Wednesday, November 30, 2016

nothing said

the small boy
with his truck, makes all the noises
that he imagines
a truck would make,
going forward, going backwards.
he's in the middle of the floor
of the rest home
where my mother sits in a rocker,
rocking towards
the television
in the corner.
the boy wants attention, wants
someone to play
my mother stares at him
blankly, unsmiling,
of this boy, his bright eyes,
his light hair,
his feverish game alone
on the floor.
she can't get the words out,
then looks at me,
trying so hard
to make sense of any of this.
there is nothing i can
say to help.

i understand

the salesman
rings the bell. I see him
straighten his
as I peer through the peep
in the door.
he rings it again,
then uses the knocker.
banging loudly.
I can see you looking out,
he says.
I know you're in there.
he goes to the window
and sees the tv
on. the pot boiling water.
I duck down
behind the sink.
come on, he says. open up.
I know you need
term life insurance
and this is a once in a life
time deal.
hey, he yells.
finally I yell back to him.
I can't open up,
I say loudly.
I have a woman in here.
oh, he says. i'm sorry,
so when is a good
time to come back?
I don't know, I tell him.
you never know about
these things.
to which he says,
i understand
completely, then leaves..

islands in the fog

I can't remember her name,
but I do remember what she looked
like. what her skin felt like.
black hair, black eyes.
short, on the curvy side.
she said she was half American
indian and half French. who knows.
we went out for a while.
I can't even remember where
I met her.
in a club, maybe. dancing,
doing what young men did
back then.
it wasn't really going out,
it was more
her coming to my apartment
and spending a few hours
eating and making love.
she never spent the night,
she had a kid, or two kids
she had to get back to.
I was never clear on that.
a lot of what I remember about
her is vague, as if it all
happened in a fog.
but I do remember her skin.
how rough it was. how hard
and grainy it was to the touch.
I had never felt skin like
that before
and would slowly
drag my finger tips across
her back, being amazed,
but not saying a word.
in time, I drifted away,
so did she.

new choppers

he is proud of his new teeth
and opens
his mouth
to show them to me at 8 o'clock
in the morning.
a cloud of
Marlboro smoke
puffs out.
nice, I tell him.
they look
good, real.
they only hurt a little,
he says.
they smoothed down
the bone that was keeping
them from snapping
into place.
nice I say.
i'm going to the steak house
he tells me.
i'm getting loaded baked
potatoes along
with a ribeye.
good, I tell him.
then hand him a bucket
and a brush,
and point to a spot
near the ceiling
that he missed yesterday.

while eating nuts

I could be a doctor
by now,
or an esteemed lawyer,
or scientist
solving the mysteries
that confound
the world,
but no, instead I sit
here on the couch
breaking apart pistachio
nuts with my
teeth and tongue,
spitting shells into
a bowl
cupped between my legs,
flipping back and forth
from channel to channel
on the big screen
smart tv.

the pool

how excited you
to see the pool in the backyard
when you came home
from school,
your mother
in her plaid shorts
filling it up with a garden
the dog already inside
splashing around.
these luxuries
made your summer.
an above ground pool,
and bulging at the sides.
a wire mesh
holding it all together.
like birds,
the neighborhood
filled it up with children.
it lasted a week,
but a good week
it was that early june.

the door is ajar

the door is ajar.
someone has just left
or just come in.
there is no car
in the driveway,
the dog hasn't barked.
I hear no footsteps
about the house.
nothing. I go and sit
on the sofa.
await, whoever it
might be. ready to hear
their story
and then tell mine.

a love poem

the itch is still there.
nothing can
reach it, no stick or door
no rolling in
the blankets,
no book will find
no stranger's hand
can locate
where it is
within your heart.
only you
can scratch it out,
come soon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

who needs them

if not for the cats we
wouldn't have to change the floors,
she says to me,
pointing at brown
rust spots in the carpet.
the previous owner had five cats.
can you believe that?
one or two should be the legal
limit, I tell her,
watching where i'm stepping.
personally I prefer
dogs, she says. not a big dog,
or one of those small
yapping dogs, but a medium
sized dog.
me too, I tell her.
to be honest with you,
i'm a dog person.
in fact, she says, I like
dogs better than most people.
I smile and nod my head.
I agree, people can be a pain
in the neck, I say. people,
who needs them.?

from here to there

not everyone
wants to go home.
go back to from where they came.
some want
to stay on the open
keep moving, keep
getting farther
and farther away from
where they came.
so many directions to go.
so many ways
to travel.
so many years to get from
here to there
and to forget.

stop doing that

oh my
the dental hygienist says,
adjusting her glasses,
and her mask,
there's a lot
of blood coming from
that gum
your wisdom tooth.
I hold up my hand
in a koko the monkey gesture
to stop.
grimacing at the pain.
she sucks the blood
out of my mouth
with a plastic tube
and then I tell her,
it's bleeding because
you keep stabbing me
with that metal tool
sharpened to a razor
like point.
every time you jab it
into my gums,
I bleed. why are you doing

Monday, November 28, 2016

one more

a woman once
brought a baby to our parent's
wrapped in a blanket.
no one but us children
were home.
she had dark hair,
dark eyes.
she looked like
none of us. we were children,
but took the baby
from this strange woman.
here's your father's
baby she said,
handing the small thing
to my little sister, who bent
from the weight.
tell him I left his baby
with you, she said, then left.
we watched her out the window,
lighting a cigarette, then
driving away.
someone changed the baby's diaper,
someone heated up
a bottle of milk,
someone brushed her hair,
then rocked her to sleep.
what was one more?

a side order

she likes love.
being in love, being with
one person
for the rest of her life.
whether bound
by the laws marriage or
a simple handshake,
but she says it's like
having your favorite
dinner every night.
steak, or pasta, or a
fresh garden salad.
it never changes, she says,
still smiling,
but looking down the road
at the neon sign
of a diner, flashing open.
sometimes though, she says,
it would be nice
to have a side
order of something different.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

the burden of love

when my son tired
walking around the lake,

I picked him up,
let him ride

on my back for a mile
or two, then set

him down.
we'd rest on a bench facing

the sun,
skipping rocks,

searching for turtles
or frogs just to say

we saw one.
he's too large to carry now,

living on another coast,
but I do hold him

in my heart at night,
the burden of love

is never set down.

found money

you find
a warm, crumpled five
dollar bill
in the dryer
and consider it luck.
but it isn't luck.
it's something else.
it's money
laundered clean,
ready to be spent
or lost again.

have a good one

you can't remember
if you've sent this card before.
the generic one with
and a sky full of stars.
not an angel or mention
of Christ to
be found.
the box of a hundred
has dwindled down
to a dozen or less
over the years.
your list
has grown shorter
as people die
or move to places far
away. there are
other ways now
to say merry Christmas
happy new year. benignly
of course
so as not to offend,
maybe a smile
with the words, texted,
have a good one.

jumper cables

there was a time
it got cold, really cold.
when the streets were
ice on the windshield cold,
so cold
that no one's car
would start.
the whole block was full
of beat up cars
with their hoods up,
jumper cables
strung from one car to
the men would stand nearby
by as the batteries
and blue exhaust
dirtied the snow, bloomed
acrid in the air.
the men, old and young
smoked and grunted,
tightening their thin
coats while
rubbing their
two day beards. the women
would be inside,
looking out the windows
with long faces
thinking things they could
never say
or do.

holiday memories

let's not fight
today, I tell her as she
picks up a plate
of left over turkey to hurl
at me. the look on her
is that of her mother's.
I suddenly see the future.
let's let bygones be
bygones. okay?
I duck when the plate
comes flying towards my
head. it crashes into
the wall
knocking down our wedding
on the mantle.
the dog, cowering under
the table
seizes the moment, rushes
out for bones
and debris, some gravy,
the inedible butternut squash
that her
mother brought over.

spice cake

what is there
in the cake
that isn't in you.
sugar, eggs, cream
and butter.
icing. spice.
I could have a slice
of you a day
but that
might be too much
for my
sweet tooth,
making me take you for
just having you near
under glass,
with knife
nearby is enough
to get me through
the day, or night,
without a bite,
a nibble, a slice,
although a midnight
taste would
certainly be nice.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

the red planet

you sign up
for the mission to mars, and strangely
they accept your
you just want to get away
for awhile
in a space suit,
eat things out of a tube,
look out the window
at the planets,
the stars.
you just want to go along
for the ride
and not work, or push
buttons, or
say things like all systems
go, or roger that.
maybe you'll take a nap
along the way, stretch out
and do some crossword puzzles.
use your phone
to take pictures, on
the alert
for alien space ships, pointing
interesting things
out to the busy
you can help gather rocks
and stuff like
that when you get there
if your back hasn't stiffened up
from the long trip.
maybe you'll straighten up
the ship
when the real astronauts
are out doing things.
you imagine there will be
red dust floating everywhere.
maybe you'll see
if betty can come too.
she doesn't eat much or take
up too much room.
we can share a space suit
if need be. she can bring her

maybe Spain

they live
and die politics. listening all
to the pundits,
to the blabbering talk
but just one side.
they rattle
the paper in front of you
and cry,
did you read this.
look at the headline.
did you see what he's going
to do now?
they are distressed
and crying. everyday they moan
and groan,
they can't sleep, or eat.
it's the end
they say,
we're moving to Canada,
to cuba,
to the Netherlands,
maybe Spain.

the long visit

they come
to visit. luggage. a dog.
three kids
in tow,
all table high,
all turning knobs on
the stove.
the back door is left
the music turned
in the middle of the night
they wander
and cough.
I hear the steps creak,
the bedsprings as they
make love,
these blood strangers
who come
just once a year,
have settled upon
the sofa,
holding the remote,
if there is anything
cold to drink,
or hot.
nothing is put back.
the dishes
in the sink. it's only
Saturday morning.
but not too early
to start drinking.

Friday, November 25, 2016


in a fast world, I hug
the right lane,
at the end of any line,
with groceries.
I have the luxury
of time.
no place to be,
no traffic to beat,
no concern
about the bridge or
I am free.

it's different now

she rocks
perpetually, front to back,
in her red sweater,
by hands
not hers. her slippers on,
her soft pants,
her hair chopped
then combed straight,
any hair, I've seen
on her
throughout my life.
she says my name,
and over, as I ask her
what she's
what she remembers.
childlike she looks me
in the eye
embarrassed by her shyness,
her tears.
I think of you, she says,
I think of everyone all
the time. but
it's different now, she
it's different, then
I too

the holiday

her photos of ample food,
of silver
and plates, emptied,
her snap shots of lights,
before the carving,
tell me
not a single face
is seen, not
a tear wiped by the back
of hand.
not a smile,
or sweet kiss given.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

turkey chain gang

I saw a chain
gang of turkeys running
down the street,
in my dream.
they looked back at the butcher
in his bloodied
apron, carrying an axe.
together they ran
until they got on a bus,
taking the cross
where they hoped
to board a train at Penn Station
and get out of Dodge.
they sat in the back,
keeping their long necks still,
their nervous voices down,
looking out the window
at the butcher,
shaking his head,
his long frown.

a swan

the white swan
in the man made lake,
and wide,
moves gracefully
across the water,
a beauty out
of place,
behind the mall,
the tire center,
the rail road tracks,
a gutted barn
at the edge.
she glides from side
to side,
her long neck
elegantly poised.
she's beyond this.
above this
pond she's landed in.
some women
can handle this, some

the cousins in philly

the cousins,
the ones in philly with their
Italian eyes
and hair,
half of them named johnny
or delores,
or marie
or joey
don't see eye to eye on
many things,
but when they gather
together for the holidays
they hug and kiss,
bump hands,
drink to excess and eat
eat eat
until there's nothing left.
the only time
they stop yelling
about politics or football,
or remember whens,
is when they
pray before the meal,
quiet for a minute until
it all starts up

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

forgetting the olives

the checker,
numb with pushing fat
frozen turkeys
across the belt, lifting
each one into a bag,
then cart,
says little. for what is
there to say but
did you find everything you
were looking for?
who can answer that
what right does he have
to ask such a question,
so deep
and meaningful
as I remember
that I've forgotten
the olives.

she's different

the tint
lies on top of the paint,
the third gallon,
now open and
in a swirl
of color, raw umber,
magenta red.
unshaken, it comes like this,
before yellow takes
becomes whole,
readied for the wall.
for now though,
the circle is pretty,
before blended
and made
to look like all the rest.

she reminds me of you

she reminds me of you,
who reminded me
of her,
and the one who came before,
not that one,
but the other
one, the who preceded
the first, or was it
the second, and final
love of
my increasingly
confusing, yet
shortened life.

Monday, November 21, 2016

walking the lake

I know this lake,
each bend,
each break of woods
where the sun
comes in.
the island off shore.
the blue heron
alight on wide wings.
the gravel,
the hills, each bridge
walked a thousand
times or more.
I know this lake
in every season, having
walked it with
others, or alone.
today it seems longer
in getting around.
something that I always
feel as each new
year becomes old.

the snake

thinking it was rope,
or an odd
of something stored,
tucked away in
the shadow,
hatched tan and brown,
coiled in the corner
of the damp
seen only by the light
of a sun
through trees
and the bent wood
where it crawled to rest
and wait.
you touched it's hard
skin, poked
at it with a finger,
feeling the indent
of small bones
and a steel meshed band.
the snake reared
it's head
before you could speak,
falling back. it's pink
eyes and pinker mouth
white like cotton
with slivers of teeth,
a tongue split
and moving, ready to lurch
upon you,
to satisfy your fears.

a cold brew

a cold brew
of clouds and stars
across a curved black
of sky
leaves me wanting for
like love, but not exactly.
I can't put
my finger on, or say
in words.
I feel a need
undrawn, unsaid, but
will know it
and rest my head upon
it's pillow
when it does arrive.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

what's left behind

we leave behind
so much
for others to gather
and make their own.
the empty
rooms will be filled
by those we don't know.
the bed
slept in, perhaps
those shoes
will fit another's
that coat in the hall
worn on a winters day
such as
that table, those dishes.
another meal
will be served
and eaten.
a hand will light that
take a book and read,
sitting where
you once sat
and pondered, what next.


from this bridge
rock creek park,
the great divide of woods
and city,
a sleeve
of water rolls below.
it holds in it
the silver coins tossed
for wishes
that never came true,
on this overpass,
this ancient bridge
of stone and steel I can
imagine tossing myself
as others have, when blue,
but don't,
though I understand
how other being lost,
and do.


a vase of flowers,
freshly cut,
is sometimes all a room needs
to make
it right.
set the mood,
so it is with you
in that chair,
legs crossed, eyes
hands in your lap.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

the ice box

the jelly
and jams sit cold and squat
on the metal
shelf, side door
of the old ice box.
my grandmother in north reading
had a fridge like this.
she used to defrost
it with a butter knife,
standing on a small
towels on the floor
to catch the puddles of cold
the fur of old ice
melted slowly.
she'd have the radio on.
big bands, mostly.
but I never saw her
shake a leg, or move a muscle
to the music.
she was too busy
with her short arms
in the box, chiseling
away on the thick
the jelly and jams,
remind me of her, how she
loved her toast and tea
in the morning,
and demanded we have manners.
us to ask politely
and to get our elbows
off the table.

the whistle

I can hear
a train whistle as it crosses
the trestle
through the thin woods,
the trees
bent and losing leaves
on this harsh
the train moves on,
sleek against the tracks,
as it bends,
the yellow light of windows
flashing softly
I can imagine being
on that train,
ticket in hand, a bag
at my side, coming
to you,
and you at the station
with open arms.
with tears in your eyes.
wanting me
to be there, me wanting
that too.

in the wind

a blue scarf,
almost violet in color
is in the wind.
it reminds of something,
some place,
some one.
a vague memory,
now touched
and brought to life.
it blows so quickly
into the air,
plays in a swirl,
not caught
on a thing just yet.
no one is chasing
it's lost its way.
this pretty blue scarf
in the wind.

not now, honey

not now, she says,
pulling on her sweat pants.
let's do this later.
get out in the sun
and take
a walk.
not now, later, I promise.
but this will only
take a few minutes.
I know, I know.
and it's been awhile,
but let's do it
i'm not keeping track
but it's been three weeks,
two days,
and six hours.
okay, okay. you can
hold out a little bit longer,
my love.
I promise you won't
be disappointed.
cross my heart.
so let's take that walk.
it's so nice out.
a quick walk, right?
not all the ways
around the lake and up
the hill. and we're not stopping
at starbucks
and petting every dog
along the way.
we'll see she says,
tying her hair up
into a knot.

holiday shopping

I was in line at the liquor
the other day,
holding my webbed green
bag to carry out
my bottles,
when I realized that I forgot
to bring my list. i
listened to the fake
santa ring
his bell in front of
pet smart, driving the dogs
making them think that
a door bell
was ringing and watched as
a man and woman carried out
a hundred inch
tv from the big store.
then I remembered.
aunt helen wants a fifth
of bourbon and a carton
of lucky strikes
dad wants vodka. my brother
wants tequila.
sally, wine, cindy wine.
sarah wine.
Josie wine. Candace wine.
Stephanie wine. donna wine,
ginger, wine.
I need a bigger bag.

on stage

he has a small part
in a play.
there will be singing and dancing,
of which
he likes neither,
but it's
something to add to his resume.
last year he was
in a production
of the wizard of oz,
he played the wizard. this
year he's George
in a wonderful life.
he walks around
all day pretending to be
someone he isn't,
memorizing and acting
out his lines.
he's happy this way,
and so are those that know

Friday, November 18, 2016

i know i will

I can't work any harder
than I did today.
I stare at my hands, blackened
with paint.
under the nails,
into the skin,
not even an hour long soak
in the tub
takes it off.
ten rolls of wallpaper
smoothed onto walls,
more work outside as the sun
came down.
she leaves a check
on the counter.
shows me how the door locks
shows me the button
for the garage.
it's dark out when I back out
of the driveway.
I have places
to go, but can't get there.
I can't work any harder
than what I did today,
but I know I will.
I know I will.


you left out a comma,
she says.
it's almost like you don't even
work on
these things you write.
your craftsmanship stinks.
I hone and carve
my poems down to the bone
before I read them
at the slam,
at the workshop,
for my admirers, she says
beating her chest
proudly. it almost
seems like
it doesn't matter
what you write
about, coffee and eggs,
dogs. you don't seem to care
who reads
it or likes it or anything.
your line breaks are ridiculous,
my professor would
beat you with a stick.
it's almost like you're
writing just for you.
what's up with that?
i'm sorry, did you say something?

how about that

everyone knows
that knows somebody
that puts them into
the winning circle.
enough to rub
elbows, be in the glow
of greatness.
whether writer, or actor,
doesn't matter.
the king
of England,
or the kings of leon.
it's enough
for some to say, hey,
you know so and so, yeah,
we talked.
we were on the elevator
we might have a drink
some day.
how about that?

our room

they talk metaphorically
the elephant in the room.
the one big thing that isn't
we had monkeys
swinging from the chandeliers,
we had giraffes. we had
slithering beneath
our feet,
llamas. chickens pecking
at june bugs.
our room was full of many
things we ignored
just to keep
the peace.

when things

when things are going good.
the world
being rosy.
and love is near,
or approaching like a white
sheeted sailboat
on blue water,
you relax your bones
and settle back
into the chair your life
has become.
you rock gently,
and breathe
a pleasant sigh.


I've known lots
of eggs.
good eggs, bad eggs.
hard boiled,
over easy
and sunny side up.
free range eggs.
brown or white.
large or small.
I've even been in love
with some scrambled
eggs. but
you don't know
until you crack
one open and put
her in the pan
what you're
going to get.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

answering the bell

the prize
fighter sits in his corner.
and blood from
his eyes. a wet sponge
is squeezed over
his head.
the crowd
is restless, they want
a knock out.
he thinks about his life.
that it's come
to this.
leg weary and too old
for the game,
but needing
the cash, the affirmation.
what is there to do
but get up
when the bell rings
and go out
and strike the man in front
of him.
win, not lose.
who isn't answering
the bell
each morning.

finger on the scale

things don't always
add up,
sometimes a finger is on the scale
tipping it
in the favor
of the butcher.
deals are made
in the back room.
someone utters a threat
beneath his breath.
someone will
pay, heads will roll.
will be served,
cold. who said the world
is fair?

local corn

it's easy
to make light of the farmer's market,
with their
in a basket, their
high. men in straw
and overalls.
presenting local corn.
peas and carrots.
lettuce. home baked pies.
I don't really care where
it's from
as long as it's fresh
and bug free.
have some warm cider,
the sign says
a woman who may or may
not be dressed
like Martha Washington.
made from organic
by a local farmer,
using real
cane sugar.

what's come has gone

the goodbyes
are adding up.
the hellos are few.
what's come
has gone.
what lies ahead is shadowed
beneath a cloud
of age,
of time
refusing to stop
for anyone.


renters, how
little they care about
the floor,
the carpet, the dogs running
wild, off chain.
the broken window
is someone else's
the drips of leaky spigots,
the toilet
that won't flush.
they make a list
and at some point put it
in the mail
with the rent check,
a week late.
why lock the door,
why turn the heat off,
why bother with
the spill,
or care about the noise
they make.
renters have a way of not
about consequences.
some lovers are like that.
just renting,
not caring
and about to move on.

beside her

she misses
the warm body beside her.
the bed
tilted in
that way
that bodies do. the hand
across her hand.
the gentle snore
as he lies
in dream. she misses
the rising sun
someone that loves her.
who wants to be there
and only
when he awakens
to her kiss, her love
given fully
in return.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

let me get my card

please take me off
the call list I beg the caller.
stop calling.
I have enough Cialis,
snow tires and
I don't need any lightbulbs,
or to refinance
my mortgage
please, I beg of you to stop
with the calls.
today, you can get a fifty
percent discount
on prednisone,
this one time only,
the young voice says
in his mixed and garbled language.
a hundred pills
for ten dollars.
I hear chopsticks
going into a bowl, stirring.
free delivery,
he says.
hold on for a second, let
me get my card.

the unread

what happened was,
was this.
a life comes
a life is lived.
death occurs.
but it's the in between
seems important,
not the start or
the finish.
though most
never find out what that
sure, we
pass each other
on the street and say
or goodbye,
or say how nice or cold
it might
be, but that's all we
have time
we have our story
to be written,
then left, eternally,
to be unread.

some days

there are some days
are annoying.
sometimes the whole
they are on your bumper,
or impatient
in the lines we all
must stand in.
things are said.
gestures made.
no one is happy, or even
to contentment.
there is the underlying
of unhappiness
in these people.
they live under a dark cloud
and bring it with them.
but then there are some
where it's quite
the opposite.
these are the days when
you don't leave
your house, but stay home
and look out
the window.

Monday, November 14, 2016

too much good

back on the sauce,
he calls
me. I love you man,
he says,
slurring his words, I hear
the clink
of glass, the cold
rattle of ice,
a bottle against
the rim.
the music is turned up.
let me know when you have
some more work, he says.
his ex wife's voice
rails in the background
telling him to get off
the goddamn phone
and come here.
too much good has
come into his life and it's
time to right
the ship,
sink it down

the thin man

his eyes, were what I saw.
as he sat
still in his glass cage,
sawdust on the floor,
a pail of water
not a crust of bread
to be found.
his ribs looked wooden
his slack skin,
the hull of a thin
ship raised
from the ocean floor,
of bones protruding,
making the crowd
gasp as they leaned
upon the glass
eating glazed red apples
and hot dogs,
cotton candy.
his cheeks hollowed
so that his teeth took up
too much room.
why did he even need teeth
a boy said to his mother who
he hungered not.
this was what he did.
not eating
as the carnival rolled from
small town
to smaller towns.

the evil ones

the condo board
and their brown shirted minions
the neighborhood
with clipboard
in hand, taking notes,
and names.
marking whose trash
is out early,
whose dog
is on the loose,
or has left
a small
pile behind.
what gives you the right
to change that
door knob from brass to nickel.
who has no sticker
properly displayed,
who dares
to park in a visitor's spot
authorized approval.
they are crafty weasels
by a majority of three
or four
who attended their
holy meetings
under the dead of night
in a small
room at Washington Irving
elementary school
where only evil,
and assessments
come out,
and gloom.

so it goes

I listen again
to the old music.
I read
the same books over
and over.
the poetry that rings true
to me
is by my bedside.
I like the old
pair of jeans,
the worn shoes,
the sweater with a hole
in the sleeve.
it's about comfort
and knowing,
and so it
goes with me,
with you.

the fire

the fire
in the old house
shot through the windows.
the family stood in
night clothes
in the cold as the flames
and licked
at the wood frame,
in the roof.
someone said there was
a baby
a dog. a small child.
but there was no going back
the firemen
arrived in their long red
unable to get close.
they stood with their hoses
as the water
arced into the red roar,
doing little.
we didn't know
the family.
but I remember how hard
my mother cried
for the children, for
the mother.
not knowing their names.
but knowing.

let's be friends

let's be friends
she says,
without benefits, without
the quagmire
of sex
and intimacy.
let's have a conversation
and sit
by the fire,
wile the hours away
with tv,
talk about life,
and books,
things that make
us happy.
let's be friends she says,
her drink and lighting
a candle.
let's keep it this way,
so that things
won't end.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


the woe is us
march down the street
after the election
is running
out of gas.
it's the end
of the world
they say
while sipping on a grande
vanilla skim latte.
their voices
hoarse, the feet
in their not for marching
and shoes
from DSW.
they look at their phones,
take a picture,
with their home made signs.
soon they
have to go home
and feed the dog,
pick the kids up at the bus
the revolution and discontent
is slowed
by the hunger
for dinner, the rain.
what's on tv
at nine.


coffee, oats,
instant rice.
instant gratification.
and sex.
fast food,
women, fast cars.
the speed of light,
of sound,
the bullet train.
leave the bag this side
and hit the button.
quick dry,
quick spin,
the ez pass, the express
where are we
going in such a hurry.
tell me,
if you have
the time.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

a twist of wind

a scrap of paper
the wind
and circles upwards,
a small
gathers more.
across the concrete
it spins,
dips and turns.
the world
is a magical
at times,
when watching
these little things.

brain food

I yell to the tv
as alec trebec in his smug way
shakes his
head no,
and says morocco.
what is
i stand up and yell
to the next answer,
an imaginary button
in my closed fist.
what is
prime numbers
alec says.
I hate this show
tonight. i'm
standing there in my underwear
feeling the breeze
from the balcony door.
I haven't had one
right answer
I say to my new wife betty
as we enjoy
our honeymoon
at the beach on the jersey coast.
you need to study
more, she says,
opening a can of tuna fish
for a snack.
or maybe you're just
dumb, she says.
here, have some tuna,
fish is brain food.

the ghosts

the ghosts
are here. on the wet field.
in the huddle.
they are still
these four boys.
four men.
their early deaths are
you roll their
names in
your mouth,
friends you loved,
without ever
saying the word love,
as men
rarely do
towards one another.
you throw a tight spiral
to each
as the low
winter sun
rises in our eyes,
our lineless
the ghosts are here,
some days
more than others.

Friday, November 11, 2016

the break up

one tire wouldn't grab
the pavement,
it kept spinning in the soft
slush, the snow,
melting ice.
i'll get out and push
I told her. so I did that.
pressing my hands
against the back bumper.
hit the gas just
a little I
yelled to her.
but she floored it throwing
a splash of cold
water onto me,
salt and sand.
feather it I yelled out,
spitting out
granules of road salt.
she lightly tapped
the pedal this time as I
rocked it then
pushed with all my might.
the car finally slipped
out of the rut
and moved forward.
she kept going. waving out
the window.
she threw out my suitcase
and I never saw her again.
timing is everything.

election blues

the election blues
has made
her make run like a wild
she's sad,
bone weary. what now, she
my girl didn't make
she's done.
she's too old to try again.
it's the end of
the world, she says.
this country
is going down the drain.
i pour her another
glass of
and pet her hand.
oh well. i tell her, who
maybe he'll surprise us.
this man
with yellow hair.
i hate you she says to me,
her whiskey. it almost
seems like you don't care.
oh, but i do.
i tell her.
i just remember Nixon,
and we got through that.


i'm French, she says.
did I tell you that.
three times
in the last hour I tell her.
staring at the ceiling.
I was born in france
and will die
in france, she says,
jutting her chin
i'm dying now I say into my
pardon? did you say something?
I was just commenting on
the escargot
that is stuck in my throat
and trying to crawl back out.
the French know
know culture and art.
we live a different
life than you
cowboy americans.
we know how to love and live.
relax and enjoy ourselves.
you work work work
and want big cars, shiny things.
we don't care
about such things.
i'm French, she says again,
sipping her red wine, gargling
it in her mouth.
these grapes were picked too soon,
she says,
spitting out the wine
into her dish of pheasant bones
and quail egg shells.
I know wine, I am French, she says.
I nod, then see a waiter
walking by.
I yell out as loud as I can.
garcon....check. sil vous plait.

this pie could save the world

i'll die with my secret
ingredients in me,
she tells me
as I shake up a can
of whipped cream.
she's setting her pie
out to cool
on the counter.
she's made
six for the holidays.
this recipe was passed
down from
my great grandmother
when she came over
from Poland.
she used to make these
pies on the ship
coming over, kept
everyone fed.
I stare at the pie
ignoring her story.
it looks like a regular
pie to me.
crust, etc.
the crust she says is
the dough has to be
kneaded by hand,
the spices just right.
I say. touching the top
of the orange brown
don't she says, slapping
my wrist. it's not time.
this pie could save the world,
she whispers,
if everyone had one of these pies
there would be more love
in the world.
who can fight and argue
while eating pie?
I tell you, this here is
no ordinary pie.
yeah, right, I say,
getting a small dish
and a knife out of the drawer.

before winter

a thin
bird lights upon
the window.
he looks in
at you then averts
his eyes.
flutters his wings.
you want to say something
to keep
him there,
to keep him near,
but he has things to do
before winter
sets in.
we all do.
we all do.

into the fog

in the beginning she
would ask the same question
she asked
ten minutes ago.
you'd tell her that.
she'd say, I did?
yes, i'd say.
but then she'd be hurt
and want to get off
the phone.
over time you
answered, once,
twice, three times if
necessary the same questions.
you let her go into
the fog
where she was heading.
gently holding her hand,
answering what
she wanted to know,

Thursday, November 10, 2016

the long story

always, there is more
to the story.
more details to tell, a
better middle,
a more
exciting ending.
you've been telling it
for so long,
refining it, that it tells
itself now.
you listen to your voice,
as your tongue and lips
rattle on
with the words
you've said before.
it's your go to story,
the one
that gets a laugh, a gasp,
a roll of the eyes.
but you're tired of it.
you need
a new memory, a new story
to tell.
boredom has set in.

the window

the stuck window,
the one that faces the back
of the house,
the woods,
the stream,
the squared yards, fenced
that window.
you get a hammer, a
and you try to free it from
it's frame.
you just want to open
the window
before winter sets in
and feel the clean air,
the fall
wind, you want to lean
out and look
as far as you can see,
then close it again.

the long line

some minutes are like
like years.
the long line doesn't move
as you stand
there with
papers in hand,
daydreaming, wondering
what the hold up is.
someone coughs,
which makes you cough
and lean
towards fresher air.
at some point
you forget why you are there
with all these other
these horrible people
and their horrible
screaming children.
you question your own
your sanity,
you stare at your shoes
and see a hole
in the bottom of one of

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

a cold front moves in

she's funny
when she's drinking, the one
or two
high balls,
that tipsy giggly time
when her eyes are
and gleaming, when her
hands touch your
she laughs at all
your attempts at being
funny. but then,
the third and fourth
change her.
a dark cloud moves in,
a cold front
arrives with a gust of wind.
she becomes
inquisitive about
where you were last night,
last year,
who are you texting or
talking to now.
what are your intentions
with me?
she asks.
those have changed, i
say to myself,
watching closely
the dessert fork in her

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

her legs

my grandmother's stockings
pulled up around
her fat piano legs,
calf high,
but would soon unravel
and slip
down into her snow boots.
the boots were my grandfather's
boots actually,
which he no longer wore,
seeing that he was dead
and buried
years ago, his name rarely
mentioned because of the strange
and beautiful
woman who showed up and cried
at his funeral.
the stockings
were the same color
as her legs,
a creamy flesh tone,
if your flesh was that of
a store mannequin,
except for the blue veins
that bulged out.
being small, our heads
up to her waist, we spent
a lot of time staring
at her legs beneath
her black dress,
forever in mourning,
as she shuffled about the kitchen,
kicking at us gently,
speaking in Italian,
singing, sometimes whistling.
they were muscled and thick
with knobs and splotches.
they looked like roadmaps,
relief maps
of northern Italy where
she was born
and learned to cook the meal
she was now
cooking for us.

can you kill this chicken for me

I can eat
a lot of chicken.
fried, baked, barbequed,
sautéed or
even boiled in a stew,
but I could never actually
kill a chicken.
wring it's neck,
or chop off it's
unusually small
and pointed clucking head.
same goes for the cow,
or a rabbit.
I even feel bad about
dropping a lobster
into a pot of boiling
but not as bad as I would
when killing a chicken.

tell me a joke

your father wants to know
if you have any
new jokes.
you don't have any, but
you tell him an old one
you've told
him before. not the one
about a blonde standing on
her head, or
the dog who claps his
paws together
during a movie, or even
the one about
pie being round not
squared, instead you tell
him the one about
the priest, a sailor
and a redhead go into a
he likes longer jokes,
the older he
gets, and you like to hear
him laugh,
even if it's not funny.
it's nice of him.


I feel optimistic
about the coming days, about the coming
hours, actually,
or maybe it's this high
test coffee i'm drinking
on the way to work,
or the prednisone
that I've been taking to calm
my allergy related asthmatic
or maybe it's the traffic,
being light,
the sun up
the air cool and calm.
or maybe i'm thinking about
the weekend
when betty might come over
in her high heels.
there is so much
to be thankful for.
I need another cup of coffee
to get there.

Monday, November 7, 2016

now i know

from the window,
elbows against the furrowed
threads of an old
sofa i'd stare out at my mother
hanging clothes on
the rope line.
a clothespin in her mouth
as she pulled
the heavy wet
shirts and pants, dresses
of her children
onto the line to dry.
sometimes she'd stop and smoke
a cigarette,
leaning against the fence,
staring into the overgrown
grass, and weeds.
I wonder now, older than she
was then,
what went through her mind,
how would her world
how could this struggle
she was forever in
ever end. now I know.

the empty field

behind the fallen boards,
the field
is bare. flat acres of brown
and scrub brush
until it stretches no more
at the edge
of the road where I've stopped,
getting out of my car to stare
at the empty
far off to the right is a house.
a small silver silo.
no lights are on.
no tail of smoke from the chimney.
a rusted plow
sits near a dying oak.
I let the sun
come down, blue and cool
against the earth,
upon me and my shoulders,
then I get back into the car
and drive on.

no choice

by the fifth phone call
and sarcastic to the caller.
are you going to vote
they say.
the election is tomorrow.
do you need a ride,
remember to bring
an ID.
we're counting on you.
I sigh, and listen to the young
voice on the other end
of the line.
I think of Nixon.
Johnson, kennedy.
we are living in a world of
hot air balloons
the uneducated masses
who stare at their phones
and don't read books.
they listen and watch,
absorbing nothing
into their mush brains.
these are the leaders that
truly represent them.
you vote.
i'm not.

more fun

the fiction of you
or me
is more interesting than
the truth.
so let's play at the game
of being
more or less
than what we've become.
learn your lines,
find your spot
on stage and sing, or
recite the words to the part
you've learned
to play.
what does it matter,
as long as no one gets
hurt and you're
having fun.
no one wants to breathe
their final words
and say,
I wish I wish I had
worked less and had more

slow moving

the old house shakes
from the road. the trucks passing.
the cars against
the pavement.
over time
even thunder has rattled things,
made the boards split,
the floors bend.
the slow
movement of earth below,
the constant settling
of fissures,
of cracks, made on
day one. even glaciers,
with their
slow plodding melt
in time
as they drag towards you.
nothing stays the same.
not even us.

other ways

what other ways to go,
you think
as you drive slowly
your destination.
the dark rise of buildings
beside you.
what roads
haven't you taken.
what corner have you
ignored and not
turned to?
this way seems slow,
and narrow.
there has to be a
better, quicker way,
with a better view
of the skyline,
the clouds,
a distant farm set
on green land.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

grilled cheese sandwich

tell me about your childhood,
the therapist
asks me, as I flip over
on the couch.
do you mind if I take off
my shoes, I ask her.
no. she says. don't do that.
tell me.
do you come from a good family?
what do you mean
by good, I ask her.
no one killed each other,
although there were
daily threats.
I used to make my sister
hold the wad of
aluminum foil on the antennae
the twilight zone was on,
so yes,
we got along.
it was good.
it was nice being older
and bossing
the little ones around. I miss
one sister made a mean
grilled cheese sandwich.

snowflake on the front

you see them shoveling
the Halloween
candy out the back door
into the dumpster to make
room for
the Christmas candy.
out goes the costumes
and pumpkins,
and in
come the plastic reindeer,
the glow in the dark
and nineteen various
fake trees
all with lights
and trimming.
a crane lifts in
the scotch tape and wrapping
boxes of generic cards,
religious cards,
funny cards,
and blank cards.
blank seems the way to go
these days.
maybe a snowflake on the front.

the leash

a cat on a leash
is not
a good thing.
it's not right.
the cat
is anything but tameable,
it's a cat
not a dog.
we're different,
men and women.
no one likes the leash,

Saturday, November 5, 2016

sex therapy

you never say anything romantic
to me anymore,
she says, adjusting her
pajamas and fuzzy pink slippers
as we lie in bed,
almost asleep
after making love for
a few minutes.
what, I say.
did you say something.
the zip has gone out
of our love
life, she says
rolling over
to stare at the ceiling.
which is dark
and shadowy.
my heart's still beating
like a rabbit,
I tell her,
it wasn't good for you?
five minutes?
thanks for nothing, she
we have work in
the morning, I didn't
want to keep you up.
I think i'm being very
and compassionate.
it's Saturday night,
she says.
oh, right. well, I do
have basketball in the morning.
she says.
what are you trying to say,
I say to her, fully
awake now
and also staring at the ceiling.
we need to spice
things up
she says, or we're doomed.
maybe we should see a sex
I was talking to my friend sally
and she was telling me about
all the fun stuff
her and her husband do
after they went to a therapist.
hmmm. I say.
like what?
sometimes they tie each other up
and blindfold each other.
use baby oil.
with duct tape?
no, ropes and cuffs.
what about the key? what if you
lose the key?
he drips candle wax on her.
ouch, I say. that's got to hurt
a little.
or sometimes they pretend they
don't know each other
and pick each other up
at the bar at the Olive Garden.
love their bread sticks.
i'm serious, she says.
we need to step things up or I
might what?
oh never mind.
I reach over and take her hand.
okay, okay.
let's start tomorrow.
maybe i'll be a cop and you can
be a woman of the night.
i'll pick up some candles
and oils
and rope. we'll give it a shot.
she sighs, and kisses me
on the cheek. okay, she says.
good night.

Friday, November 4, 2016

after all

by what happened
the week, you fall asleep
blanket, sheets.
a half moon in the window.
you go under after
a pleasing
a gentle exhale.
by morning
whatever it was
is better, almost
it wasn't so bad
after all.

getting wet

a cloud
spill of some merit
applies a cool wash
of clear
upon your brow,
your coat,
your pants.
in the car, or closet,
or lost
on a train.
it rain, call
a front
moving in,
upon you,
call it what you
want, but
you're wet
and seeking shelter.

she recycles

sometimes the stripper who lives
two doors
down from my door
gets home late at night
with a strange man.
sometimes a new man
appears, or
an old boy friend,
or woman.
or a group of people who
all sound very
they feel the need to make
their presence known
at 3 a.m.
there is the clinking of bottles
and glasses.
high heels
against the sidewalk.
cursing and laughter.
when I see her the next day
she says hello,
she's in her sweat pants
and flip flops,
she sets
her bottles out to the curb
for recycling.
metal, and paper, glass
and plastic
separate in the blue bin.

waiting in the car

I used to wait
in the car for my wife.
the bags in the trunk,
the boy in his car seat,
the dog,
barking out the window.
I started the car,
turned on the radio,
skimmed a map,
tapped my fingers against
the wheel.
what is she doing?
my son asked. what's
taking her so long.
she's getting ready, I
told him.
you get used to it.
be patient.
hair, clothes, make up.
he groaned and rolled
his eyes.
then looked at me
in the rearview mirror.
there was a long
quiet pause as we both
looked at the door for
her to finally come out.
it seems, he said, nodding
to himself, that women
use make up to trick
hmmm. I said, interesting.

don't start drinking

it was over, your father
told you,
in his awkward way to not
start drinking.
the thought had never occurred
to you.
there's more
fish in the sea, he said,
for something wise to give you,
something he had never
heard or been told
quickly after these words
of wisdom were dispelled,
he changed the subject
to football,
where he was comfortable
and safe
from your sadness.

the news

as you read the crime
in the newspaper you think
to summers
on the street.
there was always
a kid
who pulled the wings off
off of flies,
or butterflies,
or moths.
just to see what they
would do.
unable to take flight
these same boys,
would put nails at the end
of sticks
and hunt frogs, or snakes
in the woods.
they showed no mercy
to caught fish,
or a stray cat
who wandered
upon their path.
it was hard to understand
when ten,
even harder now
at this age,
to give reason for
what people do.

the congregation of trees

the trees,
the congregation of trees.
and maple.
the willow bent against
the blue
skied wind.
in the round earth.
all in prayer, all
all in silent
if there is grumbling
about the water
or light, the lay
of the land,
it goes unsaid,
even the axe
their trunk is taken
as part
of this life they've
been offered
to live in.

going back

a time machine would come
in handy
some days.
going back
to change what you just said,
choosing something
else on
the menu,
not this fish
you had instead.
or buying the black shoes
not the brown.
so much
good could be done
with hindsight,
back before
a wedding, before the dance,
the first kiss
or given.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

the bed in the basement

she couldn't sleep in the same
room with me.
you snore, she said.
like a hound dog.
I don't get one minute
of sound sleep
when you're here.
so she put me in the basement
on the futon,
which had magazines stacked
against it.
a horse hair blanket
and a saddle
was at the end, which I pushed
off with my feet.
it tilted so that
my head was
lower than my body by
six inches.
it was where the dog slept
when she went to work during the day
and I could feel
the indented circle of
her body where I lay.
at night,
I could hear her feet
walking above
me, in the real bedroom
where the real bed
was and tried to think
of things
that didn't anger me.

jimmy could do it

can you zip
me up she says, turning around
in her red dress
for me
to zip
then clasp
the tiniest piece of metal
and hook
I've ever seen
in my life.
my fingers are too large
I tell
do you have some duct
tape, or a safety pin?
oh my, she says.
you can't clasp that hook.
my old boyfriend
had no problem
with it.
you mean jimmy?
I tell her, still fiddling
with the tiny
hook, wiping my eyes
trying to unblur
and focus them.
james, she says. I never
called him jimmy.
whatever I tell
her, wetting my fingers,
and pinching
blindly at the hook,
determined to be a better
than jimmy.

being human

sometimes I yawn
at other's troubles,
as they do mine,
not always.
but on occasion
when I've had my own
brush with
chaos, I'll sigh
and be there, but not
there's not enough room
in your heart
to take all
the world in.
we're human,
for better, for worse.
we can't
be good all the time.
it's impossible.

ocean view

she moves to the ocean,
for the view,
but cares less about it in time.
stares out at the sea
she keeps the windows
tight, the drapes pulled
to keep sand out,
the salted air.
what she wanted was this.
but now,
she doesn't care anymore.
the ocean is hard.
as love is.
as anything is that you want
so badly and believe
that it will
make life right.

shoe shine

all day
the old man kneels
and shines shoes at the station.
his fingers
are blackened
with polish
and grime.
he spins and slides
the rag
across each pair
of wing tips, not with
love, but
with the hope
of a dollar more.
a tip, a coin to rattle
in his cup.
we all have cups,
we all have
and shoes to shine.
we all kneel
to someone.

throw it deep

you can't get
back to sleep. something
is on your mind.
something has
gotten under your skin
and has taken
you away from
sweet dreams, deep
you toss the pillows
to the cool side,
look out the window,
look at the red numbers
of the clock. you
close your eyes,
try again to get back
to sleep, but you can't.
over and over again
you ask the question
why did they run
the ball up the middle
at that stage of the game,
and not throw it
deep. he was open.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

the social worker

I remember the social worker
when she arrived at our house.
it may have been late 1968.
she had powder blue eyes
and strawberry red hair. she
was light boned, as a fox
might be.
she was holding a clipboard,
and a small satchel
at her side. she handed me
her card. sarah was her name.
my mother had just left
for her job on the back of
a motorcycle with frank the
Coca Cola salesman.
she had worked her way up
from waitress to barmaid
at the sunny brook tavern
and wouldn't be home until
3 a.m., if at all.
I asked the social worker
to come in and I would answer any
questions she might have,
me being the oldest at home,
the older brother away at
college becoming a minister,
the electricity was off at the
time, another bill late, but I guided
the woman with a flashlight
into the tight living room.
my sisters lit candles
and began sweeping the floor.
the smaller children
were in the basement screaming
at a mouse
that came out when the lights
went off.
I offered the woman a glass
of water, to which she said no.
she looked around as best she could,
went to the back yard, looked to
where the dogs were barking,
and my sister's chicken
and rooster fluttered their
short wings, fenced in by wire.
she didn't see the garden.
the lettuce, the tomatoes,
or the marijuana plants growing
in between.
we have a garden I told her.
pointing out into the flat
dark yard.
is everything okay
here? she said. is everyone in school.
eating, sleeping.
are you unhappy?
I looked at her and said. no.
are you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

down on the farm

the rooster has over slept.
there are no
eggs in the bin. all the cows
are lying down with
not a drop of milk
to share.
it's a lazy day down on
the farm.
not a pie on the sill,
no one rings the bell
for breakfast.
jezebel gives you a look of
as you tell her how pretty
she looks this
the fields are unplowed.
even the cats
don't care anymore.
the mice are running