Saturday, June 24, 2017

birthday party

I buy some band aids,
some
burn cream,
bandages
and Neosporin.
flags on little sticks.
a fire extinguisher.
I get buckets of water.
unravel the hose.
patches for knocked out
eyes.
splints for busted
fingers when the roman
candles go wild.
we've got
a dozen pies for the contest.
moonshine in a barrel.
watermelons
full of seeds.
we've cut the grass,
trimmed back the ivy on
the house,
pulled the weeds.
a few kegs of beer,
hot dogs and beans,
country music on Pandora.
god bless
America
on its birthday.


world travel

when she gets back
from china, doing whatever
it is she does
in china, she'll give me
a call,
and we'll try to work
something out.
in her british accent, she'll
tell me
about her travels
around the world.
the flights, the ships
she's sailed on,
she'll tell me about the great
wall, the mountains,
the transsiberian railroad.
i'll tell her about
springfield
and the new greek place
around the corner,
how the shell station
has the best
prices for gas.

everyone's a winner

everyone gets a trophy
these days.
first place,
last place,
no matter how good you
are or if you
stink.
it's the new age.
there is no last place
anymore.
you competed, you're
a winner.
no need to hang your
head and cry,
everyone gets a
chicken dinner.

gold fish

the goldfish
in their bowl, know only
the bowl.
the water,
the castle of plastic
at the bottom.
the green
weeds swaying
below their
fins,
their pulsing gills.
they know the shadow
of our hand
coming towards them
to sprinkle food
along
the top.
do they long for the sea,
do they
need more?
to understand what this
life means?
it's hard to say
if they are like you,
or me.

the long way home

let's take the long way home,
she tells me,
rolling down
her window, letting the breeze
blow back her hair.
I don't want to go home.
let's keep driving.
okay.
I tell her, taking
the blinker off, getting
back onto the highway.
where to?
anywhere, just drive, just
go, she takes my
hand and puts it in her lap.
we drive and drive.
the sky changes from a golden
blue, to sweet
grey.
the sun a pink melt on the horizon.
there is nothing we can do
or say to better
the moment.
finally we go home and make
love.
we will remember this drive
forever.

Friday, June 23, 2017

fat moe

my dog, fat Moe,
the daschund, would
eat
anything.
a sandwich left unattended
on the table.
a turkey just out of the oven.
up he'd go,
and pull it away behind
the couch.
a shoe,
a watch, a pair
of sunglasses.
computer wires just out
of the box.
he bit a beer can in half
one day.
showing off at a party.
he loved bras
and underwear.
preferring silk, or satin.
one or two snaps,
front or back, made
no difference.
jeans
found at the end
of the bed.
coats on the floor. belts.
he could destroy
the contents of a purse
in two minutes.
cell phones.
god knows the pills
he consumed.
the lipstick he swallowed.
he was a dog
shark,
always on the move
to eat.
to shred,
to swallow. may he
rest in peace.
I am.

smart and yet

I remember my brother,
the genius one,
at ten,
who has more degrees
than a thermometer
standing in the rain,
in a large cold puddle
out in the yard.
I don't know why he was
upset, what it was about,
but he was determined,
he said, to get sick
and die to prove a point.
I remember staring out
the window at him
wondering how he could be
so smart and yet do
something like this.
this thought has often
crossed my mind
as we grow older.

no diving

our pool,
our barbed wire contained
pool.
the deepest end, eight feet.
no diving board,
a listless teenager
on the big chair
eating
chips.
a gaggle of kids
near the side,
screaming marco
polo
an million times over.
I jump in.
a whistle blows,
no diving, the guard
yells
pointing at me
as he stands up.
don't hang on the rope.
you're in the lap lanes.
I go under. I hold
my breath
and lie flat on the bottom
hanging onto the grate.
I stare up
through the water,
past the kicking legs,
through the blue,
to an even bluer sky.
i think about how quickly
life moves on.

different

there was a day
when I came home from work,
every book
I owned
or had bought since I was
a kid,
from salinger to updike,
to grisham,
was packed away in boxes,
taped up
sealed and sitting by
the door.
eight large boxes
of my books.
I asked my significant
other,
whom I was related to by
marriage at that point
in my life
what was going on.
you've read them all, she
said.
I need room for my knick
knacks
and things on the shelves.
maybe there are poor
people out
there who would like to read
these books.
slowly, with steam
coming out of my ears,
I ripped off the tape
and put the books
back onto the shelf.
she shook her head
and called me selfish.
I mumbled bad things
and asked
her if she'd ever heard of
the public library.
we were different.
not on the same page,
not in the same book,
not in the same building.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

go ahead and try

the slow crawl
of the copperhead
across the shaded
walk way,
reminds me of you.
deliberate
and lethal, saying
with all of your
shimmying body,
and dark eyes, go ahead,
just go ahead
and try.

cupid

I think there's
an arrow
in me.
I can feel the sharp
pointed
head
straight
through the heart
and out
the back.
there's a fat cherub
in the tree
with a quill, smiling.
he has wings
that somehow keep
him afloat.
I don't know what
to make
of this.

sometimes true

we find
what we need.
it comes to us if we
go after it
hard enough,
and think about it
often.
visualize
what could be.
without dreams
we are destined to
a life of
mediocrity.
which is only sometimes
true.

staying put

i couldn't be a pioneer
back in those days,
not with the covered wagons
bouncing along.
the beans on the fire.
Indians
with flaming arrows.
coyotes.
i wouldn't have made
it very far,
choking up dust
from the dirt trail.
things would have had
to have been
really bad
to make me leave
the city, with its
crime and rats,
pollution and corruption.
some things you get used
to, and call it
home.

this darkness

the eclipse
is just that.
a darkening of the world
as what floats above
us passes
against one another.
it's temporary,
this shadow.
this darkness.
take heart.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

let it dry

is it too green,
the woman asks, as the paint
dries
on her kitchen walls.
will I get tired of it?
it's
brighter than lime,
brighter than
a granny apple green,
brighter than
any color holly go
lightly might wear,
or found in nature
except perhaps a stripe
on a chameleon.
I nod and say, no it's
fine. let it dry.

the boss of me

late again,
sniffling, not up to par.
throat a little
scratchy.
sweating already at
eight in the morning.
even the coffee
is stale.
I need someone to yell
at me to get
going.
I need a jump start.
a kick in
the behind.
someone telling me that
this little
world of yours will
crumble
if you don't get out the
door.
I lie back in bed
and hit the snooze alarm.
I don't like
being bossed around.

muffin tops

when the stove
catches fire
with flames billowing
out the back and burns
the top of a dozen
blueberry muffins,
she puts the fire out
with her fire extinguisher
then cuts
off the tops of the
blackened muffins.
she ices them down
and says. there we go,
holding out a beautiful
plate of her creations.
not one bead of sweat
on her forehead.

whree's my money

it's not about money.
but it
does come down to money
if you have to
chase it
and get paid.
everything changes
if the check isn't in
the mail,
if it's not handed to
you at the end
of the job,
if the check bounces
like
a ball skipping down
the highway.
things get dark then,
and forever
unlightens your mood
towards
a client.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Kool aid kids

we used to have
an enormous clear pitcher
of red
kool aid on the picnic
table.
we all drank it
from paper cups poured
to the brim.
we were children with
red lips,
red drips on our
white t shirts.
the girls too.
we believed
in everything we were told.
we crossed our hearts
and hoped to die before
we awoke.
we drank it daily,
taking in the sugar
sweetness,
the icy cold.
then one day, we stopped
drinking, we moved on
from believeing
everything, from doing
what we were told.

all about me

there is plenty to do
on the list
in descending order
of importance.
you are in
there.
in fact the first
three things on the list
involve you.
my priorities have
suddenly shifted.
although at times
it is all
about me, as seen
in the next twenty items
on the list.

Monday, June 19, 2017

job hunting

when looking for a job
as a teenager
i'd circle
the ads
with a ball point pen.
stretch out the classifieds
on the living room floor
under the big dining room
light and
underline the phone numbers.
clean, neat and sober.
laborer needed.
6 am.
I could do that.
how hard is it to carry
bricks all day.
or dishwasher.
night shift.
12 to 4 am.
maybe not.
usher in a theater.
once again,
clean neat and sober.
there must have been a lot
of drinking going
on back then.
I loved the red suits,
and glossy brimmed hats,
the big flash lights,
telling people
to get there
feet off the chairs,
and to zip up their
pants.

that did it

she liked horses.
you didn't.
the smell of the barn,
the grime,
the shedding.
she liked going to bed
at nine pm.
you're a night owl.
she didn't have a t.v..
what planet are we on?
she liked
saying nothing for
hours on end.
staring silently while
doing her nails.
you're a blabber mouth
who likes to ask
questions that have no
answers.
she wasn't fond
of fooling around.
that did it.

fly away

the fly,
a bit of frenetic
life,
a black dot of fury
against the screen.
clear webbed wings
and an iridescent green
tinge,
somehow.
does he even know what
he wants?
buzzing in,
buzzing out.
never flying in a
straight line,
never resting,
always uncertain about
what to do
next with his short
crazed life.

rain check

the rain check
never comes, nor does
the wind,
or snow,
or hail check.
bad weather has nothing
to do with not
meeting,
but it sounds good
when you can't say
what's really on
your mind.

out of ink

the pen
is out of ink.
bone dry.
not a wet spot of blue
or black
on its
narrow tip.
I hardly wrote a word
with it,
not a single
check, not a single
note
to remind me of
something I might
forget.
I guess you used it
all up,
when listing
your grievances
and complaints. all
of which I filed
in
the corner basket,
balled and tossed
with good aim.

slow boat

the slow boat
to china, would be nice.
with short
stops along the way.
the deep
smooth sea.
the low sun, the high
stars,
just us, just you,
just me.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

fast girls

her 78 trans am,
had red stripes,
a big bird painted
on the hood.
big tires.
dents and scrapes
along the side where
she'd clip
guard rails
and parking meters.
it was a fast car
for a fast girl.
a cigarette dangled from
her pouty lips, cherry red.
a can of beer nestled
between her daisy duke
legs.
zz top blasted on the stereo.
she scared you
that summer with her
driving
and foul language, but
she was fun
and frisky
and never missed a sunday
mass
no matter what happened
the night before.

veggie time

the men
look hopelessly around
the pool
area
where the party is in bloom.
no grille? you hear
one man say.
they put their noses
in the air,
sniffing
for seared meat,
a chicken,
a steak, a bratwurst.
but there is none.
someone's wife
brings you a plate
and offers up a carrot
and some snap peas.
what choice do you have?
you say yes,
and bite down,
dipping a broccoli
stalk into a strange white
sauce.

the knot

untying the knot,
takes time.
bending over, stopping
what you're doing,
leaning
over, both hands
working
the tight string
balled together
that keeps your shoe
on.
slowly you work it
free.
life can be full of
knots
that need undoing.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

shopping with the ancient mariner

the water in his ear
makes him
completely deaf.
he squints and unsquints
but can't
see much,
other than the blur
of colors
in the store light.
but it's okay.
he leans on the cart
and pushes onward.
he knows where the baked
beans are,
original recipe,
the fish sticks,
the boneless pork
chops,
the Debbie cakes.
he's done this before.

we go north

go north,
the heart says.
go south, the back seat
driver
chimes in.
east, no west
the passenger beside
me says.
someone here has to make
a decision.
that's me.
my hands are on
the wheel.
we go north.

let it rain

it feels like rain.
a warm summer rain.
the leaves turn up
in a soft wind.
I open the door,
not a soul around
this morning.
no a bird or dog.
no black cat.
let it rain. let
it pour, let it keep
us inside
together, once more.

play on

the musicians,
most grey or dyed an elvis
black,
still love the stage,
there they are,
guitars in hand,
strapped on and drums,
a sax player,
harmonicas too.
a fat man on a tall
bass with a beret
and goatee.
they play for free, for
drinks,
for raw oysters from
the bar.
they could go all night
if you let them.
but there's work tomorrow.

cut flowers

the trouble with
flowers,
once cut, they only go
on so long.
no matter the water,
the sunlight,
the turn
of pot
upon the sill.
enjoy them while you
can, or leave
them alone, leave
beauty where it
belongs,
in the garden with
their friends.

Friday, June 16, 2017

strawberry moon

the strawberry
moon, on the ninth
of the sixth month surprises me.
a pink
orb of Chablis,
so full and high.
in another year I would
have called you
and we would have stared
up at the sky
together and admired it.
you, so many miles away,
seeing it through
the tall pines, seeing
it above the pond beside
your house.
I can see you now in your
bare feet, in the wet
grass, looking up, with
phone in hand,
missing me.

sweet as you

the sweet berries are in,
boxed and set upon
one another in the bright
store.
how blue they
are in milk.
a spoon
beside the white bowl.
a simple thing this pleasure
is.
to taste anything
so fresh and sweet as you.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

to be swept away

you'll catch your cold
if you go
out into the rain
without your shoes, your
mother would say.
put your coat on,
your hat.
don't go down to the storm
drain
with your friends.
but it was too late.
we ran
down the street to see how
fast the water
was moving, to put our
feet into it,
and wonder what it would be
like to be swept
away by something.

drivers ed

the drivers ed
teacher was nervous.
he trembled
in the passenger seat as
the children took the wheel
and headed
off the ramp into traffic.
his foot rested
on an imaginary
brake pedal, which he pumped
and pumped to no avail.
he braced himself for death.
people are crazy out here,
he'd say.
be careful. look out.
get in the right lane,
slow down.
use your mirror,
your signal, don't
be afraid to use your horn.
by the end of the day
he started drinking.
keeping a flask of
scotch in his desk.
at night after his legs
stopped
quivering, he closed his
eyes and prayed
about tomorrow.

shallow water

it's shallow water
we're in now.
a murky black swell
of cold,
above our knees as
we slug
forward.
the rain has stopped,
but it could start
again.
dry land is no where
to be found.
this shallow water
though,
gives us hope, gives
us a reason
to go on. take my hand,
hold the light
up. let's go.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

beach trip

I woke up with a cat
in my sleeping bag once,
after hitch hiking to ocean city
with my friends perry herbert
and jim acs.
we crashed on the beach, down
by the dunes, this was way
before the high rise condos went up.
we felt the wind
move up from the ocean,
cold and wet, full of salt.
the stars may have been out.
i'm not sure. we had been drinking
around a fire, talking about
girls all night. baseball.
what we might do with our lives
once we were forced
to join the rest of the world.
we talked about
how we needed to be more social
this trip. which meant
meeting girls.
we had maybe twenty dollars
between us, but figured
on pan handling down on the board
walk to get more.
we wore out the talk about
girls, our lack thereof,
then finished our few beers
and went to sleep.
the cat found her way into my
sleeping back at some point in
the middle of the night.
she never woke me, just
crawled in and snuggled up
against my chest.
I remember her looking up
at me with her glass
green eyes in the morning sun
as if she was where she was
supposed to be.
we never did meet any girls.

gas prices

what's the price of gas
down your way, my father asks,
as we fill
up his tug boat of a car
on the navy base.
his gas at this pump is one cent
cheaper than it is off
base.
we had to drive ten miles
to get there.
I tell him, I don't know
what gas is.
I just get it when I need it.
same goes
for milk and bread.
vodka.
I wonder why they even put
prices on things anymore
I tell him.
there would be less
to worry about if they didn't.
or maybe more, he
says.

tomato tomato

I spend ten minutes with
the waitress
talking about the correct
pronunciation
of the word gyro.
tomato tomato, I say to her,
getting no smile.
you americans, she says.
explaining in two
words
what she perceives
is wrong with the world
and its lack
of culture
and understanding. I don't
necessarily disagree,
but i'm starving
and take my gyro
and French fries
and get out of there.

who are these people?

a niece, a nephew
a cousin
an uncle's third child
from a second
wife, all of whom i've
never met or
even knew they existed
before i opened the letter,
send me graduation
notices
with a return envelope
enclosed.
there is no personal note.
no how are you?
no hope to see you soon.
how did they find me?
what's the proper gift
to give to a complete
stranger
for that monumental task
of finishing
high school?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

the lie detector

who are you,
they ask as I squirm
in the chair, a lie
detector band
wrapped tightly around my
arm. small cups on my fingers.
wires on the table.
I don't know,
I tell them.
they stare at the machine
as the needle vibrates.
sometimes I think I know
myself
and then i'll do something
that totally
surprises me.
i'm a mystery, an enigma
even to myself.
the needle is even
against the paper.
he's telling the truth,
the man in the black suit
says. what else do you
want me to ask him?
he looks at the woman
behind him,
holding a frying pan
above my head.
ask him about Ginger,
she says, in fact let me
do the questioning
from here on.
she squints her eyes
and moves in closer.

post card from afar

the postcard
is from afar.
an island you've never heard
of.
it's from someone
you don't know, or haven't
met,
quite yet.
wish you were here,
it says.
with love and kisses.
the smudge of red
lipstick is on
the back. it smells
of perfume.
on the front are coconut
trees, sand,
and a cove of blue water.
it's nice to get things
in the mail
even if it's not
for you.

Monday, June 12, 2017

the chicken truck

the chicken truck
is a foot or two away from
my back
bumper for much of route
64. we're doing 75 miles per
hour
on a hot sunny stretch.
i'm boxed in by cars
and vans.
I can't get away
from this chicken truck.
I see the name in blue,
Perdue above
the windshield,
and a chicken's
silhouette
on the hood.
I think about death
on the highway.
the truck crushing me
like a bug,
or pushing me aside
into a gully
where i'll drown in a foot
of water. all
so that he can get his
chickens to the grocery
stores on time.
god forbid someone doesn't
have a chicken to eat
tomorrow.
no wings, no legs, no thighs.

the last car

the thirteen year old
chevy impala,
grey with a barbed wire
pin stripe
around it
has only thirty nine thousand
miles on the fogged odometer.
no further than five miles
in any direction
over the decade has been traveled.
bread milk,
kfc
and lottery tickets,
for the most part.
it passes inspection,
although the tires are
close to being shot,
dry rot, the mechanic says.
my father nods.
and says next year.
he's nearly blind, can hardly
hear, but
the car is something.
he can't give it up.
he can't surrender his last means
of escape.
something that's always
been on his mind.

original

he knows
where the baked beans are,
original he says.
everything has
to be original.
the bread, whole wheat,
original.
the mustard,
the fish sticks, eight
to a box.
crispy,
battered. original
recipe.
one by one, we go down
the long wide
isles of the commissary
until the basket is full.
he takes
out his coupons
and asks me if I see Leon,
his favorite
cashier
who takes all of his coupons
no mater what's
in the basket.
I don't want an Asian woman,
he says.
I laugh, not going there.
what's the point.
I set the pringles
on the belt,
original.

the counter girl

she's lace.
she's icing. she's
dessert
in a dress.
a kiss
about to happen.
a candy cane
of legs.
a merengue of hair.
I shake and tremble
at what
could be
if she looks or
even says
a word to me
at this drug store
counter.

the plow

the bulldozer
has no sympathy for what
was here
before.
what wood, or steel rose
from the ground.
there is no sense
of history, or love,
or memory
of things
that happened here.
the shovel knows nothing,
but to move
forward
and plow under,
so that someone can begin
again,
go forth.
the plows never stop
in this world.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

the big book

let's not fight tonight,
she says,
leaning over my bed
to kiss me
goodnight
before heading to her
room, but
I didn't like your tone
of voice
at dinner time
when you were speaking
to me.
oh, really, I say,
setting my
unreadable book down.
yes, really she says,
then leaves,
slamming the door.
I open the book
and turn to the last page.
I don't want to
read anymore.
I want to know how it
finally ends.

the old photo

he doesn't know who
I am
anymore, she says of her
father.
he sits
dirty, in front
of the television
and smokes.
he eats nothing but
donuts.
makes no
eye contact or
conversation.
the bones show in his
shoulders.
she shows me his photo
from decades ago.
standing near
a pool
at a country club.
his family around him.
the buttons
of his double breasted
suit shining
in the light.
his hair is blonde
partly neatly to
one side. he is the great
Gatsby.
no more.

fried rice

wall
to wall tables. red
tassels
fall from
the faux crystal
chandeliers.
a slew of ducks
being peeled
and filleted
made ready for pancakes
and plum
sauce.
hardly an inch
between
elbows and knees.
the smell
of fried rice,
fried fish,
fried vegetables
hangs in the still
air.
the muddled voices
loud
as one.
the umbrella drinks keep
coming.
the waiters in their
stiff red
coats singing happy
birthday in
Chinese.

Friday, June 9, 2017

ups and downs

his motorized chair
clunks and squeals
up the stairs, he has
coffee in hand,
and a mouthful of words
he wants to say.
bracing himself
against each wall
and door, he waddles
forward to where i'm
working. he
leans in, and with
a smile, says hey.
mind if i hang out for
awhile.
he tells me about his
hip, his leg,
the war, the next
war.
his son and wife,
he asks me
if I've ever been married.
he says, there are
ups and downs, then
laughs. he looks away,
grows quiet.
coffee, he says,
finishing his.
sure i tell him.
so back down he goes,
riding the chair,
the chain needing oil.

to stop time

she says,
I love you.
I love you too, I
say back.
before us is the ocean.
our feet
in the sand.
a warm sun bathes us
in light.
the sky is blue
and full
of enormous white clouds.
it's good to be at
rest, like this.
to touch hands
and stop time.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

the elevators

the elevators
are beyond slow in this building.
we wait.
a crowd of three,
becoming six,
then ten.
all looking at their
phones or watches,
impatient as we shift
our feet. sigh,
and let out groans
of exasperation.
we stare at the numbers
above the shut doors
one two and three,
the arrows pointing up,
one coming down.
they seem to stop at all
floors, letting
people on or off.
we grow old, waiting.
our hair thins and turns grey.
our bones sag,
our vision blurs.
the world outside
this building spins.
the seasons change.
we stare at the doors to
open, for our turn
to get in.

her gifts

I can't think of a gift
she gave me
that I didn't throw away.
the lumber jack
plaid shirt.
red and green plaid.
the enormous bath robe
that itched, made of recycled
fibers and hair
from a Peruvian goat.
the opera cd.
a hair brush.
a box of carob candy.
a hand painted picture
of the moon.
white and desolate.
it was almost like she
was messing
with me.
telling me something
about where we might be
going.

lunch studies

I use to study the lunches
of other kids
as we sat at the long
hard table
in the cafeteria.
the boy with the egg
salad sandwich,
the crust removed,
was one.
a thermos of milk
in his plaid lunch box.
carrots in a small
bag, cut up just so.
an apple. a small
box of raisons.
even a note, saying
I love you.
have a good day. mom.
I always felt like
this kid was going
somewhere
as I took the peanut
butter sandwich out
of my used paper
bag and sipped on
a carton of two cent milk.
it surprised me
when I read about him
in the paper,
years later
after he jumped from
the top floor
of the prudential building.

things return

things return.
people too,
sometimes.
a lost
shoe or watch,
a ring, friends,
or lovers.
we
suddenly turn up
from under
whatever
kept us hidden.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

hanging on

he hung on to
the sixties as long as he could.
into his own
sixties.
the long hair,
now silver, pony tail
dangling on his shoulders.
the balding
gone too far
to be undone.
rock and roll, he'd
say
to anything said to him.
far out.
peace.
right on.
he'd spin his lp's
late into the night and fire
up
some weed, talk
deeply about
the space between us all,
what time
and love
really mean.
medicare kicked in.
his knees hurt.
he needed a cane to walk
now to
his van, multi colored,
like his tie dyed shirts,
on blocks,
rusted at the edges,
like him.
my man.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

what's that?

my doctor, no
not that one, the other
one
who prefers to wear green
versus
a white smock
shakes my hand, then touches
my arm
where a prickly rash
has appeared.
what's that? she says.
eeks.
prickly heat, I tell her.
looks itchy,
she says, stepping away.
okay, so why are you here
today?
I don't know, I tell her.
but I got a message
saying that I was supposed
to come in. so here I am.
I look at her wall of photos
of infectious diseases,
boils, pimples,
what looks like lakes
of fire
growing on people's bodies.
can you pull your sleeve
down over that rash,
it's bugging me, she says.
I pull down my sleeve
and scratch where it itches.
what you need is
an oatmeal bath, she says.
i'm going to write you
a prescription for a sack
of oatmeal and I want
you to come back in
six weeks. hopefully it'll
be healed.

my russian spy

my friend Natasha
admits that she is a spy.
she doesn't care
that I know what she's up to.
she listens to
every word I say,
reads my emails and text
messages
when I set my phone down.
you are of little interest
to us,
she tells me, sipping
her vodka, while
brushing out her
bearskin coat.
she works the nightshift
as a maid
at the Dixie hotel on
route one, but
drives a black Mercedes.
her cleavage is tremendous.
you are very low on our
list, on the food chain
of surveillance.
I wish you had a better
job with higher clearance,
but no. you paint houses.
so it goes.
I am assigned to you.
every person has a Russian
spy attached to them.
we must learn and know
everything about you
to defeat your capitalistic
ways. throw a wrench
into your elections.
we want you to be cold,
and hungry, unhappy
like we are
in the mother country.
bitter about our lives.
your endless cable channels
and Netflix
is indulgent and bad
for you. coca cola
and burgers. you are all
fools drowning in sugar
and salt, oprah and tmz.
we will bury you.
pour me another vodka,
comrade. maybe later, you
can come with me
and we can go look in windows.

she looked just like you

someone just like you
was in the store the other day.
I saw her from
the side
and almost said hello.
but it wasn't you.
this doesn't mean that I
think about you all the time,
so please,
get that out of your head.
what we had wasn't love,
despite,
how often we told each other
that it was.
but, as I said,
she looked like you,
from the side,
the hair, the face, the way
you'd lean towards me,
up on your toes
to kiss me
hello, or goodbye.

the free bike

a bike, with a sign taped
to the seat
sits out front on
the sidewalk for days.
it reads free.
but no one takes it
and rides off.
it looks like a nice
bike.
air in the tires.
no rust that I can see.
it looks like a perfectly
fine bike that
someone just doesn't
want anymore.
finally after a week,
I see the trash truck
pull up
and throw it into
the back, where the big
metal door slams down
to crush it
together
with bags of trash and
assorted debris.
the men in their orange
jumpsuits say nothing has
they hop on board
to drive away.
it's sad in a way, but
I won't lose any sleep
over it.

table talk

you should eat less
meat
she tells me, sipping on
her soup,
nibbling on a flax
cracker.
she uses her knife to put
a small
wet chunk of cheese
on a greek olive.
i'm stuffed she says,
I can't eat another bite.
i cut into my rib eye.
chew it away,
then tell her that,
you know,
Hitler was a vegetarian.
oh really, she says.
what about Eva, his
girlfriend?
not sure about her, but
he sent her out everyday
into the war ravaged
city to find fresh green
beans and lettuce.
what's your point, she says,
drinking her
sparkling water.
no point, i tell her,
just saying.

going on

no matter what happens,
we still
need milk and bread.
we need to do
laundry,
walk the dog,
put gas in our cars.
no matter
what the headlines
read, what the news screams
we are watching what we eat,
walking, running,
listening to music.
lying on the couch,
watching tv.
in some small, insane way we
win, by going on
with our daily lives,
or maybe we just don't
know what else to do.

Monday, June 5, 2017

her irish jig

if she had a little
too much to drink she'd break out
into an Irish jig.
snap her shoes
across the sidewalk
in a blur
as you made you're way home
from some pub.
her red hair flew
around, her arms
hung out like wings,
her green eyes happy
with whiskey.
it didn't matter that you
weren't in love.
this was enough for now.

playing it safe

you spend much
of your life picking the high
ground.
bringing fire,
and shelter,
food.
thinking ahead to what
could happen,
but never does.
you keep an eye out
for wild animals.
it's hard to imagine
not having
a warm bed
to sleep in.
a couch to sit in.
all the comforts of
home,
money in the bank
and
a lock on the door.

the gum

the gum
stuck to my shoe
reminds
me of you, she says,
taking
a stick, sitting
on the curb
scrapping off a wad
of double bubble.
you mean the sweetness
of me?
the fun of chewing
and blowing a bubble,
and snapping it
all the time?
no, she says, not
exactly.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

help us, please

they want a donation.
they call,
they send mail requests.
just five, just ten,
fifty if you can,
or whatever you can afford.
we need to save
the babies, the dogs,
the orphans overseas.
we need to
build a hut, a trench,
we need medicine
for the tired and poor,
for diseased.
won't you help us,
as you've done in the past,
if you have heart,
a conscience, if you
truly believe,
won't you help us,
please.

his ship

I just put twenty seven
hundred dollars into the bank
he says on the phone
cheerfully.
I can hear the tilt of a bottle
the clink of ice
in a glass.
he's living large now.
eating chicken.
ordering in.
he's making long distance
calls,
and thinking about
a new pair of shoes.
his ship, though small,
and wobbly,
has come in.

it's you

it's not the drip
of the faucet
that bangs subtly
in rhythm against
the chrome drain,
it's not the wind
pulling
on the tree,
or the shutters
swing.
it's not the dog
some blocks away,
wailing
as he likes to do
with or without
a moon. it's not
any of that
that stirs me,
keeps me awake
through the long night.
it's you.

Friday, June 2, 2017

what have we here

it's a common snake
in the yard.
striped
yellow, with a fringe
of fancy
black down it's leathery
length.
it sticks his tongue out
at me,
as I find him under
a bed of wet
leaves.
he coils together
in fright.
ready to strike.
but with enough noise
and me saying things
like get out
of here snake, he slithers
into the yard
next door, finding a small
hole
in the fence,
that's just right.

let's all join hands

I never liked the idea
of joining hands with complete
strangers.
not around a campfire,
not even in church,
when asked to greet
our neighbors standing
next to us
and shake.
stand together as one,
the preacher would say,
and out would come
a hand.
I could never do a coke
commercial
and sing in a big circle
holding hands. jumping
around on a sugar high.
i'm not even fond of
a bucket brigade,
or a tug of war.
tug your own rope.

the sunny side of the street

our house was on
the shady side of the street
which I think
affected
our entire lives.
where was the sun?
over there.
a big beam of yellow
light
cascaded down
on them.
who grew great blooms
of flowers
in their yard?
they did.
who had a pool,
where the blue water
glistened like
tiny stars,
not us. the people
who lived
in the house seemed
happier than we were,
too.
their kids seemed smarter,
all of them over achievers.
their marriage,
a rock.
we suspected they had a wonderful
sex life.
even their dog, sparky,
had a spring
in his step,
unlike ours, who sat
curled
under the great oak
tree, licking his paws.
yes. in the shade.

i hear people say

I hear people say
this is my last dog, or
cat.
I just can't go through
it again.
loving it and then losing
it.
I've said it too.
although every time
I see a little dog
on the street,
wagging it's tail,
and wanting to kiss me,
my heart melts and I
want another one.
same goes with
tall women
in high heels.

seven

I don't remember
my mother or father ever asking
where we had
been all day,
all night.
there were too many of us
to keep track of.
they gave a head count
on occasion
just to figure out how
many pork chops
to set out, but as long
as the school never
called, or
the police didn't show up
at the door,
they were happy.
there was a large box
of band aides
on top of the refrigerator,
and a bottle
of hydrogen peroxide
which we used liberally.

oh, now you need me

there was turbulence.
the wind
pushed the boat with wings
from side to side,
the earth was
upside
down. clouds were
where the land was
supposed to be.
it grew dark as the rain
pounded our
thin metal home
in the sky.
we gripped hands, began
to pray
to the God we grew up
with,
which amused Him
greatly, wondering
where we had been
all these years.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

dear diary

I find an old diary
stuck
under the mattress
in the guest room.
today I slept in it says
on the first page.
i'm going for a walk.
the next few
pages
were blank, then it
said,
i'm hungry. when will
he ever cook
some food in this house.
i'm starving.
the next page
said,
i'm sick of eating chicken,
for dinner
oatmeal for lunch.
I wonder if he likes me.
a day or two later,
my back hurts from making
love on the pool
table.
I think he likes me though.
we're going
out to dinner
tonight.


out of work

I saw a circus
clown
on the corner looking
for work.
still in make up.
still with the floppy
shoes
and nose.
a squirting flower
on his lapel.
he was holding a sign,
will
make you laugh
for money, or food.
I gave him a dollar,
then he
put a whipped cream
pie into my face.
I didn't laugh,
but those in the car
with me did.

her halo

her religion
has slipped, her slip
has
slipped,
her shoe is off,
her halo
is on the table.
she hasn't given up,
just surrendered
a little,
at least for now.
she's tired
of being good.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

the stone man

I haven't forgotten
the man,
old as stone, grey in his
folds.
his blue eyes
still lit with life
under his
black tight cap.
we waved
to him
in his chair upon
the ridge,
but he never waved back.
go on, his
gaze said. go back
to your cruise
ship, your lives,
your world. let me sit
here in the morning sun
of Greece
and not be a part of
you.

the short story

she told me once
that I would be like the guy
in the cheever
story, swimming across the county,
going from pool to pool
as the seasons changed
from spring to summer
into the chill of fall.
she said that i'd be standing
at the window
as the leaves fell,
shivering, peering in
at an empty house, wondering
what happened, where everyone
had gone.
how strange it must be to
be always wrong.

second thoughts

frantic,
he paces back and forth
waiting
for the blood test
results
to come in.
it's Russian roulette
out there,
he mutters,
feeling the finger
where his wedding
ring used to be.
i'm exhausted by this
single life.
I thought it was going
to be fun meeting
new women.
but it's not that way
at all.
so many crazies out there,
bankrupt
and mean, just
looking for a free meal,
a handout,
a wad of cash to pay
some bills.
I drop eighty bucks a night
on drinks
and calamari and rarely
even get a kiss,
just a handshake or pat
on the back and the parting
words, good
luck with your search.
I miss my house, my
home, he says
I even miss my ex.
her bad cooking and luke warm
love making.
maybe I should call her,
call her tonight. just
as soon as I
get the results of the bloodwork,
take her back if she'll
have me.

smokes

he touches his
throat
to talk. an alien voice
comes out.
how are you?
he says.
he nods
and motions
with his hand,
pointing to his
pack of
cigarettes
on his wheelchair,
his wife
takes one out,
lights it
and sets it between
his lips.
want one, he says.
have a seat.
sit for awhile.
he blows a cloud
of smoke
into the air,
a calm smile
upon his face.
the ashes
fall to the floor.

her fire

my friend
goes to Europe alone
with her
back pack
and credit card.
some cash, a water
bottle
and a map.
she's fearless,
tireless,
curious about the world,
still.
I admire
the restlessness
in her.
a fire
that won't be doused.

the shed door

in 1930
they built the empire
state building
in four hundred
and ten days with hammers
and screw drivers,
muscle and fearless
climbing above
the city below.
I can't get a hinge
on my shed door
after ten years
of it leaning against
the frame.

Monday, May 29, 2017

on the shore

just a half block
off 5th
avenue, west,
the long box has a man
inside.
a ragged coat
around him
a red pillow
to comfort his furry
head.
washed up to
his own kingdom on
the shores
of wealth.
he's under the black
stone,
the granite,
the building that rises
a hundred floors
or more
above him.
he sleeps, he wonders.
he looks out
at his change filled
hat, caring little
if there's less,
or more.

going back

the keys
become a problem, where
they are,
to the house,
the car.
whether in pocket, or
set upon
a table,
which room?
or left to dangle
in the door, ajar.
is the iron off?
the door locked,
better
turn
around to make
sure.
the stove, what if
the burner
is on. it would be a shame
to burn it all down,
being so close.
we're only ten miles
away,
turn here.

the lobby wedding

the camera not ready.
nor the lights,
nor those
who've come to see
and witness
the groom, the bride.
they sit
and wait in the hotel
lobby.
tired already.
adjusting shoes,
and veil, tie.
strangers stopping to look.
the year have rushed
so quickly
upon them.
tomorrow is in the stall,
at the starting gate.
bit in mouth.
it's just the cake that waits,
the dance,
the celebration,
the camera man
pushing a bright light
up high, finally ready,
to put a shine
on all.

pig roast

hardly
a word is spoken about
the head,
severed
pink, upon the table.
resting openly
on the white
clothed table.
once
alive,
this pig, now roasted
and split,
carved with a butcher's
knife.
turned over a blazing
fire for hours
on the slow turn
of a long sharp
spit.
his ears have crusted
over just so.
his eyes gone, his
mouth agape.
we turn instead to talk
of us,
of them, of why
we're here. the blue sky,
the rain
that may appear.
not it, not this.
that life has met
it's end.

swim

all you fish,
swim, swim.
swim towards the great towers,
to the empire,
to the flat iron,
swim towards
towards the Lincoln
tunnel,
the Holland,
across the bridges
into queens,
the Bronx.
swim in bright colors
to harlem,
sing your blues and swim
to Washington
square with your grand
arch,
downtown, to sheeps
meadow,
to battery,
through the zoo
and park, swim you fish
in the glitter
of times square,
bend your fins,
the gold of you,
the green, the spangles
of you.
swim as you've always
done,
without sleep, the pulse
unrelenting.
swim swim swim
old city.

Friday, May 26, 2017

so it goes

what two share
after making love
in bed,
late into the evening,
the sweat undried
upon them,
speaks softly of other
things, things
besides this fire
they just
put out.
they speak of common
chores, what fills each hour,
day to day,
what needs to be done
tomorrow, or into
the new week.
so it goes.

a list of grievances

when drinking,
he was happy. Canadian club
whiskey
on his breath,
his unshaven face
hard sand
against my young cheeks.
how easy it was
for him to lift\
me up,
head near the ceiling,
high above
the tiled kitchen
floor,
with my mother at the table,
waiting,
with a list
of grievances.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

at sea

his hands
are still curled from
the cold,
from dragging in
the heavy nets
of fish
and crab,
the wet cold slabs
alive,
some staying
for food, for sale,
some too small,
going back over
the side.
his face is red,
his blue eyes
squint even without
the sun.
he wets his lips,
turns the ship towards
home.
his hands
curled around the wheel.
what else is there
to do,
or know.

let's stay in

let's stay in
tonight,
build a fire.
make dinner.
do nothing,
but lie upon the sofa
in candle light.
let's spin
whatever music
there is
that makes us happy.
let's listen to the rain
outside
upon the trees,
the roof,
the ground.
let's see
what lips can do against
each other.

beauty

a bag of oranges,
half bad,
soured
and rotting in the mesh
net.
when were they picked,
trucked
to this store.
what happened along
the way?
they look so bright,
so sweet
and juicy in
their stacks,
in the store lights.
not so you discover
in the first
peel
and bite.

it comes back

it's easier
now to take the nearest
exit.
to stop
listening to things
you don't want
to hear. to get out
of the long line,
to go easy
in the right lane.
to be
slow to anger,
quick
to praise.
be kind.
it all comes
back,
though, not always.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

hot dog

all day
people look and stare
at you.
they see how you fist
your chest
and burp.
they know what you've
eaten.
the bright yellow
stain
screams mustard
along your once white
shirt.
the relish you brushed
off,
but the mustard
stayed. forever.
they are jealous
people.
them with their garden
salads
and unsalted
nuts. their cod
and flounder, carrots,
cut,
still hungry.

pardon me

people are
happy to point out
that your
tire needs air, or that
you have shaving
cream in one
ear.
or spinach between
your teeth.
they point and smile,
and say
gently so as not
to embarrass,
there's something
stuck to the bottom
of your shoe,
that your zipper
is not quite
pulled where it needs
to be.

one for me one for you

there is a museum for everything
and everyone
these days
when it used to be
just art
and sculpture,
natural history, that
sort of thing.
now sex has it's own
building
with an entry
and a man taking tickets.
come see what's new,
what's old,
what's borrowed, what's
blue.
your race or creed
will get you one as well,
as does the news.
atrocities
are popular too,
who killed who
and with what,
stand in line for that one,
no pictures,
please. keep it
moving. don't touch.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

nellie

I can hear my grandmother's
voice as clear
as if she
were still in the other room
eating toast
and tea, cursing the entire
state of politics,
especially
those damn kennedys.
I can smell her cigarettes,
see her polishing
her nails,
putting on lipstick,
red, of course.
she liked to paint by numbers.
geese over
a pond.
a moon rising in the purple
layers
of oil paint. tall blades
of grass.
her looking at the tv,
telling us
to kneel and touch the screen
when billy graham came
on and asked sinners to
come forward.

three sisters

three sisters.
all brown eyed and wide
hipped.
black hair,
like their mother's.
the distance between each
no more than two years
or so,
but time
has pushed them apart,
hardly a word,
outside of
Christmas or birthdays
gets said.
once they lay
side by side
in twin
beds.
each brushing the other's
hair,
wearing each other's
clothes,
talking boys, talking
life, wondering together
what tomorrow
might bring. tomorrow
has come and gone.

move it along

the cop with his flare
sparking orange,
standing flat footed
in the rain,
in the middle of the grey
road,
with his blue parka
on, his plastic tilted
hat. he waves us on
with his mechanical
like arm.
he's seen a lot of wrecks
in his time.
move it along he says
with his whistle, his
look of boredom, a wide
yawn,
move it along

the three minute ride

the rodeo is us.
the short wild ride,
the lasso,
the round up,
and corral.
the eventual throw down
to the ground.
slapping my hat
onto my leg
getting up
and trying again.

your good side

it's come down to this,
your good
eye,
your good ear,
your good arm,
your best side.
you've been reduced
by half,
by living so long
and hard.
which is fine,
one is better
than none.

Monday, May 22, 2017

full circle

with enough money
piled
high
in your vault, you decide
to stop
working. to stop
what you do
day in, day out,
and rest.
you decide
to go rome, go to paris.
you buy and Italian
sports car,
a new suit,
new shoes.
pick up ginger on
the way
to the airport.
you buy a white scarf
and throw it
around your neck.
you position your dark
sunglasses
on your nose.
the world is black
and white now.
it's 1953. you've come
full circle.

coming towards us

the sky, darkened,
crocheted in blue
and grey,
yarn of white.
a pillowy rough
of
cumulus clouds
with rain and wind
in sight.
let's sit
on the porch,
swing and drink,
say nothing,
watch it move
towards us,
watch as we hold hands,
the lighting
strike.

the other side

there's another side
to this
story.
one you haven't heard.
but you don't
listen, you don't lend
an ear,
you don't sit
and stop talking for
one second.
it's only the story
you want to be
true, is
the one you hear.
so I can't help you.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

more to come

are there less
chills,
less thrills
as
age unravels us,
taking
us to the unknown?
do we know all
that needs
to be known, have
we seen enough,
done enough?
hardly. there is
always more
to come.

stay tuned

the newsman,
in his suit and tie,
powdered
and bright beneath
the lights,
goes on and on with
a story.
a murder, a mystery,
a gun,
a life.
we don't know what
happened here,
or who,
or why, but we'll
update you on what we
don't know
as the hour goes by.
stay tuned, is ice
tea bad for you?

cry baby

the baby in the crib,
in the other room
is crying.
this is where it begins.
where we
learn
to get what we need
or want,
or both.
turn red, hold your
breath,
let out a primal scream
and cry.
someone will come
eventually
to see what's wrong.
I see it every day,
and do it myself
sometimes.

Friday, May 19, 2017

severance pay

the cleaning woman
knows she is going home,
so she steals
as much jewelry as she can
carry,
cash, credit cards.
underwear
and shoes.
she takes a suitcase
too.
I see her leaving
the house
in a hurry wearing my
wife's fur
coat.
she looks at me and sighs.
I throw
her the car keys
and tell her to hurry.
your flight leaves soon.

the hidden gifts

we would shake
the wrapped gifts, throw
the wrapped
football
to one another in the cold
basement.
things were not hidden
very well.
the new bike
with a ribbon on it,
behind
the steps.
a pair of skates in a box.
the doll that cried
when turned
upside down.
the bat wrapped tight
in a candy cane print,
the ball and glove
too.
we had so little, but
amazingly,
somehow
we had Christmas.

the L word

let's call it
something else.
let's not
use that word.
the L word.
let's tuck that word away
for later, if
there is a later.
let's just
keep going the way
it's going.
why ruin a perfectly
good thing
by trying to make
it last
forever.

the house and senate

by law
the elected men and women
of the house
and senate, on both
sides of the aisle,
are now
required to wear
clown suits.
clown wigs
and make up.
a plastic flower on
their lapel
that squirts lemon juice
into our eyes.
the president
too.
a big red shiny nose,
a derby full
of small birds, suspenders,
with floppy shoes.
this is who they are.
who they have become.
let's have
transparency from this
day forward.
God help us all,
is there no one left
to lead,
to choose.

the high step

the step
is taller than the other steps,
so you
unintentionally
misstep and tumble
forward, two
drinks in hand
fresh from the bar.
face first you
go,
hitting chin
against the waxed tiled
floor.
you lie there for a moment.
the drinks still
upright, hardly
a splash spilled.
both olives in place.
the day is not lost,
you think.
your date
decides to stay and see
what's next
in your finely tuned
repertoire.

midnight snack

I forgot I
had chicken wings in the oven
at 350.
what was that smell, I thought
from the comfort of my
bed.
four hours later,
they were small wings,
but really crispy.
even the bones
were edible at this point.
a perfect
midnight snack
with hot sauce and blue
cheese
for dipping.
perfect for watching
man on a train,
at midnight.

the ringing bell

he hit the snooze alarm
for
nearly thirty years.
he couldn't get up,
get out of bed.
there was just enough
milk
and bread,
the phone worked,
the t.v. too.
there was enough gas to
get the car around
to places
that had no urgency.
sleeping in was a wonderful
thing.
then, finally,
he woke up to a ringing
bell that wouldn't stop,
as most of us eventually
do.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

the best

she liked
to tell you what was the best.
this is the best
orange I've ever eaten.
the best meal I've
ever had.
you're the best friend ever.
I know the best
place to go on a vacation.
we had the best
time ever, you should have
been there.
if you need a hotel
to stay in let me know.
it's the best.
this is the best
day ever. the best shoes I've
ever walked in.
etc.
she slowed down with
the superlatives
though
once the pills wore off
and it began to rain,
although she did have
an enormous umbrella,
it was the best
I've ever seen.

side by side

two trains
can't be on the same
track
going in opposite directions.
it doesn't
work that way.
side by side,
or one ahead of the other,
or behind
is the only way
things can stay
on the rails
and keep from crashing.

a flip of the coin

it's a flip
of the coin kind of day,
kind of
life, now that I
think of it.
live here, live there.
drive this
drive that. what's
for dinner?
what to wear?
which direction should
I go now
and with who?
it's in the air,
the silver
catching light
as it twirls in
the early sun.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

the wedding

the traffic stops
for a while.
we sit in our cars and wait,
as the church ahead
lets out a crowd.
finally
you can see the bride
and groom
at the top of the stairs,
their faces
unlined by life,
her in a brilliant white
dress,
him in black, with buttons
and white shirt.
they smile broadly,
waving
to family and friends,
each dressed
in their sunday best.
the sky is blue
as far as the eye can see,
and the birds sing
sweetly,
for now

a world without books

soon, there will be no
books.
no yellowed pages
that smell
of sweet mustiness.
no brittle
covers with bent spines.
there will
be no more dog eared
corners,
no markers to see where
we left off
and will start again.
there will be no card
in the back, stamped,
saying when to return
it to the public
library.
no one will know what
the dewy decimal systems
ever was.
the books
will be gone, stuffed
inside
our phones, our lap tops
behind the lights
of nothingness,
hardly to be touched
or seen again.

cold soup

having never had
cold soup
before, it surprised me,
this red bowl
of beet broth,
chilled. I brought
it to my lips
and raised my eyebrows.
saying nothing.
I was young.
hardly a hair on my
chin
that needed to be shaved.
no fat on my bones,
barely a brain
ticking
within my skull.
she wanted to kiss after
we ate,
me sipping at the strange
soup
with a hard spoon
as we sat
in her studio apartment.
there was an ironing
board near the window.
a potted plant,
and a picture of home,
wherever that may have been.
so we kissed
and almost made love.
which wasn't love at all,
but something else.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

once free

you see them
in the parks. at the benches.
perhaps
sitting on the stone
ledge
of a fountain.
throwing bread towards
the ducks.
men and women
gone grey.
it may be early day,
or late
into the afternoon, no
matter.
the other life
has ended. the clock no
longer
a factor in where they
need to go
or be. it's this now.
unleashed to do whatever
it is one finds
to do, once free.

the accent

her irish accent
throws you off considerably.
you catch every other
word,
do you laugh, do you nod,
do you say
something incredibly
stupid and out of context
in response.
she sees you struggling
so slows down,
talks to you like a child
or koko
the monkey, which
helps a little. you order
more drinks
thnking about the irish poets,
how hard they are too,
but worth it once
you've solved the puzzle.

the last card over

impossible
to know what anyone is
thinking,
especially her,
so you guess,
you put your finger
into the air
to see which way the wind
is blowing.
you sniff
and stare, ponder
whatever words
slip out
from her lips.
legs folded, arms
tight against her chest.
she doesn't show her
cards very often,
but when she does
turn the last card over,
you know
it's going to be a
long long night.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

vacation

a luxury ship
sinks off the coast of Greece.
the passengers hardly
have a chance at
a second cup of espresso
or tea.
the news shows
the tourists bobbing
like corks
in their orange vests,
waving madly
in the blue
Aegean Sea.
it will be a memorable
trip, they think,
as they swim
towards shore
off the rocky coast
of Santorini.

sunday morning

sunday morning
is when the neighbor
takes
out his hammer and begins
to bang on
the walls.
he waits until 8 a.m.
so polite
he is.
the pictures must
cover every square inch
inch of space
by now.
i'm curious as to what
they are.
black and white
prints.
photographs of trains,
oils
or hotel renderings
of snow
capped mountains
with yellow eyed owls
in the trees.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

it's coming

the wind
slams shut a door.
the curtains pull.
the chimes
sing madly
on the front porch.
you look out at the darkened
land,
the blue fists
of clouds
approaching.
thunder.
whips of lightning,
but no rain,
not yet.
it's coming, you know
this storm,
you've been here
many times before.

the green ill

it's a sickness.
the green
ill
of jealousy. the want
and need,
a maniacal desire
to have what
can't be haved
anymore.
who hasn't been there,
in that feverish
state
of longing,
and now look back
red faced
at how sick
and strange a love
can be.

a closer look

from above, high in the sky.
a bird's eye view
perhaps, or from a plane,
the plots
of land are small, squared
off by
fences.
postage stamps of green
and brown.
they seem like nothing
but patches of earth.
hardly worth
owning,
but taking a closer look
you see people
on their knees
bending over, digging,
planting, nurturing
bushes and flowers,
vegetables, planting seed.

it's noon already

you fall in love.
you fall out.
you miss her, you start
over.
you hold the phone
in your hand
and put your finger
against her
number.
but you don't call.
you close the phone
and set it on the nightstand.
you get out of bed.
look at the clock.
it's noon already.

Friday, May 12, 2017

one more cup of coffee

I remember the grown
man who hired me
leaving the office in tears
after he was fired.
white shirt, blue tie,
suspenders.
he carried his cardboard
box full of his
personal belongings,
pictures of his wife
and children, a trophy
for volleyball,
cups and ties with spills
on them.
tears rolled down
his cheeks into his mustache
as he walked down
the commercial carpet
of the airless hallway,
past the other offices
and staring faces.
he sobbed and wiped
at his tears,
but managed to stop
at the coffee machine
for one more cup
of coffee and a slice
of crumb cake
brought in for someone's
birthday.

not your fault

the hammer that strikes
your thumb
is ambivalent
about it all.
your scream, the blood
and bruise
means nothing to the hammer.
it will wait
patiently
to be used again, as
you dance about
the room saying horrible
things
about it.

play on

the dice are loaded,
the cards
marked.
the game is rigged,
no one
gets out alive.
but play anyway, put
your chips in,
your cards
on the table, spin
the wheel
and pull the arm.
there's nothing really
to lose anyway,
seeing that you can't
take anything
with you.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

office visit

the doctor will see
you shortly,
the nurse says, pointing
towards the door.
take off your shirt,
and pants,
shoes and socks.
put this silk robe on
and lie down on that table,
the one with
the hotel sheets tucked in.
I hope you like feather pillows.
if you'd like
I can make you a martini.
sure, I tell her,
dry, three olives.
music?
yes, I tell her.
perhaps a little marvin
gaye, or al
green.
good choices, she says,
dimming the lights
and pushing a button
to bring the sweet sounds
of al green
singing, i'm tired of
being alone
into my ears.
i'll tell the doctor
you're ready. she's almost
done with her other patient.
oh, by the way, why
are you here?
i'm not sure, I tell her,
I just like
coming here. it's a swell
office.

sun up sun down

he was proud of his
tools,
his hammers,
saws and drivers.
a screw for each purpose.
a nail
for every board
set against another.
measure twice,
cut once.
he liked the smell
of sawdust,
the taste of coffee
as he set the level
against the edge
of bricks.
sun up, sun down.
his truck clean and polished,
his overalls
and boots
dusty and wet from labor.
a lunch pail
on the ground.
there was nothing
he couldn't
fix, or make, or tear
down and build
up again.
the world will miss him,
as he will
the world.

listen to me

my mother always
had something to say
to her brood
of children.
they were more like
announcements
that she issued
from the kitchen or the
screen door
with the wave of her
hands.
wash up.
come in for dinner,
put that stick down,
who's is it?
don't chew with your
mouth open,
read, do your
homework.
quit teasing your
sister,
or i'm telling your
father
if and when he ever
comes home.
brush your teeth,
comb your hair.
put the seat down.
take out the trash,
walk the dog.
there was a lot of
pressure being
ten years old.

see me in my office

your son
is not applying himself,
the counselor says
behind
her closed office door.
it almost seems like
he doesn't care, or
that he's too good for
this school.
he's having lots of fun,
and he's quite a clever,
funny fellow,
but that's not
why we're here, is it?
you want him to get into
a good school,
don't you?
get a job, work forty
years on the day shift,
the night shift,
doing something, anything.
maybe he's good with his hands.
he has to get with
the program and buckle
down or I see trouble in
his future.
you weren't like that,
were you?
well....sort of.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

the rental

what if I just want
this one
wall painted, half way
up.
how much would that be?
or can I touch
it up myself
with the same paint?
just dab it.
the can is rusted,
about ten years old and
I can't get it
open, but maybe
you have a trick of
the trade to do it.
it's just a rental,
and we don't really care
about these people,
but we want top dollar.
should we
dim the lights
and open the windows
to get the smell out?
I think they had a goat.
oh, and do you have anything
on your
truck to get out
that blood stain
in the rug?
it drips up the stairs.
we've heard the baking
cookies
in the oven
will give the house
a pleasant smell.
maybe set out a bouquet
of flowers?

every box

every box is saved.
every empty can
stacked.
why throw out a perfectly
good empty bottle?
each bag holds another
crumpled bag
within.
three cats roam
and scratch at shallow
pans
of sand.
saucers of wet food
are on the sink.
the narrow paths
of debris
would make a fireman
cringe.
the furniture
has been passed down
from
one death to another,
the dust too.
not a window
can be opened.
it's hard
to breathe.

beauty

the rose,
the petals soft
and red,
cups of silk,
are alive in
color.
done being
what they're
meant to be.
only the thorn
gives
warning to what
lies beyond,
what's part of
what you see.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

potato salad

she kept her wedding
dress
in a see through bag
in a cedar closet.
sometimes she'd take it
out and unzip
the long zipper and try
it on again.
she'd stare at herself
in the long mirror,
turning to the right,
then left.
pacing, as if down a long
church aisle.
sometimes her husband
would come into
the room and see her
walking around in the dress.
are you nuts, he'd say.
come one we're late
for the picnic, I thought
you were making
potato salad.

the war wound

the uncle,
uncle rudy,
who served in korea,
with one
eye and a patch
on the other
had a few card tricks.
we'd seen
them at weddings
and birthday
gatherings.
always with a deck of cards,
a slight of hand.
he'd
gather the children
around his
table
and do his act.
pick a card, any card,
he'd say,
then stick it in the deck
and shuffle.
how did he know?
and what was up with that
one eye.
we all wanted
to see that.

wireless

we are
wireless creatures,
needing
no stings,
no plugs or switches.
no cords.
we just
keep going
until there is no
more juice
within.
each to his own
power source.

moon glow

it's a designer moon,
a silver
orb carved
and set on a velvet
blanket
of stars.
we see it together,
and point,
we think of love,
and poetry,
of sweetness, of all
that passes
before us,
disappearing
too soon.

Monday, May 8, 2017

free our chickens

some people in the city
are up in arms.
they can no longer openly
raise chickens
in their yards.
how will we get fresh
eggs? they say.
these chickens are
family to us.
save our chickens.
they make signs
and get a permit to march
and protest.
they bring their
chickens with them
in wooden crates,
rolling them down
Pennsylvania avenue.
free our chickens
the signs read.
the protesters shout,
and scream,
all three of them,
all day.

unanswered prayer

her prayer
goes unanswered.
it comes back in the mail.
return to sender.
it's unopened,
crumpled and wet.
who needs to read
what it says.
you can just look
at the envelope,
hold it up into
the light.
and know.

with you

another train
arrives
and leaves.
the platform is empty,
then full.
the sky changes
from grey
to blue.
this world keeps
turning.
it's fast, even
faster
when i'm with you.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

designer jeans

how much were those jeans,
I ask
ginger
as she picks them up off
the floor, there is
an enormous hole in them
from where
my dog has chewed and nibbled
the entire night.
I look at the dog
who has denim in his teeth.
he's gnawing on
a silver button.
they were two hundred
and thirty five
dollars, she says.
what?
you're kidding, they're
just jeans.
designer jeans from Italy,
she says, putting them on.
her silky black underwear
sticks out the back.
you'd better go straight
home, I tell her.
that hole is pretty big.
is a check okay?

opening the bag

I can't open the sealed,
air tight
package of cheese
doodles no matter how
hard I tear
at the bag with my teeth,
or pull on it.
I run it under hot water,
then cold water.
I throw it onto the kitchen
floor
and kick it across
the room.
I can't find the scissors.
I pick it up
and read the label.
tear here, it says,
but my fingers are too
slippery.
I think about burning a
hole into the side, but
I have no matches.
the hammer does nothing,
but crush what's inside.
finally I get out a knife
and stab the side
of the bag letting out
a whoosh of cheese
doodle air and a spray
of orange dusty crumbs.

the suspects

behind the one way glass
the perps
can't see you.
they line up the suspects
and have you
take a look.
turn left, they say,
turn right.
they are all nicely
dressed,
attractive women.
each one could be the last
one who broke your
heart.
have the one in the middle,
with the shopping
bag, make a motion
like she's swiping
a credit card.
thet tell her to do so.
okay,
now have the one on the end
hold her head
like she has a headache.
they do that too.
hmmm. tell the second one
from the left to hold
a phone up to her ear
and pretend she's
asking her mother to come
stay for the summer.
geez.
I don't know, I tell the
detective.
it could be none of them,
or it could be
all of them.

Friday, May 5, 2017

daily prayers

what's up with your knees,
I ask my friend ginger.
why, she says.
they look bruised or calloused.
she looks down
at them, pulling on the hem
of her skirt.
I've been praying a lot
lately, she says.
mostly for you.
I thought so, I tell her,
my ears have been burning
and I keep feeling guilty
about almost every thing.
should I let up, she says.
nah. keep it going.

i could use a drink

i could use a drink, i tell
my pal
jimmy.
it's been along week.
my wife left me for the landscaper,
carlos,
my dog ran away
and my son
is questioning his gender.
my four oh one k,
is now a two oh one k.
he takes a flask out
of his seer sucker suit
coat
and says, here,
have a swallow of this.
southern comfort.
no, i tell him,
i mean lets go to a joint,
a dark bar
with a black and white
tv in the corner,
pretzels on the bar,
like the old days
and have a drink.
oh, he says, sipping on
his flask, sure,
let's go. i take the flask
and turn it up
to my lips.
good start.

baby talk

I make no
effort to hide my feelings,
my thoughts
about this Lamaze class.
my eyes are rolling
as I shake my head.
breathe in,
breathe out.
huff and puff,
etc.
they pass around a rubberized
version
of a baby and instruct
each husband
on how to hold the baby.
purposely
I hold the child
upside down and get
firmly rebuked.
they show us how to burp
said baby.
how to feed,
how to change a diaper.
I think about my little sister
when I was ten
and she was an infant,
I got this, I say out loud.
the only difference now
is Velcro
instead of safety pins.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

relax

I treat myself to a massage
at the local
parlor. why not,
I've worked so hard
this month.
back, neck, legs, feet,
fingers, arms.
that's it.
she's a thick woman
with broad shoulders
and the thin shadow
of a mustache
trimmed about her lip.
she knows what she's doing.
she finds
every ache
in every joint and muscle.
you be very tense,
she says. I think eastern
bloc.
relax, imagine pleasant
thoughts.
for a second I think about
the beach,
and then a shark biting my leg.
I try to relax, but the pain
is relentless.
I grimace and let out a
whimper. raising my hand
in the international sign
for stop.
quit being a girly man,
she says, as she hops
onto the table and puts
a knee into
the middle of my back.
I feel her elbows dig sharply
into my shoulders.
I have tears
in my eyes, and I mention
my mother
in a whisper.

excuse my french

I remember when
I was seven and my grandmother
with a pall mall
hanging off her lip,
a manhattan in her hand,
said that the cab driver
who picked her up
at penn station
was driving like
a bat out of hell, which
she followed with,
excuse my French.
for years I wondered which
word was French,
I analyzed the sentence,
breaking it down
word for word, but
had no luck.

siblings

you completely cut
ties
with most of your family
on social media.
you've grown tired of
the whining,
the cookies being baked,
the vacation photos,
ala ralph lauren.
white on white.
the multitude of grandchildren
photos
and updates
on health and religion.
prayer requests
come daily.
God is extra busy it seems
on facebook.
it's not that you no
longer love
these siblings, but they
have your number,
and you have theirs.
anyone can call and talk
when the mood strikes.

the gold fish

she talks to her fish.
calls them by name.
both
fat with orange,
feathery white fins.
she talks to them
as if they
were babies.
saying hello sweet
things,
then sprinkling
food onto the water.
there is so much love
within us,
just aching to
get out.

at eighteen

we lift anchor
at some point, jump
out of the nest,
set sail.
we might have small
clues tucked
away in our pockets,
but we really
don't know how,
or where,
or what to do. we
just know that it's
time to cut
the strings
and move on to whatever
lies ahead,
but always coming home
for a warm
hug, a hot meal.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

photos

pictures come in the mail
with a small note.
remember these?
enjoy. they are
yellowed
and crimped.
smudged.
a darkened restaurant
with bottles of
beer on the oak
tables.
a plastic basket of bread.
there's me at twenty two,
a girl
beside me, someone
I was with for an
hour or two.
friends across the table,
one dead,
the other a podiatrist
living
in Baltimore.
the other photos are more
vague.
strangers, people
I've never met before.
why are these pictures
sent?
none are suitable for
framing.
they do nothing
but sadden me.

the axe will fall

the wood is soft
with
water, termites,
bugs
of all sorts
feasting on who knows
what.
they gnaw
like no tomorrow
at the old shed, musty
without light,
teetering,
the door loose
on its hinges,
the roof opened to
the rain.
eat now, I tell them.
go ahead
have your fun, your
day.
tomorrow the axe
will fall.

blood and money

the vultures gather
as the news
comes down
the vine of illness,
of bones about to rattle.
you can hear
their wings
flap,
their claws scratch
against
the wall safe,
nudging the heirlooms
gathering dust
inside the attic.
they come with solemn
jowls, in black,
but with sharp beaks
awaiting blood
and money.

landfill

who doesn't have
a land fill, a place where
things
have been plowed over,
things no longer needed.
who hasn't
pushed the past aside,
shoveled over
words said, or deeds
done, missteps along
the way
in work or love.
some mounds are higher
than others,
while others are just
getting started.

seeds planted

there goes one,
he says, pointing at the rabbit
running
away with a carrot
in his mouth.
they dig and make
a hole
in my garden,
they don't ask, just
take.
but he doesn't seem
to mind.
nothing is going to waste.
the seeds
planted
have come to good.

the steps

the concrete steps
go straight up along
the grass slope.
a rail beside them.
on the other side
is water.
geese.
people fishing.
rowing
along the shallow
lake.
a grill is on fire,
I can see a plume
of smoke
across the blue sky.
but these steps are
hard.
each year
they get harder to
run up
without stopping.
without
bending over to rest
and catch my breath.
each year
there seems to be more
of them.
steeper too.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

slippery fish

time is a slippery
fish.
as are people you don't
have time
to meet.
the line wiggles,
the bobber
goes up and down.
the rod bends,
but the sun sets,
and the week
evaporates before
anything gets off
the hook and onto
dry ground.

the candy shoppe

it's a small candy shop,
nestled between
a hardware store
and dress boutique.
there's a bright
red sign out front.
fancy sweets.
inside, behind cooled glass
sit chocolates,
bite sized, both round
and squared,
ready to be boxed
or bagged.
high end stuff.
deep rich darks
and milks,
some filled with
caramel
or raspberry, others
dipped
and striped with white
swirls.
it will be out of business
in a week
or two.
but there's coffee
as well, so it may drag on
a bit longer.

some farming to do

it's a warm day.
the sun is up, I can see
the chickens
in the back yard.
the cow
eating grass in the field.
the pigs are rolling
in the trough.
I see the red
tractor waiting for me.
someone's ringing the bell
for breakfast.
I pull on my overalls,
step into my
boots
and strap on my straw
hat. I got some farming
to do.

the wedding cake

let's dance, she says
spinning around
to the wedding band
playing proud mary.
come on, stand up and shake
a leg.
I get up brush some crumbs
off my old suit.
I shake my leg.
I shake the other leg.
I tap my foot on the floor.
see, you can do this.
now wiggle your hips.
shimmy your shoulders.
bop you head
back and forth.
feel the beat and let's
go. she takes my hand.
wait, I tell her,
sitting back down.
I feel sick.
I think I ate
too much cake.

out there somewhere

don't try to find me,
he says.
the house now sold,
nearly as dark
as when he lived there
under the soft
weak glow of twenty
five watts.
he's on the road
somewhere, huddled
in a box with no
forwarding address, no
phone to hold.
there's no way to visit,
or say hey,
or talk about remember
when.
he likes it this way,
and so do most people
who know him.

fixing things

we can fix this.
this
door that leans
with
a loose hinge,
getting stuck at the top.
the stairs
that squeak
when we go up or down,
the furnace that rattles,
the windows
that seep and wheeze
when the wind
blows. we can fix
the leaky sink,
the water that runs,
the light
that flickers,
the vent where the squirrels
get in. we
can fix a lot of things,
but what about
us.

Monday, May 1, 2017

save the rest for morning

she's sleepy.
i'm sleepy,
the cat can hardly hold
her eyes open.
it's dark out.
it's raining.
the bed awaits.
we both agree to
one small kiss and save
the rest
for morning.

shoe shine

as a kid
i'd take the shoe shine
kit
and give
my only pair of shoes,
brown,
a good polish.
using the brush the cloth,
the paste.
how the tops and sides
did shine.
and then
a small cut circle
of cardboard
was slipped
into the sole,
to cover the hole,
to the keep
my foot warm
and dry.

this again

the world yawns.
hasn't it seen it all before.
what
hasn't come down
the pike
a dozen times or more.
the news
repeats itself. yes,
there is love,
and hate,
peace and war.
the tree grow thick
and strong,
then fall.
it's not what's next
anymore, or
what's now. it's oh,
this again.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

no fun anymore

i can't eat carnival
food like i used to
when i was ten, i tell
ruby, my new girlfriend
who loves amusement parks.
the deep fried twinkies,
hot dogs,
the tall whipped loaf
of cotton
candy, the peanut brittle
and caramel
apples.
it all comes out
when i get on the ferris
wheel, or look at the scrambler
winding about.
i can't even go into
the fun house anymore, i
tell her,
and see myself
in the wavy mirror,
or walk on the tilted floor.
she laughs as she eats
her giant sour dough pretzel
covered in mustard
and says,
you're no fun anymore,
and she's right.

special needs

she has three cats,
two dogs,
a horse,
a bird. goldfish.
there's hardly any room for me.
sure I get
fed and brushed,
washed.
petted, but I feel
left out
most of the time,
unlike all those
other creatures,
I have special
needs.

the curve ball

I could never hit
the curve ball. i'd always
step out,
or duck. it fooled
me every time I was at
the plate.
I still can't figure
out the curves coming.
the one's not involving
a baseball.
i'm still shy at the plate,
expecting
something easy down
the middle, fat and slow,
something I can connect
on and hit it out,
but no.

dorchester street

the old street looks same.
the thick
telephone poles still up,
the licorice lines
of wires still
strung from
side to side,
a thin painted line,
faded
is still there, the flat
roofed duplexes,
red bricked boxes
with casement windows,
all there.
scrub brush and weeds.
no ac, no wind passing
through.
the screen doors
keeping the bugs out.
someone on the porch.
someone
washing a car.
someone looking out
a window
waiting for things
to change. a dog is
still barking.

a simple recipe

it's a simple recipe,
one you don't need to look
up.
you can do it in your sleep.
a cup of affection,
three spoons
of sugar,
stir in a cup
of love.
let it bake and cool,
or take
it warm, a slice
or two, depending
on her mood.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

right there, to the left

after a while
you don't really need a mirror.
why look?
people will tell you
if
there is lettuce
in your teeth, meringue
on your upper lip.
a blemish where there was
none yesterday.
a wild hair
out of place.
red sauce on your shirt.
people are good that way,
pointing things out
about you
that are in disarray.

making friends

he was a nice hold
up man,
mugging me on the street.
well dressed,
nice shoes,
polished and clean.
he looked like
he just had a hair cut
and a shave.
he told me to put my
hands into the air.
I told him I was tired,
I had just had
a long day.
he said, okay, just one
arm then. you can
put the other one
down.
I told him I only had
a twenty
and needed bus fare,
so he broke
the twenty and gave
me a ten back.
i'm meeting him for lunch
tomorrow,
his treat, he says.
we're friends now.

wild flowers

the flowers grow
despite me.
how many years ago
did I spread
the seeds of wild
flowers.
purple
and blue, rose colored,
green
upon the dirt
and weeds.
their resilience
and beauty
surprise me.
what else can I do
without trying?

the yellow bird

strange to see
this bright yellow bird
among
the trees,
with the dull browned
sparrows
and black
birds.
all eyes are on her.
how jealous they must
be, watching,
as she flies,
fluttering her golden
wings.
how they must talk
behind her back, saying
things like
just who does she
think she is?

Friday, April 28, 2017

i guess that's it

I am awakened in the middle
of the night
by the neighbors making love.
pedestrian love.
the picture on my wall
shimmies on the nail, just
slightly, but
it startles me,
having never heard a word,
a single word
from either of them
the entire time
they've lived there.
no television, no music,
nothing but silence.
and now this,
the symphony of bedsprings
and the steady
rap of a headboard
against our shared wall.
thirty seconds later. it's over.
the dog sits up and looks
in that direction,
turning his head, as dogs
are prone to do, then looks
at me.
it's okay, I tell him,
I guess that's it.
go back to sleep.

i like her cherry pie

i didn't like
the picture of her wound
with the bandage off
that she posted on facebook.
it sort of made
me ill. however i did
like the pie she posted
the very next day. both
literally
liked, and actually liked.
it's a cherry pie,
with the crisscross
crust.
I can almost smell it
through
the glass, taste its tart
cherries in
my mouth.
shame she lives in seattle
and i'm here.
I like her
cherry pie and would
like a slice
right now.
i vote for more pie
and less open wounds.

grape vine

it's a grapevine
of sorts,
sisters and brothers
tending
the vine,
where news and information,
gossip
trickles down
in some diluted
and twisted form.
maybe it's true,
maybe not.
I let it in though,
and roll
it around
the box, sift it
for
facts, if any exist,
then nod,
and say, oh isn't that
interesting.