Friday, August 30, 2013

The wrong road?

I don’t know what
Salvation means
As I sit on the train
From Journal Square
To New York,
Maybe it means
Although that seems
Too strong a brew
To swallow,
When most of life
Comes out of a series
Of wrong turns
We never meant to take,
And can’t take back,
Maybe instead
Salvation means
Finding clues to
That path we meant
To take in the first place
And getting some place
Other than where
The wrong turns
Wanted us to go
And even if we
Don’t get to the end
of that so called right road
We know we’re better off
Than if we hadn’t
Made the effort to
Get off the wrong road
Before it was too late.

Forever Young (monologue)

I notice the odd looks the moment I get out of the cab.
I live in one of the hippest communities in New York City – a place most folks would kill for but is so exclusive, murder is not an option – eternal youth is.
Fortunately modern science provides for us where Mother Nature fails and I am wealthy to have received an implant when I was still in my teens.
I don’t understand the frown until I get up into my co-op and see the wrinkles.
I’m only 101 for Christ’s sake!
I’ve heard people at 200 sometimes showing signs of wrinkles, but no one at my age.
So I plug in and check the small screen that verifies my worst fears: implant malfunction.
I’m in a panic.
I call Phil and leave a message, saying I can’t make it for our usual drinks.
The last person I need seeing me in this condition is Phil.
He and I bet when we got our implants on which of us would out live the other.
The one who wins inherits the other’s fortune.
I always figured I would never die and that someone somewhere would come up with an implant that would defy death itself so that neither one of us would lose the bet.
So I call the doctor, begging for him to see me right away.
It’s life or death, I tell him, little realizing everybody says that to avoid the weeks of waiting.
I also do not yet realize how true it is this time.
A pair of sunglasses hides the worse of the damage, though before putting them on I noticed that the wrinkles seem even worse than a moment earlier.
I tell myself, I’ll be all right; all I need is a minor adjustment.
I get to the doctor and he tells me the implant is failing and that it can’t be replaced.
It happens from time to time, he says.
When it does, a person rapidly reverts to his real age – then dies.
I see – the examination room mirror – the wrinkles spreading across my face like a brush fire.
This isn’t fair.
Old age isn’t supposed to pop in on a person like this.
I counted a living another 200 years at lease.
Worse, I can hear Phil’s mocking laugh in my head and I want to murder him for it.
The doctor says I could try some of the alternative therapies such as surgery or drugs.
He gives me the address of a local clinic.
I hurry out, and oddly enough see Phil in the waiting from.
He pretends not to see me even though I know he does.
This is a relief.
The clinic hands me more bad news.
The surgery, which might slow the implant deterioration, won’t work with me.
So I’m stuck with drugs.
This means I won’t grow older at a rapid rate, but I won’t revert to my younger self.
Except for plastic surgery, I’m stuck with the wrinkles I have and those can expect to get worse over the next few years.
But what will I do with my life?
Where will I live or work.
My co opt will toss me out at the first sight of my wrinkles.
My boss won’t want an old dodger like me handling his accounts.
The clinic assures me that places exist for people like me, communities designed to handle an aging population.
It shocks me to learn that implant failures are more common than any of the manufacturers let on.
With no other options left to me, I make the move – only to find Phil living there already.
As sad as my situation is, Phil’s presence makes me feel better.
He’s still not sure which one of us will bite the dust first, and I’m glad.
Then one morning with my back feeling as if someone has broken it over night, I get up and seek out Phil only to find his room empty.
At first, I’m elated.
I outlasted that son of a bitch after all.
I think about his vast wealth and make plans for it.
I’ll be able to keep up my treatments and maybe hold off the inevitable for a little longer.
Eventually, the truth seeps in.
Phil was my best friend and I miss him already.
Life just isn’t the same without him – especially since I always thought we would spend eternity together, forever young, and not rotting in our graves.

Hand of God

The rain trickles
Down these stucco walls
Like silver worms
Crawling through
Deep cuts
Morning moans
At the windows
A memory of ghetto
I spent a life time
To escape
Bustling buses
With beeping backup
Compete with bird song
for this soundtrack of city
where nests cling
to drain pipes
and old men
sleep in the street
rain sweeping
across all
like the hand of God,
and the drip down
this stucco wall
filling spaces
that God misses
inside me
and out

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tiger shark

(from Imitation Nature)

At times, even he grew afraid, of the sea and its dark places.
Others feared him and his power, even envied his row after row of razor-sharp teeth, his sandpaper hide, his jaws that spread wide enough to devour anything he chose to eat.
But they never understood his curse, his need for constant motion, the swishing bubbles and the endless circling to keep him from falling.
Through motion alone, he kept breathing. Through motion he forced water through his gills.
They feared him because he constantly killed. He had a fire inside of him the water could not quench – only blood and shredded flesh.
Others moved away when they saw him, small things even scurrying on the ocean bottom as if they might be next.
He seemed so majestic when he passed over them, leaving his broad shadow across the bottom like a twin.
But he had no voice the way the lion had, and could not roar, living his life in silence – perhaps even more terrifying to others who did not always know when he came near.
They did not understand his hunger or his need to move, and perhaps they thought him some evil god they could appease with prayer – if only they could find the right prayer, not knowing no prayer would save them if he chose them.
He was a glitter of silver in the water, a stirring tail, an open mouth, a snout always sniffing ahead for the scent of blood, swooping down like an eagle might, rising with his victim clenched in his jaws.
But he was always hungry – at no moment satisfied – and always fearful of falling into the darkness below from which he might never rise, always moving, circling, feeding, watching his own shadow for that day when he would no longer see it, and knew then, peace.

Deep in the valley

This trail stretches out it long finger
Pointing down the soft incline
Into the heart of a valley
Where trees have spread wide
Moved aside by the persistent
Strike of ancient tribes
In their persistent hunt
The sky drips wet
With the remnants of rain
And a suddenly exposed sunset
Each drop dripping
Off extended limbs
As the trees lean in
Gray given to blue
That rapidly grows
Darker and dim
With the orange gleams
Of another dying day
Along the ground
The points of pebbles
Sprout up like
Living things
From between
The yellowed hair
Of dying winter grass,
Each with roots
Into his sacred brown soil
Over which we stroll,
The unnoticing wanderers
Who seek comfort
In the warmth of
This deep valley
Marching down into it
Down into the dying day
Down into the labored night
Down into the place
Where all life sprouts
Hearing ever before it
The flowing river

And its promise of life.

Monday, August 26, 2013

On the ice

They mostly come by night
Light-haired strangers
Brawling and squawking
At the shore
For the precious bits
Of sustenance
The old oaks
And tired elm offer
Ruffled feathered
Philosophers who
Ponder dawn
From their flapping lofts
Complaining hotel guests
About lack of hot water
Or towel or some other
Minor inconvenience
Most can live without,
Or stool-warming barflies
Glaring around at who
They can sucker into
A refill,
Some never land
But glide for miles
Streaking beneath
Snow clouds
While others
Peck at each other’s hearts
For apparent fun
Or wreck others minds
For profit
Mostly, they dance alone
Squat upon their haunches
Without permanent partners
Eyeing everyone
That has more than they do,
Especially those
Who have partners,
To swish through this
World of insufferable reeds
Love-tapping beaks
That gets them through the lack
Of heat of this winter river,
While the crabby loners
Wonder where their lives
Went wrong, snapping up
Those grains of cracked corn
Strangers give or they can
Steal, always organized
Even when the cracks
In the ice
Consume them.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Reckless and weary

The road from here to there
Is filled with woe,
Cold miles of early morning
Caught in a harried pre-dawn dash
To keep from disaster,
Warm weather evaporating like mist
As February flexes it muscles
And drags back brutal air
My hands aching despite my gloves
The unnatural feel of leather
Against the steering wheel I hold
Car headlights blinking through trees
As I see once more the distant shape
Of the New York Skyline
Limbs to either side of me,
Bent and bare like masts
Of sail boats in the harbor
Across the Hudson from where
World Trade Center towers,
Once stood,
I ache for the smell of the sea
After so many days smelling mountains
I hear the imaginary echo
Of seagulls crying in their winter despair
Birds like me who cling here
When the more sensible among us
Fly south for these brutal months
And like me, the birds
Rise and fall with winter winds
Taking a peek at the distant sun
Over the mountain peaks
Boat masts and skyscrapers
But not warmed by the sights
Needing something more

To warm our fingers on.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bitter sweet?

It is not what
we dream, but how
Pressing the pulp
out of the fruit
Bitter or sweet,
So we devour it all,
Better bitter than bland
Or nothing at all
The fake wake we mistake,
Unreal for real
When nothing is real
Except for what we feel
I ache for a take in life
I won’t mistake for fake
It is not night’s arrows
That make dream ache
But the darts of daylight
We mistake for waking
When we are not,
And it is in the midst (mists)
We miss real for unreal
Dream for not dream
Love for not love
Wake for not wake
When all is dream
And none else

Saturday, August 17, 2013

So smooth

So smooth,
It soothes the soul
Even in this searing heat
No sun block blocks the sun
That comes from the inside
Only this, the bliss I miss
So soothing a kiss
Too dangerous to take
It all at once
A drip dribbled onto
My parched tongue
In a Chinese torture
So sweet
I can’t help
But reach for it all
One drop dropped
Never enough
Always too much
Only to burn me more
Dripping drops
Into my open mouth
I can ca never
Get for myself.
So smooth.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The carnal sin

I hear it in the wind
A voice of love
Or lust or some
Other ache
I can’t resolve
The whisper of it
In the dead of night
Love after even
Lovers have
Embraced sleep
The call from
The great beyond
Where all carnal
Things cease,
An ache that has
No root in bones
Or soft
Flesh gone hard,
A feeling beyond
The mere plunge
Into dark
I hear it
Murmur my name
Telling me it
Is not gone,
That no bite of apple
Can cast us from
That golden bed
Where we could lay
Clutching each other
And not notice.
I hear that voice
Singing in the wind,
A song I can never
Resist, love from lust
Risen from a bitten apple,
The carnal sin

That is no sin at all.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Living with it

I didn’t pick and choose this
I got stuck in the eye
And can’t get it out
And don’t want to
This sliver of you
That pricked me
And sticks in me
Like a splinter
Struck too deep
To ever tear out
Without tearing
My heart out with it,
So live with it
And learn to live it
Because I can’t ever
Live without it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Don’t forget to breathe

They say that death’s twin sister is sleep
So I don’t forget to breathe
I count butterflies instead of sheep
To sleep, perhaps to dream,
But never to mistake one twin
For the other
So I don’t forget to breathe
The wrong twin is the mean twin
The twin that takes you places
You don’t want to go
No dreamscape of easy escape
But that dark space where lost souls go,
So I don’t forget to breathe
But there is beauty in that dark twin
Just as there is beauty in the dark
Of night, a slumbering infant
Winged like cupid, crossed-legged
Yoga-posed, wreath of poppies
On its bare head
The reflected lamp of madam liberty
Upside down in the dark waters
Of this harbor of ours
As tempting a sleep
As a bite from Eve’s apple is,
Love’s embrace, our last embrace
And perhaps the last
Embrace we ever need.
But don’t forget to breathe


I lick the drip of sweat
From your lips
With the tip of my tongue
Amid the shift of hips
I miss most the kiss
With bliss
And the taste of blood
The bit lip
From shifting hips
A taste as fine as wine

Filling me fully.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Love is not blind

The rain patters on my checks
But I’m not crying,
Love isn’t blind;
it’s blindingly bright
Even in weather like this,
The river, the soft swell
Filling up each step as
I stumble along this path,
No destination except
Where I already am,
No thought except
To embrace this moment,
The warm breath of spring
That has not yet blossomed,
And may never
But always a bud
Waiting to burst
Full of the ache
Of anticipation
And the whisper of some voice
I can almost but not quite hear,
All life lingering
On the edge of a dream,
Those who love it
Need only listen to her song,
For deep in that voice,
Deep in the gurgle of the river,
Truth can be found,
And we spend a lifetime
Working out the harmony,
And love – even love of nature –
Is simply being there,
Waiting, listening
And breathing deep.

You have it all

You it all, every bit I can give
Not more than before but just as much
Any time you want, or just to live
A card shark with too many aces trust

Up sleeves to draw out with expert east
To hand you one each time you call
I’d stack the deck and still squeeze
Out every bit until you have it all

I’m not so proud to know I can be enough
To fill that deep, deep space you call a heart
But if I can I pump every bit of it up
Until you know I’ve done my part

For you it must be everything or not at all
So here I live on your beckoned call.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The impatience of being earnest

When it happens, it happens,
When it’s real, you know it’s real
The earnest yearning in the breast
You can’t resist
When love comes, it comes in a rush,
an over heated drive by, you can’t
Catch your breath from,
Or take the wait for it to happen
Again, or make it happen
When it must come when it comes
The tap of it knocks you to your knees
And you bleed from the need of it,
The gush flush against your face
From your heart’s race,
Your thoughts can’t keep pace of,
When it’s time, it’s time
And you can’t get it out of your mind,
The ache like a stake straight
Through the heart until it breaks,
Making it stop, then start
Only to rush and gush again,
It can never be enough,
This thing called love,
And you can never make it come
Until it comes
In a gush up inside you.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

It is you

July 13, 1982

It isn’t the green leaves
Flapping on the brown bank ridge
Or the cold or the vivid
Blue sky outlined
In white fluff,
It is you,
The fire flicks
Its orange lips
And I sit silent
A gray haze
Bubbling inside me
As I wait for you
From time to time I think
I see your blonde hair
Floating among
The tree trunks
Your face highlighted
By lantern or flashlight
Along the twilight path
But it isn’t you.
You sit beside
A furious red fire
At some far camp site
A pink face calm
In the external haze of smoke
Full of light and laughter
You, a yellow glow
Among the flames
I am orange embers dying
Blue sparks strolling
To reignite,
Hoping to burst again
Into vivid flame
Knowing in my heart
Old flames rarely do
My fire smothered
In smoke
From feeding it
Too much green wood
or wet brown bark
My smoke staining
The purity of the blue sky
My fire needing more than
Desperation to thrive
It needs you

Friday, August 9, 2013

Tracks in the sand

It is not always
The sand storm
That kills you
In those dangerous
Times when
You walk in
The desert alone,
But what the
Sandstorm hides
The illusion
Of well-being
Cast before you
Like a mirage
So that you
Crave water
But eat dirt
And cannot
Tell the difference
For the dust
Cast in

Your eyes

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Narcissist in me

I stare into the reflection water
And see your face in the place
Where my face should be
Your lips instead of my lips
Your hips replacing me,
Me thinking as I stare
How being with you is not enough
Or even in your, the whole time
Wonder if it is possible to
Look out your eyes while
You look out mind
How different would it be
Trapped in your skin
Feeling what you feel
Seeing what you see,
Tasting the world’s wine
With lips that are not mine
My feet walking your shoes
My brain thinking your thoughts
Struggling your head or bed
Would I drown in this pool
Or realize the beauty there
I failed to see with mine own eye
And how much less a person
Would I become when thrust back
To view you as I always have
And how much more lonely
Having been so deep inside

And come back without you.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Where clouds may go

If this is all there is,
I’ll take it
Blue skies fluffed up
like a soft bed
sailing beyond my reach
to read like tea leaves,
making me ache
to be a sailor
with erect masts
to catch the stiff wind
instead I rise and fall
with the tides
settling for the lick of waves
upon this amazing shore
to touch the tips
of pointed stones,
and sometimes even
deep sea dive,
letting other men
go where I cannot
happy to be there at all
this amazing place,
this fading time,
all there is, or ever was
or ever will be,
a dreamscape
filled with whimsical clouds
all sailing beyond
where my fingers
can reach.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stitches of rain

July 13, 1982

The morning sways
With currents of rain
Dripping drop by drop
From rusting elbows
Of drains

The window is dark
With Brillo-faced clouds,
And steamed
With worry,
Another year, you think
And laugh, and close the shades

Another number
That marches up behind your name.

When you were young
You sewed them on,
Stitch by stitch
Marking sure they stayed fast

But like Penelope
You pause now, with prayer
Passing the night with pinchers
To pull them out

You weave no years
Inside of you
Nor stitched a numbered belt
Around your waist

Instead you watch
The June wind wind
Its weary wonders
Mixed with drips of undropped rain

The drains groan and grumble
The windows glaze
The morning comes again
And speaks of birth,
Birds chirping ponderously
From under the porch

Tires swish on the road like waves
You wonder after them
As if after a wandering husband

But Odysseus is home
And Telemachos
Grows within you
Another storm

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Some words to live by (from Poems from a Garden Wall)

(This was somewhat naive stuff I wrote when I was 23 years old)

May 14, 1974

I’m just too busy to cry right now so I guess I might as well laugh

It’s too late to say I’m sorry, perhaps it always was.

It’s too early for me to die, so I guess I’ll keep on living.

You made me mad; you made me cry; you made me do all sorts of terrible things; I’m trying to figure out what I did for myself.

If principle is all I have left, I’d better hold on tight before I lose that, too.

Passaic Street Blues


Rows of trees
Line 8th Street
Planted by hands
Not familiar
With this soil,
Living four families
in two room
cold water flats,
a half centuries
dead leaves falling
at our feet as
we walk passed
the house Hot Lips
lived in
before she made TV
her picture in every
Polish store
As prominent
As the Virgin Mary’s,
Local taverns
Holding parties
To celebrate even
The reruns,
This being 1989
And her father
Already two years
In the grave
Leaving one
Whole floor
Of her house vacant
A gap even the trees
Can’t fill,
Though the prostitutes
Stroll by it
With the same reverence
The nuns hold
Passing a church,
Mumbling about
“our Loretta,”
With some even
Remembering those
Rare days when
She came to visit
Her family,
Surrounded by
And body guards,
Staring down
The line of trees
As if suspicious
Even of the changing leaves


They screech
At the lightest thing
At mice crawling
Under the door,
The wind rattling
Panes of glass,
One spirit so small
They could crush it
Between forefinger
And thumb
And not burn a calorie,
While no one
Even remotely
Understands the wind.
Fear imprinted
On their genes,
Panicking over
The inevitable call of death,
Calculating when
And if
The cancer gets them,
While leaping up
With each squeak
The mouse makes
As if these are one
In the same.


What do you give
A dying man
When life have
Brought him down
For the final count,
Bed pans banging
Instead of the boxing bell,
Strangers prodding each
Hole to find out
Where the disease
All started,
Instruments hooked
Into him to
Calculate when
The final moment
Odd faces with
Raised brows
Watching for
When that spirit
Rises out of him,
As if to feed,
And he refusing
To let go,
Not wanting to
Give in,
And give them
The satisfaction
Of knowing
He got beat
By blows from
The inside out,
An opponent
With no boxing gloves
Only the ability
To multiply
In parts of him
He can’t see.


We flock like geese
When we see it come
Clutching our rosary beads
Against what we can’t see,
Stressed to death
In fear of the cold,
This life the only life
Any of us know,
Tempting fate
But never so far as
To give up faith,
Even when the clock tick
Tells us what the doctor
Won’t, but we guess
And huddle
And hope for the best,
Wondering about the sleep
That comes after a long
Or even short life
And what we might
Wake up to
As this thing
Eats at us,
Will the world
Be green,
The way spring is
After winter,
And will we in our
Sleep feel not cold
Or hard or lonely,
But warm, and immune
To passing time?


She was the lady
In the health food store
We flocked to
For immorality,
That shop a hop
Skip and jump
From Passaic Street
As she peddled
Vitamins and herbs
The way Marcus Welby
Did pain pills,
A sure scenario for
Disaster we thought
Even before
Her grieved husband
Informed us
About the surgery
In the brain
No herb could reach,
As he shuffled
Among the rows of
Bottles out of which
He could find
No magical cure,
For her
Or for the loss he felt
When he thought
They’d found
Nirvana in a bottle,
Now, all he sees in each
Is the image of his dead
Wife, Mary,
The rosary beads
She kept behind
The register
She called
Her insurance policy,
He didn’t know
How to cash in.