On Coping.

"I just don't get it. They act like
it will somehow change their whole lives
if they chop all their hair off
or go clothes shopping
when the fat lady's done singing..."

I slide the tip closer to his edge of the oak
as he dries a glass with a dirty rag
and waits for me to finish my rant.

"...Or they call to let you know
how much mind-blowing sex they're having
with the vultures
and how much better it is, or will be
once a time and a place are set.
Then the line goes silent for a few seconds
while they wait for some kind of response
and you try not to laugh into the receiver.
Why do women think that whoring it up
will somehow ruin your life?, which is going nowhere
anyway according to their spiteful phone calls
at two in the morning."

I stir the ice cubes around
with the two little, red
cocktail straws
and drain the remains as he takes his cue
and switches hats.

"Because they're all fucking crazy, man,
and don't know how to handle losing guys like us..."

This is the kind of service people who attend
an empty Monday Happy Hour come for.
He further guarantees himself a good tip:

"...They spread their legs because they can't
bounce back from it like we can.
They're in denial that the loss is their own.
This next one's on me, you ready?"

"I thought you'd never ask," I say with a sly smile
as I make a mental note to thank her
for suggesting I go back to living how I did before
she tried to save me
from myself.

I'll get around to that when I'm damn well ready.

Currently reading:
"Ariel" by Sylvia Plath.



I discovered something disturbing
upon bathing at my new residence for the first time
and couldn't wait to ask:

"Isn't it weird taking a shower
with a window facing the road right next to the tub?"

My new roommate's lived here all his life
so his reply was No.

The strategy to avoid some of the awkwardness
is simple:
let the hot water run for a minute in order to fog up the window
prior to stepping in.
Still, it feels a bit unnatural to lather up with people walking by
and when cars pass by
my mind plays tricks on me
by assuming that they're slowing down to watch.
Granted, they can't see much other than my lathered head
and tattooed arms
but that doesn't make me feel any less vulnerable.
I can't imagine how a female ever managed
to use this shower, unless she was very short.
And besides, the neighbors across the street
have an elevated view from their second-floor windows
thus allowing them to see lower.

My mind wanders and imagines how many amusing nights
could be spent by a couple of young perverts
living across from this house if a few attractive females lived here.
It sounds like something out of an 80s comedy
with all of those aspiring young actors who grew
to have nasty coke habits in decades to come.
Most of our neighbors are elderly, however
so this whole shower window scenario is somewhat of a waste
like clean clothes on a dirty body
like soggy cole slaw at a cheap diner that never gets eaten
like the time I spend thinking of foolish notions such as this.

While taking my nightly shower the other evening
I heard a muffled crash come from the street.
A car was backing out of a driveway
on the opposite side of the road
and had hit a snowbank in the process.
I finished showering, put clothes on, and got in my car.
As I passed the spot where the sound came from
I noticed a large dent in the side of a pick-up truck
parked on the side of the road opposite of that driveway
from which the car had backed out.
That was no snowbank he hit!

I drove on by, lighting a clove cigarette
and laughing to myself.
It's a good thing no women live here,
those potential creeps wouldn't deserve a free show
if they can't even drive.

Currently reading:
"The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers.


12:01 a.m., time's up.

My parents had been feeding some wild cats in their backyard for a year, three generations of felines stalking the neighborhood. A bond formed between them, names were given, the quality and frequency of the food put out for them increased, and a desire to adopt them as house cats came about. Unfortunately, it was too late to fully tame the animals. Once a cat reaches a certain age without human contact they are doomed to remain feral forever, the window of opportunity being closed. The confused creatures went so far as to come in through the sliding glass door when invited in order to get out of the cold, however. One of them, a pitch black panther-looking specimen whom my mother dubbed Midnight, even slept over in the house a few times. Being the youngest and friendliest of the bunch, Midnight was the one with the most potential to be converted into a bonafide pet. He learned to use a litter box and perked his ears up responsively when his name was called. No matter the amount of food given and toys supplied, though, he would not allow himself to be touched and was constantly scanning the perimeter for possible threats like a paranoid junkie making a deal in a back alley somewhere. It broke their hearts to admit it, but my parents finally came to grips with the fact that wild animals have to remain that way.

That didn't mean that they didn't still want a new addition to the family. Several animal adoption agencies were contacted over the course of a few weeks. Upon visiting my family tonight I got to meet the kitten they chose. Fluffy, uncoordinated, and still nameless, she hid in the corners of couches and under pillows. I held her in my lap as I read a few chapters and stroking her pristine fur brought a noticeable sense of comfort to both of us, at least for awhile. That all changed when I looked through the sliding glass door and saw Midnight patiently waiting for his nightly dinner and romp in the living room. My parents told me they'd cut off the wild cats, "the Knuckleheads," as they now called them, a few days ago. Midnight was the only one who still kept his nose glued to the screen door every night since then in the hopes of coming inside again. He wanted to be tamed, but Nature said it was too late, and Nature always wins. Out of pity for his old friends, my stepfather brought some sliced chicken breast left over from dinner out on the patio for the cats. Midnight glanced over his shoulder at his siblings devouring their alms, his portion included, but quickly fixed his gaze back into the warm, well-lit living room. His silent vigil became too much to bear, guilt being a leading cause of human action, so a few minutes later my mother went and closed the blinds. I was grateful that I wouldn't have to watch the painful process of detachment anymore firsthand. Being weened off of something is no easy task, especially a relationship of sorts. The kitten in my lap tired of my company, plopped herself down onto the floor, and scampered into her box in the next room. I finished the chapter I was working on and got up to gather my things for my departure.

After saying my goodbyes I went back to the living room, turned on the patio light, and cracked the blinds. There he was, still pasted to the same spot waiting to come inside and say hello as best he could, though not as affectionately as a domestic cat. Not able to leave him there like that I did something out of character and banged on the glass door with my fist to run him off. He bounded into the night, hopefully to find a warm shed to sleep in and a female companion to pass the time. My mother asked what I was doing as she cradled the kitten in her arms and brought her over towards me. I faked one last stroke on the head of the kitten and realized that it'd take awhile to accept her now. Walking out the door I turned and looked one last time at my mom holding the new cat, the two of them symbols of what the problem I have with most of the world: It's hard to find loyalty anymore, at least in humans. Us Midnights don't stand a chance.

Currently reading:
"The Pleasures of the Damned" by Charles Bukowski.


Late-night conversation with an equal adversary.

Thanks for calling, but I'm not saving your number. I have a bad habit of embarrassing myself via telephone when I'm lonely and the books aren't enough.

How about we call it a friendship and I forgive you for anything you might say? Stop being ridiculous.

Wish I could, but I know myself too well. Appreciate the attempt at self control if nothing else. Remember why I had to leave the last one. You're the opposite. Do the math.

Oh, David.

Please don't call me that, I only let one person call me by my full name.

Take care, I'll see you around.

No you won't. Running into you at the store the other day was a fluke.

A fluke is a fluke only if you let it be, and otherwise it's a whale. So stick that in your smoke and pipe it.

I've learned that not letting things be only leads to over-analyzation and/or forcing what should come freely. Have you ever been told you're too smart for your own good?

No, but I've told myself that being smart hardly matters and that the good and kindness do.

Tell that to the good and the kind, ask them where it's gotten them. They may persuade you otherwise.

I don't think they would, if they're smart.

You've got me there, though not really. Don't worry, I only go for cynics.

I'm not worried, I knew that already. I would only frustrate you in being peaceful and laughing at some things that you might think are very serious.

You assume too much then. I also see your silver lining. I just don't laugh at the size of the cloud.

I'm only teasing, David.

I asked you not to call me that.

Fine, I'm going to call you Esther.

A name like Job would be more fitting. God revoked his family, his health, and his love just for the hell of it and called it a test.

I don't know...

Or Jacob. He too once fought an Angel, though I forget who won in his case.

That's not very nice of him.

She started it. She usually does...

. . . . .

I woke up three hours later with the phone still in my hand. I'd never fallen asleep mid-sentence before. It was as peaceful as they'd claimed, like the sound of snow hitting branches on a quiet December morning. You never forget your first.

Or your last.

Or any of the ones in between.

Currently reading:
"Winesburg, Ohio" by Sherwood Anderson.


I read this to his answering machine:

save this message
because it just may be the last time you hear my voice again.
how dare you call me after all this time
like nothing ever happened
like you didn't leave your flesh and blood
in the wind
for wanting to improve himself.
I'm thankful I got into the union
and not necessarily because of the money
but because of the half-dozen men who have taken your place.
when I needed you
you were too involved with what you can't see
and now that I see you're only about yourself
I want no part in it.
and when they ask where I am this holiday season
say you don't know, and feel honest
because you probably never will again.
I still have nightmares about the father I once had
but I won't let myself live them anymore.
save this message
because it's the last you'll hear of me, pal.


it only smells like me in here now

returned her Christmas present
threw the spare hair-tie she kept on my gear-shift out the window
got rid of the book of crosswords she couldn't handle alone
crumpled the junior high-esque note she left on my desk
re-alphabetized the movies I'd planned to watch with her on my shelf
bought a pack of smokes for the first time in a month
swore I'd never go for a broad who could barely walk and chew gum again

but I really didn't get rid of her until I washed my sheets today.

Currently reading:
"The Childhood of a Leader" by Jean-Paul Sartre.


This veteran fought under Gen. Electric.

Laying in bed at 3 a.m.
tossing and turning and dreading
going to work in three hours
I roll over on my back
stare at the ceiling
eyes drawn towards the light fixture
in the center
like the end of some tunnel
with walls that get darker and greener
as sight wanders further from the center.

It's an image I've noticed since I was seven.
My parents had just gotten divorced and
on weekends I'd go across town to
stay with my old man.

("Visitation," they called it
institutional as a prison.
What an ugly legal term.
Redundant, I know.)

My room then had a ceiling light
like the one in my room tonight
and the ones in rooms I've occupied
between then and now.
I'd stare up at it for a few minutes before bed
or during the day if no one was around to play
which was quite often.

It seems that was good practice
for years to come.

Sometime after that I grew up.

Called my mother today
to feed her what she wanted to hear
regarding the state of things.
She told me she was showing my senior picture off
at work and a colleague of hers two years my senior
had her jaw hit the floor and wants to meet me
says she likes guitar players.
I reminded my mom that I don't look the same
as seven years ago
more haggard
the years have taken their toll
the scars are permanent.
In true maternal fashion she laughed off my self-doubt
before telling me about this girl
and I quote:
"Has her Master's, seems genuinely nice, long brown hair
cute, but not drop-dead gorgeous like Gwendolyn was."
I jiggled my phone to see if I was hearing correctly
if she'd really gone


She did.

Then I heard my stepfather in the background
spewing out a sequence of drunken slurred words
asking why the hell she would say something like that
after four years of getting over the one that got away
and thankfully
finally being there

She parried through the phone in typical maternal fashion:
"I tell it how it is, Dave. You know that."
I do
since that brutal honesty
is one of the many good traits she's given me
and also one that gets me in trouble.

In my head I visualized a girl better than the last
but not as good as the first
another numbing mediocre
and realized then and there that
the fate of any potential anything was sealed.

I appreciated her honesty
but also my stepfather's going to bat for me
even though I've been moved to clean-up since those days
after a few clinch comebacks in the bottom of the ninth.
He's become a better teammate than my real old man
since he cut me off a year ago
despite the letter's I've sent
trying to reconcile.
I wonder what he tells his family
when I don't show up for the Holidays.
I was never really one of them anyway
the darker son of the black sheep of the weird family.

I'm sure I'm out of the will
a sinner not to be spoken to
regardless of blood
or paternal instinct or responsibility.
My father doesn't even know where I currently reside
probably never will.
It won't be the same
ever again.

I wonder if he's ever stared up at the light in my old room
and seen that same tunnel.

I'll never hear either of them laugh anymore.
They've found what makes them happy
and it isn't me.

And even though it hurts less
with every paid bill
with every song sang alone in the car
after every night spent in the company of loyal friends
and every other reminder that I'm alive
the reality of loss still rears it's head once in awhile.

So hey,
It's no wonder I can't sleep tonight.

But it sure is nice having something familiar
like this ceiling light
at the end of the tunnel
to make things bearable
for now.

And I'm sure that new girl
will warm my bed just as well
as long as she doesn't get to know me too soon.

Currently reading:
"The Wall" by Jean-Paul Sartre.


Some advice on un-packratting.

It's a tedious thing.
It's a tiresome
tedious task throwing
out all the relics of the past
both pointless and poignant
that don't quite make the cut
when you're packing to move
into a new place to call your own
until it's someone else's.

And if and when you find those notes
from the hands of familiar strangers
long tucked away in remote corners of desk drawers
and other dark places:
Let the Whores you fell for
and the Saints who fell for you
(or vice versa, whichever version
of the Truth is correct)
die with the deposit you know you won't get back
from the landlord too cheap to be honest.
Respect their choice to go with better bets
or your refusal to let yourself be lost
in someone else, depending on the case
(and, again, whichever version
of the Truth is correct).

Calling all cars.
Calling all friends to help pack the boxes
and end tables and plush chairs
into that truck on that sweaty day you move.
Calling, once the word is out, will mostly
get you forwarded to voicemail.
When very few
and by that I mean one or two
show up, don't be surprised.
But next time you fire up someone's water heater
or fill their belly with fine food or drink
on a week when their pay checks were light
don't forget to put it on their tab.
This is not a world run by any Golden Rule anymore, folks.
It's littered with IOU's
so next time you need a favor
you just may have to pull one out
of your wallet, so thick with business cards
of endeavours long gone under
that you take it out of your back packet
for long road trips.

Or better yet:
if you're like me
just throw them
(the friends, that is
or at least their contact information)
into that same dump-bound heap
of old phone bills and broken clocks
and business cards
and most importantly
dime-a-dozen lie-laden love letters
that will never see the colors of the walls
in your new place
your new start
at least not while you're home.

Currently reading:
"One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.


"Matthew 7:3"

It never ceases to amaze me how fast
those around me are to point out the voids.

I remember drawing a picture when I was six
and in typical six-year-old fashion
the sky
was represented by a two-inch-thick
band of blue streaming across the top of the page.
A good four inches of solid white paper
lay between it and the top of the tallest tree
(aside from the obligatory m-shaped bird
drifting aimlessly and unsymmetrically
somewhere in that expanse of white).

I handed my daily masterpiece to my mom
and she suggested that I give it to her friend as a gift.
Upon receiving my innocent pastoral and taking
a minute to analyze
his first words were these:
"Why don't you extend the sky all the way down?
The blue sky should touch the green grass."
Instantly and without remorse
I ripped the paper from his hand
stubbornly declaring that it was
and I could make
any which way I damn well pleased.
My mother was standing nearby and overheard
my lack of receptiveness
to this uncalled for constructive criticism.
She made me apologize to her friend
for being so defensive of my art
and suggested that I go sit down
and drag my sky to where it belonged

I apologized to her friend
with fingers crossed behind my back, of course
but refused to edit my picture.
I ripped it up over the trash can
as her face flushed crimson with shame
and I quickly explained that I intended to start over.
I didn't.
That would've been selling out.
I'd rather throw my work away
than have to change it for some fraud
who believed that the blue sky ever touches the green grass.
The very thought of having to succumb to that
put me in such a dither.
I didn't mind the fake apology as much as I resented
being asked to change my creation for someone else's sake
by my own flesh and blood.
That episode is my first memory of
hating a loved-one
for a few precious

Last week I was reminded of that ancient incident
as I discussed tattoos with an acquaintance.
Most of my left arm is already covered in ink
and all but the back of my right forearm is done.
This genius had the nerve to tell me
to fill that space with something else soon
to complete the effect
even though his body is void of tattooing
or any other permanent commitments
for that matter.
I didn't tell him about the Biblical parable
of the man with the speck of sawdust in his eye
being called out by the man with the plank in his.
I didn't tell him that I'm waiting for something
meaningful to happen again that warrants
a new permanent image adorning my skin.
I didn't tell him that I'm laid-off right now
and tattoos aren't exactly free.
And I sure didn't have my fingers crossed
behind my back this time
when I told him how and where to get off.

Believe me when I tell you that
vengeance tastes better
aged seventeen years.

Currently reading:

"Sifting Through The Madness For The Word, The Line, The Way" by Charles Bukowski.