like bloated roadkill with its arms stretched towards God.

pulled from the scrap heap
by his doe-eyed angel
the tired child forgets to weep
for lost loves and souls
and soles worn thin
and puts his feet back down
beneath him

the list of things he'd give is growing

he blew out the candle after her she'd left and
the moth floating in the melted wax
telling the tale of coming too close
was no longer relevant--
now they are the Flame, together

morally straight
anatomically incorrect
she says his neck smells
like jungle when it sweats
and her sweet stench is his opiate

the smell of money is common, but
who else would notice the scent
of fresh ink on receipts?
don't bother keeping that one from April--
there's a No Return policy

Do Not Resuscitate stamped on his forehead
this was all planned before Time began

just pinch him and hope for the best
and in the meantime

niece and nephew, keep training her well

and he slept soundly
like bloated roadkill
with its arms stretched towards God.

Currently reading:
"Naked Lunch" by William Burroughs.


The baby and the bath water.

The trade I wound up in
is funny for a multitude of reasons:
the slapstick references
to the laying of the pipe, the plumbers' cracks
and the infamous Law of Gravity
so delicately stated in the general direction
of every poor apprentice at one point or another--
"Shit rolls downhill, Kid."

But there are other amusing morsels
more specific to my own
"Oh fuck, how'd I end up with this job?" scenario.
I am paid to make fluids, be they liquids
or gasses, go places. Pipefitting is essentially
a form of transportation industry if you think about it.
Get said substance from Point A to Point B
(with as few fittings and lengths of pipe
as possible in order to save the boss money
thus securing your job in the company).
That's the conclusion I've come to over these years
and yes, I've thought about it.
I am well aware that water travels to places
where people use it, then returns via a different system
to be processed by man or nature or both
before being used again.
This was not always so, however.

Growing up they always told us
to save water. Parents, teachers and other
authority figures would go out of their meddling ways
to express the importance of shutting off the water
while brushing your teeth and limiting shower time.
Electricity is invisible so a child assumes
it will always come out of the wall
whenever the switch is flicked, but water
you can see, touch, hear, smell, taste.
Water I could run out of growing up
or at least that's what they told me
and like the fool that I was and am
I believed them.

It was a genuine fear of mine, a post-apocalyptic nightmare
not suitable for TV movie, Broadway show
or unreasonably long Kevin Costner film:
The day the Earth went dry.
I can honestly say that one of my fondest memories
of my elementary school career was the day that
I learned about the Water Cycle in science class.
There was a detailed explanation of the endless
sequence of events, complete with labeled diagram
that assured me that my paranoia was unwarranted
and I could sleep better at night again
assuming GI Joe was still winning his war
against Cobra Commander in my imagination.
Yes, I always overanalyzed this much.

Since then I've learned that everything else
is a cycle, as well; everything returning eventually
be it through a sewer pipe or a cloud pissing acid rain
or a long overdue letter or a surprise phone call at 3 a.m.
and if this Law of Nature, this boomerang, isn't reason enough
for you to return then we're all more fucked than we thought.

And yeah, I still turn off the water while brushing my teeth.
I'd lie and say it's out of habit, but part of me
is still skeptical about that Water Cycle business
and the responsibility that comes with its knowledge
diagram or no diagram
because there's another Law that supercedes the rest:

"Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see."


What Custer didn't learn in time.

Make your foes laugh.
Make your friends cry.
It's the only way to do it right.


Feel special to witness the waste.

"These are the days, Johnny,"
he said with a repugnant smile.

Roll the windows down
for the home stretch
and smell the rain on the asphalt.
It's all smooth sailing from here
or all downhill
depending on your bank account;
it's how the rich stay rich
and why the poor stay poor.
and what it means.

Be careful what you fish for;
you just might catch it.
How does one respond
to a letter like that?
The Kid said more
in four paragraphs
than I have in these
tens of thousands of words.
The bit about the rat
drowning in the oil pan
its blood spilling out
giving the illusion of transmission fluid--
that alone was enough to make me want
to give up wasting anyone's time
present company included.
I would if I could, but this
addictive personality says otherwise.
Hank said it was the small catastrophes
the shoelaces breaking
that break a man.
Maybe, Comrade, we can deflect the madness
for just a few more years
if we continue to make the tragedies pretty.
But for whom?

The problem with having an audience
is that sometimes they make requests
and even worse: they try to write
themselves into the script
which is hard to do
considering the end
is still a mystery.

Fortunately, this one's simple:

Taking dainty sips so as to not
get shaving cream on the glass--
it's the sign of dedication.
Covering the glass so the shower
head does not water down the magic--
a true propopent of the art.

Another misfortunate truth, daily:

When friends' phones stop working
it's all you have somehow, the burning
that makes you remember it well enough
to document it as if you'll ever want to recall it.

Treat it well and it will do the same.
It's the only time that law applies.

But did I tell you the story about my Father?
It's not as good as His.
Mine's still breathing
somewhere else.

The two of them could teach us.


Something else that never came out in therapy.

Of all the words in the English language
she had to use that one.
Like "The Velveteen Rabbit."

It's one of those words
that loses its already vague meaning
the more times you say it.
Grilled cheese sandwiches.
More repressed childhood memories.

But back to "The Velveteen Rabbit."
I was five, maybe six.
It was Christmas time and she thought
it'd be a good book to read
since we had a rabbit of our own at the time.
The end was sad despite the fucking rabbit
like Watership Down, that miserable book
they made into a cartoon that no child should watch
despite the bunnies.

Then she decided to divorce my father.
I didn't know he was crazy then.
I held it against her.
We had to give our rabbit away
when we moved out of his house
since our new apartment was too small
and didn't allow pets.
She got me a snowglobe with two cats
that played "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
and it made me cry when she wound it up
and let me hear the song for the first time.
She knew why it upset me, the miserably
overanalytical little turd that I was even then.
She too doubted we ever would have one again.
Not without Daddy around.
Crazy as he was, she loved him.
I think she still did until a few years ago
when he stopped returning my calls.
No, not everything about growing up
is soft and fuzzy.
Not everything is this elusive velveteen.

A single adjective can trigger
a lifetime's worth of misspent youth
to flash through my brain in seconds.
Words are more powerful than I believe sometimes
even as someone who likes to write them.

I stop typing to glance across the room at my pet rabbit
hiding from me in the darkest corner of my room.
She stops twitching her nose in the hopes
that I don't see her, will leave her alone.

Fuck "The Velveteen Rabbit."
Sorry I didn't enjoy storytime, Mom.
I'm making up for it now.


Life in a cocoon, never knowing
if it'll ever bother hatching.
Maybe I'll run out of authors to read.
Maybe it'll all just write itself.
Maybe I'll finish selling my soul
for a house with a wife and two-point-five kids.

Wasting away days at a time
lying in bed with books like it'll change anything.
Bacon with every breakfast, chocolate three times a day;
I can practically feel the weight packing on.
My muscles atrophy when all I exercise is the mind
and fingers, I gave up on the push-ups awhile back.
I don't even drink alone in my room anymore
blasting old hits to hack away at the night
as the words come tumbling out of tumblers
at the risk of losing a few more fans.
Haven't written a song in months, my guitar
is more a tool than a paintbrush these days.
I'm forgetting how to celebrate life on my small scale.
It's frightening.

I'm down to a quarter-tank of gas
and have to drive an hour to work tomorrow.
Someone else would've gone out to fill up tonight
but not me; I'm already showered and in my underwear
back and forth between books I wish I wrote
and toying with things I wish I had the balls to write
for real, not just ramble about in lines neatly packaged
to win me a few more frienemies.
The pat on the back never comes anyway, not even
an offer to go out for a cold beer.
(I'd turn it down anyway, the antisocial
ogre of a hypocrite that I am.)
Even my rabbit avoids me when I let her out lately.

A squirrel chewed through a screen downstairs
for the second time in a month
and ate some of my roommate's food
and there's nothing we can do about it
but keep the kitchen windows closed
despite the stifling heat.
Last night someone plowed into our mailbox
dragging it sixty feet to the stop sign
where they must have turned left
according to the skid marks on the pavement.
The onslaught never ceases around here.
No rest for the weary. Or the wicked.
I'm too tired to remember, it's one
of those phrases I use interchangeably
not caring to bother knowing the truth.

And what an arrogant word that is.
There is none.
It's what you make it.

But still, it's no wonder I rush to get back
when I'm done feigning social;
back to this air-conditioned room
with two fans going
trying to keep from sweating it out
if it hasn't been lost already.
Somewhere inside me is an honest man
dying to come off his cross
and martyr himself for something bigger
than his own selfish need to feel martyred.
Do you know how much it's cost me?
Do you know how sorry I am now?

I want to apologize to every person
I've ever hurt, but don't want to cause more pain
by waltzing back into their lives
with a white flag and a fistful of daisies.

Besides, most of them would rather have me
push them up from a shallow grave somewhere.

Lights out. I'm tapped.

It wasn't an argument 'til you started talking.

Sometimes it was more
a matter of sibling rivalry
ribaldry moreover
when it burned down to the fingertips
that midnight oil.
There can be only these few
or else none at all--
spread the wealth
share the love
puff puff pass
take a swig and hand it off
not worrying
since the air conditioning
is still keeping it comfortable
despite the racket it makes.
Who can tread water the longest?

What it was to partake back then
is not what it's become:
Dionysus is no longer invited
and neither are most of the ones
who used to get that call.
We don't cringe at the roster.
They don't even bother to crash anymore.
They know better.
They know that we do.
They know what our idea of fun is now.

And that shower on Sunday
is never shameful anymore
for any of us--
no more aborted ablutions.
It's optional even, the purpose to degrease
not to rid ourselves of the stench of failure
cigarettes, spilled drinks and lavender.
When was the last time you pulled
a stranger's hair from yours in the morning?
How many hair-ties have you thrown out this month?
The coins buried in the couch are probably yours.
You're finding yourself having to change your sheets less
never wanting to burn them.

Some say you lost it, fell off.
Some say you let part of you die
but I know that it was no murder.
I know what you did with him.
You chased him right out of Dodge
the day you realized you weren't in Kansas anymore.

There's plenty in the refrigerator, pal.
Just save some for me and mine.
And if by chance you strike out again
there's always room on my couch.
We'll draw faster than fate eventually.

Currently reading:
"The Flowers of Evil" by Charles Baudelaire.


D-4: Miss. H-5: Hit.

Shit in one hand/
want in the other--
see which gets filled first.

Honey; bees; that same old shit, etc.
and why are any of us bothering
with trying to attract anymore?

Oh for fuck's sake
you've got me beat
with your metaphors
but for the record
I ain't no half-breed
despite the reputation.

And I can state
without losing sleep
that I shattered the
(or the left side of my bed did, rather)
and gave up trying
to hug your wind.

It'll all leave you just as empty
and the books you inherited
will tell you the same.
I'm reading them
in preparation
to write them again.

You'll see.
In print.
My friend.

One of them hit while your eyes were closed.

I thought there was an understanding.



The waiter had barely finished
correcting the list of specials
telling the two patrons what the restaurant
was out of for the evening
when the slob opened his mouth
asking "Are ya out of gin, too?"

Receiving an uncomfortable
wink and chuckle in response
he placed an order equally obnoxious:
"Gimme the cheapest gin ya got
with a little tonic in it, easy on the ice."
She was too embarrassed to order
anything more than a water after that one.

The drinks came out right before the appetizer
should've, had he not been so cheap.
He practically smacked her hand away
when she went for a second slice of bread
telling her not to spoil her appetite
and the salad arrived with the oil and vinegar
that he'd reminded her to choose to keep fit.

During the entree he bored her with stories
from his job that made him out to be almost
as indispensable as she thought the post-coitus cigarette
would be later on in order to give her some sort
of pleasure at the end of the evening, even though
she rarely smoked and felt like puking when she did.

His elbows never left the table and the food seemed to
cling to his teeth intentionally as he washed his meal down
with his cocktails.
"How's yours cooked, Baby? Mine's overdone as usual
so there's no sense sending it back.
Besides, they'd probably spit on it."
She'd be doing the same later, in a sense, for different reasons.

Dessert was out of the question, obviously, and he went so far
as to ask to keep her leftovers when the doggie-bag came out
saying it'd make an excellent lunch at work the next day.
When the check came out he nearly choked
on the last of his drink, going over the itemized bill three times
before accepting the grand total as an infallible truth.
"Well I hope ya enjoyed it, this cost a day's pay,"
he snarled, going on to suggest a way to show her appreciation.

On the way home she did just that, but her head hit
his hand away from the steering wheel for just long enough
to send them careening into oncoming traffic.

She'd never been so grateful.
It was his turn to feel it, his turn to scream
and not just on the inside like she always had.

Miracurously, everyone survived the impact--
everyone but his dignity when the ambulance arrived.
"You're lucky I have health insurance, you whore!"
he yelled, but she was too busy laughing
as the EMTs checked her for injuries to pay any mind.

To this day, if you get him drunk enough and ask him
he'll drop trow and show you the scars from her teeth.

And as for her, she's a pleasant part-time crossing guard
and mother of two teenagers somewhere.

Deal with it.

I'd be lying if I said it's fresh in my mind
or that it made much sense then.

All I could focus on at the time
was the synchronized swaying
of the chain hanging from the ceiling fan
like some sort of metronome
setting the tempo of my disillusionment.
I was grateful that the middle bulb was out--
it was enough to feel jaded
without being blinded.

It started off as a thoughtless reaction
at the worst of times
with a list of receipts in the back of my mind.
I didn't need pity or martyrdom
no favors of the flesh
but the right word or caress
in my time of need
would've made my efforts seem worthwhile.

When the caustic phrase struck the air
I wished I'd come prepared for war.

My mother used to say I should've been a lawyer
and by that she meant I was good
at winning arguments, or at least throwing evidence
in the faces of the accused.

Weakened by the work of weekends
I lay there staring at that fan
seething, boiling in my discontent
pretending to listen when there were more words
but really just waiting for the right time to strike
an adder poised for poisoning.

The ones we love are the ones we can hurt best
when they ask for it, of course.
It's another of those things we shouldn't
pride ourselves on, but do.

So when it was my temporary opponent's turn
to fish for that sympathy, I parried with the same
words that set the snowball in motion
making sure my lips curled just right
at the end of the third and last syllable.

Like a sick magician with obvious tricks
I'd won the battle at the risk of losing the ship
as the tears welled up along the eyeliner
and suddenly I switched hats again
with an arm around the torso
and the eventual salty kiss on the cheek.

Sometimes I need the roles reversed
before I can forgive, another of those
shamefully selfish traits I admit.

We spent the night together making up.
By morning it was a tear stitched stronger.
If you ever think that I'm unrealistic
about what it takes to stay in tune with this song
then here's something to mull over.

I'm not better at what we do.
I'm not even sure I have what it takes.
I just have a formula.

And it's true what they say:
Behind every great man in history
was a great...cliche.

Currently reading:
"The Best of Rainer Maria Rilke" translated by Walter Arndt.


Commiserating, pt. II

It turned out Heaven was hiding
in the least of expected places
(it's always in the last place you look)
and I'm allowed to return
four times a week.

I don't get scolded too badly
for getting too drunk once in awhile
even if I pass out on the couch
in my work clothes.

She can recite
the first lines of the classics
even the ones that she hasn't read yet

and brother, if that ain't enough
to convince you that the shoe fits
then you don't know Jack
let alone Mike.

...and not necessarily to town.

Their eyes may have been on God
but somewhere along the line
they fell short. When it comes to falling
Icarus had the best track record--
"once and for all," like some say that carpenter did
the Jew who did magic tricks and rolled twelve deep
but this one ain't about Him.
Smearing off the last of the glued feathers
they saw the Do Not Resuscitate order
tattooed to his wrists and his friends obliged
by not. If you ask me it's more about respect
than anything else, but you didn't ask me
and neither did they. Boy are we glad they weren't
"like whatever, man." It had to happen then
some years back, and we had to cross paths
the other night at that intersection since it'd go down
eventually, but I'm glad it happened
and I'm glad it happened with Mother Mary
in the passenger seat, disregarding the general
"copilots be damned" rule.
Our cup overfloweth.

Currently reading:
"A Coney Island of the Mind" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.


A helluva song to stick in your head at work.

"This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
let it shine
let it shine
let it (, you know)
and if there's a verse or two
then I forget them
but sometimes
if no one's looking
I make a few up.

The good news is that
I lost a sock in the dryer today
and my air conditioner is acting up
with the fan inside clicking erratically
like some madman far more ambitious
is beating a bound-to-jam typewriter.


A stand-up man who'd rather lay down.

By some twist of luck characteristically mine
I went from being partnered
with the biggest drunk in the local
to working next to the smelliest man in our union.
The guy looks like a shaggier Charles Manson
or some anthropomoporhic sheep dog who
barely says boo unless spoken to.
But I guess it's better to be paired up with
someone who knows how to keep his trap shut
and doesn't borrow money at the bar every week.

We were running the plumbing under a house today
when his haggard facial hair came up in one of our
typically terse conversations. I figured it'd be a
light-hearted topic that might help me pry him open
a bit and see what the man was about, a crawlspace
being the best place to do that since there's nowhere
to escape to, physically or otherwise.

"So what's with the beard, man?"

"I've had it since I could grow one."

"Yeah? Any reason?"

"My old man's had one for most of his life.
It hides a scar on his neck."

That's about where it got awkward, I know
how this kind of discussion goes unfortunately.
I kept working and didn't ask any further.
If he wanted to clarify
he would.

He did.

"He got his throat sliced at a bar. He was dancing
with a girl and..."

Finishing the sentence didn't seem required
but he did it anyway and threw me for a loop.

"...her girlfriend came up and slashed his neck.
He ran out of the place holding his gaping throat.
They never found the dyke who did it."

I put my tools down to better hear the punchline.

It didn't come.

"Holy shit, man. Did she come up from behind?"

At this point I was interested in the logistics of the incident.

"I don't know, he doesn't talk about it much."

"I guess he wouldn't..."

"But that's why he keeps the beard."

And like a good son
he keeps his, too.

And like a good apprentice
I went back to laying pipe
and let the man work in peace
for the rest of the day, silence being golden.

It's the quiet ones who have the best stories.


A scene I'd like to (poorly) direct.

She walks in, slightly frantic
with hairs coming out of place
here and there, swatting the smoke
from her face. He knows better
than to smoke inside!

He's basking in his five o'clock shadow
barely noticing her unwarranted agitation
or at least not acknowledging it
until something in his head is settled

until he's ready to respond instead of react.

But she can't have any of that.
She says something ignorant.
They always do.

He doesn't let it phase him, though.
That's what she wants.
That's what they always want.

Finishing the last decent sip
he turns his back on his melting tumbler
for just long enough to let the words fall
from his heavy lips
weighted further by the starched white cigarette
dangling from the corner of his mouth
and he says-- no, he allows her to hear
the words-- yeah, that's it:

"Honey, if you only knew half of what you think
you do you'd be a genius. Add that to
what you don't realize I do for you every day
stir it up and get back to me about
that skewed reality you like to ramble on about."


It's a damn shame Bogart's dead.
I'd rather let the script die in my head
than settle for some fag like Matthew McConaughey
whose name I'm surprised I even spelled correctly.
What happened to the real actors who could make
the whole audience quiver, not just moisten panties?
Gregory Peck could smoke your hat off
and Humphrey's eyes broke your heart every time
he told his Nigger-pal to play that sad song again
in that white house
where it turned out time did not go by.

Sometimes I hate this medium
because I feel it doesn't capture all the nuances
of what makes a true experience
and if one tries to recreate it in its entirety
the reader walks away rubbing a sore head.
"See? Did you get all that? Did you notice
the entire shelf of whiskey, with only one bottle
even half-way empty? Does it make sense now?"
I'm telling you, it's hard to get some of it across
with only words to create the image.
That's why I'm going to start hiding video cameras
and wiretapping my chest.
This is going to be huge, a truth epidemic.
Reality. Re-al-it-y.
What I wound up majoring in, with a minor in denial.

And as for that classic scene that keeps me
doing all of what you already know
I do so frequently, and maybe so selfishly...

I won't tell you how it ends.


On what it is to be the underdog's cutman.

More often than we'd like
it happens that the ones who say it
have the least right to do so
while the Meek are mistaken
for the Weak

and the Machine grinds on
chewing up Virgins in its path

leaving what's left for the Menders
or the Scavs, depending.

The Chairman of the Board
the Prince of Persia:

it doesn't matter
if he can't find comfort
in the sound of a ratchet

(it means the gears are working
the bolts are tightening
and sometimes that's all
you can ask for).

And I'm sorry that these bombs I drop
are different--

deadly just the same, but smaller
and more accurate.

I kill less babies that way
and what's the going rate?

It's keeping me up at night, and not
because of what I've done for once
but what I'd like to
if given the chance.

Never was a promise she could keep
and maybe you know what that means
but, if not, you can always find something new
to synchronize with Dark Side while smoking dope
to eat up all that spare time you'll be having.

The best of talks...
The greatest of linguistic exchanges!

Currently reading:
"Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller.


Someone check his temperature.

Pride yourself in your willingness
to let people cut you off in traffic
by leaving a space for them to pull out.

Make funny faces at toddlers in public.

Pull over on the side of the road
to help a turtle cross.

Hold the door for people, even grizzled men
who look like they wouldn't hold it for you.

Offer change to a stranger
to help him avoid getting four singles
and ninety-five cents back from the cashier.

Tell an acquaintance a secret about yourself
and watch as that person changes
to a friend.
A little granted trust goes a long way.

I'm not saying it's a yellow submarine.
It's more of an overcrowded bus
with no air conditioning
riding on square wheels
through the desert.
But before we get to that big let-down
in the sky we might as well make it work.

And Hell--
someone's gotta mow cemetery lawns.
It just ain't gonna be me.


Making sure to call out of work
from time to time as necessary
he remembers to loosen his grip
on those Aces he clutches conservatively
for long enough to let the King breathe
and convince the Queen not to leave
since he swears he's not bluffing this time.

Maestro, you can't take it with you
so you might as well play those tunes
now, while they'll all still hear them.

"Another round for the house!"
he yells as the piano player hits harder
and the boat rocks a little
causing even the Dealer to sway.

The oil's still in his hair from work
and half the cracks in his hands are black
despite the scrubbing in the shower
but still she lets him touch her, insists.

Others at the table lean back in their chairs
reassessing their hands

as ours fumble together
forgetting to count the chips, but knowing they're there
we laugh a little, silently bragging.

We'll divy up the blues and reds before
returning to our room, keeping the whites
as tokens for the tolls for the rest of the Trip.


oh captain, my captain.

no intents, no purposes
no capitals even

our version without you
can't compare as i listen now

and all the many it was about
are still cursing somewhere

but we're still kickin', brother.
we're still payin'
for every bitter drink they swallow
on our behalves somewhere.

travis said that sometimes friends fight
and tim told those sailors to hold on
conor tried to get us to kill ourselves
and many others we both could quote
made a lot of sense that we tried
to harness in our time
as stars.

and what a glorious time it was.
as shameful and as selfish
it was magnificent in its humbling grace
in its hobbling grave
when it came to the music
whose chords and choruses we barely
remember. they're deep inside somewhere
buried in the layers and phone numbers
we can never dial again

and three years or thirty can never take them.

those conversations are hard to come by
i know what you mean
i always did.
replacements are always just that.

a survivor knows one when he sees one--
we knew we'd be ok without each other
when we went our ways
and that's why it's so easy
to say hello again

and where the fuck have you been
all this time?
the footprints poster, i know.

drive safe.
smoke deep.
"sleep well.
you've earned it."

Currently reading:
"Are You a Miserable Old Bastard?" by Andrew John and Steven Blake.



in sicks years
no, sev-
it hadn't happened to me once
so when she
went for the waste
it caught me off guard.

'twas a good run, son
"It's over now."
and somehow I feel cheap
in a silly sort of way
dethroned of some personal
statistic I prided myself
on reciting to myself.

I guess--
I can't
blame her
though. At least it didn't hit the floor
not that I'm one
to fear the Old

just the subconscious:

"I had a dream we were in junior high
and you were on crutches
so I'd help you get around
but you didn't really need them,"
wiping the corners of her mouth.

rolling over
I ducked under the covers, swearing
I'd take out the trash
that day
assuming I'd be getting out
of bed
after she left.

(why bother?
there are books, there are books!
right next to you waiting to be


And the powers that be, were.

My stepfather, Craig, got me the job with Tom
when I was still wet behind the ears
and could barely sink a screw, drive a nail
turn a wrench. Still, Tom saw how much work
I accomplished after my first day and
gave me a two-dollar raise immediately.
Now, six years later, I make a whopping
five more dollars an hour when I work for him
on weekends, but it's money that's consistently
there every week, providing I'm willing to give up
a Friday night's worth of hard drinking
or commit to trudging through a tired, weak
hungover, or possibly still drunk
eight hours on Saturday.
Besides, power tools, blowtorches
fork lifts and heavy machinery
are more exciting to work with
when there's a risk factor involved.

My stepfather, on the other hand
has not been as diligent in his commitment.
He prefers to work six months out of the year
and when his own sheet metal business is slow
he calls Tom in search of work.
It's hard to be a contractor when your manpower
is not willing to giving up the sabbatical lifestyle
of golf leagues and ski lift tickets.

It's for this reason that now, in my young adulthood
I've taken Craig's place on Tom's company roster
and some of the guys I've met through the Union have
come along with me, scab or no scab
the dollar being the end-all be-all.

It's also for this reason that the topic came up
with my mother and me the last time I visited:

"It messes him up financially when he's hurtin'
for the extra work, but he's not mad at you.
You're your own man now, you seized an opportunity."

"It must make him jealous that Tom calls
us to work instead lately, but in a way he did it
to himself. The guy gets contracts and then
has trouble manning the jobs."

"I know that, but a part of me loves his laziness."

Shortly after she floored me with that last line
as she often does, Craig sauntered into the kitchen
donning his nightly apparel of sweatpants, slippers
and an old Yankees T-shirt with more holes in it
than O.J. Simpson's alibi.

"She's a beautiful girl, Mike. Bring her to the house upstate
to hang out with us sometime soon," as he poured the vodka
over the third tumbler of ice he'd sucked down that night.
"...on a weekend you're not slavin' for Tom, that is," winking
playfully as he said it, his cheeks flushed from the liquor.

This was her third husband. Third and final, one way or another.

If anyone in the world knew it, it was her:
Love is a catch-and-release splinter you wear in the heart for awhile.

Suddenly I realized what she meant, one of her secret reasons
for marrying him. His charm won me over again, too
in those seconds, and as he layered the splash of cranberry juice
over his vodka without even bothering to stir it with his finger
before taking a sip, I too fell in love with his blatant laziness
his sole dedication to enjoying life without taking heed.

It wouldn't be him any other way.
And the stepfather sauntered out.
And my mother smiled slyly.
And work on Saturday will be with raisins for guts.

You're awfully lucky that Pink is the new White.

Hem typed standing up
starting at seven in the morning
was drunk by noon to take a nap
dreaming about big game hunting in Africa
boxing matches and bullfights
woke to edit a few of the weaker
declarative sentences
before spending another evening
hiding in the closet.

Hank hammered his girl in small rooms
his desk near a window facing Skid Row
cigarette ash burning through
his booze-stained undershirt
as the broads and dames passed by below
paying no attention to the dirty old man
with a bluebird in his heart
that he tried to drown with whiskey
for sixty years

Dostoyevsky had his second wife
twenty-something years younger
transcribe some of his later works
since he was too ill to do it himself
and never got to finish that manuscript
of the sequel to The Brothers K
that probably would've blown
the rest of us Undergrounders away.


But David Vargas can't do it
with his back to his beloved
as she thumbs pages on his bed
without reading them
so the sound lets him know
she's still there
despite the mess
to spite the rest
like his mother used to do
from the couch outside his room
when he couldn't sleep at night
as a kid with those same big eyes
in that same big head
with that same big mouth
getting in the way of his heart.

Nor can he do it with hands tied
by slightly altered tales
that haven't unfolded yet
Life being bigger than a keyboard sometimes
as hard as it is for him to admit it
like how comforting that voice still sounds
as everything slides to minor
and the lining of the brain
stands to change
'cause you can't control
the timing of the tides
when the moon is down.