Saturday, December 31, 2016


the elbow striking
the door
edge, sends a storm of
current up your arm.
you rub it
gently until
the pain goes away.
hardly a funny bone.
not a single laugh,
or smirk
in it.
are there sad bones
weary and angry bones,
curious bones,
bones that are aloof,
that ignore you?

a new year

i've been counting
all day,
ten, backwards to one,
warming up for tonight,
as if i'm
on a liftoff mission
to the moon.
but it isn't the moon
we're going to,
is it?
out the window
are the same trees,
the same
parked cars,
the same
kid with a runny nose
and training
wheels rolling
down the street.

what isn't true

what isn't
true, is this. this
of what was, what happened
glossed over it nicely,
polished it after
sanded it down,
agreeing to make it
what it never was.
of course, your memory
is different
than mine,
as it should it be.
we need
to remember life that way.
makes it
easier for everyone
all around.

Friday, December 30, 2016

flies by

all the lights are green.
the traffic has
the roads are dry.
let's drive all day
all night,
find a place to rest
our weary bones
let the new
year bring what it
brings, watch as
another one flies by.

love poem

do you
need to go so soon,
stay a little longer,
one more cup
of coffee,
one more
splash of cream,
another lump
of sugar,
one more
stir of your spoon.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

sugar sugar

it's hard to give up
the cake
the candy, the sugar
the m and m's
that I pour
from a bag into my
mouth when
the movie starts.
I could use
some sugar, sugar,
any ideas?

the next day

the dog
in the laundry basket
chasing his
reminds me of things
I have to do
maybe tomorrow, or
the next

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

this will pass, maybe

let's not call them tears
today, dear heart,
not crying,
not sobbing,
let's just say it's bad
a small storm
that will pass.
i'll help you, hand
you a tissue,
put my arm around you.
i'll listen,
i'll say things like
don't worry,
things will get better,
you'll see,
though I won't believe
a word
of what i'm saying.

a day away

a day away,
would be nice, a stretch
of three
or four
all days
and nights together.
on the open
to an unknown
a port, an island,
some dune
to perch upon and ponder
come and gone,
what's coming.

the photo

the photo,
black and white was pinned
to a board in his den,
left behind,
once the room where he lingered
and stared
at all the things
he was, had become.
the diplomas,
awards, family and pets
long gone.
what would be, had happened,
now what?
but the photo, of a girl.
in black and white.
unsigned, undated,
was there too. her golden hair,
or was it golden?
did she have blue eyes or
who's to know.
and him, with glasses,
shyly beside
this flower, looking down,
at something,

church people

the bed was too heavy
to move,
made of steel and real wood,
anchored to the wall,
so we covered it
and painted around it.
crawled under to get what
we could with a brush
and roller.
above it was a mirror
secured to the ceiling.
they were small people,
church people,
but they needed
this big bed for some reason,
with an ocean of a mattress.
it made you wonder.
what was going on here.

a stack of white bread

there was a lot
of white bread on the table,
growing up.
slabs of bologna,
yellow mustard,
yellow cheese,
powdered milk when the real
milk ran out.
my mother would fall
in love
with a fireman,
or a delivery man,
or a married man with a ring
in his pocket.
the refrigerator
would become more
full then, for awhile,
but there was a price
to pay.

Monday, December 26, 2016

we're good people

it's a sinister sky.
look how low the clouds are,
blue knuckled fists
about to punch us.
what do they want out of us.
we try so hard
to live a good life.
what's with the floods,
the tornadoes,
the wild fires.
please dear lord, spare
us another earthquake,
or missed field goal.
and the traffic, while
you're at it, the freeway
is a mess every night,
my cat has a rash,
just to say in passing,
and if you have
the time I have this
lottery ticket, I could
use the number nine.

the spiral ham

the wonder
of the spiral ham,
precut and cooked,
a modern
miracle, no less important
than say
the discovery
of insulin
or penicillin, the building
of the great wall
in china
or the taj mahal.
they have nothing on this ham
that someone stood in
line for three hours to buy,
not me.
but yes, let's bow
and give praise
to the honey baked spiral
sweetly glazed, oh my,
are those pineapple rings?
a moment of silence
and appreciation
please, before the first

enjoy your life

he yells to me,
as I speed by on my bike,
head down
in the wind,
hands gripping
the bar
as I make the wide turn,
pedaling hard
for the hill i'm about
to climb.
he yells to me,
this old man in a fedora,
enjoy your life, then
repeats it again,
stopping to see if I look
I nod, he nods,
he adjusts his hat,
plants his cane
into the gravel and moves
so do i.

the heap

it's the flat
that slows me down.
a cracked
windshield making
it hard to see out.
it's the blinking light
on the dashboard
telling me
what I need to do to keep
this heap running.
it's an earring on the floor,
and a coat,
red heels from the night
it's the window
that won't roll down,
the heater
that won't heat.
it barely keeps me going,
this old car,
as I hit the gas
and find
a stale donut
stuck between the seat.

early morning

you wake up
not unhappy in the cold
the rain
work another day
the covers up to your neck,
you could lie
here all
morning, call
ginger and tell her
that the key
is under the mat.

small print

the print is too
to read in this early
morning light,
and so
am I, so are you.
each to his
set of directions,
set of rules.
not everything is clear
about how
to start us up,
keep us going,
make us right
and rarely are

Sunday, December 25, 2016

she says my name

she's grey. her silver hair,
her nails
untrimmed, her knees
shake, she rocks
back and forth
as she says my name,
her brown eyes full of confusion.
a Christmas tree is beside
her, the lights off.
she says my name.
rocks and rocks.
how deeply I want her to sleep.

fish bowl

these fish
in a bowl. swimming.
day in
day out. bright gold.
without hands
or understanding
to the top
for sprinkles from
you, their strange

sneeze sniffle blow

the cold
keeps you home near
the tea kettle,
blanket and stove.
you sneeze, you cough,
you blow.
hard to be cheery when
deep into
these woods,
knee deep in a
drift of snow.

fresh fish

fresh fish
the sign reads. which is good.
who wants
old fish,
wrapped in yesterdays newspaper,
flies buzzing,
inedible no matter how
and fried.
fresh love
another sign reads,
making you pause and think,
who wants old
wrapped in yesterdays newspaper,
flies buzzing
after too much
time gone by.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

baking for the holidays

with my apron on,
my holiday apron with snow flakes
and candy canes
I set out to make
a few batches of Christmas
on Christmas morning.
I like to give out warm
it's who I am.
I get the large bowl out,
the mixer
and preheat the oven.
I make myself a large
egg nog with a splash
of rum, two splashes.
I take out my old betty crocker
cookbook and turn
to the cookie page.
eggs and flour, it says.
a rolling pin,
cookie sheets,
I need to go to the store.
I have nothing.
maybe they have cookies.

the home made gift

for thirty two dollars
he found
a local artist who
made a portrait and a t-shirt
imprint of his
he showed me the finished
pieces of art,
taking them out
of his car.
the child looked inhuman.
a greenish hue
had blended into
the flesh tone,
the hair was pointed
and wet.
the kid's eyes were
crossed, one green, the other
more blue.
his head was shaped like
an unshelled peanut.
saying nothing would have
been the best response,
but I said, oh my.
do you think she'll like
them, he asked,
folding the t-shirt neatly
and placing it back into
his car.

the tree

my father pulled over
to the side of the road one
snowy December
and chopped a tree down
a mile from
the Mt. Vernon estate,
along the state park,
beside the Potomac river.
he'd been drinking for
most of the night.
he turned the headlights
out towards the dark woods,
then carried a small hatchet
out to a line of trees.
in no time he came back
dragging an eight foot
blue fir which he
jammed into the trunk
and off we went,
his eyes glazed
blue with what he'd done,

the fix is in

the fix is in.
it's all been decided
before you were ever born.
this is the way
it will go
and there is nothing you
can do about it.
tomorrow has already
from day one until the last
day, the last breath
you take,
each hour has
been composed. you're
just playing out the role
of you, wondering
where it all goes.

the sporty red one

her sister was cuter
and funnier than she was,
she had sass,
but I had no shot at her,
so I settled in
with the one I met
and made a go of it.
smart plain jane.
I often wondered what life
would be like
if I had gone with
the younger one,
but I think that way
about everything.
the meal I just ordered,
maybe I should have
had steak
not this plain
piece of chicken on my plate,
or the car I bought,
reserved and grey, instead
of the sporty red one.
how many white shirts
can I buy?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

at the gate

i stand alone
at the gate.
i have come
to this at this point
in my life.
at this gate.
this iron fence.
behind it something waits.
there is always
something waiting, behind
each door
i knock on.
i know nothing about where
i'm going,
but i accept that easily
with each
passing year.
the days brush by like
from a gun. i no longer
hear the bang,
or see the smoke,
i just feel
the bullet rush by,
missing me once more.
today i am at the gate,
tomorrow, God willing,
i'll be at another.

is love here

it's a narrow door.
my shoulders
rub against the frame
as I squeeze in.
the stairway
is narrow too, and dark.
a single
bulb swings
from the top of the tiled
the stairs are a sea
green, almost brown.
the walls are
glossed with a thick
graffiti in large
black swipes
goes up as far as an
arm can reach.
I smell cabbage cooking,
I hear a dog
a baby crying.
televisions blare
behind each metal door.
there is a yellow
puddle pooled in the corner.
I wonder if there is love
there has to be,
how else could one
go on.

free range

i'm in love with
a chicken farmer, she tells me.
I met him
online, well, not really met him,
we've been writing
to one another.
he sent me a picture of
his chickens.
some are white, some are brown.
he says that he
wants me to come
visit him on his ranch,
or farm,
whatever it is.
I told him that I have a fantastic
recipe for
chicken pot pies, which
upset him.
he said that he doesn't kill
his chickens,
he sells them and they
kill them.
he is very attached to his
chickens, they are almost
like pets.
free range chickens, he calls
he told me to not worry about
my shoes, he has
little slip on booties
to cover them up.
as I said,
they are free range chickens.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

the good woman

he starts off
by saying, when I was indigent,
I couldn't get
insurance, or buy a car.
in fact I gave my old
car to my sister.
look at my ankle. I have gout.
a soap opera
is on tv, there is a cat
on top
of the tv.
I went to a good school,
he says,
moving strands of hair
across his bald head.
i'm an engineer
by trade, but when the market
I was out of work, i'm
still out of work.
I've haven't worked since 2002.
I have a good woman though,
he says.
she works everyday,
she leaves early and comes
home late.
I don't know why she's good
to me, he says.
but she is.
i'm trying to lose weight.
it's hard.
I take a walk everyday.
I go up to the 7-11. and back.
i'm going in a few minutes,
if I can get my shoes on.
is there anything I can get you?

sun rise

the sun is without manners,
barging in
all warm
and yellow with her
smile. settling across
my arms,
my face.
she is not unkind,
just persistent
as she rises
and tells me gently
to get up,
get up boy, start
your day.

the unknown

I am
the man on the roof
in the hot sun
spreading tar,
the beautician
with a pair scissors
and sore feet.
I am behind the counter
cutting meat,
I am taking
from hand to hand
at the toll both,
I am
underground digging coal,
cutting lumber,
the clerk
from nine to five
at the
hardware store.
I am the cab driver,
the woman
cleaning homes.
I am without glory
or celebrity.
I keep my nose to the ground,
make enough
to get by.
I am invisible
to the other world
and below.
I am born into this,
and will
go unknown, except
for those
that love me here,
and when i'm gone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

blue lights

one light goes
out on the string and they
all go out.
which one it is
will take some time.
each needs to be spun
and tested.
you hope it's not
a blue light.
it's the only color
that you really
care about.
you can live without
orange, red
or white.
green is okay too, but
blue is
your favorite.
by Christmas
you should have it
figured out.

hurry, the bus is coming

who isn't busy, I tell
her on the phone. who doesn't
have a thousand
things to do,
places to be.
who isn't driving the kids
to school,
taking the dog in,
waiting for the plumber,
the maid,
late for work again.
who isn't in a hurry?
you, she says.
you seem to be past all
of that.
true, I say. true.

snow chains

my father on his knees
wrapping snow
chains around the rear
tires is an image I have
of him.
cigarette in his mouth,
no gloves, a car jacket
on. his soft shoes.
the car running, a blue
cloud of exhaust
dirtying the snow.
I see him in the morning,
out there, trying
to get away, to get somewhere,
he's always been on the run,
just out of reach,
wrapping snow chains
around tires, clueless
about love
and what it takes to stay


you keep the receipts
to everything.
one never knows if a gift
needs to be
if it's even given.
things change.
how easily the storm
moves in,
makes love cold.

now sold

how quickly we
disappear. the voice
you heard
last night,
the presence, those light
down the stairs.
how quickly the bed
is cold.
one dish set out,
one key
left on a table, the sign
gone up
for sale, the empty house,
now sold.

Monday, December 19, 2016

holiday shopping

i take a day off
from work
to go Christmas shopping.
it's too early
to start drinking,
so i don't.
I stare at the bottle of
Russian vodka
in the ice box.
the tonic water and lime.
I look at the untouched
fruit cake
that my father sent me.
thirty pounds of hardened goo.
re-gifting crosses my mind,
but there is no one
that I dislike that much.
my circle of friends
that i must reciprocate gifts
for has shrunken
down to just a few.
death and distance has taken
its toll. some have become
devout atheists and are
going to hell
in a handbasket, so
the list is short.
life is short.
it's cold out, where are my gloves?
but I digress.
everyone has everything
who doesn't have a toaster
or a food processor by now?
how much lingerie
or pairs of fuzzy slippers
can a woman have?
I sit in my car and stare
out at the vast
parking lot of the shopping mall,
excuse me,
I mean towne center,
the acres of cars.
it's almost time to go in.
I see the salvation army santa
putting out his cigarette
beneath his unshined
he rings his bell in his slow
methodical way, adjusting his
yellowed beard.
I break some smelling salts
under my nose,
take a sip of my black
coffee. I go in.

the weathervane

a dry spell
arrives across the land of you.
the hills
bare and brown.
the sky a low
band of white clouds
doing nothing.
you sigh.
you look around.
there is no inspiration
in the well.
the hills,
the face in the window
what's wrong with you.
the weathervane,
is unmoving
on the peak.

men are different

for women
it's not a one day celebration.
it's a week or two
week long
affair of gatherings,
and parties,
balloons and cakes.
the announcements before
so that everyone knows,
so that everyone
comes and can join in.
candles blown out,
tears and hugs.
gifts and flowers.
men are different,
they say, oh yeah, it
was yesterday.

ancient love

just a vase.
a relic from another age.
and shaped
by someone's hands
in Italy,
or france.
or maybe bayonne new jersey.
who's to know
where things
come from
but now, it's dust
and shards
upon the floor,
tumbled down
by a shaky leg from
the end table
you pulled out
from the wall.
don't worry, she says.
it was a gift
from someone I don't
love anymore.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

after bible study

i picked Susie
up after her bible study
one night, one winter,
a thousand years ago.
she didn't want to go home
right away, so we
bought a bottle
of wine, drank it in the car
then went back to the church
where she showed me
the wooden shed where they kept
the Christmas
decorations. the long strings
of lights and candles.
the manger,
with the straw.
the shepherds. the three
kings. mary, joseph and the
baby Jesus.
we sat down next to the
bales of straw. leaning on
a plastic camel
lying on his side
and kissed, drank more wine.
the moon shot through
the cracks of the split planks,
lighting us up in stripes.
we shouldn't do this,
she said. pointing around
at the still figures.
i turned each of them away
so that their eyes were not
looking at us, but still
she said no.
for a little while.

liver and onions

I remember my
mother standing over the stove,
at the thick black
pan spitting grease,
sautéing beef livers
and onions.
we gagged.
wanted none of it.
she knew that, finally
finding one
thing to eat
that we didn't want
to share and devour.

the side of the road

you hate
to see a dead cat
or dog
on the side of the street,
off the leash,
a collar
on. a runaway from
careless out
on the open roads.
but with muskrats
it's different,
or squirrels, even
a bird
that flies into
your windshield,
a snake, perhaps,
you just don't have
that same
fuzzy sadness for them
and drive on
forgetting about it.

the rear view mirror

after many years,
it's easy to look back
and think
what was I doing
at that point in my life,
in that job,
in those clothes,
driving that car, married
to that particular
she can't be thinking
the same thing,
can she?

her birthday at 65

I don't want cake,
she says, no
surprise party for me.
I don't need
another wish
after blowing out my candles.
I don't need
a gift,
or a dozen roses,
or a card telling me
to be happy.
I just want
and another twenty years
in good health
to enjoy it.

no worry

no worry
or wonder presents
to the small bird,
browned and grey,
or black bird,
cardinal bright as blood
against the fallen
no stress
in what has occurred
with wind and darkness
in the absence
of light.
it is just a day,
and what is needed will
be found,
or not, it continues,
or the next step of life
will occur.
none seemed bothered
like we are,
by it all.

loose change

the blue bowl
on top of the refrigerator
is full of
lint, screws and nails,
and bolts,
debris of the day
taken from
my pockets.
in time i'll take it
all to the bank
and let it roll through
the machine,
counting out
my cash.
spooning the nickels
and dimes
into the slot.
keeping the trash out.
it's clean
going in, clean going
it feels like a bonus
for some reason.
like finding
change between the cushions
of the couch,
or dollars
in the dryer, warm
and crisp.

small claims

you tried not
to finish his sentences
as he struggled
to get the words out.
his stammer and stutter
a slow nervous go
as you both stood in front
of the judge.
he was your lawyer for a small
fee, a small
a life long friend.
so you let him go,
let him ramble
in his stop and start way,
his confidence never
swayed by
his gulping for air
and words.
in time, he finished
and won, shaking your hand,
happy to have
helped you,
happy that you kept
and let him be himself.

Friday, December 16, 2016

i've been here before

I remember you,
the doctor's assistant says.
a little button
on the side of her nose,
her shoulders squared.
her hair, a helmet of hair.
she's german.
I remember you, she
says again.
allergies, right?
whatever, I say.
sniffling and blowing
my nose into a fist full
of tissue.
sit, she says. I need
to take your blood pressure,
I need to weigh you.
tell me how you are.
allergies, I tell her.
wind, rain, the earth.
it all makes me sneeze.
blow into this tube she says.
let's measure your lungs.
I blow.
three times, I blow.
each less than the one
she shrugs. oh well, she
says. and marks
something in a chart.
the doctor will be with
you soon. wait.
I sneeze. I wait. I've
been here before.
as in all in things now.
I've been here before.

the skaters

the ice
grows thick across the pond
while the melt
of sun
slips under a blanket
of woolen
the skaters wait,
skates tied tight as
a moon rises
across the mirrored curve.
these are places where
lovers go,
where the lonely
where children
play, and me
wondering where you
are today.

where we stand

the yard
divided by a stretch of fence,
a wall,
a line of trees
or shrubs
keeps us
in our place. keeps
us home,
the border which tells
us where
we should be. what's mine
is mine,
what's yours is yours.
the space between us
not unlike
these barriers, whether
soft or hard,
defining where we stand.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

the long drive home

she was wearing her
white plastic
out in the yard, a hoe
nearby in case
a snake slithered up.
she was raking leaves
in a long
dress, her hair up.
her face a plum color
in the cold.
the trees were bare
and the sun was
as low as it gets for
that time of year.
i remember looking out
the window
watching her,
raking, pulling weeds,
moving rocks from one place
to another
for no other reason
than it felt right.
sometimes she'd look up
and wave.
i'd wave back and think
about how empty the trees
had become.
i'd think about the long
drive home.

our five and dime

we miss our
five and dime, Lydia
and me.
we miss
the short walk over
past the old Anderson house.
the coffee shop,
the hardware store,
the alley where the bums
hung out.
we miss our five and dime,
our red vinyl seats where
we could sit all
and drink coffee,
eat pie
and talk about
the good old days,
before this, before that
how everything was better
back then.
we miss our five
and dime.
Lydia and me, when
she was around,
we'd go hand in hand
to our little
store, sometimes
stopping to kiss
under a lamp post,
at the beginning of us,
at the edge of town.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

she loves to dance

she likes to dance.
no, let me correct that.
she loves
to dance.
she loves to tell everyone
within range
how much she
loves to dance.
in fact, every chance
she gets
she tells someone
i'm going dancing tomorrow
or tonight,
or Saturday.
I might even go alone,
she says.
she'll stretch
her arms
out, touch her toes
and arch her
back, leaning on a bar stool.
she'll ask if she ever
told you
that she loves
dance, then kick
her leg into the air
to show you
how limber she is.
we should go dancing sometime
she tells you.
do you dance?
you say no, looking at your

the lollipop

my accounts, my picture
and deposit slip
with my name and address
clearly printed
on it,
the teller
at my bank is highly
he needs to go talk
to the manager
he says,
looking at me sideways
turning the check
over and over,
at the numbers.
he locks up his drawer
then leaves.
I take a lollipop from
the bowl
and wait.
sucking on it's sweet
until he returns
to ask will that be
in fifties or twenties.


what's sweet
isn't always so. what's
doesn't always
what's real
sometimes is just
an illusion.
which are you today,
before we go any further,
I need to know.

the barking dog

does that dog bark
all day,
the new owner asks,
as we paint his house
and he comes
to see the progress
of the work.
no, I tell him,
only when you are here.
oh, he says,
looking out the window
at the chained
dog, the hair
on his back standing.

christmas cookies

she offered us
a cookie.
a sugar cookie, hot
from the oven
with sprinkles.
red and green,
Christmas cookies.
she held the plate
and said, take a few.
they're still warm.
so we did
for the ride home,
but I wondered
where the icing was,
like my mother used
to do.

don't borrow money

don't borrow money
from a friend
or relative, or go into
business with
don't sit a table
and discuss
politics or religion.
don't confess
or listen to confessions.
don't offer
or seek counsel.
close your ears when
a secret is whispered
towards you.
to make this love last,
quiet acceptance
is the best
route to take.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

her wings

I look at a road
map, to see how far it is
to where she lives
across country.
I look at the red lines,
the blue highways.
the mountains,
the streams and valleys
i'd need to cross
and go through to get to
her. it's hard
getting from here to there
without wings.
she used to have wings.
she used
to arrive with feathers

the love notes

each day
there is a note attached
to your door.
the gutters are going to be
the roof replaced,
we need to get into
your back yard
so unlock the gate.
we will
be painting next week,
digging up
the old to replant
the new.
trash pick up will be
on Friday this week not
Thursday on account of
the holiday.
never is there a note
saying I love
you. I stopped by to crawl
into bed with
you and kiss you
all over.

preparing for the worst

you have enough
of nearly everything.
fill the drawer, clothes
are stuffed
in the closets.
more shoes
than you'll ever need
are lined against the wall.
there is milk
and bread,
cans of food you'll never
open or eat.
you've spent a lifetime
adding more
onto more
of things you don't need.
you have been preparing
for the worst, it seems.
waiting for the mushroom
cloud on the horizon.
you are still running
home from school
with the sirens blowing
looking up into
the sky
for end.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

i hardly know you

she says no.
you say why not.
she says
I hardly know you.
you say,
I know, but what's
the point.
perhaps in doing this
we will get to know
one another better.
maybe, she says.
you say.
that's better than
a no.
perhaps tomorrow i'll
hear a yes.
she says. maybe,
but for now it's no,
so it might be
best that you
put your shoes back on
and go.

space travel

they've given up
on going to the moon.
been there,
done that.
there is no reason to return.
we have our own rocks
here on earth.
on the moon there is
no air.
no water.
no heat.
no coffee.
they ponder mars next.
peering through
the long telescope,
nodding yes.
it will be more accommodating.

barcelona 1959

the wooden wagon
pulled by a horse,
an old
horse, sagging at the seat,
from his work,
to deliver ice.
with sharp tongs
the man in a striped shirt
a block of melting
ice from the back
of the wagon,
undrapping a canvas
he carts it in
to where your mother
chips it
on the kitchen floor.
a hammer and chisel
in hands.
she stores
what she can into the ice
keeping cold
for another week
and meat.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

the old tricks

I see the trick
in you. the way the cards
are held,
the way, you turn
and hide what you're
up to. the deceptive shuffle.
I see the full
sleeve, the top hat,
what's in your pockets.
I know all of your
distractions, your ploys
to make me
look the other way.
I know you.
you know that don't you.
so stop, please
and come here and sit,
tell me
what's on your mind.


the fire grows
as you bend and feed it
broken in your hand.
tossing more into the flames.
like affection,
the more you give,
the more love and fires

the subway ride

his long black
hung thick and wide
on his
bone thin body.
his hand held the strap
as the subway
car veered
and swayed beneath
the cold bricks
and pavement of the city.
his wife
sat near, studying her
gloved hands.
his silvered eyes
as the stations
rolled by, his good ear
leaning towards
the sound of the conductor's
when they arrived,
the doors slid open
then he nodded to her,
and together they rose
and went to town.

before you go

before you go,
kiss me.
before you leave,
put your hand
upon my heart and say
you love me.
before you
close the door and
walk away
for the last time,
tell me something
I can hold on to
and not be sad.
before you go,
kiss me once
more, like you
did before, when our
love was new,
when it just began.

Friday, December 9, 2016

the pie eulogy

each and every mourner
hardly in mourning,
expressed with some touch
of mirth their
eulogy for aunt jean,
though never really an aunt,
or parent of her own.
instead of grief
and regret,
they spoke of joy, of
her baking
the culinary masterworks
of her life.
one said
how soft and crumbly
the crust
was on her blueberry
nine inch pie, how it
won the county prize,
the blue ribbon even
now adorning
the silver casket which
sits aside
the dirt which will fill
the perfectly carved space
that awaits her.
another talked of pumpkin
which she made for the holidays,
another eulogist brought
her mince meat wonder,
the secrets of which are now
departed with her.
she would be as missed as she
was truly
unknown, or even perhaps
loved, though
finding a way through eggs
and cream, sugar
and dough, a way to overcome
all that.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

before night

the worker
at his station, bent
a machine, grinding
metal down
into a different shape.
the heat and flame
in his hand,
his head
masked hard
to protect him.
there is no complaint,
no concern
about what he does,
the danger,
he only fears that one
the job won't be there,
what is there to do,
what good
are empty hands
to his children, his wife,
the day
he needs to fill
before night.

these woods

these woods you walk
then walk out
haven't changed
much over
the years, so you
as you do of yourself.
what's fallen,
what's died
or grown over.
there are bones scattered
along the path
that you walk
the bare whiteness
of flesh removed
awakens you
to nothing new.
you'll return to these woods
many times
before your own death,
before your own bones
are laid bare,
which bothers you
less and less
as you go deeper into
these old woods.

she's not there

you can rent a room
by the hour
in Amherst
and see what she saw.
peer out her second
story window,
sit where
she sat
and wrote in her strange
way of writing,
perhaps feel
the heat from her stove,
the bed, the linens
where she lay
placing beneath the mattress
her poems,
but still you won't
know her.
everything remains
as it was,
except she's not there.

firmly ashore

it appears to be a short
across the river
to the other side.
the lane
of water moves blue
and soft under
a warm sun.
it looks easy
when you're young,
but you think,
differently now
knowing what you know,
and what lies below.

what draws near

all day
the dead are with you.
into your ear.
putting a hand on
your shoulder.
there is nothing to be
said in return.
you can only listen,
to what is said,
and wait for
what draws near.

the game

the men are getting old,
after decades
of playing ball together,
they still show
in woolen clothes,
sweats buttoned
and pulled
tight to keep out
the wind,
the cold. the limps
and aches
laughed at as we press on.
it's more than a game,
more than
it's beyond all of that.
it's beyond what we
can even begin
to know.

these tools

these tools
that know your hand,
by days of work
are neither friend nor
foe, but
things you hold
when it's time,
when they are needed,
so perhaps,
they are no
different after all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I've been thinking about
buying a horse.
I know nothing about horses.
I've seen them
on tv and in the movies though
and they look like a lot of fun.
if I had a horse I think
I could meet women
who also like horses, which
seems to be every
woman on earth.
I like those pants they wear,
and the boots that go up
past the knees. nice.
love the boots. not to mention
those tight red
jackets with shiny buttons, and hats.
I hate to admit it, but I like
those riding crops too.
maybe I could buy a medium sized horse,
similar to the one
roy rogers had,
trigger. same color, blonde
with brown eyes.
I wouldn't have to get on
it, or ride it around,
I could just keep it in
a barn somewhere and go
down to visit once in awhile,
swat some flies
off it,
hose it down, maybe walk it around
the pasture, bring it some
carrots, oats, cubes
of sugar. maybe for Christmas
someone will buy me a horse.
that would be swell.

love notes

a rock flies through
your window
with a note attached.
it must be from an old
lover, you think,
watching it as it rolls
to a stop
against the far wall,
next to all the other
rocks with notes attached.
you sip your coffee
as the dog goes over
to sniff the new
rock. he looks at you
and shrugs.
some people never quite
get over things, you
think, as you write
your own note
and tape it to a nice
sized rock.

the new you

my therapist asks me how
things are going
lately with the new job,
the new
girlfriend, the new dog,
the new apartment.
i'm stretched out on her
sofa staring at my new
brown shoes and playing
with the buttons on my
new shirt.
good, I say. good. I
think that change is good,
but sometimes I feel like
I don't know who I am
anymore after turning
over so many new leaves.
I see she says.
I look in the mirror with
my new haircut and suntan,
and I almost don't recognize
myself. I ask my new friends
who I am and they laugh.
but are you happy, she says,
clicking her pen open
and closed. are you happy
with the new you?
not really, I tell her.
not really. I sort of miss me.

heading south

it's almost time
to hop the freight train
to florida, find an orange
grove to call home.
you've thrown out the plants,
out the perishables
from the fridge.
folded all the laundry.
yesterday there was
ice on the windshield.
you stared at your snow
still against the wall
in the basement.
maybe after Christmas,
or new years
you'll go down to the station
and pick out a nice
empty box car,
chase it as it rambles
slowly south
and jump on.
a bag of clothes, a pocket
full of cash
a banjo strapped
to your back.

Monday, December 5, 2016

escape plan

it's good to know
where the back door is.
where the key
is hidden, which window
is not latched.
it's good to know,
a basement or any attic
where you can go
and get out in a flash.
it's good
to have a plan
of escape
in any form of endeavor.

how easy

how easy
and cruel it is
to argue and not agree,
one's own
brand of knowledge
and opinion
to any ear
within reach, that
cannot flee.

rest in peace

til death do we
part sounds
ominous, but it's really
an optimistic note
on a tragic ending.
you are finally free
to eat
what you want, wear
the clothes that you want,
snore and snore
stretching, having
the whole bed to your self.
you can stay
home and watch the game
in your underwear,
no longer
attending the gatherings
of in-laws,
making small talk, while
checking your
phone for the score.
may we both rest in peace.

the beard

a completely smooth
is difficult
as one ages.
the creases and sags,
the nooks
and crannies
of one's face grows
increasingly strange,
becoming new
terrain for the razor.
some stubble
is left behind, shaving
cream too,
behind an ear,
along the neck.
there are nicks, cuts
that dribble out
rivulets of blood,
stopped only
with tissue
or the collar of a shirt.
as time goes on you have
new admiration
for those
that give it all
up, and discover
the ease
of a walt Whitman beard.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

the rainbow arm

we signed
the cast on my mother's arm
the next day.
colored it
with paint
and crayons.
a rainbow appeared
on the white cast
that went from
to elbow.
thick and smoothed,
wrapped so that a thumb
and fingers
poked out.
she still
had her left hand
to boil water,
fill bottles,
change diapers
and get us to school.
my father
remained unscathed.
sleeping it all
only a small scratch
on his unshaved

the all night store

some cans,
some jars with labels
expiration dates
and passed
on the shelf.
some in the ice
in the cupboard,
nestled tightly,
side by side.
sometimes I move them
to the back
to make room
for more.
like us.
what was new becomes
replaced, renewed,
the open all night

Saturday, December 3, 2016

physics class

i know little about science
or physics
having learned
the bare minimum
back in high school
the rudimentary knowledge
forced upon
us by narrow
collared teachers
with thick
spectacles. my thoughts
lay elsewhere.
there was no enjoyment
in learning
how an apple
on the moon dropped
would hit the ground
at the same time as a feather.
did Cyndi know that?
three rows up
in her plaid skirt.
her pony tail.
her small hand raised
for nearly
every question posed?
of course she did.

was it fun?

it's less
about love or money,
things lost in the long
of life.
it's not where
you are, how far you've
who you know,
sleep with.
it's not the car, the house,
the prizes
that you've won,
the diplomas earned,
it's about none
of this as the end
draws near.
as the light grows dim
around you.
was it fun?

the day and the next day

in the morning,
I watch the man
the mortar with a pointed
along the walk way,
new bricks into place.
his level
tells him less
or more.
he wipes his brow,
his water.
in time the stairs are
new again.
settling hard,
for feet to tread upon.
he goes home,
has dinner with his wife.
tells his
goodnight, and thinks
the next day, the next
set of steps
he needs to make

this wind

this wind
the woods. unsettles all
not tight
and wound
upon the trees.
the shiver of winter
how quickly
the pages turn,
the lives
of loved ones,
once flowers,

Friday, December 2, 2016

i've met someone

through the shared wall
I could hear my neighbor
playing her piano.
sometimes if there were no
students there,
she would sing too.
she had a high pitched voice
not unlike laura nyro.
I preferred her just playing.
it was easy
to lie there
and fall asleep on the couch
as her fingers danced
easily across
the keys.
we never talked about it
when we greeted each
other in the parking lot,
coming and going, raking leaves,
or shoveling snow.
one day she told me that she
had met someone.
it wasn't long after that,
that she moved.

season tickets

on the phone, very late
into the night
my friend
he's unusually calm, whispering
into the phone,
I imagine his
hand cupped around the
as he looks towards
the basement steps
to see if anyone
is coming down.
i'm getting a divorce, he
I found a place, a condo,
on the west end.
it's perfect.
he gives me no time to
respond and keeps
I've met someone, he says,
actually I have
maybe three prospects.
my wife doesn't know,
the kids
don't know. I've only
told a few people,
you being one
of them. he waits.
I here him breathing,
waiting for me to say something.
what about your season
tickets to the games,
I ask him.
my god he says, I haven't
even thought about that.

like us

the ship
seems still
that far out along the grey
green coast
of the atlantic
it hardly
appears to be moving,
going anywhere.
you can see the curve
of the earth.
looking left to right,
the way shadows
lie down
like blankets
upon the wide sea,
but the ship, it's dull red
hull remains still,
until it doesn't
anymore, and like us,
from view.

be happy

it's not just another
the speaker says, jubilant
and glowing
on the stage,
giving his seminar
on positive thinking
and finding joy
in your life
no matter what the
today is the first day
of the rest of your life
he shouts.
he bounces around
in his new suit and shoes,
his hair slicked
back. his books
are stacked up on a table,
to be sold,
signed and ready
to go.
it's all going well until
someone in
the audience
throws a tomato at him.
hitting him in the head.
he's not so
happy then.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

spit polish

I haven't shined a pair of shoes
in a long time.
maybe decades have passed
since I took out the small
bag with polish
and brush, a chamois cloth
and put a sheen onto a pair
of buster browns.
there hasn't been a need to.
the funeral shoes
get dusty, but are almost
new. the wedding shoes,
which look like the funeral
shoes, but more fancy,
are the same. dusty and just
need a wiping of a dry cloth.
but if I had to, I could.
I could take a pair
of dulled leather boots
and make them glow, make
them shine in the overhead
light at the kitchen table.
the newspaper down, just like
my mother told me.

we need you

when you worked in an office
any task
that involved lifting
came to you
being low man on the pole.
they found you in your boxed
in corner,
behind a desk,
holding a mere
pencil that was about
to be broken in your restless fist.
what was the point of
being young
and strong if you were
not to be used
in this way.
get the box off the top
shelf, we need more paper,
they'd say.
get the dolly and wheel
this water cooler out to the curb.
lift it into
the trunk.
can you move the copying
machine out from
the wall,
can you lift that desk,
slide the cubicle
down a few feet?
but you didn't mind.
at happy hour things were

hot tea

the hot tea
burns your tongue.
for hours
it stings
at the tip, along
the edges,
it's a small reminder
of what can
when you sip too quickly
too soon,
put your lips
to the edge
of any hot cup
you don't know.

you're welcome

the boy who sat
next to me through twelve grades
of school. the boy
who cheated off my
papers, copied
my homework, word
for word.
the boy who never read
a book, or
raised his hand
in class.
yes, that boy,
the boy who I slipped
the answers to
during every test
for years and years,
that boy
is now a doctor.
I want to visit him
at some point
and tell him, you're

unlike mine

I worry about my son,
how casual
and carefree he is living
in southern California.
I want him to once
and be unable to sleep,
to concern himself
about money and a career.
but no.
instead, he's happy
with his life.
basking in the glow
of a warm sun,
making ends meet.
he's content with his girlfriend,
his dog,
his ability to relax
and live a life
unlike mine.

holiday decor

the lights won't go on.
you flip
the switch.
but no.
the silver tree stays unlit.
you pull on the wire,
pop in new batteries,
still nothing.
you pick it up and give
it a good shake.
it might be time
for a new Christmas tree
to set upon your table.
it had a good
run though.
seven or eight years
being carried
up from the laundry
to complete your extensive