Saturday, December 30, 2017

new year resolutions

what is your new years
resolution
the waitress
behind the counter asks
as I sit and order
a chopped green salad.
funny you should ask,
I tell her. I actually
have several.
for one thing i'm going to start
speaking my mind.
I've earned the right.
i'm at that age now where I
should be able to call
people out
on the bad things they're doing.
tell people how I really feel
about them.
okay, she says, okay,
putting a knife and fork
beside my bowl
of greens.
what else?
i think I might
start drinking more, martinis
or manhattans maybe, and
eating more red meat,
grilling out on real charcoal,
not those gas grills.
what else, she asks, as
I flip the lettuce leaves over,
pulling out
the cranberries.
I need to relax more and stop
stressing out
about things I have no
control over, like traffic
and my immediate family.
I thought about taking
up smoking too,
but that's a cup of crazy.
so, she says,
hands on her aproned hips,
speaking
without a filter, red meat,
and drinking are your
new years resolutions?
and being more relaxed?
yeah, and less salads too,
I tell her,
sprinkling bacon bits onto
the bowl, then chunks of blue
cheese.
I've had it with salads.

men and women

the women
have their cheese.
their salmon,
their red wine,
and chardonnay.
politely they say excuse
me when going
to powder their nose,
while over in the corner
the men
are pulling the legs
off a chicken
and drinking
beer or hard cider,
chewing on slow cooked
swine.
somehow they find
a middle ground,
and get along.

tell me how you really feel

the gravy train
stops
and you discover who people
really are when
they no
longer get what they want,
no longer
get a check
in the mail.
a pocket of cash to get
them buy.
or a quiet nod when they
tell you of
their lies.
you discover sadly
how you've been played.
conned,
and manipulated for
so many years, enabling
them
by saying nothing, calling
them out
on nothing. letting them
go on,
as if everything
was alright.
no one is perfect, especially
me,
but speaking
up is difficult
at times.

what must be done

I dream of salmon
large pink salmon,
swimming upstream,
their bodies bending
with muscle
in the sunlight.
the glisten of their
scales, the bright flecks
of blue
and silver,
small rainbows above
the rage
of white water.
I dream of them
leaping, pushing their way
up to where they need
to be.
I dream of some
in the mouths of bears,
clawed from
thin air, they too
doing what must be done
to go on.

the note

after the thieves
ransacked the car, I wondered,
what they were
now doing with my
picture id,
my credit cards, now
cancelled.
the garmin, the small wad
of cash I kept
for emergencies.
and when I get
the police report I know
where they
stopped for gas,
for beer and cigarettes,
how they ate at mcdonalds
at seven in the morning,
hardly an hour after
seizing my goods.
I can see them at the table
eating French fries,
drinking milkshakes,
staring at my
library card,
my triple A card,
a note reminding me
of ginger's birthday,
there they are
gazing at a picture
of you
and me.

the square yard

I see no hope
for the back yard.
the stack of ladders,
the old fire place made
of metal,
the rattle of the wood
on the limp
shed.
a weber grill
that's seen better days.
look at how the vines
have
creeped
into the fence, climbed
with fast fingers,
green
upon the brick.
where's it going?
the bushes are scarce,
and stiff,
the ground cover a mix
of gravel and weeds.
it's a pleasant place perhaps
for birds,
for snakes, for passing
animals
looking for shelter,
but not for me.

red with winter

it's a tight fit,
but i'm able to squeeze
the car
into the narrow spot
before the plowed
drift,
slipping slightly on
soft snow.
the treachery of weather
is upon
us.
the slide of
boots
and shoes,
wrapping tight the noose
of scarves
around us.
pulling down the wool
upon our
heads.
our cheeks red with
wind
and winter.

to unworry

we are what
we do. the habits we
form
and continue
from day
to day, into night.
how we sleep,
or eat,
how we speak to one
another,
moving things into
positions
that feel just
right.
we need the comfort
of the same.
narrowing our
world into
tidy safe places.
oasis
we can go to
and unworry.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

take one

the woman at the market
stands
by her tomatoes, her plums,
her apples.
she's proud of the boxed
fruit, the busheled
potatoes. it's
as if she herself
put the seeds into
the ground, watered
and tended to their growth.
maybe.
she says taste one, go
on, see what they taste like.
you wont regret, you'll
buy. you will take them home
to your wife, your
children, your friends,
they will smile and want
to know where they
came from. go on, take one.

hot coffee

the coffee is hot
here.
the waitress is soft spoken
and fun.
older than rain, but
clever with a wink.
she knows what I want,
but brings
a menu just the same.
I slide it to
the side
and say her name.
over easy, I tell her.
bacon and toast.
juice.
I know she says
and walks away.
tomorrow i'll come back
and we'll
do it again
for old time's sake.

the man outside

I see a man standing
outside my house.
he's across the street
wearing a long black
coat.
he's stiff, looking
towards my
window.
the shape of him
in the fog
is tall and lean.
he looks like a shadow.
his hands are in
his pockets.
he wants something,
from someone,
perhaps from me.
but i'm busy with things.
I don't have
the time for whatever
it is he wants,
or needs to say.
I go out the back door.
I hope one day
he comes to his senses
and goes away.

her last meal

she says that for a last
meal
if convicted and sent
to the gas chamber
for some horrific crime
she'd like to go
out on fudge.
fudge brownies, white
fudge.
fudge with raspberry.
dark chocolate
of any kind.
perhaps a Whitman's
sampler
and glass of wine.

remember the time

I ask her if she
remembers Woodstock, how
hard it rained,
the music,
the craziness of it all,
how we danced
and sang
threw our hands
to sky
when Janis Joplin
came on.
how we passed around
a bottle of
boone's farm wine.
she says no,
I was only nine.
oh. well,
what about when
the beatles came to
town?
oh never mind, just
come here and kiss
me. perhaps we should
make our
own history.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

home again

it might take days or
months
when younger to get over
being misunderstood
by someone I love.
now I sigh
say a prayer
and go for a walk.
I skip a stone across
the icy pond.
I count the stars,
gaze at the moon.
at walks end
i'm whole again
and home.

how nice to have a dog

how nice
to have a dog.
a big pooch with floppy
ears
and wet nose,
a paw
scratching at his
side.
how he howls at the moon
and stretches
before lying
in a puddle of sun.
his bark
heard down the block.
look how he gnaws
at my shoe.
how nice to have
dog.
thanks for bringing
him by.

lamps on line

the special
order lamp is delayed.
seems
shades
are
being bought in bundles,
hiding the light
from so
many faces, eyes
turned
upwards into
the harsh glare
of a hundred watts
laid bare.

the stage mother

some mothers shadow
the child
from birth till death,
keeping close,
never letting
them breathe
on their own, they never
cut the cord
or let them know
what pain is when suffered
alone,
or
what it means to bleed,
or to find their
way when lost,
without a line of seeds,
back home.

we disagree

I surrender,
toss in the towel, raise
the white
flag.
what good is it to argue.
two minds
made up
with different views.
leave it on
the table, why go over
it again
as done ten years ago,
or more,
and will be same
ten more from now.

quick haste

the mud comes in
on his boots.
red brown and wet.
he make his tracks
along
the floor,
the stairs, into
the room
where she waits.
the carpet holds
the imprint
of his weight.
there is no time to
clean
or take them off.
she must be seen,
she must
be made aware of how much
betrayal costs.
the trail
he'll leave behind
will tell her.

sand pebble

this pebble in my hand
so smooth
so round, so white,
where it's been
or how it got here
from some
distant land of
ice, or wind,
swept along in rain
is hard to say.
this pebble,
so smooth in my hand,
i'll set it down again
and let it go on
its way.

the vagrant moon

a vagrant moon
appears in the sky,
the streets are full
of men
in long coats.
leaning forward
in the wind.
it's too cold to sin,
too cold
to be of good cheer.
the brittle
trees
hold on
as we do trying
to get home again.

nothing left to do or say

all you can do
sometimes
is pray about things.
be silent,
let go
and pray
that the truth will somehow
prevail,
that love will overcome
the differences,
and rise
and fill each soul
with compassion
and forgiveness.

the apple and the tree

the apple,
now bitter,
does not
fall too far
from the tree,
but there are
two trees
and one wins out
unfortunately,
planting herself
again,
nearby.

thirty years later

still you protect your children,
you cover
their ears
and eyes from the harsh
truth
of reality.
you give and give hoping
to make up
for some loss
of time.
you make their lives as
normal as possible,
through
grade school into college
and beyond.
saving and spending,
giving them all the things
they need
out of love.
some see the effort,
some don't, some churn
inside forever,
wondering why things are
they way they are,
but still you don't tell
them.
it's too hard.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

delores

I can hear her mother's
voice
on the phone, going between
French and English,
the heavy accent,
the proper phrasing, the love
so pure
for her daughter.
she's still a child in her arms.
still a girl
who needs her
hair braided, her dress
just right, sent off
with a prayer and a kiss
on each cheek,
her shoes tied
tight.

the spill of time

the spill
of time, that puddle of hours
we've lost
in worry.
in grieving what can't
be undone,
that dull spot on the floor,
where
we let it drip and drip
until
empty, until there was
no more.
how careless we
are
with time, with each
hour,
with each daily pour.

how she rolls

some are dressed in bling.
from
neck to toe,
a bracelet, a watch,
an emerald ring, or
a band of gold.
some
never leave the house
without
a diamond
or ruby placed somewhere
where it must
be seen,
while others just rely
on what's inside,
that inner glow,
they need nothing
to make them shine,
they are walking bling.

beauty within

she's not a pretty
girl anymore,
the man says, at least not
like she was
when we met
so many years ago. and yet
I love her
more today
than yesterday and I realize
how fleeting
beauty on the outside
is
but not within,
how foolish I have been
to wait so long
to know what I should have
known then.

slow down

it's hard to change
from being
so fast
with things,
scurrying ahead
without a thought
or looking
both ways.
just getting there seems
to be the only goal,
then to find
that in
getting there.
by being the hare,
you've become
too rash.
it's time to slow down,
to be
the tortoise,
to pace oneself
and seek that
and only that which
will last.

all night long

there is singing
next door.
a piano, I can hear
them.
I hear the dogs barking,
the children
running
up the stairs.
there is life next
door.
the open windows,
the sound
of dancing
against the floors.
what fun they're having
beyond my wall.
what joy
there is in their
lives.
I hope it goes on
all night long.

one petal

the small gifts
are large,
the book, the poem,
the baked
goods.
a note written with
love.
they outshine
the diamond,
out live
the clothes.
they last forever in
a heart, one petal
plucked
from a keepsake
rose.

still in touch

it's hard to let go
of old things, things that
no longer
can be used or worn.
the shirts and shoes,
that luggage
dust caked in the corner.
the broken things
we store
and keep for sentimental
reasons.
the loves that linger
on,
that we keep nearby,
unable to
let go.

our actions

the words are fine.
the sweet talk of love
and forever,
I want you to be mine.
but they mean
little
compared to the touch,
the things
done.
action
says it all, not wishes
and whispers,
not cards
or letters, not calls.
we decide who's in
who's out,
who stays close by,
or not at all.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

time to sleep

the bones of the beast
are dry in the light,
the scrapings
of corn pudding, the hard
scraps
of crust
from bread
we had no room to eat.
the stain
of cranberry
on the white linen cloth.
the packages
torn asunder
of all things shopped
for
and hastily bought.
the sleep
of the night is welcome
now,
it's over it's over
only three hundred and fifty
three days
before we
do more.

don't say i'm fine

we need to tell one another
that we hurt.
that we
are in pain, or confused,
distressed.
we can't stay silent
and let this problem simmer
beneath the skin,
into a hot boil.
don't say i'm fine.
we are lying if we do.
hard words
are good words at times.
the gloves
have to come off
if love is to be lasting,
and true.

the room where she dies

she's unwhole,
lying in the same bed for nine
months.
her glasses gone,
her voice silent.
she's underwater, does she hear,
does she
know her son who
sits on the bed beside
her
and holds her hand.
it's a sad room.
a dark
room down the hall.
we pray,
I push her hair back.
I wipe her
chin of food.
I cry and feel for her life
which isn't a life
anymore,
but a slow death.
and after she dies
someone else
will
lie where she lies,
another son will come and
think these things
as well.

the one night room

the room, not far
from the shore, but not close
enough
to make the cost
be more,
is square and simple.
the smell of dust
and loneliness linger
in the wallpaper,
patterned as if the beige
scales
of an old fish.
the bed of iron rests
against the far wall.
a table,
and lamp,
a curtain, sheers,
of a flowered nature
fall
short of the sill.
a bathroom down the hall.
it's a room for one night
or two.
not a room for lovers,
or for keeps,
but a room to rest
and be off the road,
to sleep.

lost love

lost love is hard.
the pangs
of it,
the sleepless nights.
the ill
feeling of something
isn't right.
desperation sets in.
we reach,
we call, we send.
we play the music we
once listened to
together.
we tearfully visit
the spots
where love once bloomed,
now old and grey,
ancient ruins.
we ride by
to catch a glimpse,
we hope.
lost love is hard,
the tears
and trying keep
going,
keep going, we keep
walking
blindly in the wind.

Friday, December 22, 2017

the tiled floor

the tiles
cut easily. each finding
a place
upon the floor.
each
snug and tight
against the other,
the wall,
cut clean and even
where the end is,
at the door.
how sweet life would be
if it
went that way. with
no loose ends,
no frayed edges to worry
us
throughout
the day.

purging

the trash truck
is fun to watch as it gobbles
up
the years
of unwanted things.
bad prints of monet and van
gogh.
shoes with worn
soles.
there goes the lamp
my mother gave me when I was
twenty years old.
that pot
that burned on the stove.
a box of old photos
of people I never knew then,
and still don't know.
how easily the big
doors open
and moan,
then crunch down with its
metal mouth
upon my history, for better
or worse,
making it gone.

the answer

life
is not a circle.
not a square
or
rectangle. there are
no even sides,
no middle, no
straight lines
going from
point a
to point b.
there is no equation,
no mathematical
solution
to solve
the problems put
before you.
no sine or cosine.
no square root of anything.
you just have to wing
it sometimes
close your eyes
and say
I think that's the answer
today.

social media quicksand

you try to delete
your life from social media.
sick
of the voyeuristic nature
of it all.
the inane postings,
the searching,
the snooping around into
other's lives, but they wont
let you go.
you delete, you wipe clean
the slate,
but when you go to look
to make sure you're gone,
you're still there.
your picture, your name,
your life's information.
like tentacles they wrap
themselves around
you and won't let go,
dragging you
forever into the quicksand.
even the dead are active
within the last
two hours.

the cookie queen

she is the queen of cookies.
in the kitchen
still in her work clothes. her
work shoes.
her coat on.
her hands in the bowl
of dough.
sugar and butter, vanilla.
cutting each
one out into stars and hats.
candy canes.
each tray goes into the warm
oven,
she waits. she stares
through the open glass,
the light on.
when they cool she wraps
each package
with a ribbon and a bow,
a name.
tomorrow they will get their
cookies
and be happy
with the love she shares
so gracefully.

before sleep

it's nearly
midnight, but I decide
to wash my car
in the dark.
it's thirty eight degrees.
I fill a bucket
of warm water and soap
and go at it,
feeling my way along
the body,
the tires, the windshield.
I throw more buckets
of water onto
the hood,
the sides. I rub it down
with a dry towel.
then wipe each window.
it's nearly midnight
and I can see a crescent
moon
between the bare limbs
of swaying
trees.
I can go to sleep now.

surrender

I used to care
about so many things I no
longer care
about now.
the list is long.
the focus
is different now
with grey in my hair,
the heart
still strong despite
the scars.
so much has come and gone,
all the worry
and angst in the world
has done nothing
to change that.
I get it now.
relax. be at peace with
whatever comes,
or doesn't.
surrender to that
higher power
and have no fear
of tomorrow.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

permanent liberty

my father
begins each day with a black
cup of coffee.
very hot.
two slices
of toast and a bowl of
oatmeal.
he reads the paper,
checks the lottery numbers,
then
takes a walk around
the block
before coming home
to cut coupons.
he might go out into the small
square of a back
yard and tend to his
tomatoes and peppers.
straighten the fence around
them.
the television is always
on.
a new flat screen,
jerry rigged to use one
remote.
his big chair is in the corner.
it's pleather
with cup holders.
around him are photos
of all of his
children and grand
children of whom
he rarely sees or
speaks to,
but there they are.
after being on a dozen ships
and serving
thirty one years in the navy.
he's docked
for good now.

getting a complex

the woman next
door
accidentally said hello to me
the other day.
normally her and her husband
are cold as ice.
silent
and unresponsive
to my cheerful
greetings.
she thought I was someone
else
taking the trash to the curb.
she said,
hey.
then she saw who I was,
and quickly
put her trash down
and moved like a bunny
back into her house.
i'm not sure what I must
have done
to either of them
to cause this behavior
but it's giving me a complex.

the go to analysis

my therapist
was on vacation, but I called
her anyway.
i'm on vacation, she said
when she picked up the phone.
I could hear
the ocean behind her,
the clinking of glasses,
the breaking of
lobster shells
in her hand.
more butter, I heard her
whisper. garcon,
more butter.
can't this wait? she said.
I had a bad dream,
I told her.
I dreamed I was in the ocean
swimming
and swimming.
the waves were enormous,
but I wasn't scared.
she let out a sigh.
we've been over this dream
so many times.
it's your mother, you have
to let go of these
feelings of abandonment
and let her be
who she is. you be you.
move on with your life.
garcon, I hear her say.
tapping the table with a glass.
we're out of champagne
over here.
that's it? I told her.
no matter what I say you say
it's about my mother.
I know, I know. it's my go to
analysis, but hey.
i'll see you when I get back
in two weeks.
we'll have a session
and talk this through again.
i'll have cindy in the office
bill you for this one.

sit up straight

where once I was deemed
adorable,
with flaws, I was
now, almost over night,
it seemed, deplorable.
the ex would needle me
incessantly,
pick the lint off my coat.
brush
back an eyebrow, point
out
the spinach
in my teeth, or tell
me that i'm
talking too loud.
tuck in your shirt,
sit up straight.
you have shaving cream
in your ear, she'd say.
let me help you with that.
I appreciated all of her
hard work,
making me the man she
wanted me to be.
but finally she gave up,
there was just too much
to fix. now
I feel lost without her,
walking about
with a long strip of paper
stuck to the sole
of my shoe.

say what?

I forget to
put the stickers on the tags,
misplace
my keys,
my wallet. I don't remember
the name of my
first dog,
my first wife, what I had
for dinner.
did I even have dinner?
did I eat
yesterday, or this morning?
how do I separate an egg white?
who am I?
who are these people that keep
calling me by
a strange name.
is that the sun, or is it
the moon rising
in the sky.
is it old age,
dementia?
am I ready for that padded
room,
or is it just the holiday
season upon me?

daily devotions

without
these words in ink,
these thoughts that I go
to daily,
i'd be lost,
i'd sink.
i'd be drowning in a sea
of mystery
without a light.
bring me
more words to read,
more
blood from the cross,
more
rising from the dead
in victory.

imperfections

we turn the vase
so that the vein of a crack
doesn't show.
we knock down
the webs in the corner,
turn over
the pillows on the sofa
to hide the stain.
we do our
best to be perfect,
worrying foolishly
about things that don't
matter.

postcard from LA

to the west coast he goes,
hardly
to be seen again, the post
card,
the call.
the plea
for supplies. the painted
picture of
how hard life is there.
send money.
how quickly
the need for love
subsides.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

early morning dmv

third in line at the dmv
was
an act of mercy.
by seven thirty there were
twenty people
behind me
standing outside the locked
doors,
shivering in the cold
air.
drinking coffee, smoking,
tapping their
feet, staring
numbly into their phones,
the paper work
of cars and trucks,
hard plates beneath their
arms.

gazelles

we would jump
the chain link fences in
a bound.
our young legs lifting us
over the three foot
high
steel wire
to the other side.
a short run then over
we'd go.
gazelles full of sugar,
full of spice.
sunshine
in our faces.
tireless in our summer
days,
fresh into
the night.

to be broken

God is unfair,
she says. why me?
why this, why now.
I've been a good person
all of my
life. not perfect,
but good,
and now i'm broken.
truly this is where
the blessings
can begin.

the hidden genius

the genius
of so many never comes to light.
the checker
at the supermarket
bent darkly over the belt,
the hairdresser
her hands
in water and soap,
the man pushing the mower
across a lawn.
they till
the soil, make the bread,
prune
the shrubs
of our lives.
their genius stays intact,
unspent.
never being
seen by most,
except by those
who love them.

no need for pockets

he keeps
a nest egg tucked away.
it's been
the same number
for ten years, untouched.
he has no need
for pockets,
for spare change,
or cash.
he's an astronaut
on land,
never needing to pay
his way,
there are others who
will gladly
do that.

before it begins

like
short bread
the pre school kids
are lined
in rows on their blue
and pink mats.
the lights dimmed low.
music
playing from above.
it's nap time.
not a wiggle in any
of them.
innocence personified,
before the world
begins
to keep them awake,
twisting
and turning
with worry.

i'll get us there

I can row
all day. across any lake.
give me
an ocean and i'll
cross it in no time.
a stream,
a river, don't be
silly,
it's easy. give me
a good boat,
an oar and
with these arms,
these legs,
this heart,
i'll get us there.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

double bubble

there was the time
I got gum in the hair of
the girl
I was dating in high school.
we were slow
dancing to a beatles song
in her parents
basement.
other kids were making
out on the couch.
the no stop, don't do that,
pleas were louder
than the music.
she was captain of the cheerleaders,
long black
hair. a shining
mass of straight black locks
that she parted down the middle.
I was chewing double bubble
to keep
my breath fresh in case
she allowed me to kiss her.
but the gum fell out,
and I tried desperately
to retrieve it with my
lips and teeth, to no avail.
she screamed as she
asked me what I was doing
and felt the stuck wad
in her hair,
the lights went up.
the music stopped.
her parents ran down
the stairs as she cried,
and all the girls called me
horrible names, screaming.
I saw her that Monday in school,
passing her in the hallway.
she looked the other way,
her hair now short, just
below her ears.
we never danced again.
every time I chew a stick
of gum, I think of her
and what could have been.

some weather we've been having

it's a deep
talk.
a long talk into
the night.
we get into it.
love and death,
sex
and money.
children and work.
old loves.
parents.
God.
we turn
over each and every stone
that we've
had in
our lives,
the mistakes, the paths
not taken.
the ones we're on.
exhausted,
we look at the clock
and say
as one. bed?
yes, she says.
I tell her this is some
weather we've
been having, lately,
and she says
I know, leading the way
up the stairs.

quit whining

we were scuba diving
off the coast
of the florida keys
when a shark
came over to bite us.
I yelled through my mask,
the bubbles of air,
that I told you this
would happen.
we're gonna die
and this is all your fault.
look out.
but she couldn't hear
me, and punched
the shark in the nose
making it swim away.
then we continued collecting
white shells
from the bottom
as if nothing ever
happened.

she would knit

she would knit
for hours.
sitting alone, her hands
a blur
of needles and yarn,
rocking in her
chair
by the fireplace.
in time
there was something
long
and wide,
warm. she'd fold
it together,
set it aside,
then start another,
something
of a different color
for someone
else.

the blue light

the night light,
a soft
blue
bulb
in the socket
would show her the way
out the room
down
the hall
then down the stairs
where she would stay
until the sun
rose,
unable to sleep
thinking too hard
about what
was,
what wasn't meant
to be.

Monday, December 18, 2017

the sixth grade

we used
to stand and pledge
our allegiance
to the republic, for which
it stands, etc.
then we'd all pray
the our father who art in heaven.
we never questioned
any of that.
we just did it like all the
all the kids
who carved their names
in the wooden desks before us.
we used to bring our
lunch to school,
in a bag or a metal
lunch box. we'd
buy cartons of milk. two cents.
trading tuna
for ham.
peanut butter for
turkey.
we used to carry our
books
under our arm.
a strap keeping them
together.
we were well behaved.
hair combed.
polite and quiet. neat and clean.
we were shiny apples
back then.
we knew there was more
to this world,
more to come,
but this was good too.

it felt like home

it's no longer a bar.
it's
a video
display.
everyone on their phone
staring numbly
at the small screen.
a dozen tvs
on at once.
it's hard to get a drink
in here.
it's hard
to order food.
calamari is not food.
no smoking allowed.
the place is lit up like a Christmas
tree.
I miss the fat bartender
with a stogie.
his red apron
and no nonsense ways.
the black and white tv
on a shelf
with the fight on,
or a game.
the dimmed lights, the dark
wood.
the wobbly stools.
the conversations,
the bumping
of elbows.
the flirting with the girl
at the end
of the bar
in a red dress. oh,
how things have changed.

a step slow

it doesn't happen over night,
but it feels
that way,
when you suddenly can't
hit the curve ball,
or get the pitch over
the plate.
you are a step to slow
through the hole,
perhaps your leap
is less than it was
a year ago.
the jump shot no longer
hits the bottom
of the net
but spins and swirls
on the rim,
then falls out.
you hate to admit
it, but you're getting
old and must
find other things to
do, things that don't
remind you
of your youth.

new words for the old machine

once
we were young at this
machine.
typing
into the night.
letting the words fall
out
like rain,
like leaves, bright
and soft
off the autumn trees.
what new
thoughts would arise
so easily.
what joy
there was in not knowing
what came
next.
they still come, but
it's different now
with so
much time, so much
love and pain gone by.

wiser than yesterday

wiser
than yesterday, but
leery
of tomorrow,
of the fool mistakes
to be made.
at what point does wisdom
set in
for good
and say,
we're done?

this is easy, for now

right now
as it has been, this is
easy.
the swing of the axe
to take
down a tree,
more swings, chopping
the wood
in cords,
then stacked.
I know though, that
a day
will arrive,
when the axe
will be heavy, too
burdensome to swing,
to bring down
and chop
at the fallen trees.
what then?

the blue bird

the bluebird
comes early this morning
to sit
upon my sill,
he ruffles the cold
out of his feathers,
stares in
while I stare out.
there is nothing to say.
no words
need be spoken.
in time,
we'll both
go on our way.
begin our day.

there is bliss

there is bliss
in the uneventful week.
no
chaos,
no broken lace,
no cuts
or bruises,
no words
misunderstood,
a clean smooth
slate
of work
and food and sleep.
throw
love and affection
into the mix
as well.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

the lake

the lake is endless,
so it seems.
iced blue.
cold
and gloved,
scarf and hat I make
my way along the familiar
paths.
how many miles
I've walked I don't know.
but I go back
to it again and again
in times
of trouble.

the morning light

striving
to make things better,
to make
things right,
i turn the screw,
to make
the handle tight.
it breaks off in my hand.
it will take
time to fix this,
but enough for now,
i'll wait for the morning
light.

who makes it

the low
plane is in trouble.
you can hear the cough
of the engine,
the wafting of wings
as it scrapes
the tops of trees,
but then it rises
with speed and disappears
in blue clouds.
did it make it?
who's to know
these things.

these woods

these woods.
these paths where I go
now.
dark
and delicious
with
the past.
a new past comes.
they go.
still I walk. together
or alone.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

misunderstood

not unlike Oscar
Wilde I often felt the fear
of not
being misunderstood,
a cryptic word
or motion
upon the stage was
always in play,
but now
I want to be perfectly
clear, to be heard
and understood, from
the first row
to the back,
and to the one who stands
beside me.
life is simpler
that way.

by now, at this age

by now, at this age,
this stage
of life
you've seen the giants.
you've seen
what hides
in the dark,
beneath the bed,
in the attics
of the world.
you know what a broken
heart is,
a broken bone,
a broken home.
pain is no stranger at
this point.
you've seen the giants,
not all, but most.
the rest
are yet to come,
but will.

accepting tomorrow

they've cleared the trees
on the far ridge.
plowed the field down.
the patch of woods, the path,
is gone.
a sign is up
with a drawing of new homes.
new trees.
streets paved,
images painted of
friendly faces passing by.
a long dark
hose is filling in
the new pond
where we will go and skate
when it's frozen
and remember little
of what was before.

the news will come

she's not ready yet,
but
the news will come.
give it time.
you'll get the call
that says
she's gone.
you'll nod
with a relieving sigh.
you'll make arrangements
for the funeral.
talk to
each other on the phone,
discuss all the things
you must decide.
the news will come,
give it time.

slimy smelly kids

I think
about all the classes
in high school
that seemed unnecessary
at the time.
economics
and biology, social science,
wrestling.
do we really need
to be wrestling
other children in the middle
of the day
in tight blue
shorts
and t shirts?
i'm glad now about taking
the other classes
the osmosis of learning
did set in,
but not wrestling
or bounding over
the pummel horse, or dodge
ball where only
the strong survived
ala
Lord of the Flies.

on the train

there were no need for words.
the two
elegant
travelers
sat across from one another
on the crowded train.
she in her long
grey coat,
him in black, a top
coat,
a scarf, a cane.
he would nod no at each
stop
and she would smile.
her hands folded
in her lap.
he stared at her as if
for the first time.
his love
and her love taking
them
everywhere
with no words needed
to be said.
when they reached
their station
he stood up
and smiled,
nodded yes,
taking her hand, letting
the crowd go first
then her.

doing their job

there are two levels
of glass,
acrylic windows protecting
the man
inside
from you or anyone
that might want to do
him harm.
he's just doing his job
towing cars
in the wee hours
of the morning.
you slip your credit
card
and id through
the narrow slot.
then he opens the gate
to let you have your car
back.
there's a Christmas
tree in the tight
office,
the lights on.
there's a round table
where you imagine they
talk about
their nights work.
a coffee pot on,
staying warm.
you can see the manger
scene next to a tool box
on the far counter,
opened. Joseph and Mary,
three wise men.
there is baby Jesus
in a bale of hay,
and a crescent
wrench beside Him.

easy and slow

we take our time
with things.
she at the sink, the mixing
bowl.
me at the table,
a paper in hand.
the oven warmed,
the dough rolled and cut
into stars
and snowmen,
candy canes and trees.
we put the radio
on
and listen
to the soft sounds
of holiday singing.
there's snow on the ground.
the house is warm,
the fire rises
and glows.
we take our time with
things, easy
and slow.

Friday, December 15, 2017

let's google someone

it's a snoop dog
world we're living in.
social media
saving us gas and time,
that pesky in person stalking,
like in the old days.
darkening the headlights.
kneeling in a bush
outside a window.
we can
find out what's on someone's
mind in
a heartbeat now,
where they've been
and with who.
with the click
of a mouse into their lives we go.
finding out all
the things we wish we never
knew, but now we know.

who wants to read their poems?

sometimes she'd forget
to put her
purse down, or take off her coat.
she'd hold her car keys
in one hand and a piece of
white chalk in the other.
she'd teach poetry
all night in front of the class
just like that.
on and on she'd go about
Sylvia plath
and anne sexton. you have
to read phillip larkin, she
said.
he's wonderful.
and mark strand.
who wants to read what they
have?
did anyone write this week?
are we not poets
my dears?
she'd rattle her keys
in the air,
anyone?

rent control

the landlord raises the rent.
I say, why?
it's not me, he says, it's
the neighborhood,
it's historic now.
we've go three starbucks
around the corner.
I saw a rat the other day,
I tell him. a big one,
carrying a gun.
he had luggage
and was moving in,
coming up the stairs with
his family.
i'll look into, he says.
put a towel under your door,
and shut the windows
at night. don't leave any
food on the counter.
the radiator is making
so much noise,
I can't sleep, I tell him.
and the neighbor above
me is making
love or arguing
all night long.
two o two? he says.
blonde, blue eyes? no,
pigtails and a plaid skirt.
she looks like
Dorothy from the wizard
of oz.
he shakes his head and
rubs his grizzled chin.
yeah, you have to look out for
those types.
i'll look into that too,
he says.
anything else?
the hot water is not hot
enough when I take
a shower, two minutes and it's
like ice water pouring out.
okay, okay. i'm freezing
your rent, but just for
this year only. okay?
okay, I tell him.

banished

your truck gets towed.
deep into the night,
a cowardly quiet truck
from dominion towing
did hook it up
and sped it away to some
foreign lot
in Lorton.
apparently you've violated a cardinal
rule.
no ladders are
allowed to be seen
by this gentile
neighborhood. how unsightly
to have aluminum rungs
bared and roped upon the rack
for all to see, the horror,
the fainting,
the case of vapors
that must have prevailed.
how their tender eyes must have
burned from
the visage of such a thing.
take this truck
away from here, the condo
board president screamed,
his bowing minions
cloaked in red,
chanting tow it, tow it, tow it.
and him
pointing his black gloved
finger towards the highway.
banish this unsightly
thing from our sight.
the audacity to have left
a ladder on top
of one's work vehicle.
the shame of it all. the shame.

the inheritance

she left everything
to the cat society.
the house, the car,
the retirement fund.
stocks and bonds, the cash
she tucked between
mattresses and hid into
jars.
her children,
despite
her kindness
and generosity
throughout their lives
got nothing.
they
never loved her, not
the way
children should love
a mother.
so it all went to the cats,
her cats, and the cats
of others,
despite their
aloofness
and needs when needed.
not unlike
the kids when you think
of it.

the heirloom

it's hard to throw
away
that chipped cup. the coffee
mug
from the five and ten,
used a thousand
times, filled with
hot water.
sometimes tea,
sometimes a French
or Italian brew, steamed
to boil.
i turn it so
that my lip doesn't
touch the crack,
the sharp edge
where it hit the sink
and crumbled.
it's hard to throw it away.
it's a strange
friend to my mornings,
what would i do without
her.

the plateau of age

i feel better
since the clock stopped.
broken,
the little red
bird no longer swinging
out on his
plank
to cluck and coo
with the hour.
the heavy pine cone
weights have stopped
moving.
the tick has been silenced.
i'm no longer getting
old.
I've plateaued.

from the north country

she brought me maple syrup
from afar,
from up north
across the border.
just a pint of brown maple
syrup.
it was years ago.
her name
was jane.
she used to ride her horse
along the ocean,
racing
in the sand.
she used to sing in
the choir
at the cathedral.
she had a voice like
an angel,
but it wasn't meant
to be.
it wasn't me.
I still have the small
amber bottle
on the shelf,
never used and think
of her from time to time.

on the island

on the island,
it's different now.
see how the shadows are long
against
the field.
how the buildings
are grey.
the lights yellow
from
a few low windows.
see how the town sleeps
in,
the stores all
closed. only the fishing
boats
move away from
the shore,
the village roads
unburdened
by those from the mainland.
see how the women wait
for their
men to come home
from the sea, how they
open the windows
and stare out,
their long dresses
blowing in the wind.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

before we move on

don't tell me about the old days.
i'm tired of reminiscing about
the days
we had fun.
when we were young.
the nights out carousing,
drinking,
dancing, howling at
the moon,
chasing the girls
who laughed at us,
kept us on the run.
let's move on from that.
water
under the bridge.
ancient history.
let's talk about today,
tomorrow, what's to come.
but before we do,
remember that girl
you used to date,
betty, I think her name
was.
whew. good lord, what
a set of legs she had,
those big brown eyes.
whatever happened to
her?

woman in a cake

at the birthday party
a woman
pops out
of an enormous cake.
seven layers.
she's wearing
icing
and a smile,
high heels, and little
else.
I don't care about her.
but I care
about the cake.
is it still edible,
can we have
someone cut us a slice
and bring me
a glass of cold milk.

the hunger

to lie in bed
and be hungry is
something I remember
very well. I've never
discussed this with siblings.
were they as hungry
as I was?
were their stomachs
empty too.
did they hear what
I heard being said
below the floor late
at night.
that was something I could
do nothing about.
that train wreck
of a marriage had been
off the tracks
for a long time,
but the hunger, I could
find a way.

don't be happy

don't be happy.
it won't go over well.
no one wants
to hear about that.
about how you fell in love
and hope
to live happily every
after.
this will anger them
and make
them disappear.
tell them misery
stories,
some sad tale
and they'll be kind
to you,
put their arm around
you and say,
oh well.
things will improve.
don't worry. i'm here
to help you.

regift

a gift
arrives in the mail.
a small horse
with a saddle.
the postman tied
him up
to the rail outside.
there's a ribbon
on his head.
and a note
that says enjoy.
have fun with your
new horse.
we just didn't want
to send you another
fruit cake
this year.

the walk through

the best we can do
sometimes is just a lazy
swipe
at the day,
an anemic effort.
a lackadaisical
walk through.
sometimes you got nothing
and can't wait
to get home
to crawl back in bed,
go to sleep
and give it another
shot tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

the rabbit's foot

I used to have a rabbit's
foot attached to my one single
key. the foot was soft and white,
with a brown circle
of fluffy hair down the side.
on occasion I
would rub it for luck
when playing marbles,
or cards, or rolling dice
in the alley
with bedeviled kids.
but then I thought,
how lucky can this foot be?
what luck was it for
the rabbit to have one?
I put it in the circle
and lost it to
a freckled face kid
named Peter Ornstein.

where someone waits

the pigeons
in St. Mark's Square
in Venice
have their way with things.
all the food
they care to eat,
thrown into the air
by tourists.
they're blue and black
with wide
dark wings.
when they take flight,
it's a shadowed wind.
they remind you so much
of home,
where someone waits.

true lub

he nearly lost the will
to live
and teetered crazily on
the edge
of the calvert
bridge.
he couldn't take it anymore.
the traffic,
the cable bill.
indigestion from
all the Chinese food
he'd been eating from
hunan duck.
not to mention Susie who left
him for another man.
he held on to the cold
buttress
of the bridge and stared
at his phone.
scrolling through
the text messages that they
exchanged over
the past
three weeks since they met.
thousands of them.
picture too.
them eating ice cream,
going to the carnival,
to the botanical
gardens, the zoo.
I love you he thumbed in
one last time before
the leap.
but his hands were cold
and he had his gloves on
so it came out, I lub you.
he stared longingly at the phone
as his feet began
to slip and his hands
grew numb.
then the phone dinged. she wrote back
I lub you too sweetie.
I want you back.
the other guy had no sense
of humor and would never
misspell a word
in his texts. but not you.
what we have is true love.
or should I say lub, she wrote.
smiley face.
but it was too late,
down he fell into the dark trees
of the park.
thankfully though he was caught
by a net the fire department had
installed
just for this reason.

the church crown

her collection of bags
was without measure. plastic white
ones balled and stuck
inside of other plastic white ones.
the paper bags,
folded tight and neat
and set inside
a larger brown bag with
handles.
the bags were everywhere,
in the closets,
under the beds.
not to mention the cardboard
boxes.
boxes inside of boxes.
hat boxes, cobwebbed
and musty.
from stores now gone.
garfinkles and woodies.
Kahn's on f street in town.
oh my the boxes,
all empty, each and
every one, but at one time
they carried what she needed
and wanted.
a new blouse, a new dress.
a pair of shoes, a red
hat with a feather,
a church crown to flaunt.

the sunset inn

unwilling to give
in, to give up, to leave
and go
where everyone is a stranger,
she begs
them not to take
her there.
to a place
where the meals
are soft.
the walls are a pastel
blue
or pink.
where everyone smiles
too much. calls her
by her name.
how do they know my name,
she thinks.
it's the end game.
the sunset inn.

red fox in the morning

a slender red fox
tip toes
down the street.
thick with her winter
fur,
she's going somewhere.
the way she
wobbles and veers.
there is the dull cast
of no light
in her eyes.
you can tell she's lost
her mind,
or has a broken heart.
she just
isn't right.
we've all been there.

rainy day money

there's cash
in the cupboard. hidden
on the second
shelf, stuck together
under ancient cans
of baked
beans, green giant
string beans.
I separate and
count the three fifty
dollar bills, then
rinse them under
the sink.
she must have put
it there
for a rainy day,
or maybe a sunny day
that never came.

moving out

it's hard to let go.
to move
to not cling to what's
been
home.
these steps that creak,
this wall with the crack
where the wind
comes in.
the window
that won't open,
the radiator
that jumps and clangs
all night.
it's going to be hard
sleeping
without the sounds
of the street rising to this
third floor flat.
the sirens and horns
blaring all night.
it's going
to hard
not hearing the neighbors
up above
the newly weds
making love all night,
reminding me
of my own young life.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

one last meal

i can't decide on my last meal
so now i need to narrow down
my final dinner
before they light me up
in the big chair.
steak, i think at first.
a big rib eye with all the trimmings.
mushroom gravy.
mashed potatoes.
or maybe a seafood feast.
lobster, crab legs.
Chilean sea bass crusted
in Cajun spices.
or maybe i can go out
on a banquet of pies.
apple, cherry, pumpkin,
blueberry. glasses of whole
milk. why go with two per
cent now?
the other prisoners down
the hall lean out
from their cells as best
they can and shout out
suggestions. crawfish,
one says. pigs knuckles
another says. don't forget
cornbread and catfish.
i shake my head. oh brother.
what did i commit my crimes
so far down south.
there's a large chorus
of inmates in cell block H
chanting Grits, don't forget
grits.
a guard comes by and raps
his club against my bars.
chitlins is all he says,
and winks. chitlins.

let's go climb that mountain

that mountain over,
I tell her as we drive along
the back roads
looking for a berry farm, that
mountain over there,
let's go climb it.
she looks at me and says
nothing.
no i'm serious I tell her.
wouldn't it be fun.
an adrenaline rush?
after we pick a few pints
of berries,
lets get some rope,
a pick axe and give it
a whirl.
maybe we can stop and get
a pair of boots too.
the ones with the pointed spikes
on the bottom.
she points to the top
of the mountain and says,
what do you see up there.
I flip my sunglasses off
and look.
snow?
yup, she says, and dead
stupid people.
see all those red parkas.
green winter snow coats
dotting the snow capped
mountain.
the ones that aren't moving
but imbedded in the ice?
yes. I do.
well, let's stick with picking
berries honey.
did you bring your gloves?
the vines can be prickly.

updating my resume

I hail a taxi
heading into town
for a job interview.
i'm qualified for nothing,
but I have a nice suit on,
a hair cut
and a winning smile.
I have zero IT skills.
there must be some job
out there
that fits my lack of talent,
my inability
to stop looking at the clock
on the wall,
or loitering
at the water cooler
and coffee pot
in the lounge.
i'm good at chit chat.
of talking up the staff.
what they did last weekend,
what their
vacations plans are.
i'm easy to get along with.
at lunch, or at happy
hour I hit my stride.
i'm excellent
at the office volley ball
games on Wednesday,
the birthday parties
each month i'm always available
to help set up
the room.
I can hand out cake
with the best of them.

tragedy

we didn't fight much.
we simmered.
we held in our poisonous
resentments
until
our stomachs churned
and our hair
fell out.
our teeth would
grind
throughout the night,
wondering why
and how
this could be,
stuck in a loveless marriage.
but together in the company
of others
we were king and queen.
who knew
the vitriol that lurked
within?
we were Shakespearean
actors,
pretending to
be in love, pretending
that life
was just right.

another name

they've given the moon
a set of names.
harvest
or wolf. depending on
the size
and color,
the distance from the earth
or sun.
whether shaved
into
half, or quarter
or eighth.
maybe we all should
have a few
names.
instead of one.
we don't always feel
the same,
or look the same.
why not? instead
of james,
perhaps edgar one day.
or George,
or ringo.

to give or not to give

we give
selectively.
money or love,
affection.
sometimes we're dry.
our love
well is shallow.
whether work or weather,
or some
fatigue
has set in.
the man on the corner
with a tin,
how much can I give,
can I write
him a check
and have him disperse
it
among everyone.

Monday, December 11, 2017

bad news

my father calls.
he sounds upset. i can hear
his breathing,
the phone
bunched between his chin
and neck.
bad news he says.
really bad news.
i think disease,
drama,
a car wreck, death.
the tv died, he says.
can you believe it. it's
only twenty years old.
the cable guy came out
and said it's done,
cooked,
useless.
what should i do?
i pause. i think for
a minute what he really wants.
i know what he wants
he wants me
to drive four hours
down
and four hours back
to get him a new tv
and to hook it up for him.
i sigh.
he's eighty nine.
i pack a bag
and hit the road.

at night

I see you in the window.
waiting
for me
in a white dress.
your hair is up.
your elbows
lean
on the sill,
your chin cupped
in your hands.
I see the smile
of you, the glow,
the thin
bright look of
mirth
and joy
upon your pink lips.
how the days
are long, and the nights
so short.

it happens

so close
at one time. the seven
of us
have gone our separate ways,
have made
our own camps.
broken into pairs.
it's hard to explain
to an outsider
how family love dissolves.
it takes
a long time, like
rust
and metal.
but with enough rain
and wind,
hard snow.
it happens.

twenty four seven

my salesman
friend of fifty years will
sometimes call me buddy.
okay buddy,
have a nice day.
have you lost weight,
just look at you my man,
my main man,
what are you doing
to stay in such great
shape?
I shake my head
and smile.
he can't help himself,
if not selling
a home,
or a car, or something,
or wooing a girl
to come back home with him,
he's not sure
how to act.

pride before the fall

the boxer,
so full of muscle
and grit,
waxed into a greek
god
in leather shoes,
leather
mitts.
gloves to hide
his steel fists
that he raises to
the rafters.
how he dances and
prances in
the center ring with
his red
cape on,
his name emblazoned
on the back.
he nods
at the roar of the crowd.
winks at the pretty
girls,
but how quickly
one punch
will strike and make
his knees buckle
and one more punch
will send him
into black.

the holiday party

some stayed too long.
some left early.
some never came.
but the party went on
just the same.
the music was loud,
the cops arrived
and came in to have a bite
to eat,
a quick drink.
people were kissing
who shouldn't have been
kissing.
a door closed.
the closet was full of
coats
and lovers.
there was laughter.
tears.
in the early morning
we'd rise
and see the debris
of what was.
the tinsel on the tree
tired,
the lights still
on. half
drinks on the mantle.
the food all gone.
someone asleep
on the floor beside
the dog.

beating the rug

my mother would roll
up the throw rug, a circle
of thick woven braids
and drag it outside.
she'd beat it
against the fence.
I could see her swing
the broom
and smack it broadside
as the dust and dirt
bloomed into the low
winter sky.
it seemed she had more
on her mind,
than the rug.

not enough time

it feels
nearly as good to tear
something down
as it does to build
it in
the first place.
the swing of the destructive
hammer
is needed
at times
to get us to the new,
to clear the land,
make room.
not all things can survive.
there's not
enough places or time
to keep things
in our lives.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

brontosaurus on I 95

there is so much
to be thankful for i tell my
son as he lies
in bed
in his pajamas.
he's only ten,
but he understands
completely what i'm talking about.
i'm glad
for you, he says.
for this house, and food,
and my warm bed.
yes, i tell him.
and what else?
i'm thankful that there
aren't anymore dinosaurs, he says.
they could kill us. step
on us, or eat us.
me too, i tell him, i'm
glad they're extinct too.
imagine how bad traffic
would be
if they were still around.
okay.
go to sleep now, i tell
him, tucking him in
and try not to think anymore
crazy thoughts.

hard candy

i suck on a piece
of hard
candy for an hour or so
staring out the window
thinking.
what are you doing, my
wife asks
as she comes into the room.
just thinking i tell her.
mind if i join you?
not at all, i say.
she takes a piece of hard
Christmas candy
from the dish on the counter.
she picks
one with green squiggly
stripes and puts it in
her mouth.
she hands me another.
a red one with a bright
peppermint flavor.
the hours go by as we
stare out the window
letting the candy melt
in our mouths.

next week, same time?

my personal trainer Eva,
from the Czech republic
is evil.
she makes me do things with my
body
that I normally cannot
do unless
drinking heavily.
do this do that, she says,
cracking her whip.
come on you can do it, she
yells
as I lift my body
to touch my toes, to stretch
and bend
like a pretzel.
she takes out a stop watch
and tells me
to run around the block,
then back again.
she calls me names, insults
my family,
my friends, my dog.
run jelly belly she screams
in her harsh accent, run!
she makes me sweat and puts
me through
hell.
then I pay her and tell her
next week?
same time?

a good sleep

it was a sleep
like no other. deep
and delicious.
there was snow on the roof,
on the ground,
the stars were out.
everyone in for the night.
not a whisper,
not a sound.
when we awoke, everything
had changed
for the better.
no one
was angry anymore, no one
was sad,
or disappointed.
everyone was happy
for each other and longing
for peace.
it was Christmas
without being Christmas.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

what about a cat

let's get a dog, she says,
as we walk
along the path
looking at other people's
dogs,
stopping to pet them
along the way.
but one that doesn't bark
to much, she says,
or shed
I say.
or is too needy, or grumpy,
or mean.
a nice dog,
I say.
yes. a nice dog she says.
one that doesn't eat
a lot
or bark at the tv, or when
the door bell rings.
not too big, not too small.
medium, I offer.
okay, she says. medium.
what about cats, I ask.

a thin dime

a thin mercury
dime follows me for a week.
from
floor to pocket,
to table,
to street.
it won't leave
me until I say okay.
what it means
I have no idea,
but I like
how she doesn't want
to leave.

the church trees

the trees
in the snow, cut at
the bottom,
the trunks thinned
and flat
are ready for taking.
lined in
rows,
large and small together.
this one is nice
you say,
holding it out in the soft
light of
the church.
yes. this one you say
and pay the man
in his red plaid hat,
his gold
shining with his smile.
he turns his back
to a take nip,
then
onto the roof
it goes, strung tight
for the three miles
from lot to door.
they smell like Christmas.
like
the ones of your youth.
you can go back again,
just not all
the way.

out of this came that

when the parents fought
the children
went quiet, went up
the stairs to their
rooms
and closed the doors,
they put
music on, read books,
put pillows over their ears,
they strummed guitars,
lost themselves
in painting, in art,
in song.
they waited until
the storm ended.
when the front door
slammed and the car
pulled away with a squeal
of tires,
then things were okay
to come out again.

Friday, December 8, 2017

her cookies

i love
her cookies.
the ones with the little
kisses
in the middle of
a soft peanut butter
circle of dough.
i like the sprinkled
ones too
with a clean white
icing
shaped into elves,
flakes of snow.
i love her cookies.
the almond powdered ones,
baked thick,
ready for dipping,
just so. i love her
cookies, all kinds,
i think she knows.

jumping out of planes

they are lining up
to jump
out of planes. to throw
themselves
into the clouds, depending
on faith,
and the string,
the nylon and silk
that billows
and saves their lives
before touching
earth again.
I admire such courage
as I step
gingerly across the street,
watching for
the high curb
in front of me.

do they gift wrap?

together
under the ticking
clock
and fluorescent lights
of the crowded store
I see the men in a daze,
walking
with short
lists of things
to buy for Christmas.
their glazed eyes
and furrowed brows give
them away.
they shuffle from counter
to counter,
staring into the bright
glass cases
holding gems
and jewelry.
watches and rings,
bracelets, bling that says
less than words
could ever say.
the Hoover vacuum last year
was a disaster.
they stop briefly
in the uncertain maze
of lingerie. the barely
clad
mannequins, mute,
with impossible bodies
that makes
them turn their eyes away.
is this gift for me
or her, they think to
themselves,
touching
the soft fabrics of nylon
and polyester,
cotton,
and silk. what size
does she wear?
do they gift wrap?

what's true

your truth
is not like the truth
of others,
nor their yours.
you
both see the world
in a different light,
shades
of various colors,
rarely black
rarely white.
the truth is hard to bear
at times.
setting you free
or chaining you
to a world
that isn't there.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

display pickles

just a half a pound
of baked ham, i tell the girl
behind
the counter.
i can see the top of her
curly head
which is covered in a black
net
that looks like it might come
in handy
when catching fish.
she has a scar on her forehead
which makes me wonder
if it's related to cutting deli meat.
thin sliced, she says, or
thick?
regular, i tell her.
boar's head, or the other
brand.
whatever i tell her,
boar's head.
i peruse the blocks of cheese
behind the glass
and spot a fly that can't get out.
he keeps landing
on the cheddar, which i like.
i decide not get the cheese.
i see her grab a chunk
of ham and position it on
the metal slicer. pushing the rump
with a shove of her hand.
she slices off a thin
piece, puts it on sheet of paper
and leans
over to hand it to me.
no thanks, i tell her.
she shrugs then cuts the ham.
moving
the blade across the pink slab
of meat,
she wraps it up, puts a stamp
on it and hands it to me.
coleslaw? she says.
Cheese? what about some pickles?
what kind of pickles?
well, we have dill, we have
sweet gherkins, butter pickles.
what about those in that jar,
those giant pickles that look
like cucumbers?
oh, those aren't for sale,
those are for display only.
oh, okay. then i'm good.

love and life

i can only attest
to three
miracles during
my limited stay
here on earth,
one would
have been enough,
but like
in most circumstances
i have needed
constant reassurance
when it comes to love
and life.

the mid day nap

I could see my worker
up on the roof asleep.
his bucket and brush
were by his side.
his face was red in the sun,
his hands together
resting on his ample belly.
the drop to yard below
was twenty feet, at least,
so I didn't want
to startle him, to wake
him and have him
roll off and be killed.
so I let him rest.
he had a rough night.
a rough week.
a rough life.

keep the receipts

I kept all the receipts
to any
gift
I bought for her.
small things, large
and expensive items.
I could never quite nail
down
what it was that she wanted
for Christmas
or her birthday.
she provided no clues
opting to keep
me on my toes, on thin
ice as it were.
anniversaries were a disaster
if I remembered
them at all.
she was a diamond
girl
married to
a rhinestone boy.
she wanted champagne
from
Paris, I gave her
Schlitz from Milwaukee.
i'll try to do better
the next time around.

finding a line

with nothing to do
I find a line
to get into. others are there.
holding cups
of coffee. not saying much.
not looking at one
another.
shuffling
their feet
in the cold air.
we stare into our phones,
hold our coats
tightly to keep out
the wind.
we wait until it's our
turn.
what else is there to do,
but wait,
and hope the line
moves.

smoke house

they love to smoke.
all day.
into the night. one after
the other.
the ashtrays
are full of grey ash.
they don't care what anyone says.
the surgeon general
can go jump in a lake.
the ceilings have yellowed.
not a window open
as they inhale the blue
fumes.
it's hard to breathe
in there, how they cough
and rub
their noses.
pick pieces of tobacco off
the tips of their
tongues.
their finger tips a soft
orange
glue.
before a meal, after a meal,
during a meal.
a drink or two,
they squint and bend towards
one another
with a new lit match.

making room

the photo box
is full of strangers.
faces
I vaguely remember but somehow
got into the shot.
who were they
at this wedding, this
trip
to the shore,
this party
in the yard with lights
and a long table
full of food.
there's my mother
in a chair smiling,
a brother, sister or two,
my son.
plenty of dogs.
keep them, or toss them,
it's so hard
to do. but
I need the room.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

music and laughter

it's a cold stripe
of a winter
sun
that melts
on the ridges of houses
and buildings,
old factories now dead,
or about to succumb.
there seems to
be no rest, or forgiveness
in this
kind of weather.
with holes in my boots,
I feel the wet pavement
as I walk the last mile
from the gate
to the tavern.
there will be music
and laughter.
for a moment we'll
forget everything that is
true.

getting home

I see her through the window
as I get home from work.
finally.
the dust of the day
on my shoulders.
the moon is already in the sky.
she's at the stove.
she's at the sink.
the cat
is on the counter under
the yellow haze
of light.
I see the clock
on the wall,
it's a plate of hours
showing me how long
I've been gone. I stand
on the porch in the dark.
all day I've been wanting
to get home to kiss her.
to say nothing but to
hold her in my arms
and sigh, to feel her heart
next to mine.
and now i'm here.

into the woods

sometimes
when going fishing
along
the creek that led to the river
we would stumble upon
makeshift
camps where the hoboes
lived.
there were cans scattered,
bread,
empty pint bottles
of whiskey.
tin plates and blankets
strewn about.
sometimes one would be
asleep
by a fire, on his side,
grizzled and snoring,
perhaps dead. we were quiet
as we crept by, trying
hard not
to disturb them,
wondering how it came
to this.
to be lying in the woods
in long coats,
high boots,
with arms folded and hands
together
as if in prayer.

no filter

with no filter,
some say
what's on their minds,
brazen in words,
and let
it lie on the table as is.
the unvarnished truth.
the bright
light of no deception.
so this is how
you really feel about
things.
take the fork out,
i'm done.

one wrong move

the nail
caught the coat
and unraveled the long thread
until
it was gone.
it was careless
to move so quickly
in the dark.
how easily
we are bare in the light
of the world
with one
wrong move.

we wait

it smells like rain.
the leaves
have cupped their
green hands
into the air, ready.
a wind
pushes back
the brows of trees,
the sky
darkens,
the clouds form
into fields of blue.
we sit on the porch,
hand in hand
and wait.

out of work

my neighbor
is a safe cracker, but
business is slow.
the digital
world is killing me, he
says.
everyone keeps
everything
in their phones.
no longer can I listen
to the heart
beat of a steel
box
and have the door
swing open
with stocks and bonds,
gold
and cash.
oh how the world
has changed.
that's a shame I tell
him,
dropping a five
into his hat.
what about banks?


other lessons

what they don't teach
is vast.
how to scramble an egg,
change a flat
tire,
balance
a check book,
fold a fitted sheet.
but you can dissect
a dead frog
without a problem,
or tell
someone what Na is on
the periodic table.
quadratic equations,
cosine
and sine, you can
elaborate on that too.
stop a leaky
sink, or catch the right
bus
across town,
no.
and with love and heartache,
not a clue.

the train goes by

the train
goes by so quickly. i can
hardly
make out the faces
blotted in
the windows.
how swift the wheels
move
taking the steel engines
down the track.
I can feel
the wind of time,
the whoosh of
tunnels,
the sound and fury
of what's coming
and who's
been left behind.

Monday, December 4, 2017

i have no boots

I have no
boots. not anymore.
I used to have boots.
cowboy boots
for some strange reason.
I've never been
on a horse, or to a rodeo.
I've never wrangled a steer,
or lassoed a sheep,
not once.
the boots had reddish
swirls going up the sides
and were very pointy.
but it was the seventies,
I had
a leather vest too
and a bolo
tie.
i'm not sure what I was
thinking,
or why I wanted to look
like
a poker player
in a cowboy saloon
during the eighteen hundreds,
but I did.
i'm sure I did it for some
girl whose name escapes
me now.
the boots must have
made her happy.

the wrong ear

she whispers
into my
ear.
but it's the wrong
ear.
the one that doesn't
hear so well.
so I miss
the sweet nothings,
the I love
you's,
the terms of endearment
and the request
for
the keys
to my car so that she
can
go to the beach
with her friends
for the long weekend.
I nod yes to her,
hoping
for the best.
she calls me later
and says
I wish you were here,
thanks
for letting me use
the car, we're having
so much fun.

how you roll

you want
to hear the word negative
whenever
the doctor calls
with results
from the lab.
it could go either way.
but
champagne is iced
and ready
for both.
that's how you roll
these days.

twenty seven miles

the taxi
driver is tired.
he flips
the meter on
and drives sitting on
his beaded seat.
we have twenty seven miles
to go.
a sandwich is on the dashboard.
a soda
in the holder.
he's from
another world.
another continent.
we say nothing
on our way to the airport.
his large brown hands
are draped on the wheel.
it's quiet
in the car
except for the crackling
of his radio.
the slight wind
from his window just
open
enough
to let a cool kiss
of air
waft in.
we are on different paths,
but we've
crossed
and strangely,
I won't forget
him.

wonder bread

my mother
did not ask what you wanted
for dinner.
she just made it
then called you in from
the street
to wash your hands.
find your brothers
and sisters she'd yell
from the door,
and if any of your friends
are hungry bring them
in as well.
sometimes there'd be
a dozen children
at the table, or at
the coffee table
eating. my mother would
carry around
the big white bowl
of pasta
and meat balls, serving,
but only after
they had all washed
their hands
in the small bathroom
on the second floor.
she'd pour the cold milk
from the glass jar,
butter slices
of wonder bread
for every one,
calling each
by their own name.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

who we are

we want a black and white
world.
we want simplicity.
we want
the baker to bake.
the machinist to not be
a poet,
but to fix things
and go on his way.
we don't want to hear
the cleaning woman's
take
on religion or
philosophy. we want
to box
each other into a corner,
keep
everyone in a place
that fits our life.
take the brush from
the typist,
fix the shoe cobbler.
that's all.

seventy times seventy

to be kind
to the unkind, have
compassion
for the compassionless,
to
be nice to those
who hate
is hard.
how long can we turn
the other
cheek, forgive
seventy times
seventy
and not throw the stone
at our feet?

on the dole

it was a winter
to remember.
the snow and ice
relentless. our ears
stiffened with
wind,
our noses
brittle in the sleet.
I remember that long line
at the door
of county government
center.
the workless bunch
in front
and behind us.
the old men in long coats,
the women
shifting from foot to foot
to stay warm.
we were young, too young
to worry
about it all.
we just wanted that paltry
check
to see us through.
to get us to spring
once more.

that's that

I choose to have selective
memory.
ironing out
the wrinkles in
the fabric.
smoothing out the edges,
flat.
I choose to put away
the cloth
of so much, folding
it just so,
and placing it on a shelf.
that's that.

on our knees

it's just a dot,
a bead,
a pea of something
strange
that they remove
with a cautionary blade.
what grows within
us
scares
us.
brings us to our knees
if we aren't already
there to begin with.

ebb tide

we drive
by old flames.
old loves, old sweethearts,
the lover's
lanes
we parked in.
the woods we walked
through.
our loves
survive, our desires
though
change,
the ocean a constant
of a rising
and
ebbing tide.

someone i kissed

it could be the vodka,
or the fish,
or the noon time
dalliance with shrimp.
maybe it was
the oyster
I swallowed
with lemon juice.
or the ice cream
afterwards.
someone I kissed.
maybe it was all of that.
it was something though
that kept
me tossing
and turning all night
in a hot cold sweat.


this can wait

it's a work day.
a day
to get things done.
there are lists to be made,
lists to
check off, lists
to remind you to make
other lists.
there are details to be
ironed out,
calls made,
dates to be confirmed,
numbers
and addresses.
it's a work day,
so much to do, and yet
it's sunny
and bright outside,
near sixty.
let's take a break
for a while, stroll
through the woods,
i'm game,
how about you?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

your pills are ready

your prescription is ready
at the pharmacy,
the automated
call
lets you know.
your order of pills
to keep
you breathing
and alive
have arrived.
bring your id,
and credit cards.
beat the lines and
come early.
we want you to survive.

jersey girl

it's a long
road to jersey.
those jersey walls.
it always seems to be raining.
and we always
seem to be
lost, taking
the wrong turn in the glare
of the lights,
the wipers,
the windshield full
of yellow
diamonds.
it's a long road to jersey,
to find
love.
but love has no map,
no time
to lose
at this fast approaching
age.

thinning the herd

the hunt is on.
it's time
to thin the herd
so close
to the highway.
the plaid men in green and
red,
leaf colored
coats and hats,
are in the trees
with bow
and arrows.
bearded and quiet
they chew on on beef jerky,
sip
from a flask
while sitting cold
in their stands
waiting patiently for
the slow grey
deer
to appear and bend
for a final
sip
at the silver stream
they walk in.

long distance

it was costly
to call long distance in the old
days.
let's call the old days,
the 1960s.
collect calls,
waiting for the person
to pick up,
as the operator held
on and asked by name if
they'd accept the call.
or if in a pay phone,
slipping coin after coin
into the slot for a few more
minutes.
the calls were kept short
to keep the phone
bill down.
others would get on
the bedroom line to chime in.
then the hurried I love you.
I love you,
but we have to go.
a letter would follow.
with pictures enclosed,
but the call, the voice
on the other line was what
you wanted to hear.

nuts

suddenly, a few days
before the holidays began
there were nuts,
hazel nuts, chestnuts,
Brazilian nuts
gathered in small dishes
about the tables.
nut crackers too.
silver colored, but swirled
like fancy
pliers.
don't eat all the nuts
my mother would yell from
the kitchen
as she stirred gravy over
a hot stove.
there was candy too.
the size of postage stamps,
squared and colored in stripes,
thin pieces
sticky and flavored.
peppermint.
spearmint.
some were round and had
a sweet goo
within.
where have they been all
year?
what are these nuts,
these crazy candies,
these exotic nuts from
other lands?
why now we thought as we
cracked one open, letting
the shells
break into our small hands.

Friday, December 1, 2017

the paper trail

the bills come
in.
when did I buy a coat?
where is it?
oh, there it is, wrapped
around
a chair.
a scarf too.
those shoes.
when did I go there,
to the mountains
to west Virginia,
with whom?
gas on benning road,
mcdonalds?
who?

bring flowers

what don't
they say, or can't say,
these flowers.
i'm sorry,
I love you, farewell.
they speak beyond words
the day
we're in.
the day we celebrate
or mourn.
bring me red roses.
pink,
white with yellow
fringe.
bring me a garden
of flowers,
a simple vase
with one,
and say nothing.

she was a beauty

that car was a beauty,
I tell
jake
as we stand on the side
of the road
with our thumbs out.
327 with baby moons.
dual exhaust.
rally stripe
wrapped around the back
of her crimson
skin.
he nods.
tells me out a mercury
he used to have.
chrome green. his eyes
light up
as if he's talking about
a girl.
a girl that got away.
finally a truck
pulls over
and we get in.

we don't know

we don't know
what the day brings, or night,
or the weeks
beyond
our reach.
we don't know much
about anything to tell
you the truth.
we live on faith.
love is a mystery.
work
is endless.
we count pennies.
save dimes.
hope for the best, hope
that our bodies
and minds
hold it all together
for the long run.
sure,
we've got books and lessons,
schools
and parents,
but for the most part
we're clueless
as to what lies ahead.
we're only sure
of one thing, and one
thing only.
we live this life,
then
we're dead.

0 6 30

it's black out
at this hour. if there is a sun,
she's still
asleep
somewhere behind the hill,
those sleepy
trees.
the clock crawls
slow
at this ungodly time,
as I do,
stumbling towards
the day.
not a bird
is chirping, not a soul
out and about.
but wake up, here I come.
i'm on my way.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

i got nothing

it's been a little over
a week
since my last confession,
so I don't have a lot to say
in the confessional booth
this time around.
i did have a few bad thoughts
about some siblings,
and others, i mumble through
the mesh screen,
and i did yell out a few curse
words
at this bus that cut me off,
but I pretty much haven't
said or done a whole
lot of bad things this week.
although ginger has crossed
my mind a few times.
Ginger? i hear him say.
but other than that,
i know it's hard to believe,
i whisper, but i swear to
you, it's true. i got nothing.
i pause for a few seconds, but let
me think for a minute.
the priest is patient
on the other side.
a little bored perhaps
as he waits and waits. i hear
his fingers drumming on the wall.
well, my son, he says,
is that it? is that all you
got?
yup, i tell him. i think so.
sorry.
But wait a minute.
the sleeve on my coffee cup
fell off this morning
and blew away.
i didn't feel like chasing it,
so I let it go.
he laughs a little, but
not a mean laugh, just
a sort of chuckle, okay, okay,
he says. i think we're done here.
here's your penance.
He lets me off with two
Hail Marys and an Our
Father.
and if i see any trash lying
around this week, to pick it up.

roughly, how much?

can you
give me an estimate
on this wallpaper job
I need done,
like yesterday?
I don't
know what kind of paper
it is.
or how many rolls.
or if it needs
paste or is pre-pasted.
I have no clue
of the seller, the maker,
or the composition
of the paper, or size,
width, length, or
linear yards,
or what areas are going
to be done,
but just roughly
what would it
cost to paper this house?

the last slice

I don't want
to fight to argue
to disagree
and debate
such things as this,
so small.
I want
to let you have
your way.
to let you win.
to let you have
the day. go ahead,
take that last
slice of cake.
it's yours.

i'm new here

our waiter,
Charles from china
is
all smiles
in his stiff red suit.
menus
in hand.
polite to a fault.
the rice
comes soon, the spring
rolls,
the drinks
the shrimp with hot
peppers.
a golden duck on a plate.
I've only been here twelve
years
he tells us
I'm new.
he brings the duck
sauce,
the hot sauce,
the plum sauce.
the ginger sauce,
then begins to carve.

the christmas tree

there was the stolen Christmas
tree.
the unbalanced tree
that had
to be tied
to the rail, nailed
to the floor. there was
the tree where the needles
fell off
the first day.
the tree the cat ran up.
the too large
tree
that had to be cut
at the bottom,
then the top.
the tree that caught fire.
the tree
with sap.
the crooked tree, the tree
we cut down.
the tree we bought
at the church lot.
the tree
we all decorated together,
my father on a stool
putting the star
on top.
the tree we did alone
as my mother cried
at the darkened string,
sitting on the floor
as she tested
each bulb one at a time.

which way?

the roads
not taken are many,
as are the ones you've traveled
on.
God's will,
or human error, it's hard
to know
sometimes,
but off you go again.
bags packed,
with no forwarding
address,
no clue as to the next
stop.
hands pressed together
in trust.

the horses

we would run to the door
or windows
and look out when we heard
the clatter
of hooves on the street.
the heavy
clang of horse shoes
and wheels,
while the sagging horses
pulled the dark wagon along.
the gypsies draped
in black, with babies
under their arms would stand
and moan.
they'd stop and hold their
babies in the air
as if cursed with what they held.
sometimes my mother would
go out
and hand them what she could.
sometimes money, sometimes
eggs, or bread, a dish of stew.
they'd move on,
snapping the reins
to awaken the horses,
then into the woods
they'd go.

against our will

she refuses
to die. to let go.
what's going on here?
it's hard to understand
why life
goes on, when stuck
inside
your own body. your own
mind
not working
as it should.
talked to as if a child.
bed ridden. fed by
a baby spoon, the straw
brought to
her lips
for water.
what strange ends we
come to
against our will.

let them eat cake

she is the baking
queen
in her apron.
happy as all get out
when she mixes
and stirs
the eggs and sugar,
flour and cream.
what can't
she bake?
whether square or
round.
the dough will rise
and be iced when cooled,
then start again.
how happy she is
when
bringing it to your
door
and says, here,
I made this for you.

the start

it's not the face
you
expected
when getting up
in the cold
morning.
how did we get so old,
so quickly.
so tired.
so young at heart
and limping
at times
towards
the finish, or is it
the start?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

bright green

I love the green light.
not stopping.
but going.
not a yellow
or red
before us.
not a detour in sight.
hitting the gas
with the windows down
the tank full,
the radio on
as we speed along
the wide open road
with nothing but
green lights.

the cake is blue

the cake is blue.
tiffany
blue.
ribbon wrapped in
white icing.
it almost looks too
good to eat.
too good to be true.
the world can be
like that.
but we do.
we cut it down
the middle
and go at it.

when mice visit

the mice,
oh how the mice find
a way
to creep in on
soft feet,
their long soft tails,
their
quiet ways.
in from the cold
and hungry,
how they munch and chew
at the wood,
then enter
and eat.
they bring friends
of like ilk.
they eat too.
whispering among themselves,
with quiet
voices.
in time there is no
more angel hair
pasta
in the box, but what
a feast it was.

the light

she's the light.
a glimmer.
she's the twinkle
in an eye.
the bright after
the lifted fog,
the morning
after a long
cold night.
she's a chandelier
of stars.
she's a white candle
with a single flame.
she's aglow.
she's the light.