry, I was looking
at my phone.
not listening.
my battery is low.
do you have
your phone with you.
i need to google
something. I have
no idea
of the color of her
eyes,
having not seen them.

go and sin no more

frustrated with my allergies,
the sniffling, the sneezing,
the constant runny nose, and
wheezing air out of my
constricted lungs
as if I was a human
bag pipe I go to my local church
for prayer.
come in my son, the priest says,
putting out his robed arms.
do I know you?
are you a parishioner here at
our parish?
no, I tell him, but I live
right next door, a communion wafer
throw away from
the altar. I need help
desperately with my allergies.
honest to God,
I've tried everything.
I feel guilty every time I drive
by on sunday to go get coffee,
I tell him. if that makes any difference.
no, it doesn't, he says. but
you look familiar.
I sneeze again after dabbing
a finger full of holy water
onto my forehead then along the sides
of my red nose.
can I drink some of this water,
do you have any cups around?
my mouth is dry from all the pills
I've been taking.
no. he says, don't drink
from the Holy water basin.
he moves in between me and the Holy
water.
but where do I know you from?
he arches his dark eyebrows,
puts a hand on his chin, tapping.
well, about ten years ago I was
in here with my ex wife,
she was having a tough time
going through menopause and we
tried to get her an exorcism.
oh, yes, I do remember that.
it was an awful time. we had
to replace the carpet and a few
stained glass windows.
it didn't work, did it?
nah.
so, how is she?
fine, she lives in Texas now,
remarried to a guy named Jimmy Bob.
that's too bad,
he says pulling on his collar
with one finger.
Texas, he says out loud,
shaking his head. Look, he says.
i'll put you in the Sunday bulletin
asking the congregation to pray
for you, but only if you promise
to start coming to church.
we need someone to help us
make pancakes at seven a.m.
on Saturday morning before bible study.
after that we have
the farmers market and car wash.
you can help us out there as well.
I let out a loud sneeze, then
another, ending with one more
that echoes around the church,
making the candles waver.
God bless you he says. Thank
you, I tell him. i'll get back
to you.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

without mercy

without mercy,
or blinking,
or tears shed,
the world goes on.
the pulse
of traffic,
the sirens, the smoke
of the factories,
the grind
of wheels.
without stopping,
it spins,
this earth, this home.
in time
others will stand
where you
stand,
sleep where you sleep,
without mercy,
life
moves on.

but we came so far

the red flags are up
as the bronzed boys
stand high
in their chairs
blowing whistles,
waving hands,
and yet
so many test
the ocean, its rip
of white
and fisted churn,
the bruised knuckles
of waves
pulling them
out beyond reach,
beyond saving. they swim
with a drunken
thrill, having driven
so far
to be denied the ocean,
and now being carried
by the heave of an
impossible power,
soon to dragged
to shore,
unbreathing,
blue as the sky,
with a crowd gathered
around
their still, swimless
body.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

tricks

the woman
was proud and happy
to show you how
her dog
knew so many tricks.
she carried
a pocketful of treats in her
baggy pants.
stand, she said.
sit, beg. roll over,
bang,
play dead,
and the dog did.
it saddened you
for some reason.

ironing

shirt after shirt
your mother
stood
at the ironing board,
the full basket beside her,
pressing
the iron, her strong
hands
pulling, smoothing,
pushing
as it hissed
and steamed down sleeves
around collars, exhaled.
she was one
with this work.
lost easily
in a world of creases.
spray starch.
hangers waiting
along
the pipe for clothes.
go to bed she'd yell
up the steps,
hearing our bare feet
tap down the hall.
it's late.
you have school tomorrow,
pressing harder,
as the clocked
moved, and him,
your wayward father,
not home.

hotel sheets

I felt her
teeth on my neck,
razor sharp
and white.
she was sucking the blood
out of an
open vein. having a good old time.
what are you doing, I asked
her.
that hurts.
nothing, she murmured,
just making
you one of us, like me.
free to live
forever,
but always hungry
for more, perpetually
young and
thirsty. whatever, I said.
but please be careful,
these are new
sheets, hotel sheets,
six fifty count. I just
bought them.

still smiling

her suicide note
was short.
i'm leaving.
beside it she drew a happy
face,
then another, one
more for
bad luck.
when the truck arrived,
spinning
a cherry red light
she was
awake
watching television
drinking.
the empty bottle
beside her.
the faces she made
with
the few remaining pills
still smiling.

off course

off course
by miles, you sail on.
you have no knowledge of the stars.
no way
of knowing
east from west,
no lights ashore,
or moon above.
what difference does it make,
being lost.
that is how everything
unexpected
is found.

who knew

your sister,
as your mother lies
dying
in a fog, immersed
in the blood of a broken
vein,
claims a man
touched her,
did things, unspeakable
things
to her.
she was young,
in her room, tucked cleanly
away
for safe
keeping until morning
when he came
in, a shadow against shadows,
sat down beside her.
where were we?
mother, father.
anyone with a club to take
him out.
but now,
as your mother sleeps
in some
in between world without memory,
she speaks.
she speaks of the horrors
of her childhood.
who knew,
but her finger clearly
pointing
at blame.

street view

street view, of you,
of me
curbside, unglued.
set apart
from the crowd, different
by genetics
or
where we were left
alone.
from here
we see eye to eye.
cheek
to cheek.
grim bone to grim bone.
this is where we live,
where,
we shall, unless
risen
by some unseen hand,
die.

the dark fin

unsure
of what lies below
you walk gingerly along
the unseen
sand.
hopping from foot to foot.
occasionally a cold
wand
of a silver fish
will bump
up against your leg,
the hard shell
of a crab underfoot.
the food chain is different
out here,
you being
one of them, as a dark
fin
circles near.

home

the second you
drive away from home, you see
how small
your world is.
your circle of travel.
what's safe
is what you know, the roads
well
worn by your
own shoes.
your eyes open
as you go further and further
into the unknown.
even the clouds
look different,
your pulse quickens,
but over time,
travel weary,
you want nothing more,
or newer than the comforts
of home.

blue seas

where isn't there sand?
which crevice
of your body,
which ear,
which cuff or sleeve,
sock or
shoe is not
stuck with white
brown specks of infinitely
small
stones of
sand or salt.
you have become one
with the ocean.
your legs
and body
still move to the rhythm
of the sea,
you are growing fins and gills
with which to navigate
beyond
the cascade of waves.
even at night
the tide moves you.
the moon
holding you hostage
inside a watery dream.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

shoe world

it's hard to imagine
having
more shoes than
the ones I have. but there
is no need
to imagine,
there's a store right around
the corner
and I have a coupon.
does it bother me that out
of the twenty aisles,
only two
display men's shoes, yes.
it does
bother me.
but I don't talk about it
in public.
brown or black again
is the question, or maybe
a nice
pair of sandals before
the summer ends.

ten minutes

I open up
a stand on the corner.
ten dollars
for ten minutes.
tell me your problems,
your issues.
tell me about your job,
your children.
your car,
your boss, your knees.
your ex love,
your current love.
bring it all
to the table,
cry if you must,
but you have just ten minutes.
that's all
I can take,
and listen too.
I have no advice, no
words of wisdom
to share,
to solve the problems
of your life,
but i'll listen,
i'll look deeply into your soul,
for ten minutes.
ten dollars for ten minutes,
then you have to go,
the line is long, but
the price
is fair.

the dance

she talks
of dancing, how the men
all
want to take her hand
and dance
with her.
mostly her.
she feels as if a queen,
the only
girl there,
the only one,
as she twists and turns,
letting her
dress fly
about her long legs.
she goes alone
leaves alone,
leaving them tired,
sweating,
wanting more, never
getting more.
you've never liked
women
like that.
and it's hard to listen
to.

half moon

just a half
moon
decides to unveil
its white
stone face.
just a partial viewing
this night.
and you,
you too, half in,
half out.
undecided
whether to shine full
or retreat
behind
the clouds,
or shadow of the earth.

the open sea

to see something so wide
and empty.
without a soul, or ship
in sight.
to see the enormous
stretch of sea.
a blue
green sheen of water
breaking
white upon the sand.
to see
such a thing awakens
you
to other things
that
consume your life,
putting them in order,
somehow.
giving you, if just
for a moment
clarity, light.

a woman

a woman
carrying groceries,
two small bags,
getting into her car,
is crying.
she sees you,
you see her.
her eyes are full of tears,
her mouth open,
trembling
as she sobs.
you look away.
there is nothing you
can do or say,
she's a stranger,
in her own
world, grieving
deeply.
but still it breaks
your heart
and makes you realize
how powerless
we are
when sorrow
overtakes another.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

what are your intentions

when I was twenty one I met
a nice Italian
girl who was nineteen.
after a few weeks of dating,
which involved me
beeping the horn of my Camaro
for her to come out
and get in, her father, Chuck, came
out and said.
son, let's talk. come on in.
so we did, me and him. we sat
on his plaid couch, next to
the fireplace.
so, what are your intentions
with my daughter, he asked
lighting a cigar
and leaning forward in his
white t-shirt
and green gabardine pants.
he rubbed his hands together
like a strangler
might do before committing
murder.
I immediately averted my
eyes, and rubbed my forehead.
well, I said. my intentions?
we were going out to see
a movie tonight and then maybe
grab a pizza.
no, he said. I mean over all
what are your intentions. in
the long run.
she's my girl, my baby, my sweet
potato. I don't want any harm
to come her way.
his nose was bent to one side,
and he had small cauliflower
ears, which I imagined he got
from his days boxing while
in the navy
well, my intentions are good, I said.
trying not think about the
twenty times we had already
had sex in the car and other
assorted places.
my intentions are solid, sir.
he rubbed his mustache, then put
his vise like hand out to shake
mine. okay, he said. standing
up, let's keep it that way.
home by 12? why not eleven, I said.
let's say, home by eleven.

doing time

when you get out of prison
she says
to me through the small
round hole in the
glass window,
things will be different.
how so, I ask her.
looking over at the guard
who taps his
baton in his large hand.
i'll be married then.
i'm having joe's baby.
what about us, I thought
you loved me.
I just can't wait anymore
she says.
I'm still young and have
a life to lead.
but I've only been in here
for a week.
yeah. I know. I was going
to tell you about joe,
but you had this time
to serve hanging over your
head. things happen,
i'm sorry. maybe if you hadn't
of stole that car, robbed
that bank things might have
been different.
yeah, i know. i had a bad
week. well I have to
go now, joe's waiting outside
we're going to target
to buy a crib and other
baby stuff. by the way
you look good. that orange
jumpsuit brings the color
out in your face.
oh, those are bruises.
I got beat up in the shower.
this morning.
oh well. you still
look good.
thanks.

needy people

the carpenter needs
a nail
to hammer, a stretch of wood.
the painter
a brush, a gallon
of paint, a wall.
the cook
needs meat, a stove
an onion,
salt
pepper, a knife,
a hat.
the lawyer needs
an accident,
a divorce,
the doctor a patient,
sick
and hoarse.
we are needy people.
it's what keeps the world
going round,
and the money
being passed
from hand to hand.

on stage

who isn't acting,
isn't on
a stage,
in costume,
constantly rehearsing
in his head
what to say
or not say, where to stand,
or sit.
who isn't
taking a bow,
or listening to the boos
and hisses
from the crowd?
each day
a play, each year
a new script
written and acted out
on the run.

one last fling

you point
the car into the direction
of the ocean
after loading
the trunk with summer clothes
in a bag,
a beach chair.
an umbrella, books.
you douse your three
small plants
with water one last time,
tell them good
luck
then go.
you get in line behind
a hundred thousand
other cars,
also going in that direction,
almost at a stop.
you exhale.
put the beach boys on.
don't worry baby they sing.
winter is coming.

a new house

they disagree
on everything in couple's
therapy.
there is no
middle, no way to solve
this
failing love affair.
the house has
already burned
to the ground.
this is hosing down the ashes,
plowing
the debris away
before the rebuild
with someone new.

the narrow ledge

on the balance
beam
she tip toes
across,
arms in front of her
juggling
balls,
head straight,
trying hard not
to fall
or to drop anything.
all day
she walks the narrow
ledge
keeping
her life in order,
keeping
the ground
at a distance,
her fragile world in
the air.

work to do

there's work
to do
before the sun falls.
fields
to plow
and harvest.
animals to be fed
and cared
for.
there are fences to be
fixed
to keep the world
in
the world out.
in time,
there will be no time
for other
things.
but this is the life
you've chosen.

Friday, September 9, 2016

running

you see a bunch
of dangerous men coming towards
you on the dark
street
so you cross over
to avoid them,
but then you see your ex
wife and her
lawyer, coming up the other
sidewalk, so you
move to the middle
of the street.
they all see you,
and yell out for you to
stop, moving towards you
with menacing eyes.
you throw your wallet
into the air,
and run.

falling asleep

you whisper into her
ear, honey,
my arm hurts.
I think it
fell asleep.
what, she says,
not now, maybe later,
i'm
watching tv.
my arm, it hurts,
it's gone
numb, I tell her, trying
to pull it out
from under her
back.
you're lying on top
of it.
I've lost
all feeling in my
hand,
my arm.
shhhh, she says,
this is the good part.

cold pizza

it's stale and cold,
late
in arriving,
hardly
any cheese on it's round
flat
surface.
too thin,
skimpy on the olives
and mushrooms.
even the box
is flimsy,
half opened.
the driver doesn't seem
to care,
as you reach
for your money
to pay him,
his mind else where,
not knowing
how much
you wanted pizza
and now don't.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

keep going

she talks longingly
of the peace corps
of digging trenches
handing out care packages
in the mud
to bone thin tribesmen.
she talks about
Africa, the heat,
the animals,
bugs.
how she fell in love
with a woman.
her first woman,
then a man.
and how all three found
each other.
she talks about hunger
and thirst,
and how she still can't find
that thing,
that place
that person, to quench
this endless
journey she stays on.

a cold war

when the wall goes up,
the barbed
wired
set in stone,
the dogs chained
along the border,
with armed guards
in the tower, I know
that the marital bliss
has ended.
those wedding photos
under the coffee
table
have hardly faded,
and yet.
the air is cold
as you sleep
in the same bed,
dreaming of a way
to escape,
to tunnel out,
back into
the free world.

waffles

I like my waffles
with a large pad of butter
that melts in the center
of a steamy square,
and a dollop or two
of maple syrup, its thick
amber liquid
poured slowly from
a squat clear bottle.
I like them to be sweet
and easy
to chew, and swallow,
making me want more
on the end of my fork.
I want people to be like
waffles, warm
and different, fluffy,
but edgy too,
filling,
with bacon on the side.

sort of like you

they spend so much
time
on Stonehenge, trying so
hard to figure
out why
these slabs of rocks
are stacked
upon one another
in a semi-circle. was it
worship, or sacrifice
to the gods.
a clock.
a warning, or something
to mark
the earth and
be seen from the sky
by aliens.
maybe they were bored
and had time
on their hands
to do something crazy.
it's a mystery unsolved.
sort of like
you.

this one you can drop in water

I need a new phone.
my screen is cracked, the battery
won't hold a charge
and it keeps
sending a photo
of a cake I made
over and over again
to all my contacts
without stopping.
I go to three stores, go
online,
i call the number
that was left on my voice
mail.
they all work for the same
brand,
and they all have a different
plan on
how to get me into a new
phone today.
it's that car salesman feel.
if you buy it,
you feel suckered.
will it transfer
contacts, will it transfer
pictures, will I lose
anything I ask the young
man with a safety
pin in his eyebrow
and a checker in his ear lobe.
they all laugh, don't worry
grandpa,
they say. we got you
covered, step over here to
the counter
and let's talk.
how many games do you play
on your phone?
to which you say, what?
what games.

the commitment

after a few drinks
i nod
to my friend at the bar
jake the snake
and say. I think i'm going to
pop the question
tonight.
to which he says, huh?
wiping the beer foam out of
his beard.
whatever, he says.
but maybe you've had too
much to drink and should think
this over in the light of day.
maybe, I say.
but you know. I think it's time
I left
a pair of shoes
or a toothbrush at her house
when I spend the night there
once a month,
let her know
i'm serious about
this thing we're in.
he looks at me, and shrugs,
that's a big step
brother.
be careful.

getting it out

in the old days
women would stand out in the back
yard
with their large circular throw rugs
over the fence and beat the dirt
and dust out of them
with brooms.
I would look out my
bedroom window
and see clouds of grey
rising
as the women
many in bathrooms and slippers
pounding away
with bats and brooms.
violently swatting
at the rugs.
it almost seemed like there
was more going on
than just that.

being smart

you wonder what it's like
to be really smart.
physicist smart,
Stephen hawkings smart.
Einstein smart.
to be able to understand
the world on a molecular level.
would there be room in your head
for other things.
the mindless things
that roll around your brain
all day,
pleasurable things.
what would you have to give
up to be that smart?
almost everything
you imagine.

how old are you

it's easier to just tell
people
that you're eighty-five years
old
these days and be done with it.
they look at you
surprised,
saying, oh my god, you don't
look that old.
you barely
look sixty, to which you
lift a bar bell
into the sky
while eating a glazed donut
and say it's my diet
and
work out regime
that keeps me so young
and fit. you leave out your
joke
about only being as young
as the women
you feel, because it bothers
some women.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

who are these people

you feel out of touch these days.
having no clue
as to who
these people are on the news.
constantly, everyday.
it seems important,
that we care about
them,
their divorces,
a beating, a lie,
the train wreck of their lives,
some sort of scandal
that makes them duck
and wear dark sunglasses,
trying to hide. they're
in and out of rehab, bankrupt,
and homeless, then
back on top again, with
new husbands,
new wives, children on the way,
the troubled ones
left behind.
do they make music,
what music.
do they act, do they do anything
you've ever seen
or heard?
each with a book on the way
about how,
despite everything, they
survived.

dog food

your dog
would eat other people's clothes.
he could
snap a button
off in a blink,
bite a bra in half.
chew through a pair of hundred
dollar jeans
in ten seconds.
there was nothing he didn't
like to bite
or chew on. shoes, purses.
brushes.
anything once on,
then removed.
you'd see him later,
asleep on the couch,
content and full,
a tag
from Victoria secrets
hanging limply
from his mouth.

saying goodbye

it's hard to say goodbye.
to stand
at the curb
and wave, and wave.
and wave.
you use your other arm
as she sits
at a stop sign
then a red light.
she keeps waving too.
the both of you
waving.
her looking back,
you smiling, but losing
the smile.
finally she turns the corner
and is out of sight.
you wait for a second,
thinking she might
turn around and come
back, then
you put your arm
down.
it's hard saying
goodbye.

invention

your invention
stalls
on the patent process.
seems
other people have thought
of similar ideas.
they want a more detailed
sketch,
a stripe of uniqueness
varying
from the rest.
what makes yours
different, they ask.
they being bottled glasses
lawyers
sitting in dark
rooms eating
white bread sandwiches
with the crust cut off.
so you tweak and bend,
twist
what you have into something
more using
the black magic marker,
the ruler. you draw
your crude sketch
and write block printed words
above and below.
bold arrows point to your
weak changes.
then you send it in.
it's not like you're
inventing the wheel, or
fire,
or even a pet rock or a stick
of gum. it's just this thing.
this thing.




Tuesday, September 6, 2016

the date

half his age
you suspect that she might
be his daughter,
but then you
see her stiletto heels
and tight
short dress,
her puckered lips glossed
red
and you realize that at some
point money
might be exchanged.
his hair is dark as oil
spilled
off the Alaskan coast.
his glasses thick
and steamed as he bends
down
to fork and spoon his pasta
into his mouth.
he can hardly wait
to finish
and get home, the young
woman trailing
behind him
as he heads for the door.

when the bombs fall

as a child
they'd make you practice running
home
with the sirens
wailing
above the elementary school.
it was during the cold war,
the Cuban
missile crisis,
when the end was a red button
away.
we'd practice ducking
under our desks
to keep the radiation from
turning us into
small x-ray like
skeletons
and then we'd gather our
books and lunch boxes
to run home as quickly as
possible to
die with the rest of our
family. it was fun,
in a strange sort of way.
gleeful to get out of class.

ink stain

the ink smudge
on your white shirt won't come
out.
it's a small
thing, but
it's ruined.
the buttons work, the collar
clean,
the shirt as white
as snow.
but the one stain keeps
it from
being worn again.
how like us,
when things go wrong.

the day ahead

how nice to wile
away the day. under the sun.
reading.
napping.
making no effort
to get things done.
leaving the work for the others.
the driving,
the traffic,
the phone.
how nice to linger
in bed.
watching the clouds
roll
by.
the day ahead,
unknown.

Monday, September 5, 2016

finding the words

it's mostly
about her daughter, her poems.
how she died.
how her love for her was
mixed with
grief and frustration.
she writes the same poem
over and over again, trying to
get it right.
something I completely understand.
her chapbook
is all about her.
from birth until the time
she died. died early
and painfully
at the hands of a stranger.
how do you solve that sorrow.
she doesn't know.
but she tries. she writes
another poem, reads
it to herself, then in front
of others
at the small library in
delray.

scavengers

while lying
on the beach a man,
an older man with a sun
visor
wakes you up as you lie
there on your towel.
he's holding his metal
detector over you.
the long wand of it inches
from your chest.
do you mind moving over
he says.
I think you're lying
on something
metallic,
maybe a set of keys or
a watch.
the machine beeps quickly
and loud.
those are mine,
I tell him. to which he
replies. how do I know
that. do you have proof
of ownership?
I look up at him, squinting
in the sun.
his belly is providing
some shade, but not enough.
go away. I tell him,
staring at the six watches
on his one arm.
and a belly bag of jingling
rings and keys.
i'll be back, he says.
no need to get huffy.

otis

for most of his life
he found a way to not work, if
he did find
work, he wouldn't work
hard or long.
what happened before and after
those hours
were more important.
drinking.
food.
women.
in no particular order.
he was Otis in the andy Griffith
show.
king of the road
in the ray stevens
song.
likeable, even loveable.
not a worry or care
about tomorrow.
sometimes I see him down
at the fountain
in old town, holding court
with his close
disheveled
friends.
laughing in the sunlight.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

embellishment

when I read to my
son before he went to sleep.
it was always
cat in the hat,
or Horton hears a who,
or a variety of other common
kid's books.
after a while,
he became bored with the same old
stories,
so I had to change it up.
one day
I began to make up lines,
the cat in the hat
gets caught
by the animal rescue team
and we have
to break him out before
they put him to sleep.
the purple dinosaur Barney
having to go to rehab
after drinking too much moonshine.
he liked those stories so much
better.
santa getting stuck in a chimney
because of all the pie
he'd been eating
all night.
sometimes batman couldn't leave
the house in time
once seeing the bat sign
in the sky because
he had a digestive
issue after eating some bad
Mexican food.
he loved these stories.
I hope he forgives me.

the chardonnay IV

when I met her
she had an IV line coming
from a chardonnay bottle
into her arm.
the bottle was in a bucket of ice,
but on a pole
so that she could roll
it around
as she went about her house.
I made
us dinner, she said.
it's in the oven.
I had it last night, but
the second day it's even better.
you like salmon,
don't you?
it's atlantic salmon,
wild.
never frozen, except by
me for a week or so.
can I pour you a glass
of wine,
this bottle i'm working on
is just about done.
she taps the side of the bottle,
tipping it to get the last
drop into her arm.
I have a crate
in the cellar from total wine
that was on sale
the other day.
do you mind getting another
bottle for me?
i'll check on the fish,
and start
to boil the spinach.

peaches

do you know
where the water tower is,
the man
in a straw hat
and smoking a pipe says
while bending over
to lean into my
car window
to give me directions.
no,
I tell him.
I can smell whiskey on his
breath
pipe tobacco.
his wife
or daughter is on the side
of the road
selling tomatoes and peaches
under the overhang
of a wooden
shack.
how about
the bull farm, he says,
scratching the grey stubble
on his long
chin. do you know where that
is, because if you do,
it's just a left a right
and another left
and you're back on the interstate
heading north.
you seem like you might
be heading north.
I am, I tell him.
how much are the peaches?
hon, bring me over basket
of them peaches.
she does that. coming out of
the shadow into the hot sun.
there's a tattoo on her arm
that says earl,
it looks like it's covering
another tattoo.
take one he says. on me.
so I do. be careful, these peaches
are juicy she says,
winking, don't want to get
any on your shirt.
good luck with the driving,
the man says.
thanks earl I tell him
and pull off looking for
the bull farm.

curb pick up

once a week
they call asking me
if i have anything to set out
on the curb for pick up.
i think yes, but
say no.
i could put my dog in a cage
and set him
out there.
but i don't. he'd find
his way back,
then bite me.
i do have a pair of shoe.
a pale brown color
that look like women's shoes.
so i offer that.
and some old neck ties
from the eighties.
the skinny hipster ones
with bold colors.
i set them out too.

the vacant apartment

i swirl the numbers
on the lockbox
trying to snap it open
to get the key
to get into a vacant apartment.
it won't budge.
there are five other
lock boxes
hanging on the metal
rail, all of them look
the same.
i try them all.
still no key.
i call the owner,
the agent.
i yell to an open window.
no one looks out.
finally, i try
the door,
it's open. i go in.
i go up the ancient steps.
the place
smells
of animals.
the apartment looks like
a place
where unhappiness lived,
where maybe a murder
took place.
nothing good can come from
living in a dump
like this.
i'll paint it bright white
and see what
gives.

approaching storm

the hurricane
of her,
the blue wind of her life
blowing
in.
rattling my
doors
and shutters.
how she brings the rain,
the lightning,
makes the lights
blink.
she's a warm front
moving in,
a churning sea
on my radar, a typhoon
about to land
and take
me with her.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

do you know a carpenter?

it's hard
to find a carpenter.
someone who actually knows
what they're doing.
who can pull
a board, replace a board
and not complain
about the board,
the nails
the weather.
please, just go to work
and do
the job.
sometimes they come out,
sometimes
they don't.
they might call, they might
text.
but all in good time.
what's the rush.
some are licensed, some aren't.
some have
big trucks,
some work out of the back of
their dodge dart swinger.
some want the money
before the first nail is hammered
then never
come back.

a change in the weather

the storm
never comes. but you have lots
of milk and bread
and toilet
paper now.
a pound bag of salted
nuts.
some people in the parking
lot
even turned their
cars around,
backing in, just in case
the water
turned to snow
somehow.
they have their wipers
extended too.
these are the people you don't
usually talk
to.

someone's birthday

I think about sending
her a birthday card.
seeing a nice one on the rack
at trader joe's.
flowers, birds, a blue horse,
but then think, why.
she ghosted me.
why should I send her
butt a
birthday card.
she didn't even have the decency
to have a final
blow out fight
to end things.
she just did the poof thing.
gone.
no text, no phone call,
no email, snail mail,
no letter written
in the sky
when she rides by on her
smoky broom.
I by the card anyway.
it must be someone's
birthday that I know.

the new yorker, perfect

the new Yorker magazine
arrives,
again,
they come so fast. they block
the sunlight
from my bedroom window.
the stack rising.
how do they do it?
I flip through, back to front,
skimming
as I am want to do.
stopping only
to read the cartoons
to see if any of them actually
make me laugh.
one does.
two dogs on a chair,
paws on a desk
typing onto a computer. one
dog looks at the other
and says,
they don't even know
we're dogs.
I cut this one out and tape
it to
the refrigerator.
from there I look at the music
and movies.
the music is hopeless.
who are these people.
what ever happened
to elvis Costello?
one movie looks good, the other
is a review of an animated
movie using celebrity
voices.
just shoot me now.
poetry.
it's just plain perplexing.
I read two, three lines
and shudder.
what the hell are they talking about
and who do you have
to pay or sleep with to get a poem
published in this magazine.
the fiction makes me miss Raymond carver.
then the deep stuff. there
is an expose about mental hospitals,
I dog ear that page,
then an article about a man
who has a continual itch
under his skull that he
can never quite get to.
he ends up scratching a hole
in his head.
that sounds like a fun bath tub
read for later.
then it's to shouts and murmurs.
hit or miss.
the theme this week is the over use
of phrases like
it is what it is.
or how everyone says perfect
for anything you say to them.
let's meet in a bar later,
get drunk and then jump off the
George Washington bridge, perfect.
7 ish? perfect.
finally it's to the editorial
section, boring.
then the letters from readers
whining about last weeks
issue.
all of them smarty pants.


Friday, September 2, 2016

living next door to a pie store

somehow these pants
got tight,
almost overnight.
I can hardly button them,
and get the belt
around me.
this shirt too, it's
like a sausage casing
around my barrel
chest.
I look in the mirror,
kicking an empty
pie pan
across the floor, wiping
blueberries
from my mouth.
I see my dog in the corner
breathing
heavily.
his collar tight
around his neck.

a new topic

my therapist
tells me it's time to stop
talking
about my mother.
she' not the cause of everything
that's gone wrong
in your life.
she says, she's sick of hearing
about her.
just stop.
talk about something else
for once
in a session.
so I bring up
my father.
good, she says. finally,
a new topic.

holding on

it was easy
to make light of her horse.
it was old.
thirty three years old.
sway backed,
broken teeth,
flies
consuming her flesh
as she stood in the barn
on dark cracked hooves.
let her go, you'd say,
put her down.
relieve her from living
this way.
she can no longer
run,
or be saddled,
she can hardly see you
as you give
her a carrot
and brush her matted
coat.
is that what you want,
she'd say.
when it's your turn?

not looking back

I can see how things
will go
before they go
anywhere. I see the middle
and the end.
the beginning has already
happened.
I see the absence of her
already.
the strange distance
that life provides
to keep us from going insane.
I see tomorrow
and the next day, and leave
the past behind,
not looking back.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

make a left on lawrence

you have
hand written directions
to her house
on a slip of paper.
the house she lived in
with her parents,
her sister
and three brothers.
it's the house you threw
pebbles at the window
to make her come
out. beeped the horn
when you pulled up
to go out.
she drew a map,
naming each road,
with arrows pointing
where to go,
pressing down
to write her number
with a pen she borrowed
from a bartender.
it was
thirty five years ago
and it's still in your wallet
for some strange
reason. it's folded neatly
into a square.
when you see her now,
out and about with her
grown children,
her most recent husband,
everyone older,
we wave, we say hello,
but that's the end
of it.

first day of retirement

unable to sleep past six o'clock
in the morning,
you reluctantly get up
to start your day.
you get the paper
off the porch, make coffee.
stare at the dog,
who stares back. you let him
out into the yard
to do his thing.
he barks for awhile,
then you let him back in.
you turn
the radio on, log on
to your computer,
the tv, muted.
you throw a few eggs into
a pan.
some toast in the toaster.
you look out the window
and see your neighbor,
watering
her flowers. she waves
and smiles,
you wave. she's in her bathrobe
and slippers.
she reminds you of your mother
before she went into
a home.
it's pretty much the end
at this point.

a side of beef

someone in the neighborhood
is grilling
a side of beef.
you can see all the men
leaning out
their windows,
searching the yards,
sniffing the air
longingly
while their wives
are downstairs
making a salad with kale
and kidney beans,
celery
and hummus.

making vacation plans

you need a vacation.
you stare longingly at
an island on the cover
of a magazine
as you sit
at the dentist's office,
browsing
national geographic
and bon appetit..
how nice to get away,
to pack a bag
and go
with a pocket full of money,
no phone.
maybe you'll never come
back, find a nice island
girl who
doesn't mind listening
to you, who can make you a cold
drink, rub the tension
out of your neck.
no need to tell anyone,
just lock the door,
catch a cab and be gone.
but first this cleaning,
this x-ray,
and spitting into a Dixie
cup.

shoeless

her shoes were
too tight, new,
and pinching her toes,
so she took them off
and walked
on the sidewalk,
holding them in her hand.
carefully she avoided
glass and cigarettes, trash,
broken
bottles, twisted
cans.
her long dress dangled
along the hot
pavement. she didn't care.
it didn't seem to bother
her, even when it began
to rain,
and the theater was still
six blocks away.
it told you something about
her, something
you still don't quite
understand.

cold call

the hot water
sits, going cold.
you can't get in because
you're on the phone
with
someone you don't know,
someone who
wants to sell you something
you don't need.
they are persistent,
cunning,
weary, neither young
or old,
asking all the wrong questions,
someone sitting in a warehouse
across the ocean,
unraveling a spiel
while your water gets cold.