Friday, October 26, 2012

Skin Deep

I drink Sambuca and Southern Comfort
And wonder why I’m drunk
My fortune cook tells me I can
Make diamonds out of cola
Even though my emotions are
All skin deep,
And I look up; and see stars
in a sky so cloudy
I wonder if I’m going blind again
Love crazed at the thought of you
Diamonds in my imaginary sky
My fortune cooks telling me
I’m destined for fortune
Even as I take another sip
Of which ever bottle I have
Anything left in to drink from
Not yet drunk enough to
Deal with the emotions
My fortune cook tells me
Are only skin deep,
when I know better,
feeling each all the way
down to the root of me
no matter how much
I drink.

That silly speck of dust

If only you could see it
This speck of dust: love
I eek out with pen and paper
Hardly the stuff of Shakespeare’s ink
Running line after line in eloquent rime
There are  no rimes in mine
Only dust and desire
a finger drawn “I love you”
on a direct card windshield.
Secret messages
That even you don’t know
I have no courage to tell you
Or to sneak them out of my room
To slip under your door
A greeting card would do better
Impersonal, the knowledge that
A millions other eyes
Translate those lines
In the same exact way,
“I love you – you – YOU – YOU,”
How foolish a sound that makes
In my lonely room
Snapping back at me
From four blank walls
“I love you – you – YOU – YOU,”
As if you might hear it through the wall
And understand that it is more
Than dust seeping down
Out of the cracks.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hidden glen

 It’s like a scene from a tourist’s post card
A pond, a field, grass blowing hard
A line of trees that curves so wide
As to make this place seem like country side

A huge oak sits on top of a hill
And geese gorge fish until they’re filled
Near at hand traffic buzzes
Trucks bang and beeping cars and busses

Billboards decorate the highway sides
Power jets rip across a bright blue sky
No one but a handful note this place
Joggers hardly even slacken their pace

They follow black asphalt paths
Sneakers pounding out the latest fads
As a few poor fools still try to stroll
On linger upon some grassy knoll

Lovers walk here hand in hand
Or slowly ease down to the edge of sand
As gulls swerve above and cry
Or stirred by noise start to fly
I walk this place out of my youth
A tongue in  searche for a missing tooth
Aching again for what once was
And know that much has turned to dust

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Meaning in the leaves

Fall comes with a stiff breeze
Swooping across the lawn
Of this remote park,
Blowing dry leaves
Around my ankles
As I walk
The asphalt path
Wind scattering these
Leaves again
And again,
A confusion of feelings
Remixed into new
I cannot always
Sort out,
New meanings
Too much of a chore
To figure out,
Only to find
No meaning in them
But what meaning
I brought,
Me, hoping some spirit
Will inspire me
And give meaning
To what has no meaning
Feeling to what
I desperately need
To feel
Fall falling over me
With each step
I take.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The irritation of oysters

We ate oysters
Each time we met
and I could think of little
except for pearls,
The glitter in your eyes
And how a small irritation
Forces an oyster
To defend itself
Spinning until he makes
Smooth the grain
That causes him such injury,
And keeps him spinning
Even after the pearl is made
because he can’t
Spit it out,
He keeps spinning
The gem growing larger
and more painful
over time,
Until someone
With a knife
Cuts it out

We watched the necklace break
A cheap set of potato pearls
Unknotted so that each gem
Scattered across the cobble stones
At our feet
Seeking cracks or drains
From which we could not
recover them all
leaving a lost treasure
For the sweeper to find,
A smooth piece of beauty
Glittering among candy wrappers
And cigarette butts
No irritation now
But a glittering stone
So smooth between his fingers
so delightful to touch,
So precious he might
Never give it up.

Al Sullivan's Website


(from Slow Drowning in a Fast River)

I see her slender fingers touch
The surface of the river face
Gold reflected in brown mush
Leaved arms as fine as lace

She is the only permanent resident here
A dancer I have seen always
Hiding in her slender arms the silent deer
From drunken hunting crazed

I always thought of her as alone
A woman morning a lost lover
Or a guilt-ridden soul to atone
From a hurt she cannot recover

Crazy kids still run through sweeping arms
The way I did when I was their age
Her touch could never cause them harm
Yet somehow modifies their rage

And me returning to this water side
Feel against as I once did
Running under her arms to hide
Just as I did when I was a kid

Her kiss, my first kiss, always cherish
Her touch, my last touch, to which I perish.

Al Sullivan's webpage

Friday, October 19, 2012

Scars on the outside

All these years later
I still have the scars
On my knees
From that 7th birthday
When I had guilted
My uncles into buying
me the bicycle
I had wanted since 3,
Telling them I ought
To have it because
My mother was in the hospital
And although they knew
I was not old enough
To balance on that world
They bought it anyway
And I being too small to
Quite reach the pedals
Could not stop when
I reached that rough
Patch of asphalt
And fell
Scraping my knee
So bad I had bandages
On it for weeks
And band aids
For weeks after that
Yelping out in pain
When my aunt finally
Yanked the last one off
I couldn’t believe
How much it still hurt
And how much less
I loved that bicycle
Like all dreams that
Come too soon
And are gotten
Too easily.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Coyote and the rattle snake

Vagabond, prankster, warrior
Seducer, even fool,
Coyote never takes anything for granted
Never trusting the rattle snake
Even when inviting the slithering creature
Into his house to eat
First making an offering of food
Fit for coyote not snake,
Then giving the snake bits of grain
On the top of its nose
The snake rattling its tail at the other end
the whole time
Making the always wary Coyote nervous
While beckoning the Coyote closer,
Saying, "I don’t bite,”
when  Coyote knows he does,
the tip of the snake’s tongue
slipping out between his fangs,
too-ruthless for Coyote to ever
completely trust
even by someone as elusive
as Coyotes always are,
clever and illusive
but rarely ruthless,
knowing that outside in this world
there are beasts even more ruthless
that this pathetic snake could ever be,
beasts that care nothing about
fang, tongue or rattling tail
that would snap a snake’s head off
if it ever tried to bite,
or break the back of a coyote
who ceased being wary or wise
enough to think he’s bigger than they are
when he’s not.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Columbus Day

The ride between
Here and there is neither
Long nor short
But a matter of time
A life time perhaps
With Winter/Summer
Crowded on the sides
Like observers to
A great parade
Floats drifting
Bands blaring
Soldiers stomping by
In an invasion of elation
Some secret self
Takes to heart
Wishing for other things
Thinking of other places
Full of trees and leaves
And rushing streams
Thought lost to the blaring
Of music off the face
Of stone buildings,
All filled with echoes
Of the past
Some remote dream road
That appears on no map
And we all just stumble along
With no real notion
Of where we are,
where we are going
How to get back
Or if we even want to
This parade
Going on and on
And eventually even
Without us.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


“Why,” the old nun asked us
with both gray brows raised,
“do you need to cheat?”
We’d heard this lesson
Before so often
we could have
Given it to her,
How bright we were
And talented, and how
With a little work
We could achieve all
That we wanted
And have pride
In doing it
Dave and I
Only grinned at each other
Nodded, but said nothing,
Knowing the old nun
Would never get it,
How Dave knew
He was a whiz at math
And me, a whiz at words
But what we always
Really wanted,
What we really worked
So hard to achieve
Was being good
At cheating,
and we took
great pride
in that.

Monday, October 8, 2012



If you stand long enough
And believe hard enough
They always come,
Rising and falling
As their hungry mouths feed,
I never see the fish,
Only the consumption,
Feeling each wave
Roll over the surface
Of the world,
My fins like their fins
Stretched out
Into the cool wind
Feeling for something real
Beyond myself,
Or perhaps deep inside
A knowing that after
All is said and done
I have landed where
I ought to have,
And kept faith
With these gods
I praise


This year I walk the promenade
and search hard the sea rim
needing them to come back into my life
as reward for doing almost all I could
to keep faith with them.
Perhaps missing last year
Attracted all these evil spirits
That swarm around me now
Spiritually devoid insects
Full of distorted visions
Of right and wrong,
Buzzing only relieved
By this wind off the sea
Where I once again
Can see clearly,
And ache for these angels
With fins
To rise up from their feeding
And feed me


The gulls that face the wind
Do not see the fins
Or hear the voices rising
Up from the sea
Only I do,
Even passers-by
Do not look where I look
They only look at me
Thinking I am crazy
For believing in something
They do not believe,
Searching the landscape
For some force for good
I can cling to,
To help me carry on
To give me strength
When all the tides
Of the world have
Turned against me,
So when the fins appear
I know I am right
For being here,
For waiting for it,
For believing in it,
Even if others
Still do not see


They come the last day
Of a three-day stay
In Cape May
As if needing to make
Sure we are worthy enough
For us to see them or
For them to see us,
Their fins rising over
The phony fins
The gray waves create
Illusions we must not
Believe in,
False prophets
Promising love
In their pursuit of profits,
Those who cast confetti
Into the wind,
Hoping for a cash crop
They can reap later
While when the illusions fade
The real fins rise
From a real sea
Speaking of real love
Bright in a real light of day.


I rush up the beach path
And reach the lip
Just in time to see
The lifted fin vanish
Beneath a wave,
Then more appearing
Angels in the ripped
Surfaced of the sea,
A sea I’ve craved for
But now can’t dip a toe in
For the cold,
This place
This time of year,
Part of a ritual
I can’t live without,
A holy moment
When I can become whole
When I test myself against
The edges of truth
Like a store keeper
Tests the life of a battery,
And this year,
I still stand on the right side
Still testing positive
And still can face myself
In the brisk unrelenting
Blow of the ocean wind.


I watch the dolphins dance
As I write in the wet sand
The perpetual waves erasing
Each word before it is done
Taking these out into the sea
As prayers to some hopeful god
So that in the end
I remain still standing
As all words wash away
Taking away the deceptive reflections
Wet sand always brings
The mirrored self-centeredness
The illusions of righteousness
The fallacy of personal ambition
Cast down like false gods
Leaving only the echo
Of the laughing gulls
As they sweep the sky
Above in their mockery

Al Sullivan's webpage

Friday, October 5, 2012

Telegram to no purpose

I keep wanting to send
The same telegram
Again and again
“All you have to do is stop”
“stop stamping on people”
“on the say to the top,”
“thinking it’s a”
“dog eat dog world”
“when it’s not,”
“No one is on top”
“Every where they go,”
“and never long”
“when they claw their way”
“to get there”

But something always stops me
From sending it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

right turn on red

You spin the wheel
round and round
and always go in circles
You must be on
the right road
otherwise you would stop
but you keep spnning
telling yourself
that you'll get there
that fate
or the almighty
are guiding you
and still you
go round and round
until you run
out of gas,
always right
even when
you aren't.