Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Water Fairies

I walk out to the river
Where the old piers lay
Like the exposed bones
Of some ancient predator
Life streaming by it
Sending waves to lick
At its dilapidated sides
Sunlight playing over it
A strangely silent place
For this part of the world,
Hoboken, New York, Weehawken
All leaning in to stare
At its broken top
Taking pity on it, perhaps
Even offering it comfort
Like kindly gods
As the ferries rush by
Headed to the hubbub
In other parts of this famous harbor,
Me and this pier fast friends
After so many encounters such as this,
Me coming to it like a pilgrim
Seeking its indulgence
As we both somehow endure
The ravages of time and circumstance
And maybe our own folly,
Seeking forgiveness
From the water fairies
Who play upon the glittering surface,
Each bearing a soft smile
As if to say,
All will be well
If we let it

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bad air

I hear the river even in my dreams
The rush of its fast water giving up its steam
On hot days like these
I used to sit near the foot
Of the Dundee falls
Letting the spray cool my face
Fish feeding on the bottom
With their cris-cross patterned backs
Like crossword puzzles to fill in
Their lives defined by feed or die,
So they keep moving,
No sharks this far up river to worry over
Just the greedy fishermen
Who constantly cast, hooking the same fish
Again and again, fish they don’t want
And can’t eat because of the polluted water,
The same fish suffering through the hook
Over and over until they get used to the pain
Or dig deep in the muck in an attempt
To ignore the constantly dangling bait,
On hot days like this, old man Ben
Always brings out his cooler full of water
Handing me something to drink
And telling me to calm down,
Dig deep and wait for the wind
To blow all the bad air out
So we can all breathe free again.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The trouble with omens

The signs along this road
Makes no sense to me
Pointing this way and that
My road map no longer valid
Since none of these highways
Are on it.
We live in a world filled
With portends and omens
A crow’s cry from a high branch
Warning me of some danger
I can never see
A fish flop on the river top
Telling of some good event
I must attend
But never the address
Or as time I should arrive
I’m always arriving too soon
Or too late
The uncomfortable guest
Standing on the front stoop
Before any of the other guests
Have arrived,
Struggling to make up
Conversation to fill the time
Or too late when all the good talk
Has been expired
And I am left alone in the corner
An unacknowledged wall flower
Trying to pick out new omens
Off the wall paper
Or make out where the back door is
So I can make my escape,
I ache to read the signs
Before they ceased
To mean anything meaningful.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dream trains

I wake up to the sound of trains
Moving through the valley below
Horns sounding off the low cliffs
Like the distant voices
Lingering from my dreams,
Urgent messages from that other world
Urging me to return,
Knowing the real danger
Isn’t in a sweat-filled dreamscape
But in the day to day living
Where snakes and spiders crawl,
I ache for the touch of spirits
Whose soft kisses still linger
On my tear-streaked cheeks,
Their breath clinging to me
Like a protective cloak,
Guarding me against those things
I know I must face upon waking,
Like a slick second skin
I wear beneath my clothing,
The train moves on
Lost in the ether of the real world
My ticket stuff expired
Until sleep greets me again.

Monday, July 23, 2012

One foot in each world

I can’t believe I have a bum leg
In the world of magic, too,
A man ought to get a break
When he steps over into the other side
me being the bearer of light
Shouldn’t I be able to walk straight?
And not constantly trip over
Things I don’t see in the dark
One foot in each world
And I’m still deaf, dumb and blind,
Searching for the glow I know
You must have in that world, too,
I have to wonder at what other flaws
I have dragged with me over the brink,
Am I as moody over there?
As self righteous
As pig headed,
Do I still blow my top each time
Someone spreads a lie about me?
Am I the same muddle-headed fool
I am on this side
Knee-jerking with a bad knee
When all I want out of life on either side
Is to feel good about myself,
To find real live that hasn’t been tainted
By real life.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


You know when the bad ones cut you
You never bleed
The poison goes too deep

You get to thinking it’s you
When common sense
tells you the mad person
Leaning off the roof is to blame

The person who is so forgiving
But never sorry,
Locking doors against
Imaginary threats
Invented as an excuse
To hurt people.

Me, I just got out with my life
Because you were there
Stretching out your arms
When dark shadows
And false claims tried
To consume me.

Your life line
Brought me back
From that edge of that insanity
And keeps me from falling back
Leaving that demon
To suck somebody else’s blood
To cut deep into somebody else’s chest,
Leaving no trail of blood
Only poison.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Old foot steps

I still walk these old streets
Though I’ve not been here in decades
My life branded on those sidewalks
As permanently as the names of starts
My sweat dripping between the splotches
Of dried up chewing gum
And the tiny coffins of old cigarettes
My voice raised to hawk the paper
Nobody wants after the first day
And lately, I wander here more often
Than before because of you,
My steps tracing your steps
Though I have not seen them until now
Steps I would have run after
Seeking you out, begging you to know me
As I know you now
That world colliding with mine
Over uncertain connections
So that after all this time we meet
If only in between the beats
And beeps of some
Temperamental electronic beast
But I still walk these streets
In my dreams
Seeking those steps from long ago.

The last reprieve

Do echoes speak the truth?
Of empty stages
And fingers clutching broken strings,
Or clutching crack keys
The empty sockets
Where bulbs won’t sin
Souls that play like ghosts
To empty chairs
With only the memory
Of faces once there
Sad creaking wood
Swaying to worn melodies?
Do the echoes still ring clear
Or are they muddle phrasing
Over done,
Never certain
Of their last repeat

Thursday, July 19, 2012


The ancient building tops
Stand against the pale sky
Like icons of gods
No mortal hands intended
When constructing these
The blue highways are filled
With markers such as these
Leaving us something
To guide our lives by
Towards something
That is true,
Avoiding wrong turns
That lead to dead ends
There are no wrong turns
Along roads filled
With markers such as these
Even though
We do not always know
Where it is we’re going
When we start,
Only when we get there.

The small details

I always think
I leave something on
Back home half way
To where ever it is
I’m going
Knowing I’ll be
Gone days,
The water running,
The coffee pot on
Did I even remember
To lock the door
Thoughts haunting me
The whole time
I am away,
The ghost of a past life
I can’t shed
Clinging to my heals
As I walk,
I wake with it
The first night
And each night after
More terrified over it
Than any real disaster
It’s always the small details
That get to me
Always that last thing
I forgot to do
Or say on my way
From this place to that,
When after all
There’s no damned thing
I can do about it

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sacred ground

I come onto sacred ground
And feel my world shake
The emptiness of existence
Spread with drifting leaves
Never landing anywhere for long
Cast up by each new gust
To land again and again
Until age makes ruins of them
No romantic castles to linger
No ivy to grow over stones
Just these crumbling bits
Of memory
Slowly fading to dust.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The reason they live

The reason they live
Those heart broken poets
Who have settled for less
For less fertile ground
That they might some day
Help the artist find art
The poet a poem
They continue simply
Because they must

The tangible and intangible

Sometimes, you have to go home
To pick up the pieces of your life
Those strands strew across
A memory landscape
That never seemed so sweet
As they do now
Sand blasted by into sleek visions
You could never see growing up
Each piece, driftwood of life
Washed up on this beach
In the middle of nowhere
For you to find and treasure
And bring back with you
To those places
To which you have drifted
A memory carried
Outside and in
Tangible and intangible
A feeling you could find
No place else on earth
And won’t ever
Find again.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Happy landings

Last word before your flight
Reaches me with no time
Left to respond,
To wish you luck
or to take care.
So much gets left
Unsaid at moments
Like these
Too many miles
Up and out
To say anything
But to wait
For the outcome
And hope you land
As well as possible
And then find time
To let me know

Friday, July 13, 2012

All or nothing – or nothing at all

Qualities in people do not come ala cart
You can’t pick and choose which parts
You like and leave the rest for someone else
Picking the writer over the social butterfly
The singer over the late night host
Explaining perhaps why old lovers
Just can’t become friend
Always getting bogged down by the bad parts
Nothing person, they tell you, when
It is personal you crave,
Only not the “too personal” that got in the way
Ion the first place
That stuff that always takes you back to that
Turn in the road when all went south
But you do need a road map to get
To the turn you wanted in the first place
When a smile and nod meant nothing more
Than what they were
A road map to direct you passed all
the wrong turns that always end up in dead ends
Even the right turn is risky
With no real guarantee you’ll get where
You want, you can only hope for the best
And keep driving.

The voice on the voice mail

I hear her voice on my voice mail
Saying I said things I didn’t say
The pain so real I know she means it
And hates me all the more
For what I couldn’t say
Or never said right
Each time I tried to explain
I only made it worse
Stirring up a caldron of anguish
For which I can never find a cure
Playing the message over and over
In my head
Trying to untangle the misinformation
Knowing it can never be undone
Knowing that the more often I try
The more tangled it gets
Knowing she will never forgive me
Or forget those things
I never said.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ode to truth

We met in the park
He and I,
me sharing the deepest
Secrets of my life
With a man I thought
Was my friend
Because I had no one
Else to tell
And I trusted him,
Desperate to get his advice
On how I could ease
The pain
Trying not to let on
To anybody else
What I felt or knew
As not to hurt you
His voice always
The voice of reason
And calm,
Who turned out
A lip licking sneak
Who snuck back
Out of your sight
Content to know
My secrets
Without telling you
He knew,
And me,
carrying inside me
This new secret of his deceit
Without even
A park bench tell to you on
Knowing how much you trusted
This man
Knowing how I would
Get the blame
When I let his secret lie out,
Knowing that
I would be branded a gossip
When I trusted the same
Untrustworthy man
You trusted
And had to somehow
Warn you
And risked my life
Telling you.


Every time my best friend Dave and I
Ran away from home as kids
He always marked the same spot
As making our escape official

Everything scared us back then
Especially the people who raised us
His old man beating him for backtalk
When it was the bottle in his old man’s pocket
That did all the talking

Me, I was always pissing off somebody
In my house, my boy-crazy uncle
Once chased me around my house with a hammer
Though we both knew it wasn’t the hammer
He intended to hit me with if I got caught.

Dave always stopped at the end of our street
And said, ‘this is it, this makes it official,”
And I always believed him, more scared of what
Lay ahead after that, than the beatings or the abuse
Back at our houses,
Even though we had run away so often
As to know every inch of that terrain.
We always expected something horrible to happen
Because we violated some sacred trust
To be beaten or raped, to love the people who did it

Dave and I always bickered most at these times
About which way to go, and which one of us
Wanted to turn back, and why,
With me or he calling him or me a coward
He even said I wasn’t being his friend any more
Because I was scared and said stupid things,
Both of us knowing that we loved each other
To ever stop being friends,
Even all these years later when we both managed
To get away – finally.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Too much to ask?

The man in the dark suit
Always thinks I’m out to get him
When I’m not
I just don’t want him to hurt me
I rather like the guy
For all the dark looks he gives me
But every time I try
To shake his hand
He pulls out a knife
Telling me to keep my distance or else
It’s all or nothing with him.
He either loves you to death
And sticks you in his broom closet
Or he keeps you out of reach
Across the street,
Always eyeing me as if I hate him
When I don’t.
I just don’t like close, dark spaces
And want a warm hand to shake
And encouraging word
And maybe a pat on the back
With a hand that isn’t holding a knife
Is that too much to ask?

Letting things go too far

I always push things too far
Like an acupuncturist with a long needle
Poking and poking until he hits a nerve
And always getting kicked when I do
The pain, a strange reward for somehow
Getting a reaction from a stone
But not a stone
Just bone and flesh so cold,
Global warming couldn’t thaw them
Fresh filled with untapped rage
The needle probes and finds, and lets gush
The questions remain which
Is to blame for the pain
The needle or the stone,
And when will I ever learn to stop
Pushing? and if the stone will
Ever cease to cause human misery?

Do not touch the glass

The sign said it all,
The glorious-feathered bird
With its blazing colors
Perched inside
Twisting its head
This way, then that,
Trying to figure out
Who I am
On this side of the glass
The keeper telling us
“Look, don’t touch,
don’t smudge the glass,”
and we can’t,
hands pinned to our sides
by the keeper’s glare,
hapless, helpless
in the presence of
nature’s wonders,
bound by rules of order
we dare not break,
“Do not touch the class,”
the sign says,
and we don’t,
no matter how close
the bird gets
or how much its stare
twists inside of us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

After glow

I hobbled up the walkway
From Hoboken
Leaning so heavily on my cane
I nearly fell
Wounded in some conflict
I never intended to fight
But refused to wave
A white flag
“Concede but never surrender,”
an old Viet Vet once told me,
“Retreat, regroup, even move on
if you have to, but never give in.”
In the breeze off the harbor
All this seemed moot
Golden flowers licking their lips
As I passed,
Fishermen casting their lines
Near where the walkway turned
On the Weehawken side
Sail boats with lowered sails
Floating in a cove so peaceful
I could not help but catch their drive
Though I could still see across the cove
The building where I should have been
And the meeting I was supposed to attend
Too far away to hurry back for,
If there was anything to hurry to
When peace and flowers
Showered me here in their after glow
Telling me just how great life can be.

Another breathing lesson

Nobody but fish, whales
And dark things from the deep
Can breathe under water
I know I can’t
Each time I open my mouth
I nearly drown
Lesson #1
Keep my mouth shut
When over my head
Lesson #2
Don’t swim in water
So deep
My toes can’t touch
The bottom.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Being true by default

Mostly I can’t remember,
Faces pressed upon steamy mirror glass
Eyes buried in folds of flesh

I try to reason it out
As I watch trains go by me
With mannequins in each window

They must sit them there when the train starts
And let them find their own way back
It must be hard being no one at all

Two trains pass here every single day
One going up, one coming down
The same flaccid faces looking out of both

Newspaper neatly wrinkled like drapes
As if they could read or would want to
Yet it’s something to do, staring at print

Sometimes, they can’t see me
The trees at thick as pine with the speed of the train
I am an illusion, created by distance

I am one of those who have been left behind
The impact of the default button automatically pushed
All faces look the same in the blur

Sometimes, I sit and count the train cars
and how over time they seem to dwindle
fewer blank faces to choose from

All a blur of motion, all faces becoming invisible
Until only one face remains, by default
Staring out at the constant blur, free forever.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Escaped only with my life

I realize that after months
Of crazy midnight messages
Of that rooftop maniac
Who stares down into the gulf
I just escaped with my life

This person locking and unlocking
Doors against imagined threats
Manufactured in that person’s own head
All of them leading to the roof
Where it is documented on
In cell phone photographs
Sent out like press releases
Ten days before the actual event

Or the “I should not tell you
What I did last night,”
Then lays out a layout
So perverse it twists
Inside me like a knife

Always forgiving
But never sorry
Always shifting blame
Onto the backs of other people
Always saying “I never lie,”
When that itself is a lie.

You’re just lucky
To have real friends
Who help you get out
Helping me to escape
With my life

And that friend
Is you.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A twist of gold

It isn’t the wedding ring
She twists when she twists
The man around her finger
Gold glittering at intervals
Like the lash of a whip strike
Each twist tormenting him
Tightening him from inside out
Grinding flesh and bone
Until he resembles a taunt
Rubber band
How far can she twist him
Before he breaks?
How much pain will he endure
While still crying out for more?
Gold turning to fire until
He burns out, and she, yawning
Reaches for another man

Smashing Watches

You never really know what the truth is
When you take a hammer to a watch
You want to know what’s inside so bad
You smash and never learn how it works
A man might look you straight in your eyes
And say what he claims is true
When everything but his eyes
Tells you he’s lying
And you have no way to prove it
So you smash the watch
And watch the springs slither across
The table top between you,
Reading no more truth at all
Just ruined metal
You can never know how much
A man knows unless you ask him
And must somehow have faith
In what he says is true
Even when you know it might not be
Even when the tock ticks tell you
Something else is true
And you know if you want to keep
The world in balance
You let the watch tick
And let his lie lay where it is
On his lips
But some men like me always
Smashes watched,
Even when in the end
Nothing good comes of it.

Never free of guilt

You can’t ever escape guilt
When you’re always
At least half wrong
Guilt clings to you
Like a wet rag
And no matter how
You shake your feet
To get free of it
You never do.
Nor can you make up
For the disasters you cause
Such as the man
Whose cigar ignites
A brush fire
Turn forest fire
Even though he
Rescues his neighbor’s dog
Even provoked
You can’t claim innocence
Knowing that deep inside
You always had this
Particular button
The wrong people
Could always push,
And you always let
The wrong people push it,
Just to see what happens
Then crying foul
At the ill feelings
If what you feel
Are real feelings at all
Sometimes, it’s just a roar
You hear in your ears,
Or a hiss of escaping steam
The source of which
You can never find,
But you know the heat
Because it scalds your fingers
And rarely does the person
Who pushed the button
In the first place
Ever get burned.

Pictures like popcorn

The pictures pop up
like popcorn on the screen
a slide show of passing images
of things I’ve never seen
each grander than the last,
a regular parade of pleasure
I get to watch from the comfort
Of my computer,
Aching over each for hours seated,
For the need to be there
And see it all for myself,
Shedding the pain of isolation
And the leaves of a calendar
That shed as fast
As each photograph fades
Life always passes too fast
And I hobble too slowly
To ever keep up,
these pictures
a memory of things
I’ve never actually seen.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dark side of this moon

The egrets leave their mark in the mud
As if on the dark side of the moon
With me alone to witness their foot prints
Before the tides erase them
We are not allowed to leave
Anything behind
The silent stalkers in this remote existence
Struggling to find identity
Striding ever so carefully as to not
Upset the delicate balance of nature
Or show others of our kind
Where we might have strode
We stumble constantly over unforeseen things
The stones protruding from the mud
The carved hearts of strangers left
But we can not leave
If we are to remain invisible
Egrets strutting with long legs
And long memories
Seeking substance among
The debris
Fearful to eat too much
Always aware that the incoming tide
Can take it all away
At any moment.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rain on tiger lilies

The drops come in spurts
Leaving their golden dew
On each elongated tip
No bees to violate
The tiger lilies this morning
Not even the distant
Rumble of thunder
That had brought this storm
The lightning that had
Ripped open the sky
Gone to a more gentle touch
As each drop gently kisses
And cools these sharp lips
Making the erect pistil shudder
Rain that flows clean
From the tip of each petal
To moisten the rich brown
Soil at their feet,
The flock of them,
Shifting slowly to the impact
In a ritual I know
Must end with the rain,
Each waiting for that moment
When the sun tears
Through the veil of clouds
And exposes them again.

Peace treaty

The Indian tonic
Smacks of dusty trails
Corn cobs,
Long weary miles
Of wavering wheat
Swallowed in two hard gulps
The product of years
Waiting just for you
And they stare at you
Wet eyes unbelieving
Long faces struck with shock

The chief coughs
Into a yellow scarf
Worn thin with faded design
Stained with tears
At its center
Grim reminders of
Remembered pain

Then he takes his swig
Wincing slightly
He coughs again
Looking again at you
in disbelief
behind his eyes
he’s thinking
you are laughing
at him.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pizza man

I’m the pizza delivery guy
Who got run over by his own truck
Before he got a chance to get to your door,
The working out violence he could
Have expected once he got there
The surprise tip he didn’t know
About waiting inside
The pizza growing cold and limp
In the box while you got what he
Really came for
Making up for society’s unfairness
Night after night
The boxes piling up outside the door
The pizza men stumbling away
Confused by what just happened
Powerless to stop it
Not sure they want to
Me, still working to jack up the back
Of my delivery van
To inflate the tire
That went flat on the way
The pizza growing cold
Even without the tip
I might have otherwise

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wish waters

I always come to the water to heal,
Even when my wounds are self-inflicted
Me, seeking the cool wet to soothe
That ache I cannot soothe myself
The idea of living my life
As an after thought,
Some bit of detritus that
Washes up to shore from
Time to time,
Remembered briefly
Then forgotten as the tide
Washes me away again

The idea of living that you can
Live your life
Collecting bits of junk from the shore
All that come and go from your life
Never able to keep
The one that matters most,
That one treasure always slipping
From your grasp just as you reach it.

There is an illusion to freedom,
Our lives always governed
By ebbs and flows,
Moon and sun,
Live and dead water,
Some pools in which we
Get stuck and stagnate,
While other seas drag us
Far from those things we want

I never know which is worse,
To never see the same place twice
Or to see the same place
Over and over,
And know there is no escape,
Caught there by obligations
You just can’t break free of,
While on the other side
No anchor can keep you secure
From the tides that tear you adrift
Always seeing distance shores
As they fade from view.


These things always come
At the time I need them most
Like my cousin’s wedding
In 1987 when I was down and out
Just when I think love doesn’t exist
Someone comes along to prove me wrong
a hastily thrown-together ceremony
Contemplated for years
Then plunge into in slightly over a week
Meant to last a life time,
And most likely will
With me a not-so-innocent bystander
Called up to commemorate the moment
with camera and flash
and when a witnessed failed to arrive
stepping up into that role, too
To sign my name to a document
Meant to last forever
Feeling like a father giving away
His only daughter
And scared about her fate
When love explodes out of them
With a radiance
I need sunblock to endure
Proving once again
Love does prevail
For those who know how to wait
And what do look for
And me, the ever skeptical witness
Blinded by their passion
And their persistence
A lesson in life
I have to learn again and again and again
But always coming back to this same place
Knowing that it can be real after all.