Friday, January 6, 2017

Catulli Carmina

You think I’m a pathetic little turd
I’m not
I’m something much stranger
Much sadder
Than that.
A Hack.
Yes, a hack.
Paid by the word
By the line
By the verse
To spew

Joy to the newly wedded virgins [Ha!]
Sadness to the mourning widows [Ha!]
Enlightenment to the beardless youth [Ha!]
Success to those who pursue [Ha!]
Redemption to those who repent [Ha!]

Please don’t insult my intelligence
By believing in
My output.
Why do you think there are cliché phrases?
Formulaic thinking?
Repetitive images?
You think I’m not better than that?
Excuse me while I sip my wine.
You’re such a kidder.

Except …
The words I write for me
And for her
But I don’t want to discuss those.

Barkeep! More wine.
Shoo. Leave me in peace.

Ave atque vale in pacem. Shoo.

Friday, November 11, 2016

What the Eye Sees

work in progress

The mote in my eye conceals the flaws
The words from your mouth reveal. In awe
I sit, dazzled, glazed, until the claw
Of doubt creeps out to unseal the door
Where the hidden goblins congeal and  store
the deep, despairing pain I’ll feel if anymore
Of this mote in my eye unseals.

The motein my eye conceals the flaws
Of all you do, the lying, the deals, and more
As your tentacle fingers steal food from the poor
Lawyers connive, in suits and heels, to pour
Fire waves fed with kerosene, and ravens caw
At tent towns under darkness seal. And when I saw
If I saw, through tears, the movie reel with music score
Of Truth in memory and Justice to heal, this festering sore
As the mote in my eye unseals.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


“Unfortunately, there is no mistake,” she said, closing the file.
“You can’t do anything? Anything?”
“I can call around, see if there is space at one of the courtesy hotels, but we’re booked.”
I looked at my friend. She shrugged. “Fine. We’ll stay. Two beds, right?”
“Your reservation is for a king.”
Celeste whispered, “It’ll be fine. A king bed is huge. Let’s stay.”
But I didn’t want the bed to be huge. I was going to be in the same room, the same bed as Celeste, for three days. Agony. 
“It’ll be fine. Chill. We’re going to have a good time here, I promise. You’ll pick up all sorts of new skills, meet lots of people. For me? Please?” Celeste smiled, the dimple in her right cheek peeking at me.
“Okay, fine. Let’s just do what we came here to do.”  The desk clerk handed us the keycards and vouchers for complimentary cocktails to compensate us for the inconvenience.
Great.  A conference I didn’t even want to be at because I’m not a writer or a poet or an agent or anything.  One room, one bed, and alcohol. Lots of alcohol. Celeste had picked up a few boxes of cardbordeaux, some white zinfandel, sangria and a case of some limited edition IPA for me.  Our plans were to get plastered together, but not to be plastered together. Man plans and gods laugh. Ha ha.
She put two six-packs and the white zinfandel in the mini fridge. “I’m going to donate the sangria and the cardbordeaux to the greater good, take them down to the office later,” Celeste said as she lined up her toiletries in the bathroom and hung her clothes in the closet.  “Two big towels, two hand towels, two washcloths.  That’ll be fine. I’m going to shower. Be a doll and get some ice, I don’t think five minutes in the fridge will do anything for it.”
I filled the ice bucket and returned to the sound of running water and singing. Celeste liked to sing in the shower.  She claimed it muffled her atonality, but that wasn’t true.  The atonality, not the muffling.  I loved listening to Celeste sing, in the car, on her porch, and now, in the shower.  It was a nice change from listening to her cry.
Celeste cries a lot. With me, anyway.  Guess I’m the shoulder of choice for this girlfriend did that, that boyfriend did this, her parents sucked, her job was meaningless, her friends were thoughtless, yadda yadda.  Singing was sweet.
I filled a large glass with ice and zinfandel, opened an IPA and drank.  The water stopped, but Celeste continued singing, something about a hippopotamus for Christmas, then segued into Rascal Flatts’ “Broken Road.”
And then she opened the door.
Celeste was naked except for the towel wrapped around her hair.  A pair of Dias de Los Muertos skulls surrounded by roses were tattooed over her mastectomy scars.  She smiled.
“I told you there were just enough towels. Oh good, I’m so thirsty. How ‘bout them Mets?”  She picked up the glass sipped, and winked at me.
It was going to be an interesting three days.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Why I Love I-4 Traffic

And I thank the stars and the moon
And, most of all,
The traffic gods
Who blessed me

With a child,
Who, chatting with a friend,
A young man, newly married,
But on his own,
single for the weekend,

“Oh we haven’t had a girls night out

Chatting on phones
Filled with films
And distractions
And traffic reports
From WESH drones
That they’re too mature
To fight the crowds
On Saturday night
When there is server life
and real estate deals
And anyway

There is no after party, either.

I see the headlines
See her car out front
Text the young ones
And go to the new technology of
“Safe Check In.”

My son is there,
With a rainbow flag and a black ribbon
across his beloved face.

I breathe.

I breathe,

Grateful that poor planning
And construction and the curse
Of turnpike traffic crawls
And I-4 gridlock
Gave me more time to love my children.

I bring cases of water to the line at
The Big Red Bus.
I cannot donate.
It is too soon since my last donation.

It is too soon.

I climb the stairs,
Kiss her sleeping shoulder
Remembering the Towers,
Fallen icons of our other home
And light a candle
For the fathers
Who dread the phone that will not ring
this Father's Day,
The phone that will never ring again.

Rain Through Painted Glass

Thin scratch in the paint covered window
If I tilt my head
and squint
I’ll see a raindrop

I never thought about the sky
clouds and glitter in the dark
rain was a frowning slippery road to grumble at
torrents of elevated humidity and flood calling cards
leakstains in the corner above the door

I never thought about the wind
knocking down branches and rooftops
now blue tarp covered wrecks
rare scattered days of open windows
low drone of the neighbor’s motorbike

I never thought about the rancid heat
killing new plants and inciting passions
even when the only passion is the next fix
sweat soaked shirts peeled off in the shower
like orange skins dry scent rising

But now all I have is
to think
and squint at the scratch
in the painted over window.

Teshuvah, Tefilla, Tzedakah

Once, if I were honest, more than once, much more,
I wish I still lived alone
Just me, my pens, my books
And the ducks, murmuring under the street lamp.
Train whistles,
Who’s ready? Who’s willing? Who’s able?
            All Aboard!

Bagadnu, gazalnu ,dibarnu dofi:
But I do not live alone.
Other people, things, inhabit this temporary home,
            of bodies and offal
            On the search for real
I, responsible for detritus, distracted and rerouted
by not alone. Home is a vial of ash.

Heevinu, v'hirshanu:
In my heart, I am always alone.

Midnight.  I feed the ducks, throwing stale bread upon the water.
At sunrise, they sit on the edge of the eave and
Stare through the pane.
I am afraid that they, hungry, will break the glass.

I am a walking suicide.

Tafalnu sheker:
I am more alone than I am with
More surprised when not surprised by the shadows of others
As they talk in the galleries
And I make tea and sandwiches
And salt the buttered bread
Memory of the dead and nearly dead and might as well be dead and draped mirrors
Playacting that I connect with those I serve.

Rashanu, shichatnu,Tiavnu, tainu, titanu:
The conductor holds the door, impatient,
Calling me night after night.
All aboard, where’s your ticket,
Reading numbers inked on the inside of my forearm.

The ducks sing Adonai dayan ha-emet
And then I hear nothing.


Teshuvah, Tefilla and Tzedakah[Ma’avreen et roa ha’gezeirah]

Repentence, Prayer and Charity Temper Judgement’s Severe Decree

Adonai dayan ha-emet: God is the True judge
Baruch atah Adonai, elohainu melach Haolem, dayan ha-emet.
The Hebrew blessing on hearing of a death :
Blessed is the Eternal One, Ruler of the Universe, the True Judge.

Ashamnu-we have tresspassed
Bagadnu- we have dealt treaturously
gazalnu-we have robbed
Dibarnu dofi- we have spoken slander
heevinu- we have acted perversly
v'hirshanu-we have done wrong
zadnu- we have acted presumptuously
hamasnu- we have done violence
tafalnu sheker- we have practiced deceit
rashanu- we have acted wickedly
shichatnu- we have dealt corruptly
tiavnu-we have committed abomination
tainu- we have gone astray
titanu- we have led others astray

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Arbor Wist

Arbor Wist

Spread wide, I drape the arbor
With scent and scattered petals
Shadow evocation of little girls with
Frill filled baskets.

Bored, alone, I gaze across the path,
Over the stone wall
To the St Johns
That now deserted waterway
Once a hotbed of commerce.
A sculler crew plies their craft
Stroke stroke stroke
The murmur of the drummaster beating galley time.

A child stands on the wall,
Her mother paralyzed with fear
Until a stranger throws an arm out,
Swings the child to safety
And carries her off to the sprawling banyon tree.
I hear him say, climb here. Mama, come, she’s fine.

The stranger approaches me
Takes a seat on my concrete bench
Dabbles his toes in lily pond
Staring out at the amber sky.

He turns to the woman,
The woman I hadn’t notices in my sculling revery.
She clasps an open copy of Virgil’s Aeneid.
The murmuring was her voice, slow Latin,
Rounding the words.

He turns to her, intent on her profile,
the curve of her nose
the length of her fingers on the page.
Leans over and brushes the scar on her shoulder with his lips.
I drop some petals on her book
And close my vines around them.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Heated Arguments

At 105 degrees, the body shuts down.
The blood has boiled away, leaving skin tight to sinew,
Oxygen starved muscles and bones.

Mine boiled away long before that,
Mine boiled away on the long trip here, seeking a wet savior
Every movement frantic, every movement slower to stop.
The pointless journey of self flagellation that put my heart
Through a meat grinder leaving a pile of scarlet mixed
With pieces that do not pass FDA approval.

I stand in judgment, fun house mirrors of me,
As jury, defendant, prosecutor and gavel pounding judge.
Order in the court.
The folded note, passed from trembling hand to trembling fingers,
Held by me, for me, waiting to be opened and read
Suicide by proxy, running into a hail of bullets,
Jetes and plies punctuate a full split on the floor and
An arabesque .

Overpriced macchiato that I won’t drink provides a shield,
I will watch and I will wait and I will fall and I will fail
To reach any conclusion except I am lost.

The Joy of Cleaning

There were few things she excelled at, few things she was even good at, but, by golly, she could clean.

Properly outfitted in headscarf, pinafore, heavy duty to the elbow rubber gloves, a bucket of hot, soapy water by her side, spray bottles of bleach, vinegar and foam cleaner clipped to her utility belt, steel wool scrubbies and polishing clothes in various pockets, bathroom grime was doomed.

Stripping towels, shower curtains and mats, she sprayed the shower enclosure with one of her magic concoctions and poured some vinegar into the toilet tank before tossing them into the wash, set on a hot/warm cycle. She returned to the bath, the aforementioned magic concoctions having already done a good deal of the work for her.  All the doodads that accumulated on the vanity were placed in shallow tray filled with warm water and a splash of bleach.  The toothbrushes and combs soaked in a mixture of boiling water and industrial strength peroxide.

She scrubbed from top to bottom, rinsed the walls, then sprayed the walls with hot water to remove any soap residue. Next, she wrapped the shower nozzle in a plastic bag with a few tablespoons of vinegar to dissolve the mineral deposits that accumulated in the spray holes.  An old towel made the toilet sparkle, after a good scrubbing with foam cleaner and disinfection with bleach. She switched to a non-abrasive polishing cloth for the granite counter.  The drawer faces and pulls, the towel bars, light switch plate, door knobs, even the door hinges were subject to her attention.

The timer clipped to her collar beeped, indicating it was time to put the shower curtains into an extra hot dryer just long enough to release the wrinkles. She hung the curtain, now dry and algae free, then reset the dryer for an hour to dry the towels and mats. She went over the floor again, wiping down the coving and using a cotton swab in the corners. 

The timer beeped again for the towels.  She enjoyed folding the warm towels into thirds, hanging them so the seams faced the same way, aligning the hand towels on top of the bath sheets, folding and stacking the washcloths and placing them on the wrought iron towel rack.

The bathroom didn’t just smell clean, it smelled hygienic. 

Everything was neat and shiny.  The towels were crisp, the shower curtain draped just so, the doodads replaced, the combs were back in the hair accessory holder. Soap slivers had been removed and replaced with a new bar of soap. The antibacterial liquid soap container had been replaced with a new one, appropriate to the season. The artificial flowers in the corner vase had been vacuumed. The toothbrushes, floss and dental pics were in the toothbrush tray and all four tubes of toothpaste were in a row, the ends neatly rolled up.

She smiled, surveying her morning’s work.

The Missus walked in, gave her a cold nod, picked up one of the toothpaste tubes and squeezed it, right in the middle. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Red Wheelbarrow for William Carlos Williams

So much depends upon                                           Sept 29 2015
a red wheel barrow
glazed with rain
beside the white chickens.

Dust road shimmer, another dry afternoon
Cloudburst enough for runnels
And rotting spilt grain,
A week’s worth of grain
On the ground, near the coop
But not enough for new corn
Or unshrivel beans.
She sends the children,
Barrow tippers of grain, now
mixed with rotgut bottles in the
knobbyshade tree roots,
to a neighbor, and watches
the chickens peck peck peck
at precious scattered gold.
Yellow marks and cigarette ‘O’s
on her arms and ankles
wait for new color.

There was no money to paint the house
but, soon, she would be vivid as sunset.

Cutting the Cord

Your long silence
You could be dead.
But, so could I.

Awake alternatives a stately reel
in quarter time. The fiddler
switches to a dirge and a
rotating paceline parades
through places I have lived.

It passes your door, pauses.
You do not emerge, not even
for the cymbals, not even
for the hurdy gurdy man.

New York October

We spend the equinox together
testing, toes frozen in puddles,
testing if I can live in
darkness, on streets of quiet except
for the trash collector and the
cries of pimps beating the last few
pennies from crack whores.

You have already rejected my
sunrise. It made you squint and plead
for inner corridors and musty Victorian
drapes and carved doors locked with
fobbed keys.

We share a $2.95 breakfast special at
Moondance.  You pay the check.
I leave a $5 tip before I dive into the light.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Waiting for the Rapture

You tell me,
with a certainty I envy,
what you'll change,
what you’ll do:
Stay awake,
watching the clock click random numbers,
as the ducks,
a family of old Muscovies,
Gramps and Tricky and Jeanette and
Ambrose, who has only part of one foot
because feral cats ate the rest,
curl up under the tree next to
the retention pond filled with
fish hiding under the algae
to avoid becoming cormorant breakfast,
southwest breeze rippling the moonlight reflection.
You'll stay awake while I sleep, half on top of you,
just like every other night.
"Not a blessed thing different," you say.
"Not a blessed thing."

Glass Slivers and Glue

Ship in a bottle, relic
Of a visit to a whaling museum, relic
Of a relationship once
as whole as the spigot,
small piece hidden
under the carved wooden stand,
bottle turned to conceal
its unwholeness.

Glass slivers and glue
Applied with fine brush
canting needle
But all the precision
Concentrated in his fingertips
Cannot make one
That which is broken.

Tommy Salami

Unaccompanied, she wanders into
The children’s room,
Violating rules written and unwritten
But the Librarian doesn’t stop her.
She wanders into
The children’s room
Takes a seat at the low table
Opens books at random
Disarranging the piles.
The eighth book, familiar to tears,
Scarred into her memory,
Tale of a lost child,
taken by strangers
returned to the grocery store.
over and over,
until he is claimed by his
rightful mother and
carried home to tea.
She has no child to carry home
And brews her tea with the
Warm salt water streaming from her eyes.

It is closing time. 
The Librarian asks if she would prefer muffins or
toast for breakfast tomorrow