Friday, June 8, 2018

Poems of everyday


Horse flies live here now
buzzing through the front hall
without hats or canes

Ghostly flappers of the Golden Age
dance to the rhythm of their wings

No feet mar the dusty floors
No polish, no paint, no pain
Only the vague memories

The twisted banister leans
at a precarious angle to marble promenade.

scratched and clawed with the years,
the brush strokes of fate and bank foreclosures

Rodents scurrying
as through a grand central station
with no trains

Illustrious architecture
dedicated to nothing

with graveled drive, spiked gate
and wasted dreams


This iron city has lost its grit
rail road turned to condos
and convenience parking
even the ancient Tuck Tape Factory
has tapered down
its bulging middle trimmed
for executive parking

Thirty years ago, the trains
from Newark spread main street in half
with squealing steel brakes and quaking asphalt,
leaving the scents of grease and sweating brakemen,
and perfumed silk ladies going on to downtown Paterson

And sometimes, standing here waiting for a bus,
I still smell them,
caught in the whisper of air
on a hot Summer’s day,
to savor and sip
like fading wine.


It is the clop of hooves on Cobblestone
I first hear in the morning
coming in with the peeping sun

the horse stops, the hunched back man
lifts his pole to snuff out the flame
on each high lamp

the smell of it lingers in the dew,
a captive piece of darkness
mingling morning with night

He moves on with the clamor of hooves
and the smell of manure

My eyes are captive, too,
caught on the ceiling,
painting each movement from memory
needing never to see the twist
of his morning smile

Like knowing the face of death
when it comes,
knowing it is my flame he will put out


Were they wrens or sparrows
that waddled the narrow
space between water and land

Battery Park, an island in the mist,
an Avalon through which\
many pass and fail to see
Liberty Island shrouded
gloriously among the sailing ships
that scratch so close
in their crooked paths

And Governor’s Island
upon which an aunt once worked
And that mysterious nameless island
to the west
whose footbridge
reaches all the way to New Jersey

Yes, there are ways to reach that shore
though the mists seem to never end,
a wren, a sparrow, the male with his pretty head
speaking too much, waiting in the mists
until all the ships come home.


We saw it on a Winter's day,
darting between foam and snow,
like a fourth Musketeer with foil-beak
slashing out survival between the waves,
 its peg leg as nimble as a Pirate's,
 hopping to the beat of the sea,
 leaning upon nothing,
 learning to defy all that is Darwin and Freud—
 perhaps all sand pipers shall have one leg someday,
 pecking at sand crab egg patches like thieves,
 hobbling with war wounds through Winter's worst,
 like Napoleon’s soldiers,
 stronger upon that one leg,
than most of us with two.


You escaped like a squirrel squiggling
through a hole in a fence,
the mad dogs of faith snapping at your tail,
their bone of contention always one of witch craft,
you, who knew too much too soon about their lives,
rhyming it all,
curling predictions up in pat phrases
you almost predicted me,
before the cradle,
pacing passed the delivery room,
book of poems in your hand,
as if you had ever read them,
or those I wrote later as a child,
 reading only the footnotes to history,
 your eyes shimmering over Nostradamous as if he were you.


Crazy tiles intrigues
me with old polish,
the scuffs like writing
I cannot read at three,
me, between each curve of letter,
each end of sentence,
a boy playing boy-games alone,
mother sewing after hard day at work,
a rare occasion of me and she
and the dull sunday light
streaming through deep grey clouds and heavy curtains,
her fingers, moving, moving up and down,
used to small spaces,
she says her eyes will go
if she keeps up with her job,
fitting piece into place
just like this,
with me,
marching up and down before her,
saying, "Look! Look! I'm in the band!"
Baseball bat for a bugle,
unfolded hanger for a sword,
each taller than I am,
each scraping new marks into the tile as I move,
each refusing to bring mother's eyes up from her work,
back and forth,
up and down,
stitched her and there,
I wave the sword,
bring the bugle and sword together to my lips—
and suddenly,
as bat falls to the hieroglyphic tiles,
I become a sword-swallower,
vomiting blood.


She took me on the bus to buy new shoes,
mad mother with her prayer book
tucked inside her purse,
bank bills marking the holier page,
her arm under mine—
the seven year old man
who needed white for communion,
suit already gathering dust in the closet,
tight at the shoulders,
and we, climbing down the rubber-ridged steps to the store,
sign saying: Hospital wear.
It smelled of hospital, too,
clean death folded with the linen,
mother telling the angry man we needed white for church,
and he, looking at me with folded brows saying
"Women's wear maybe," shoving shoe after ill-fitting shoe, me,
holding my breath, hoping they might stretch,
taking the last pair though later,
I walked down the church aisle in line with my peers,
dressed in solid white and bleeding feet.


He hasn't heard the clack in years,
the smack of glass on glass,
or the dull throb of thumb
striking a plump round surface

like shooting planets
through a dirt solar system
a thick wooden peg in its
center for a sun

But standing on the street
he stops, cocks his head,
for the subtly of childhood
prancing between the honking horns.


Alice dreamed of Grandpa's Ghost
a day before she died,
she told the dream from her
hospital bed, laughing,
her bright eyes dulled
by medication,
her sharp nails pealing
their paint, red chips
falling onto the white
sheet like hardened
blood to snow.

She said he had stepped
out from behind a stone,
his grey, carved face
smiling in one of its
rare ways, beaming
slightly from some
odd illumination,
an angle of light
for which she could not
see the source

And his large hands waving
towards her, as if through
a gate, the wounds long
healed from hammer blows
and saw cuts that had
long weathered them
in life, from too many
houses built or boats sailed,
waving for her to come along
as if there was
no tomorrow.


She faded at 90
like the rugs she used to beat in the upstairs hall,
dusty memories popping out
over the evening meal in loose threads—
and at night,
alone in her room with her pain,
she was ten again,
crying out for her mother.


She was always too tall,
limbs like a tree trunk
standing next to me on the corner
waiting for the light to change,
school books heavy with brutal study,
determined to be president,
 four kids and a husband
stealing her dreams and ambition,
but not the anger.


I laughed at his eighth grade romance,
bundle of hormones
ranting about the color of her eyes,
his whole life swimming in them
like a tadpole waiting to lose his tail


She handled knitting needles like knives,
seated each night in the corner of the room
where Grandpa died,
jabbing at an endless afghan
till it grew down to her knees,
like a beard, full of greens and grays,
slowly taking the size and shape of a man.


My mother used to come here to buy shorts,
the scuffed knees of summer too
expensive to keep on patching

The old institutions of Department stores
fragmented into tiny vestiges
of their former glory

Grants into junk stores
Woolworth into racks of cheap cloth,
Sterns into used appliances

And along the street a thousand
little island shops of too
bright fabric fluttering

mismatched, patterned shirts
and dresses, and bargain basement
luxuries from Hong Kong & Taiwan

to which the Spanish women flocked
clucking their tongues at their
lack of choices and suspect quality

my mother among them, fingering
each item like a treasure, looking
for something she'd never find.

Crippled: Just another Paterson Poem


I thought it was dead at first,
a small, fury lump on the sidewalk of Paterson,
so mishapened and gross I stopped to look,
only to have it move.
It's tail disturbing the dust
as it attemped to hobble away,
seeking distance to escape my stare.
It only had three legs,
balancing on them as if born with the condition.
When it halted, it studied me,
small paws folded together
in front of itself as if in prayer.
Then, it moved again,
but towards me instead of away,
crawling up to my feet.
A nearby garage mechanic came out of his shop
and saw this, and advised me to kill it.
"I can't," I said,
thinking I would hear the silent scream
of the creature for a week in my head if I did,
thinking, too, that the mechanic would,
but he only shook his head.
"Well, if you like the little monster so much
oick it up and take it home with you,
I don't want it sitting there in front of my place. It's bad for business."
But what does anyone do with a crimpled mouse?
I nudged it away with my foot and walked on,
thinking about it for a whole block,
thinking about it might survive the streets of Paterson,
wondering how I had.

Friday, December 15, 2017

That liberal lady (from Politically Incorrect)

December 16, 2017

She crawls on her belly as if evolution
gave her no arms nor legs
so full of venom she speaks poison
with every breath,
a rattler in the desert
too old to slither her way to the top
so clings to the dark under rocks,
where she can hatch her plots
with self-deluded self-righteousness
too bitter and dried up even
to shed her skin, though still
manages to ooze out the blood
she sucks from those she hates,
poisoning herself in the dead of night
when she has nobody she can bite,
twisting self-delusion into what
she believes as truth,
turning noble causes into something ugly,
wringing out every drop of that sour fruit
to get drunk on,
until she can crawl to some other pool
of poisoned water where she can refresh
her hatred for anything she
disagrees with,
finding no solace in the lonely
and mistaken belief
she is always right.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Obama's Bay of Pigs (from Politically Incorrect)

I hear the cry of the Syrian refugees
as they flee the fire
Obama cast over them
in Clinton's call to overthrow
this need to seize from Russia
it's only ally in the Middle East,
full of lust for oil,
These poor Syrian foods
locked in long lines
that stream over borders
where nobody wants them,
carrying pictures of salvation
in their heads
chanting names like
not knowing these
are the very ones
who betrayed them,
who caused their misery,
a fool's hope that these
names might save them
from the becoming some
of the countless dead
littering the landscape
they flee,
prayers to heartless gods
who mock them
by pretending sympathy
while blaming people
other than themselves
for these people's misery,
I hear the cry
of the Syrian refugees
as they stream into
other places
where other people
hate tehm
like boat people
from Cuba,
after Kennedy's
Bay of Pigs
placing a fool's hope
on the very people
who caused the fire
the death
and hopelessness


Friday, December 8, 2017

Cosmetics Plus --- a remembrance

This is the tale of my time working at a company in Fairfield. The owner's son is currently a congressman and once served as President Bill Clinton's speech writer

Cosmetics Plus -- a remembrance