Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday flowers

The petals kiss my cheeks
As I pass beneath
This Sunday morning ritual
Of flowers and fruit
With me, a persistent bumble bee
Buzzing above each glorious opening
Breathing in the pollen
That churns up honey in me,
Stirring in these aisles of green
Dotted with reds and yellows and blues
Sunflowers like faces in a mirror
Staring back with broad smiles
As if to say it’s okay to feel this way
This urgency, this lust for life
That grows most acute
As I press my lips to the tips
Of each flush bloom
To taste and take into me
All that each opening has to give
To fill myself up with it
And its pungency
Until I overflow
And explode

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Me and Charlie Chaplin’s ghost


Life’s ironies twist in my stomach like a knife.
I’m a fish being gutted to cook in someone’s emotional chowder
And the idea makes me puke.

Everybody tells me how nothing lasts forever, especially love.
The pain does, I tell them.

I still feel towards my lover like I always did,
But not she hates me for it.
If I didn’t feel so bad at losing her, I would laugh.

I’m a sucker for sit-coms and slap stick
Except when I’m the guy who gets cheated on
Or the man who doesn’t see the banana peel on the street
And falls on my face.

I haven’t got the hang of seeing lovers come and go.
I think each one is it and plan on an eternity together,
You know, all that muck greeting cards sell

When love fails, I’m crushed.
And there’s not a damned thing I co do
Except to roll up in front of the boob tube
With a tub of rocky road ice cream
And dull my senses on old movies

Yet each time I catch Charlie Chaplin’s tramp
And know deep down
He’s me.


The road from here to there
Is a convoluted mess
Littered with years of
Going back and forth
My footsteps wearing a path so deep
I get swallowed up in it

The reason for my trek
Lost years ago among the weeds
Reeds and rubbish

I feel seat breezes
And hear the waves
I step across sand
That turns tan with the
Occasional drip of my blood

Sometimes I see myself
As a sinful bull
Whose soul purpose
Of coming and going
Is to satisfy myself

Those times when I dig too deep
I actually feel ashamed
Most times, I do not think at all
My feet the only thoughts
Each step drumming
Out all other sounds in my head

So all I have is
The coming and the going
And the road from
Here to there.


I have abused the colors of my life
Painting my living roach couch blue
And the floor beneath it, red
A baroque Christmas
For family members who are not here
The globs of pain as vivid
As Christmas ornaments
While streaks of dripped brush stokes
Make for mocking tinsel

The room, perhaps, is a self portrait,
Of what I feel inside,
That me who perpetually
Misbehaves while my parents are away
My message to them
Over their perpetual neglect
Each drip like a drop of blood
As if I had cut their throats
And used their blood for paint,
With me sitting on the only
Uncolored chair in the room
Admiring my own handiwork.


I dream about dead poets
As I drive along the river side
In my daily routine of coming and going
Humming pop tunes to the radio
As sunlight strobes across my eyes
Through tall reeds and purple red weed
Wordsworth from high school
Intrudes when I stop at the light,
Recited phrases ticking off the time
Until the light turns green,
The clock tower bellowing its harmony
Along with the factory whistles
My mind shaping the tap of
My boss’ impatient foot
Or the click of his fingernails
On the top of the time clock
Asking why I’m late again
Refusing to accept the excuse
Wordsworth made me do it.


I’m not laughing because I’m happy,
My laugh echoing
In the chamber of horrors inside my head,
Like a madman’s.
I want to be circumspect
A cool customer with calm composure
Grinning in the face of adversity
When the best I can muster
Is this laugh
When deep down, behind it all,
I’m crying.
But even the tears aren’t real,
Bits of glitter self pity creates
To fill some void I can’t explain
I have worn so many masks for so long
I’ve forgotten which face is my face
When I try to take them off,
Misplacing the real me in a pile of strange faces
I know aren’t me.
I used to believe love was a flower
Diminished when the last petal fell off
So that each rendition of that old daisy
Kid’s song was a torture to me,
She loves me
She loves me love
She killed love with the last pluck
I remember walking a garden grove
With you once
Where cherry blossom petals flowed
Around our feet
You saw them as a flood of love
I saw them as love’s bleeding
I still can’t look a rose in the eye without blinking
Or thinking of the day I tried
 to save our love with a rose
Petals pour off and onto my hands
As I handed the rose to you.
I always annoyed you
By loving autumn colors
Even when I knew leaves red now
Eventually turned to brown
You annoyed me by pressing flowers
Between the pages of my favorite books
Preserving them so I never know exactly
When – if at all – they were dead.
A dead leave at least looks dead when it dies
This, of course, always amazed you most
My seeing dead things before they have lived
Summer love in fall
Spring blossoms rotting
Thunder storms never scared me so much
As spreading grass see.
I always see the brown remains of dead grass
Before the grass as time to grow.
Even on the beach we disagreed
For you the waves always washed in
While for me they always washed away.
While rainy days cheered me
Because I knew they would never last,
Sunny days depressed me for the same reason
Yet my logic came unlatched that day
You told me good bye
No sunny or rainy days to come and go
No waves to flow in or out,
Only petals falling on my cheeks
Withering there without you.


For all I do I still feel
Like a leaf trapped in ice,
Kicking myself for that last chance
To flee when fall’s winds
Still blew

Perhaps I miss summer
Or mistook Indian summer
For my glory days of green

I see my veins reflected
In the Smokey cold around me
Rain and snow dripping over me
With no sunshine to warm me
As it once did

Some say there is life after dead,
A thaw after the frost
But I don’t feel it
Or believe I can hold on so long
To see the sun beat down on me
As it once did,
Nor believe I can ever
See myself grow green again


I keep thinking the world ends here
This bit of spilled ink
As my last drop of blood
I keep waiting for the earthquake, the asteroid,
Or the world war that never was,
I keep seeking rising oceans or growing deserts
To drown me or dry me out
I keep hearing the sound
Of my own voice
Droning on and on
About how much
I have not yet done.

When young,
I feared heartache,
Now I dread the attack on my heart,
Waiting, waiting,
Yet not knowing
For what.


You never quite know
What might show
When those red lids open

The lost, losing dilated eyes
I last saw in the late 1960s
Full of worry and political slogans
Full of hope I no longer feel

I sit on a loose seat
On the uptown subway
Wishing for a screw driver
To stop the squeak
My cheeks vibrated
Into the same numbness
My head already feels

The sound track,
The announcer’s voice
Laying out my life’s routines
Amid static and curse words
With me unable to tell
If my stop’s next.


She wanted to know if I really was
A hippie when I was young
And if I was, she wanted to fuck me.
She would have fucked Jimi Hendrix
But she was only ten when he died
This makes her 21 now
Although she still looks 16.
This is the reason all rock & roll boys love her
She never fails to love them back,
In fact, she makes love like a crack addict
full of rage and religion
Raised on the alter of 1960s nostalgia
She was too young to experience for herself
Sucking the marrow out of bones
Of men like me
Giving new meaning to names like
Cream and Deep Purple
Her eyes growing wide as if I was
Always the drug she needed.


If I dream a dream of beauty
I think of you
A word that kisses leaves
With fragrant leaves
Of air so drenched with love
It drips

When stars shine stark
In a winter sky
I know each has a heart
Of heat so intense
No frost can freeze it
No ice can seize me
As to make me
Forget you

I have always been a prospector
A gold digger hunting treasures
In remote soil,
Pounding down rock in search of wealth,
Heartless in my need and greed
After mistaking
The glitter of trivial
For something real

At night, when horror strikes
I still cringe under cover
As wolves howl and cold winds
Chill all I expose
My limbs suffering
The frost bite of life

Each important person and thing
Dropping away from me
As I pound away at nothing
Stones crumbling at my feet
My greed so gripping my heart
I sometimes forget you
Each chip of stone
A piece of me
Worn down into dust
By foolishness and pain,
And yet,
I still think of you.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Poems from my old hood


News from the wire is always hot
Filled with scalding phrases
About terrorist’s plots

Names, places, events
Rattled from the tv screen
Or spit out in newsprint ink
Like blood

Droning on to keep the pets company
Or folded under the litter
To keep the cat’s pan dry.


City hall’s windows
Look out on a fractured city
Tatters of once great buildings
Blowing in ashes of convenient fires
Redevelopers knocking on every door
Like a social disease
Asking poor and old if they want to sell
A new age of door to door salesman
Selling bullshit instead of brushes
As cold, indifferent political people
Look on as if already statues
Shoulders for people to cry on
And pigeons to poop on
Providing shadowy relief to
Bag ladies driven out of their homes
By eminent domain and outrageous taxes,
Fire the last resort
A modern day urban renewal
Plowing poor to make way for rich
Like Panzer tanks
Igniting the embers of the near dying
Leaving ashes in their wake.


They stand outside as you enter the clinic
Taunting you as murderer,
Their words cutting deeper than  
The doctor’s knife ever does

You mind filled with the bending spectacles
The cool fingers probing
As the cold eyes stare up at you, asking:
“Are you sure this is what you want?”

“They don’t teach these procedures
In medical school any more,”
The doctor says, as his unsympathetic hands
Maneuvering you onto the chilly metal table,
Yanking your legs apart

“Are you sure this is what you want?
Have you thought about the consequences?”
He and others ask again and again
As if you could go home the same, unaltered
And not face consequences equally bad.

Their smart hands divide you,
Driving their sharp instruments deep into you vital statistics,
Until finally, they tell you they’re done
And send you home bleeding,
A red bandage between your legs

A cloth that swishes, rubbing at the missing pieces
Your passport of stinking silence
Your hair stiff with the spray

But you do not go directly home
You wander the streets
Wondering who will whistle at you next
Or to where those at the clinic whisked
That excess three pounds of flesh
You left behind.

Was it a living thing? Did it die?
Or will it grow again outside of you,
You the Dr. Frankenstein
And it a haunting monster
Waiting to catch you unaware
At some future moment.


She hadn’t seen downtown
Since it had happened,
Her life torn from its roots
Like that girl from Kansas
A twister filled with jet fuel
Curling around the stem
Of the tower in which she worked
Snapping it off at the roots
Like a twig
She sent sprawling into a new world
Without dog or red shoes,
Always wishing in the back of her brain
She could go back,
Walking streets of a new world
Full of gaudy colors,
Store displays filled with
Golden trinkets,
Lights winking warning as her
As if another storm could strike
At any time,
Natives from every land
Walking, talking potential terrorists
On every side,
The old Italian section
Filled with cafes and flapping flags,
Thick with strangers
Whose languages she no longer understood
She now the alien
Seeking the wizard, the emerald city,
And the munchkins she knew as a child.


We live in the electric age
Despite atomic reactors
Boom boxes blasting on my bus from work
Or cars that pass my window
As I sleep,

The river top echoes
With the chant of rap
And back beat
So that even the fish can’t sleep

Gray haired veterans
From The Good War
Grumble at the disturbance of peace
Fish refusing to bite
For fear of being bitten
The sound leaving ripples
On the water’s surface
Speed boats would envy,
Some men seeking solitude
Wishing to be soldiers again
Just to create silence
With a few blasts of M1s

Vanquished is that romantic notion
Of reflective thought
While waiting out the fish with bobbing bait
Poor Wordsworth and his pious den
Drowned out by this disco din
No patient waves to wait out
Or lines of poetry to spout
No high brown pens scribbling
Between each tug of line
Just the rap racked out
Full of inner city torment
And ceaseless sound


the old corner stone said
sitting on the corner of the porch,
“never get married.”
His marble face
Perpetually pointed towards the sun,
Drawn from east to west each day
Before retiring,
An icon of the hood
Upon whom passing masses could rely
As well-built as a Depression-era
Public buildings
His deep eyes always glowing
With inner meaning
Like the light of a warm kitchen
After dark
Sometimes porch side
Littered with dusty tomes
He has read or wanted to read,
Or yellow pads filled with scribbled fact
Even he can no longer translate.
Always talking about his young
Days as that
“love em and leave em” sort,
more fearful of a broken heart
than a mugging or murder
wed to the same woman for
forty years now bearing up
under weekend visitations to her grave
his thick tongue licking at dry lips
each time her names comes up,
fists gripping tight the rocker arms
as the world would vanish
if he ever let go.


A strange face shows in the window
Its curious eye trying to focus
Through misted glass
Crime street rolling passed outside
With the flash of lights
All points of vision stained red
As if splashed by blood
He never feeling safe
Despite the door’s dead bolts
And barred windows,
Claiming the wrong body is in jail,
Cold airs sweeping under the door
To chill him, the scent of chemical companies, too,
Waiting for the mugger
Who has his name craved on the edge of a knife,
Yet shocked, when the red light of the police cars,
Like angels of death,
Stop outside his door


We make space reality
McKluen says
Trees stropping against the sun
As I jog
Like lines of poem,
Each inch a space
Filled with bright blue sky,
Stained red around its edges
Where factory smoke spreads
My self declared exile
Along the river side,
Where gull wings,
Flashes of rabbit,
And duck down floating
On the water surface
Lull me into thinking
I am somewhere else
Interrupted by blaring radios
At the bridge light
And honking horns
Of white boys buying drugs
In dark side of Passaic
No geese going south
For winter


The hard part
Is making green wood burn
The trusting ragged eyes
Turning sour for lack of hope.

I see their young faces
Everywhere, perched
In deserted doorways
Like newbie pigeons
Learning the ropes of the street
As if life here
Was a high wire act

I keep thinking of abandoned buildings
Their eyes bearing the look
Of darkened windows,
Full of barroom jest
And desperation.

Where do you come from?
What are you to do next?

No belt or shoe laces,
Each boy tripping over his own legs
Each step a prison sentence
Already predestined

Feeding the fast people
From the white faced city
Across the bridge
Stuffing their noses with snow
As they drive off

I feel empty and lonely
Walking in this place
Despite sidewalks thick with people
It is like walking though a city
Filled with ghosts.


You come at night
The wet air emphasizing
The sound of your step
A slick slosh against city pavement
That stirs even the cats
To my door
As if we could predict your coming
Some inner sense of knowing
Which all animals have
But we humans have forgotten,
A trust, a taken for granted feeling
A whisper of something
we fear to believe in
you walking these dark streets
me, waiting inside myself,
hoping you will actually

Thursday, June 27, 2013

college notebooks: poetry studies

When studying poetry in college, I used to try and write the form that we were studying. These are a few pages of my notes from that period

Blue Genes


My genes shatter on these rocks,
Swirling around in the turbulent currents
Of my scattered thoughts,
Spilled down my sides,
My seed wasted in polluted waters
Leaving only the broken glass
Of abandoned dreams
Tearing me up inside


My life is a word
Whispered in the dark
Not ruled by rhyme,
But plainly spoken
By plain men
From the rude corners
Of my world,
Where young men
Gather at night
Faces illuminated
By flickering
Theater lights
Or cracked
Yellowed window shades
Hotel rooms
Where shadow dancers
Dance to each passing
My fingers weaved together
Like old friends
Linked to crude
Phrases of hope:
Tits and ass
Aching in me with lust
Mingling inside of me
With things I cannot
Put into words
The voices of young men
Echoing in my head
Like madness


The glass gleams
So squeaky clean
I see no glass at all.
And have to touch it
Each time to make certain
It is really there,
Leaving a thumb print
Of my touching
As if from a crime,
I see my life outside
Full of lust and lack of luck
A loveless love child
Struck dumb
Locked up behind
This window
Of shame


I tell Susan, I’ll stop writing
It is an empty threat
I cannot stop –
I would be like ceasing to breathe
I walk wet streets this morning
Looking for answers in the fallen leaves
Each brown-veined face
Pressed against the pavement
Like a glued penny,
Impossible to pickup only ponder,
I read these leaves
The way gypsies do tea leaves
Finding no truth in them.
Why do people have to choose between
Love and romance,
Art and sexuality,
Susan and what I write
Her head full of theories
Text books from which
She interprets the world,
I am just a figment
Of Freud’s imagination
A collection of impulses
I can never resist
Writing and breathing
In a continuing flow of life
A wet day pinning me
Against the background of my life
Just one more fallen leaf
For people to ponder
And read,
My life pressed
Between the pages of a text book
Just a memory
Of an impulse
Long forgotten


I grew up a Paterson child
Locked in a Straight Street
That ran from park to river,
The stone wall too high to climb
On one side of me,
And the slope of a river bank
Too steep on the other
Me, a struggling three-year-old
Clinging to tree trunks
While stepping over the shards
Of shattered booze bottles,
Drug dealers barking out
Their wares
Like newspaper boys,
Each delivering a headline
Of high hopes I was still
Too young to understand,
My mother clinging to church doors
Crying to find them all locked
The face of the Virgin Mother
Scrawled with street gang talk
As I peered into the fountain
As Holy Mother’s feet
Searching for coins I knew
Other small hands like mine
Had already plucked out
My hands rising from the water
Wet and empty.


I couldn’t keep my fingers off the cash
Once I saw my uncles put it in the safe
Grandpa when alive had let me snatch
Coins – even dollars – from the dining room
Cupboard, pretending he never put them there,
Some of his sons got beatings for taking less
Perhaps he’d grown too old to terrorize
The young the way he once had his own kids
Or simply forgot where he put things
If indeed he had put anything there at all,
Such as store keys or eye glasses,
Though years later I think of it as love
As with tie I bought him with newspaper
Delivery money other men might have
Hidden in closet or trash,
But he insisting on wearing it daily
Until it wore out around his neck,
The stripes fading under splotches
Of motor grease his finger prints left
He was even buried in it
With me afterwards sneaking downstairs
To the safe where my uncles buried
Grandpa’s cash,
Taking away all I could carry
For the long trip west
And my long anticipated
New life without him.


I was born out of a cactus
Inch-long needles up my butt
My fingernails could strip flesh bare
In one swipe.

My mother had flowers for her head
Pink and white fading
Whenever the sun got too hot
Or high in the sky

I never knew my father
Although mother called him tall
With the most handsome
Green face she’d ever seen
And needles so long as to
Knock your eyes out

Then one day a wind came
And blew him away.


I wasn’t even high
When we threw pennies
At the stone people
In front of Paterson’s City Hall,
Just tired,
As tired as the town seemed
Like a pool of muddy memories
But of which I could
Barely draw recollections,
The old Fabian theater
Rotting in ruins,
The Garden reeking of
Bank deposits instead
Of old film,
Vaudeville giving away
To performances of greed,
Alexander Hamilton installed here
When he envisioned this a city of silk,
Banks barricading the city center
Like jail guards,
The faces of each building
Crying tears of bird shit.
I miss Woolworths, Grants
Kreskes and John the Bargain stores.
I miss the Stop the World headshop
Where I always left my head
Getting myself high on the fumes
Of incense and joints
Other people smoked,
I miss the moments when
Me and Hank, Pauly and Garrick
Met in front of city hall,
Each of us waiting for a different bus
To take us in a different direction,
Us finally paying tribute to the stone mayors
By bossing our pennies as their eyes.


Early morning streets reek
After second shit
Blank, hot, wet
With me coated in donut sugar
From a night-long
Love fest with grease and flour,
High as any junkie on caffeine
Addicted to a work ethic,
Worse than any drug,
Too weary to dance or drink
Or think of lust,
Though the click of my heals
Over glistening asphalt
Makes me ache for love
Loneliness linger inside my head
Laughing at my lust
No cure for the common cold in me
As I watch the whores pass,
I make donuts not money,
I explain in vain,
Too weary to give chase,
Too broke to pay for what
I cannot catch,
Feeling every bit of the death sentence
Birth pronounced
A ticking clock inside of me
Waiting for the moment
When I run down
Feeling dead at 37, instead of
57, 67, or more
living life at a rolling pin
rather than a rolling stone
me and Bob Dylan
hiding under manhole covers
living out our dreams,
both of us always careful
to pay the parking meters.


They come and go
Injecting a hint of summer heat
Onto the frosty snowy beach
A striped stranded beach tent
Made prisoner by frozen sand
Overturned lifeguard towers
Testifying to the assault
That has taken place here
Even the row boat, upside down
Rots from lack of care

Overhead the gulls cry,
And come up empty,
Picking again and again
At the corpses of empty shells
That litters the beach,
Flipped and turned so often
like perpetually toppled grave stones

The vacant boardwalk hums with
The music of crashing waves
Moaning and groaning wood,
Glittering concession stands
Tinted winter gray
The empty amusement rides
Like bones of dinosaurs
Just dug up

The rising tide drags in
Pieces of drift wood
Red and white deflated balls,
Wax paper wrappers
From salt water taffy,
And occasionally,
A twig of green
Hinting of spring

Willows and other wanderings


I lift my hands to touch the leaves, but never do
Pulling my fingers back from the finger-like leaves
That have always awed me,
Willow so full of grace, crafted like work of art,
An impressionistic masterpiece that steals my breath
Incomplete, always lingering unfinished,
So sad I nearly cry each time I see it
Each season giving it a new look though
No look is so tragic as that of winter
When its thin limbs are bare
I love the autumn best when its golden tears
Fall like rain to the ground
My feet easing though its flood as I walk
The river surface mirroring each sloped limb
So I cannot tell which side is up or down
And which side is the real me,
Sometimes this time of year
I stand at the bridge side and stare down stream
Seeing the rain of tree after tree
Like a gold frame around a natural masterpiece,
Individual leaves setting sail on the outward tide.
In the rain, I watch the water wear down each limb
To its nub, forcing the evacuating of leaves.
The river runs gold with their bleeding,
Making me ache as if each is a piece of me,
Each day sailing away
Hinting of winter.


Turbulent squawking fate
Forms around my fingers in the shape of an egg
Inside, the flesh, bone and marrow,
Moves with life

In May, it hatches a hand
A whole hand complete
With opposing thumb
And frivolous pink fingers
What quiver ceaselessly

The nails, soft yet easily broken,
Grow again much like the original
Each finger flirting with the others
Each one showing the bulge of additional eggs

My life is continued his this hand, this egg
As if I could keep existence gripped firmly
When I know in the end
It will always get away


This is not a love poem
Although love lies in it
Like an embryo in a shell,
Fertilized by love-making parents
Who have come together
In time to seed it
With their affections,
Patient parents hovering over
A speck of dust
Waiting for it to grow,
How so much comes out of so little
Remains one of the great mysteries to me,
How love making leads to love
How out of the beastly desires
We find tenderness,
How we manage with a little taste
To drink in each other whole
How out of this remarkable ache
We find happiness.
Sometimes, walking alone afterwards
I feel so full I could burst,
Wishing for your mouth on my mind,
For me to get inside of you,
Perhaps to remain there,
Like the embryo of an egg
Destined to explode with love


I got sick to my stomach by the time the bus reached Las Vegas
California’s smooth roads a soothing deception to the unseaworthy,
Hard seats jolting each bump to my brain.
I wished to have walked the dusty desert flats instead,
My blue jeans clinging to my sweating legs like snake skins

Even the windows provided poor relief, a bitter autumn sun
Beating at me through the tinted glass, me a voyeur to grim sights
Glass streaked with pale lines of too many cigarettes and greasy heads
Each stop dropping in on us a new population of strangers
Dusty tourists blown in from other states

By Salt Lake City autumn had passed into winter
Snow grinning down at us from the sides of canyons,
Each making me ache for my home back east.
California is a figment of my imagination, a looking-glass world
Filled with dreams dreamt from a distance turned into nightmares close up
I cannot live in a world without winter, on sea scapes filled with tan perfection,
With the illusion of perpetual love,
I’m always looking behind the curtain, up the yellow brick road,
For the man twisting the gears inside of me to make the illusions work.

Maybe that’s why I like leaving California
Stumbling out of that dreamscape into the real world
Where the cold still stings my face when I step from the bus
And the rarified air of Denver’s 5,000 feet high
Makes me feel clean again,
Clean enough even for you.


I refuse to write you one of those sour poems
One of those “I’ve lost my heart & soul,” pieces of crap
That ask you to pack your bags and hurry back.
The airwaves are stuffed with such muck in the guise of music,
The collective subconscious heavy with the ache of a million broken hearts
All those note books filled with verse of should/could/would haves
Making enough confetti for a Wall Street ticker tape parade.
Although if I could I would arrange such a parade for you,
Aching to stretch you out in the back seat, the world’s best cover girl
Coveted by the world’s most needy man: me
I carve you out of Ivory soap bars, as I dream of you in my shower,
You seeming so pure to me I would sip you as if apple wine,
You straight out of an American classic painting, cheeks red, eyes bright,
My stem so proudly displayed, aching for you, a perfect still life,
Me aching down to the roots and rotten to the core.


Worms crawl over asphalt in the dark,
Park closed at dusk as if for them
Their journey safe from human penetration
Although fishermen here know the trick
Of sneaking here after hours
Having their pick of worms to hook,
Plucking each up with high hopes they might catch
Something to bring home from the polluted water
Overhead, hawks hover while other night birds watch,
Hooting owls searching the riverside with wide eyes
For the scurrying of rodents, fluttering up, clutching in claws
The prey that came to prey on worms,
Each pathetic crawling creature struggling to get across the walk
Before doom comes upon them,
Seeking to dip their heads into rich wet soil,
Safe and sound,
Sometimes, I envy them, having no such safe ground
For myself.


From the posts of the old dock
The gulls watch the fisherman.
They look like distorted Hitchcock characters
In dirty white cloth coats and bent beaks
Laughing to the cast of reel and fruitless expectations,
Curses over lost bait and tangled lines,
Talk over “the ones” that got away
As the gulls take to wing,
Cast their gaze across the flat water
For the ripple of water, dive, then steal
The fish the fishermen could only talk about,
Rising and falling in the failing light
So light, so tender, it might make a love story
With only the fisherman suffering the broken hearts


I can tell the temperature by the cry of gulls
They seem louder with each degree below 50
Like children crying for ice cream,
The river side so covered with ice I need spread only sugar
To make their wishes true
Winter has caked in both banks and stretched a sheet of ice
Across the river top so tight a breath could shatter it,
Gulls reflected in its surface like rude guest ready for bed.
Their cries break the silence, but they cannot break the ice
Or get at the mocking catfish whose webbed backs
Shivering under the surface as quietly as ghosts.
The only hope glitters on the far side as a robin’s red breast
Breaks the monotony of white, hinting of the change of season
Soon to come upon us, when this frigid bedspread with draw back
To expose the underworld again.
I ache as much as the gulls do, shivering on this dock
As traffic rumbles over the highway bridge, sending shivers through the air
And slivered icicles down upon the flat glassy water.
I wait and watch for the car I know will carry you,
I know you always come this way,
I know that like the seasons, even your heart must sometime thaw.


For want of water I might even pray
Or lay down along the dried river bank,
Suffering for sins I cannot comprehend,
Stones, hot and sharp under me,
Like swords stabbing deep into my soul

I watch the children dance in waves of  heat
Dreaming of water, a myth told of times past
Few remembering when water ran free
We remember only the shriveling,
The sour strip of blue down the middle of where
Water had been,
Even the factories have surrendered,
Unable to hide their pumping stench

Instead of water, the air moves
Filled with the scent of withering willows
A fool’s hope that things will become flush again
As crows caw instead of gulls
And old men with backs flat against gray stones
Wonder if water had ever washed these waves of dust


They talk of love,
Teenage attractions
Spoiled on the vine or
Picked too soon,
The bitterest always the ones
Who bought wholesale
Male macho’ boasts
Fast cars, fat muscles,
Now ages later,
Dodging the reaper
And Cupid’s arrows,
Shopping around for
Egoless males
The way they might
Sugar substitutes
Always with that
Bitter after taste
Always with the remembrance
Of things past,
Every man an echo
Of the man who came before,
Back to that first man
And that first unfulfilled promise
Trading virginity for empty air
That in memory is as sharp
As a stab in the heart
Yet each still talking of love
As if love was even possible.