Monday, December 31, 2012

Getting it right

I sit on hard splintered wood
Even in winter
Cup of coffee in my hands
Steam rising up my nose
With each sip
Liquid usually too hot to drink
In a gulp
So I linger over it
the way I ache
to do with love,
Feeling always like
Goldie Locks
With love either
Too hot or too cold
With me waiting
On the bears to complain
About me being in
Their kitchen.
I can’t get Indian food
Right either,
Asking for mild
Only to get slammed
With spiced that tears
My insides out,
Some meals
You’re only supposed
To dabble in
Not plunge in,
But I always
Jump in head first
Always hoping for that
Perfect cup of coffee
Or a dish spiced
Just right,
And despite
The steam up my nose
Or the fire in my belly
I’ll always ache
For perfect love

Sunday, December 30, 2012


They ease in
and take over
a couple at a time
pictures on
the front page
as if fair warning
of what they intend
to do over time
seducing all those
who get in their way
blackmail for later
when the real push comes,
when they can move
more openly,
knives fully exposed
glittering in the bright light
their teeth dripping blood
no more need
to be shy or sly
no more need for fear
with no one left
to fear
except perhaps
for themselves
always looking
over their shoulders
at which one
of their own kind
will wield the knife
at them.

Before the change

He walks the dog
Like my uncle did
Before the world changed
Before everything
Needed to get sold
Before anybody
Could make an honest buck
Before the landscape
Got raped and over developed
When the air still
Smelled clean,
When he stroke
The back fields
Before he needed to
Keep everything on a leash
Need to mark everything down
In an account book
Of who owes who
And for what
Before the change
When he still believed
This path led to someplace
Other than where it leads,
When we all believed
We had what it took
To get somewhere
Other than what we did
When we all thought
Love was enough.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Recruit (how to get dirty rich quick)

My best friend’s
Best friend
Thought he knew
A good thing when
He saw one
When Hank dated
That “dirty rich girl” from
Our friend telling Hank
She was too good for him
The whole time
Hoping to hook into her
Himself in order to
Get a piece of the action,
Offering to get Hank
Into the rackets
Where the two of them
Our friend and Hank
Would make a killing together,
Just another scam
To make up for how
Lonely our friend was,
Telling Hank how
Great things were
When it was all a trap,
Telling Hank how they
Would clean up
Knowing that if things
Worked out between
Him and Hank’s gal,
Our friend would leave
Hank holding the bag
All by himself,
while our friend
Got to be dirty rich, too.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Golden Goose

 It rains
Stiff cool fingers
Blister the skin of the world
Tears upon a sullied cheek
Glass beads on the windshield
Wiped away, only to return
Filled with reflections
Of the real world,
Blue eerie glow
That casts nets across
Each street
Light and dark
Shadows letting
Brown leaves
Dance before the rain
Contains them
You shiver slightly
To the patter on the roof
Drenching you
Despite closed windows
With something other
Than wet
A mood your high beams
Can not illuminate
You light a cigarette
Seeing your own face reflected
Back at you
Seeing your own
Haunted eyes in the glass
Watching you watch,
You are alone
Skating glass-like asphalt
Swerving with each
Gust of winds
With each new curve
Shaking at each reflected warning
Vague horns
Of ghostly shapes
And sirens blaring
From beyond invisible islands
As faces appear along the roadside
Full of circumstance
And danger,
You are alone,
And peer into the night
At twisted veins of bright light
That crackle and fall from the sky
Rolling like military cannons
Are they aimed at you?
The drum beat
Is your heart responding,
Beat for each beat,
You are alone
Sealed in a steel prison
Traveling at fifty
Feeling the cold metal rust
Behind you,
Shedding long red
Muddy tears
Behind you,
Expired rivers
Filled with dead leaves
And rattling soda cans
The thunder coming again
A giant’s rage
Over the lost treasure
The golden goose
As your hands tremble
On the steering wheel
As you round that last corner
That last stretch
Bringing your finally
To home.
Seeking warmth
Seeking company,
Seeking never
To be alone

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The best presents

 Some presents don’t come
In pleasant packages
No ribbons and bows
And even after you
Open them up
They don’t offer
Immediate appeal,
And perhaps
Some presents
Are not gifts at all,
But what you
Already have
Left alone
By life’s persistent
The best presents
Are the ones
You give
With no questions
Peace on earth
No racket of reindeer
Rising from the roof
No ‘ho ho ho”
Just quiet

Saturday, December 22, 2012


We are always one step ahead of you,
Dragging our excess baggage on board
Like we own each ship we sail on,
Imposing ourselves on the most fair
While keeping you in chains,
We sailing first class
making our way around the world
with stiff cigars gripped
between our grinning teeth,
Wearing straw hats and white gloves,
As we sip wine from glass slippers
We make you wear,
You eyeing each strut
From behind cage of steerage,
Unable to break free or have
Any of what we have,
Until some old sea hag
Gives you the key to the gates
That keep you down,
A master key letting you
Make your way up to where we are,
letting you feel what it’s like
to ride on top even as the ice guts us
And with too few life boats
to accommodate us all,
who can blame you for scrambling
into the last seats you see,
before the cold water pours
over the last deck,
before it dawns on us all that
it has always been a matter
of sink or swim,
and first class is no longer
a luxury, but a matter of survival

(from Slow Drowning in a Fast River -- a work in progress)

Tomber (note book poem)

Friday, December 21, 2012

World’s end: September 21

They tell me
the end of the world
will come today --
As if we could
Put it out of
Its misery
The strife and selfishness
The tick tock inside my head
Foolish notions and fear
I always have
The wants and needs
And my inability
To tell the difference,
This wheel of Karma
This hamster cage toy
Upon which I spin
All coming to an end
Because some
Ancient calendar has stopped
I need something
To tell me what to do next,
How to embrace the end
When it comes as it must
How to face myself
In the after life
When I can’t yet
Face myself here,
To somehow find
Etched in my heart,
No fixed date chiseled
Just the courage and wisdom
To face life here
And in the here after.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Riverboat Gambler

Tom tells me
He never knows
The game
Until he sees
Who the players are.
I’m always blaming
The wrong people,
That sucker
At the card table
Where everybody
Cheats but me,
Looking up the sleeves
Of the waitress
For aces
When she delivers
Me my drinks,
And no mater
How much I
Apologize later
I’m so broke
From gambling
I can’t even
Leave the tip

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Swinging comets for Christmas

I trace my finger
across the face
not of Davey Crockett,
but of the boy I used to be,
sitting up in bed
at four years old
my aunt's pretty face
hovering over me
holding the book
so I can see the pages
can touch each image.
she trying to be a mother
my mother cannot be,
trying to give me a childhood
my mother's madness stole,
All these years later,
you give it back to me
for Christmas in one big wooden box,
a small thin golden key
to a past I forgot I had,
unlocked and overwhelming
my heart aching for it
now that I have found it again
my fingers slowly tracing
those spaces where my fingers
traced long ago,
bringing back Christmas
and snow,
and all those lost souls
who have since gone on,
leaving me here
the way mother, aunt,
uncles left me,
ghosts of past, present
and future,
and only the tiniest chain
to drag behind
me into the next world,
me swinging comets
like Davey Crockett did

(best present I ever got -- even better than the bicycle I blackmailed my family into getting me when I was seven)

Live to lie

There is nothing
in my voice
but volume,
single sentences
words I
no longer believe.
I used to live to lie
I could trust no one
with truth,
lies splattering
inside of me
like slashes
of cold rain
against steamed glass
with my small ear
listening to the chatter
Of distant thunder
lies and thunder
rumbling through my
enraged reason
rising and falling
like red running tides.
These days
silence prevails
inside and out,
storms long waged,
and lost
in the name of reason,
leaving lies
like loose threads
behind me.
I can live
with losing,
learning the game
from master players
who still
after all these years
teach me
how to survive.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Under the imaginary mistletoe

She was the girl next door
That longest lonely night in 1973
Who latched onto me at the diner
After those many months of me
Ordering buttered roll for breakfast
Who tipped me with her smile
And suggested we get together
Some night when neither of us
Needed to work, and when we did
I could do no more than sit
In the rooming house
Next to my rooming house
In that all too suburban Montclair,
Still wounded from a marriage
I could not make work,
Me unable to understand why
The woman she called “mom”
Kept popping her head through
A doorway that had no door
And kept asking if I was done yet
And reminding my waitress friend
That she had the mayor coming
Later and needed to be done with me soon,
And how that waitress and I
Shared that lonely Christmas Eve,
She whispering how much she
Despised this life and how she wished
I could do for her what her mom did,
And now, these three decades later
I still think of her, and the kiss we shared
Under that imaginary mistletoe
We both needed at that moment
To exist.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Wish

I wish I could spend one day saying
I wish there was nothing to wish for
I wish that it was all the way
I dreamed life would be
I wish that each moment worked for itself
I wish I could live my life and not need to pray
I wish for you to hole me
I wish I had remembered you
When it counted,
When it did some good
I wish that would call me and tell me
“I wish you were here,”
I wish I could end this poem
With a wish for happiness
And that it is a wish that”
might yet come true.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook

I hear the sound
of shattering glass
Inside my head
But not the shot,
I can’t breathe
For thinking of that time
When I got lost
On my first day
Of school in a hall
So long I could not
See the far end
For the deep shadows,
My Kindergartener footsteps
Slapping on the dark tiles
As I plunged down it,
Calling for someone
To find me
Scared the man
My aunt said
I should never
Take candy from
Would, coming
Out at me from
One of those dark
Doorways I could
Only creep past,
and now all these
years later
that man came
but not for me.

Friday, December 14, 2012

“If” is not a blade of grass

I guess there’s something wrong in me,
Some distorted bit, an ugly flaw
That bites both you and painfully me
In different ways, a bit you’ve caught
And I have not, that’s my fault
I’m afraid. The blindness of a lover
Who has missed the glaring signs to halt,
I see them now, too late, and you’ve another
Way of living set in your mind.
I can’t blame you, I can only sit
And wonder if I’d been in time
Would fate have changed that little bit?
But bits and ifs are not enough
To turn you back to feeling love.

If I was only a wide pine tree
With needles jutting from my finger tips
I could stab myself and remove from me
This terrible, ugly, frightening bit.
I could grow new bark to heal the wound
That flames now from my chest
Where once a heart like a flower bloomed
Out of sorrow and loneliness.
But I have neither limb nor bough
That can stiffly stand your leaving
I have no roots that I swiftly grow
To seal this gap that’s bleeding.
I’m just a simple man, it seems
Who burnt his wood to light his dreams

If I was but a crow that sounds
Harsh and bitter and brooding life
There would be no heartless flame around
To ponder you and crave your like
A blind man must crave his sight,
I would never had you
Near me, touching here, and there, a knife
Cutting with pleasure, cutting me through.
But I am not a crow that caws
Or a bird that can fly away,
I’m hooked upon your feline claws
With words not wings to sway.
But you who once had a softer side
Have hardened into another’s bride.

If I was but the yellow sky
Glowing with a pre-dawn light
Growing into an ocean wide
Of love and warm and smiles bright,
Maybe that would change that mind
Which thinks long thoughts with short replies,
Maybe I could scorch and blind
and melt the frosting from your eyes.
But I am only a flickering flame,
a short match’s light that forever longs
for you to help me ease the pain
That comes with being forever wrong.
But the flame that flickers learns to die
Without much warmth, without much pride.

And I am, too, the sprouting grass
Not a lawn, mind you, but a ragged
Bit of green that grows and wiggle past
The granite blocks and crags, it
Doesn’t matter. I’ll still grow
Though yellow with you the light
And part of me will always show
Your passage, your blinding bright.
I am not crushed or greatly damaged
But bent again in my old ways,
Hurt and lonely yet able to manage
A future filled with dull dark days.
For you, my love, are the only ray
Left to raise this humbled blade.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Poetic salvation

I know Poe
Life’s love lost in Tarot
Faith’s fate traded away
Like bubble gum cards
But without super stars
Or God or jest
Symbols need systems to exist
I need a new religion
Not Christian or Jew
Buddhist or Muslim
One without flying saucers
Or desert temples
One that praises
Over entanglement
Purpose over pain,
One that says
There are reasons
For everything
Even if I can’t
Figure out
What they are

Santa’s sleigh

The trees are dark and empty
Their branches slim and bare
The frost has caught the sparrow’s next
And lingers in the air

The horse trodden path is icy
And snow fills up its cracks
The soft brown doe from the frozen lake
Has hit the southern track

The golden wheat fields have gone to sleep
Beneath a clear white frozen crust
The old pump handle is trimmed with ice
And must surely turn to rust

By breath is warm and steady now
As I breathe upon this pane
I draw a picture of Santa’s sleigh
With Santa at the reigns

He’s short and round like a circus clown
With a red and wintered face
His full white bear like a snow man’s ear
Is slightly out of place

He totes a bag of red and gold
Which he carries inside his sleigh
And he struggles down like a chimney sweep
With bag getting in his way

The small reindeer with their reigns and gear
Stand ready in the snow
For when Santa’s sleigh makes its getaway
Before anyone can know

Saturday, December 8, 2012


The buzz in my head
Like bees in a jar
Wings flap trapped
Against the glass
I think
Therefore I must be
But am I really?
And how many am I?
Trees falling
In a silent woods
A mute madman
With a scream
He cannot release
Forever buzzing
Forever waiting
For the glass
To break

Friday, December 7, 2012

In what do you believe, if not in me?

Am I a ghost, a set of bones, that rattled
With words, their unions, an accident
A matter of chance?

Or am I something other
Than what I am?

A dull professor profession truths
For a bid-weekly check
A cold, hard, forgotten dreams
Who has no dream left to dream?

Who am I ?
What is the worth of love?

Am I to be transformed, realigned,
By the mallets of reality,
The less than perfect accomplishment
Of practicality?

The failed dreamer
Who gives up the dream?

That isn’t me,
nor will death itself stay me
When the dreams still stirs,
No more than exhaustion or that sick
Perverted life of labor which I must endure

What is to love when the dream is gone?

Who do you see in my shoes,
But an empty being with empty eyes
And nothing left to live for,
Working at nothing but empty phrases
For doctors or lawyers
or judges or fools?

It is those that can’t believe
That don’t believe

I will not be turned into a statue
I will not be turned like a car
I have my lived life very clearly
A pool of unmoving water
Out of which words spout.

Do not turn me into bread and butter
Do not demand what I cannot give

Do you dance with a poet
While wanting a banker,
Reading about us in books
But never really knowing
Who we are.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Motel magic

Oct. 6, 2012

The bed groans
And so does she,
Pounding fists or feet
Against the wall
My sleeping head
Rests against
In the room next door
Each exaggerated
Breathe like a monsoon wind
Blowing straight through
The cracks as
My imagination
Paints in all the details
The heap of clothing
The entwined limbs
Woman astride the man
in an expression
so intense I ache
just thinking about it,
aching to be there,
dreaming later
I was,
Lost in the limbo
Of that early morning
A gift of the magi
I never expected
Checking in

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Real Fortunes

I read my life
In weekly fortunes
The grinning Chinese lady
Issues me
Each Friday night
Cookies crumbling
Beneath my thumb
Leaving fragments
On my dirty plate
Telling me big truths
In small bites
“Take no shortcuts
To success,” one says,
While another warns me,
“In order to take,
You must give first,”
and a third
telling me what we
all need to know,
“Whatever your
Life’s work is,
Do it well,”
And I try,
As in the fourth
Cookie I eat to feed
My need for sweet,
“Including others in
Your life’s work
Will bring great
Perhaps the wisest
Of all
In this me-first
At all costs
In which
We all live
These days.