I finally got the world's attention and this is what I waste it with.

Somewhere on this crazy earth
my hero's blood is being spilled
and there is not a goddamn thing
that I can do about it

But the song must write itself, Kid.

Staring at the light in the center
of the ceiling until my eyes burn
in case it helps them close for good
for the night, despite the noise from the party.
Propped up on a pillow
with a pulled muscle in my shoulder
for going on a week now.
Cuts and burns on my hand from work
soldering and other sins at fault
two mangled stumps of faulty flesh.
You don't know the song stuck in my head
and how hard I try to ignore it, for your sake.

It used to be my thing; it's not anymore:
the war waged, all of their faces Hers
when the lights went off, but when
it didn't feel the same, even after they'd let me again
sober in the morning
I'd come to as if from a Costner film
only to be frightened by Gravity until
I'd feign sleep and they'd gather what was left
of their dignity and clothes, and leave.

When the process repeated the next weekend
I'd have to act surprised like a contestant on The Price is Right
in order to pull it off, not that I wanted to--
a new contender up to bat
a new lamb on the chopping block
a new old modus operandi.

But who the fuck am i kidding
the stock market fell out yesterday
and me and the rest of my union brethren
lost an assload of money
and the government tried to step in
which shows there's no real capitalism
no laissez faire
and no point in capitalization
and i dropped the f-bomb oh-so-soon
so in other words, it's another empty glass
and we're all dead and we don't even know it yet:
aperture, motherfuckers.

my nextdoor neighbor drives a grand marquis circa 1987
and every time i watch him pull into his driveway i'm in awe
of his obvious dedication to routine maintenance.

i thought of sending a few blank messages
but realized i didn't care
what the response would be, though
i could use a few new synonyms for 'asshole'
just to keep things fresh.

so yes, it's been too much wine
and he told me to "drop the eggplant"
as the purple lips moved arbitrarily
muttering something to the effect of
"no, no. that's tomorrow."

sometimes i worry too much about
metaphor, transparency, and the hits, but
what's it really matter if you score a hundred
or a thousand? they're gonna look either way
trainwreck or a fender-bender.

you know you've had enough
when you can't pour the wine with elegance anymore
when it comes out not so smooth as a morning beer piss
but choppy and sporadic like a State School whiskey shit
and how the balls did i blow a full scholarship?
oh, Right...

(the slice of the butcher knife in the crease of my thumb
hasn't stopped bleeding yet
so i just keep sucking
and so does this.)

there was a bar that closed down in Vails Gate
where every week the same loser crowd would show
and where did they all go?
probably back to their parents' basements
and jobs pushing carts in grocery store parking lots--
no really, they did...both.

pictures of people i graduated with at the Blue Martini--
maybe i could've stopped her from becoming a dike.

and the greatest insult of all time (drum roll, please):
"you're too pussy to off yourself."
but at least i didn't chop my hair off after the break-up
(why do girls do that? you're still the same pains in the ass!)

remember when it was 'friggin' this and 'friggin' that
and if someone fucked someone they 'scored'?
ah, the influence of Beavis & Butthead on American society...

it's like laying in your bath water, somehow.

in case you've just tuned in:
i am a raging something-or-other.

...but I blame it on my partner in Crime
I picked up from the impound.
He brought me bottles of red (red) wine
and this is how I thank you all.


On gaining and maintaining respect for a breed.

The difference between this voice
then and now is that I see the back side of the banner
and know that it is just as justified:
No martyrs on their marble crosses
no holds barred for friendship's sake
no time wasted coating raspy notions with smooth words.

I'd rescind my sentiments, but that doesn't seem right either.
In the words of Walken, "as an artist I'm sure you'll understand";
this has been a tool again
to bury hatchets otherwise left unpronounced, dead or otherwise.

So come on, Statistical Minority--
you use the shovel, I'll use the pick
and we'll both dance gracefully away
(with a deeper knowledge of ourselves and each other)
back to our respective notebooks
clearly as real as the talk we walk.

Not that I owe anyone an explanation, but...

Because I own three D.A.R.E. T-shirts
that aren't worn ironically like the rest of my Goodwill wardrobe.

Because this is your brain
and +h15 is your brain on drugs, fried eggs be damned.

Because it's the one vice
I can honestly say I've never indulged in.

Because if the people who live here don't do it
then you shouldn't have the nerve to ask.

Because when the people who live here allowed it before
the rules were broken.

Because your car is a smaller space than our garage
so you'll get more bang for your buck in there.

Because our large drunk friends will need those couches
to pass out on at some point during the course of the night.

Because a few good childhood friends became less good and fewer
when they got into that whole scene.

Because I've waited up all night
for someone who was too busy getting high to call.

Because a third cousin became a vegetable
after taking a bad dose.

Because my uncle went to prison for fifteen years
for an atrocious crime committed under that influence.

Because my mother's first husband was a drug dealer
and some of his bad habits rubbed off on her.

Because she started snorting heroin in the Seventies
and kicked the habit when I was conceived.

Because she kicked me out of the house when I was fifteen
after I found her bowl and threw it in the Hudson.

Because she still reeks of weed when I hug her
when I go see her once a week for dinner.

Because it wasn't even three o'clock in the afternoon yet.

Because she was in my room innocently doing her homework
and I was looking forward to coming home to her from work.

Because she knows better but wants to fit in with strangers sometimes.

Because she has good character and will make a good role model.

Because she wants to be a teacher, too.

Because she actually will.

Because I want to help her grade papers in bed at night someday.

Because I may have settled down quite a bit
but my Latin temper can come out when it has to.

Because I'm good at being the asshole who's still right.

Because I know that, and there are no hard feelings
now that y'all know why I stand where I do.


12 Ga.

If this were one of those romantic pastorals
I'd say something to the cliche effect of
"Came upon you in a pine, and wished
I'd gone the other way," but let's face it:
to raise Black Angus on a ranch in the Adirondacks
was the unfulfilled dream of my father's father, not mine
just as much as I remember being cropped
out of pictures for the sake of the case
and if you claim to understand any of that
then you're worse off than I thought.

But this isn't like that at all, is it?
It's more along the lines of a movie
where you root for the bad guy--
the best kind, in my book--
the one whose pages
you never tire of lining.
Well, you've worn out your welcome again.

The air cav never came, those Hueys stayed grounded
and the Allied firebombing of Dresden
did far more damage than both nukes dropped combined
but they don't tell you that in history books
like we won't tell our respective kids
about the times waking up with alcohol on our breath
and each other's blood on our clothes.

No, those records will be burned
smashed, destroyed within our minds
by the shotgun of time
like clay pigeons at a skeet shoot.

Damn Injuns!

My foreman came up to me laughing
after the weekly job meeting.

"Hey, college boy! You'd appreciate this one."

It was an introduction that I'd grown to hate
more and more each time it was used
by my beloved union brethren.

"What happened now, Nick?"

"The architect just asked Paulie, the electrician
if the light fixtures he planned on installing
in the hallway of the library will have enough panache."

He took a big pull on his cigarette
the perfect rows of pearly teeth
in his shit-eating grin almost glistening.
I waited a second as he basked proudly in his glory at having
used and pronounced a five-dollar word correctly
him not being one of us "college boys" and all.

"Yeah, so?," my pliers looser in my hand
since this joke wasn't on me for a change.

"So his dumb ass looks right back at the architect
and goes 'Yeah, sure...but what the fuck is panache?'
and the whole trailer was rollin'!"

I cracked a smile; I couldn't not.
It's not every day us stupid plumbers
get to feel smarter than those bright electricians, you know

(though I'm not convinced Nick knew the meaning either
and two days later he called up his apprentice after work
with a question from his fourteen-year-old kid's math homework).


The saddest scene on any stage wasn't what I'd thought.

It was two-thirds of the way through
lunch break today when it happened:
I was sitting on a wall with my foreman
around the corner from the jobsite chowing down
on an overpriced chicken cutlet sandwich when
a 15-passenger van full of retarded people
drove past us, and sure as shit
it was him behind the wheel.
I knew it'd transpire eventually, and was
relieved that I handled it so well
meaning I didn't fall over
burst into tears, have a seizure
and/or spontaneously combust.

"That was my father," I said nonchalantly
as I chewed my food and took a sip.
Nick smiled faintly and didn't have
a witty comeback for once, probably for the
same reason that he's been unusually
nice to me for the last two weeks
ever since I told him the story on our way back from work
in an effort to explain my pissy mood that day.
I thought to myself for a few moments
letting it sink in that it was really him
and that the first time I'd seen him in two years
was just a wild coincidence an hour away
from where we both even live, a fluke
that will never happen again.

By the time I shoved the last chunk of bread
into my mouth I had already almost forgotten;
it was the same as if any other person had driven by
a random intersection of two totally separate lives
and as unfortunate as that is
it's the way it has to be from now on, I suppose.
It did me well to come to grips with it
in such an odd way, but I can't say I was that shocked.
How else would it read
in this ridiculous script God's writing?


On Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain.

"You have any desire to do that?" I ask my foreman
while passing a camper in the middle lane
during our afternoon commute.
"Do what?" he asks from the passenger seat
and I nod my head towards the RV in response.
"Drive around the country, yes...but I'd never go
somewhere tropical again. The wife and I hated
the Bahamas when we went when we first met."
I could tell he'd light a cigarette at that point
if he wasn't in my new truck. You work with a guy
forty hours a week and you develop a sense of his habits.
"How bad could the Bahamas have been?" I ask, not yielding
to a young buck trying to pass me on the right
in his father's late-model sports car.
"Dude, never take your old lady anywhere tropical.
We were walking on the beach at night and reached
a point where the lights just stopped. I told Bridgette
that was the end of the line for us and she looked at me
with disgust for marrying a pussy afraid of the dark.
I said I had a bad feeling about such a desolate beach
on a foreign island and that it wasn't worth the risk.
Another vacationing couple we'd met on our trip
caught up to us and continued on down the beach.
We found out the next morning at breakfast what
happened to them that night."
I slow down a bit to let a car merge from the entrance ramp
during his dramatic pause that would normally be accompanied
by a deep drag on his Marlboro Ultra Light.
"So what happened?"
"Some guy popped out of the bushes and held a gun
to the husband's head as he raped his wife in front of him.
Didn't even rob them, just got his rocks off and ran."
There's nothing like an image like that to kill the jovial mood
in any vehicle.
"You'd have to shoot me," we both say simultaneously
after envisioning the scene with its players switched up
and weighing the logistical success of a hate-fueled bum rush
on a man who may or may not be too scared to pull the trigger.
In the absence of a smoke to light
we both go for our drinks in the center console.
It's quiet for awhile after that and the next misfortune comes
when I don't have exact change for the toll.


Extra bitter hotmilk, coming right up.

Right after church growing up
it was the same order from the same chain:
very-very-very light, one sugar.
He told me to make sure I always said
the third 'very' so they'd get the point
but I never did and always felt the rebel
for limiting my emphasis to double.
He'd reach into the ash tray in his Eighty-something
Monte Carlo with only one working door
and drop a handful of coins in my lap
reminding me to bring back all the change.
I'd stand in line by myself, chest-high to the counter
with him still sitting in his car trying to memorize the sermon.
When the cashier slid the coffee across the counter
I'd shamefully slide the nickels and dimes
back in her direction, her face dropping a bit
until she realized that I was just as disappointed.
The people in line behind me must've felt bad
because they never seemed to mind the hold-up.
I pride myself on not once adding a donut
for myself to the order, not on his precious tab.
To this day I can't drink that swill enjoyably
swearing I taste burnt grinds from dirty pots
when I know damn well it's really something
quite different on my tongue.

On 'mercy buckets', and other poor attempts at speaking French.

Lafayette didn't do it
for the sake of being kind
so don't let the textbooks
fool you--
Do you really think
all the street names
in his honor mattered?
If anything, I'd say it was more
due to his hard-on
for Washington's wig.

"Lafayette, we are here," was
Col. Stanton's famous line
delivered at his grave in Paris, 1917
and even then it was too little
too late, the trenches
and the Kaiser be damned.

If every thug had a lady
there'd be no good songs written
ever again, and without adventures
in high crimes and infidelities
at least from a safe distance
we'd all fall asleep at the wheel
or pretend to and hope that
the life insurance policy pays out
to the proper beneficiary.

That's all fine and good for some
but God bless text sex
and a girlfriend good
with adjectives.

My bologna has a first name.
My sunblock has a shelf-life.
My God does this reek of a rehashed theme.
I wonder if when Atlas shrugged
his back fell out of whack like this.

Remember the Wonder
and you can rinse if you want
but sure as shit
don't repeat.
Why's it seem you've been twenty forever?

If and when I'm ninety
I want to own a white three-piece
that I can wear well after Labor Day
without anyone at the party
having the heart or the balls
to correct my blunder.

So mercy buckets, honey, oui
y lo siento, Senor Lafayette
if it means anything to anyone
this late in the game.

Some people say
good art should match your sofa;
I think it should match your floor.


On why it's best to turn ones phone off after the third call from angry drunks.

There's really nothing
funnier than leaving
a three-hour liquid lunch
on the Company Dime
at the local biker bar
in the friendly town of Walden
after taking the boss' ten-spot
to load the jukbebox
with the likes of "Y.M.C.A"
Hanson, and "I Touch Myself"
and for that, if nothing else
I still maintain my claim of brilliance.

And the indecipherable
yet clearly agitated
voicemails were almost as priceless
as not getting pulled over
on my way home.


Minus all the Japs running down the streets of Tokyo, pointing and screaming.

One of the bennies of working construction
plumbing, in particular
is that you tend to see some shit sometimes
literally and otherwise
that most people usually don't get to witness.
Today, as you must've guessed
was one of those days.
My partner and I were welding up a gas main
at the courthouse in the lovely City of Newburgh.
The job's located at the corner of Broadway and 9W
and the gas station and accompanying parking lot
across the street from the site is
where several women of ill repute
crackwhores, if you will
sell themselves on a daily basis.

One character in particular is a mainstay of the spot.
Her bleached blonde hair and gaudy pink outfits
always give her away, even from hundreds of feet away.
The bubble-butt protruding invitingly through ripped jeans
the shameless wave she gives to passing cars
the slutty little dance she does
where she grabs her hair and stands up on the balls
of her feet like the shadow of some sort of stripper
without a stage--
they don't tell quite the same tale
that her sunken eyes, sallow skin, and shaky walk do
or how she disappears for a few days at a time
to God knows where and for God knows what.

One time a few of my coworkers watched her get picked up
by a John driving by. He parked in the back of the lot
her head disappeared in his lap for no more than thirty seconds
before the passenger door opened and she leaned out dramatically
to spit his wad onto the pavement. That short timespan proved
that she knows her trade as well as we know ours. My friends almost
threw up as they backed away from the window, went back to work.
Ten minutes later she was seen with a Slurpee from the gas station
probably fighting a losing battle to get the taste out of her mouth.
That's probably why the one time several months ago
when she asked me for a cigarette I just fucking gave it to her--
a cigarette, I mean-- since she obviously needed one more than I did.

As much as I try to paint a picture of this prostitute for you to pity
I can't deny the fact that she's been given a less-than-human
nickname on the jobsite, though I take no direct responsibility for it.
Yes, Cockzilla, as she's affectionately referred to, is quite the source
of entertainment when material and/or morale are low on the job.
Today my partner and I were standing on the marble steps
with a fellow pipefitter who will be taking over the job for us soon
when Cockzilla sauntered into sight on her usual corner.
We informed the newcomer of her given name and rank
and warned him not to venture too close
since she's proposed doing business with guys we know before.

We stared for a couple minutes as she did her stroll down
the sidewalk in search of her next customer to fund her next fix.
I yelled "How much?!" to get a rise out of my coworkers--
a harmless joke, she was out of earshot.
My partner took it to the next level, however.
He pulled a few crumpled singles from his pocket and held them
above the head of the third guy in our group
as if to say he'd pay for our unsuspecting buddy's tune-up.
Cockzilla saw his humiliating gesture and proceeded
to give him the finger; him, or all of us, probably the latter
since the three of us had been standing there gawking
for the past five minutes at a person with far more problems
and it made me wonder who the real loser was in that scenario.
I felt bad for making a spectacle of a person
forgotten and cast out by society, the same one that made her
so I picked up my tools and headed back to work, the two
forty-three-year-old men who still didn't get it
following a few steps behind, still laughing like junior high kids.

As I walked by a window ten minutes later
I didn't see her standing out there anymore
but noticed a cop car parked near where she'd been.
I couldn't tell if she was in the back seat or not.
I kept chewing my gum until my foreman
told me to put the tools away for the day.

No, sister: this one is not
in your vein, though it may be
just vain enough for you.
No fantastic events
no pretty colors or foreign fabrics
or cosmic anythings that neither of us
will ever live to see;
just something about someone
else's veins and how I don't know
just how thin they are these days.
My biggest criticism, my only one, in fact
is the same thing that you're banking on:

The algebra of human hearts
is far too horrific to pretend
to know anything about, and by the time
the first variable is even remotely identified
we'll be well on our ways
to our respective deathbeds
and not a moment too soon.


Plan for the Zombie Apocalypse [Revised].

The next time the power goes out
I'll assume it's the beginning
of the End of the World
throw the Mossberg pump-action
in the back seat of my truck
quilts and cans of soup in the bed
and jump on Eighty-Seven
doing ninety-five
en route to the one
who cried that time
I was too drunk to proof-read.

I'd be lying if I said
there's any way I'd rather go down.


The Warpath, continued.

Woke up with knots in my hair;
sadly, You didn't put them there.
I have a rabbit that won't eat carrots
though she loves chewing my sheets
and it boggles my mind.

Woke up with a loaded shotgun in the closet
in case those three Mexicans came back
and an empty bottle of wine on the floor
singing what was ringing
through my head last night:
zombies and dull knives
in abandoned houses
that I used to live in.

I am not a writer;
A writer wouldn't rest until his work was done.
I am a person who likes to write, maybe
even right on a night when I'm on.

And I got other news for ya:
The Union ain't all it's cracked
up to be; this ain't the Seventies
when people's heads were busted
if they didn't hire Local boys.

I'd be lying if I said I smoked for the taste.
It's more of a way to kill time
while thinking of what to say
instead of strangling whomever
I'm talking to at the moment.

Never tell them what all
of your tattoos mean;
there are some things
you still owe some people.

"And you're wrong; I study your eyes
and they're different from his."
"If you saw his you'd disagree."
"No, you're different."
"Say you're different."
"I'm different."

Maybe I'm just jealous
because he beat me to
the wife part, and he predicted it
far better than I could've.
Then again, I always enjoy a good twist.
I thought of buying him a belated wedding gift
and leaving it on his doorstep, maybe something
with the words to John 3:16 as an added kidney shot
but realized there's no point anymore.
Let the man live his life
despite his choice to do it
without me in it.
I guess it's only fair that we both
get our second chances.
One of his favorite bands (pre-Jesus), the Beach Boys
came on the radio at work the other day and I
snorted, hoping he finally found his California girl.

And now:
your chance
to come out of the Woodwork
and give up your voyeurism.
(You fail.)

I park my truck in a large parking lot
every other day for my carpooled commute to work
and though no one is around my vehicle
when I pull in there at six in the morning
the lot fills up by the end of the day when I return.
Last week I noticed a small scratch near the door handle
where someone's door hit mine upon opening
and though you can't even see it from two feet away
I know it's there.

It's true:
I don't like people.

But the real kicker came yesterday;
wiped my ass
saw blood
and remembered that even I
am only human

and tonight, in Your absence, I will drink You
straight from the bottle.

Currently reading:
"The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens."


Why I could never be a journalist.

The City of Newburgh Courthouse renovation job I'm on right now has been shrouded by a thin layer of hushed controversy for the past several months due to an alleged planning blunder. While having trenches dug for the underground piping last spring, someone noticed a bone laying in a heap of dirt that had been excavated by one of the machines. It appeared to be human so a forensics unit showed up on the job. No one knew at first if it was part of the remains of Jimmy Hoffa or a buried mafia hit or some other victim of foul play, but further analysis proved it to come from a far older source: an African American buried in the 1800s. A halt was ordered on all underground work on the site as authorities and politicians tried to decide what to do. An archaeological team was called upon to conduct a proper dig, and its findings have been pretty incredible. To date, there have been seventy-something more bodies uncovered at the corner of Broadway and Route 9W in the City of Newburgh, and no one supposedly knew they were there.

Why?, you may ask. How could this cemetery be so easily forgotten, and even have a massive building erected on top of it a hundred years ago? People claim it was a mix-up due to a lack of records, but the answer is far more cut and dry than those in power want to admit: it was a Black burial ground that was simply abandoned when the time came for it to be convenient. All of the skeletons found so far have been of African American individuals from families who were probably too poor to afford proper burial in the large cemetery on Prospect Street around the corner. One ribcage had remnants of Civil War medals in it, the hero who earned them ignored to the point of disrespecting his final resting place by building right on top of him. Archaeologists uncovered an entire row of bodies protruding from underneath the concrete footing of the original building. The people who poured the foundation a hundred years ago must've realized what was there, they just chose to turn their heads. But they're not the only ones to blame; a gas main installed as recently as the late 1970s was placed right through the torso of another skeleton. So why now are the right measures being taken to exhume the bodies by the book? Is it because of the politically correct time we live in where everyone's afraid of a scandal? Is it because there's a Black man running for president whom the State of New York does not want to anger by being so insensitive? Is it because the City is now receiving additional funds from the State to put towards the construction of the building since the job has been held up so long by the research process?

No. It's because fat lesbians who were misled by Harrison Ford's most beloved role wasted their time majoring in Archaeology at various schools around the area and then needed jobs. That's right, you heard me. The entire team of "researchers" hunched over in the dirt all day is composed of large-style females in their early twenties who definitely played on the girls softball team at some point or another. All day long for months on end they've been scraping away at the ground with paint brushes and trowels and whisk brooms and toothpicks, all at the expense of our almighty tax dollar. And for what? Why should college students be paid by the state to take on such an important task? Shouldn't they be sent on a less important dig of some sort, something where a metaphysical hard-on would be obtained upon finding a mere shard of glass or piece of pottery? Some people in the field probably go their entire careers without uncovering a body, let alone an entire grave site. Why should these kids have the honor of taking on a task so serious just barely out of school? And again, as always, the answer is the same: money.

That's not to say that Joe Blow the Archaeologist makes all the dough in the word; no, he is not capable of balling out of control quite as much as, say, a proud union pipefitter. But still, a person who's been in the business for awhile, probably a college professor with a few books under his belt, would definitely cost more to employ for said endeavor. You'd think they'd leave the big stuff for the seasoned veterans, but instead these obese man-haters are waddling around with neatly labeled bags of bone fragments laughing all the way to the bank while some poor bastard who had a hard enough life a century-and-a-half ago is rolling over in his would-be grave at the thought of being the fun little project of some college kid still wet behind the ears. Where's the respect in that? I watched them do their thing through a second-story window a few times this week and was not impressed. The laughing and general sense of cheer among the girls seems just a touch inappropriate considering their task, and I also know a hangover when I see one. I want misery! I want sobriety! Yes, sometimes the two can go hand-in-hand! And besides, one girl was digging around a femur with one of those white plastic spoons used for wonton soup, just like the one I have at home that I stole from the sushi joint down the road, and I'm not sure if I can ever use that sucker again.

What was the point of all this? I didn't really contradict myself, if that's what you're thinking: I'm not saying our precious tax money should not fund such projects or that we should've continued building on top of the bones. I just think that we should possibly hire people with a few more years of experience under their proverbial belts for something as critical as a cemetery exhumation. Seeing seven skeletons of various sizes and states of decomposition the other day really got me to thinkin'. I could very well be a pile of brown bones someday, ribs collapsed on top of each other and skull crushed due to compaction (yes, even my enormous head will someday succumb to gravity and the elements). A rotund carpet muncher who looks like the lost Belushi brother could possibly end up exposing my remains with a toothbrush and dumping them into a nicely labeled paper bag. Well balls to that, my friend! I now want to be cremated. Well, not now...but you know, when the time comes. I suggest you do the same. The whole 'dead' thing will suck enough, no need to add such violation to the equation.


The one you've all been waiting for (though more angry than miserable), or at least the truth.

different strokes for different folks, different drinks for different stinks, and tonight it's bacardi. jack daniel's used to be my exclusive drink in college and i indulged when i wanted to feel in control of my life, even though i was only rotting away in a dank dorm room with handles of eighty-six-proof gasoline laced with sour mix. vodka is one i throw back for my stepfather; it did wonders for him throughout his life, and still does as he comes home to his uniform of sweatpants and an ancient t-shirt to veg out on his recliner and watch the yankees suck balls. canadian club is my new whiskey of choice since tim kasher of cursive enjoys it and the very smell of JD makes me want to vomit due to the bad memories it's associated with at this point. the captain is a go-to guy, much like the friend i wish i could say i really had; he's always smooth, always comforting without saying a word, never leaves me wanting any more or any less, even with the next day's triumphant hangover. but tonight it's bacardi; that was my grandfather's drink of choice, the fire that made him come home and raise hell when my old man was growing up, throwing things across the living room and screaming so loud that even the dog hid under the bed. so tonight, dad, it's bacardi alright, since i know it's the one drink you could never take a sip of, even before you quit drinking and went even crazier after being "Born Again," a euphemism for alienating oneself from one's family and reality altogether. tonight, pops, i swallow your Kryptonite and laugh in your face at my own power over it, even though it may be you who's won the last laugh, depending on who's tallying votes.

so let's hear it for introductions, right? it's been awhile since i've laid it out there in this fashion-- bad prose with too many commas trying their hardest to avoid inevitable run-on sentences, as opposed to bad poetry with virtually none, line-breaks in their places. but tonight is different, and there's far too much to say to waste time trying to make it "art," whatever that is. tonight is venting in it's highest form, or lowest. most of you probably won't finish reading my rant, most of you probably prefer my short-form pseudo-misery, but for the few and the brave who dare to finish this manifesto of misfortune there will be a prize: you'll be on the cutting edge of the same mystery/misery that's been bugging me for almost two years now, the same thing that's given me nightmares and cold sweats once a week since i last saw my father two years ago. you'll get to see first-hand how ridiculous my life is, and that i'm really not making this shit up. and hopefully that's enough to justify wasting your time reading it, hopefully it'll give you some sort of closure to the book that you may or may not stop reading if and when my life settles down and i'm married with children and a mortgage and happy and no longer have exciting things to write about like debauchery its friends. if not, then i apologize in advance and urge you to stop reading right here. (damn, i may have hyped this up too much already. it's really not that big a deal unless you're involved, unless you're me.) and no, i won't want to talk about it so don't bother calling out of the blue with some fake alterior motive; this is how i cope, this pointless pounding of the keys alone in my room late at night, and it's a goddamn shame that my hand's been forced time and time again to rely on myself, a bottle, and a piece of obsolete machinery to make it all ok, at least until the next explosion, but that's a matter that even i'm not ballsy enough to take on in this venue. don't worry, however; my madness is based in reality: i'm well aware that i've probably let Humanity down as much as the opposite, though i wouldn't testify before twelve alleged peers as to who was only evening the score.

perhaps a little back-story regarding the attached letter will make things more clear. Jeremiah is a friend of mine (though not a bullfrog), one really acquired after our high school career together had ended (though I did rather enjoy our candid chats via loose-leaf paper in Ms. Chan's oh-so-Communist library study periods). he deals in antiques and recently opened a shop in cold spring, a small tourist town across the river from west point that deals mostly in said artifacts. he was salutorian of my graduating class of 2002 at Newburgh Free Academy and is hands-down the most brilliant person i know personally, though not as well as i'd like to. our infrequent correspondences always make up for in substance what they lack in regularity. hell, the letters he casually sends me from time to time make me wish that i had half the talent, half the mastery of imagery and metaphor that he throws around like a two-line joke, even though he's more the man of science than art from what i gather. anyway, Jeremiah sent me an email this evening informing me of an interesting encounter very particular and relevant to my own confused life of an american twenty-something. the following is what i read (four times over, in case my eyes deceived me yet again), with commentary by your favorite cynic in [brackets] for your MLA-brainwashed convenience.

and i quote:

[To Jeremiah:

Sorry for the direct quotation if it offends you, though I can't apologize for the bitter/vulgar editorial commentary. I'm sure you understand.]

"Pater." [it means Father, jackass.]

By coincidence [a term i've learned does not exist in so small a world] I was at your father's house Friday evening. He and his new wife [i did not know he was getting married. over the course of the last seven years or so he always told me that "God had a wife" for him, and i caringly criticized his blind faith. i suggested that he get out there on the dating circuit and look more, that this god of his that he tried so hard for years to push on his family was not simply going to drop the woman of his dreams out of the sky and into his backyard. it was an awkward position for a son to be put in, lecturing his father on the hunt for the elusive spouse, but his naievity disturbed me and i did not want to see him wither away alone. needless to say i feel quite foolish now that the stubborn old bastard managed to land himself a bride, and didn't even bother to fill me in, quarrel or none. he also used to say that "God promised a new family, children included," so maybe our estranged state made it easier for him to forget about me and move on...but Jesus, not even a postcard after the honeymoon filling me in? don't worry, i don't want to be in the will or anything...] purchased a mirror from me a few weeks ago and got me down quite a bit on the price [this is the first thing that made me realize that my vision was correct, as my father has always been a penny-pincher to the point of publically humiliating heckle sessions that caused me in later years to simply fork over the dough when it came time to purchase anything], and in annoying and dithering fashion [yeah, i remember the salesmen's faces vividly]. Actually if I knew it was him, rather than some random guy named Charlie calling me saying that "he saw the things I had in my store and had things he knew I would want [musty old junk kept in various basements over the years that he inherited from his notorious father]," I probably wouldn't have waited all evening in my store so that I could meet him at 8.15. He would not give his address but insisted I follow him home from a gas station [the one around the corner from his decrepit house, which is obviously in need of a paint job, or (gasp) vinyl siding!. i know this because every couple months i make a point to come home from a southbound excursion on 9W in order to do a drive-by just to see how things are holding up at the old fort which, ironically, is in Fort Montgomery.].

Only when I walked into his small office [that'd be the little yellow room towards the front of his house which used to be my bedroom growing up. i remember the hanging plant in the corner, and my mother laying on the couch in the living room just outside my door reading her Cosmo magazines as i tried to drift off to sleep. if i didn't hear her there after awhile i'd call out from my dark room, "mom, i don't hear you turning the pages!" funny what you remember. anyway, my dad filled that tiny closet of a room with his hundreds and hundreds of God Books after the divorce, thus beginning the initial transformation into his 'office.'] and noticed the rather tombstone-like name on his desk [another bit of information that convinced me of the validity of Jeremiah's experience, which i did not want to admit to myself. it belonged to his father, another Charles Vahsen who failed his family, and my old man used to brag to his high-falutin' Christian Brethren how he loved the fact that the name-plate looked like a tombstone since his former self had "died" the moment he was "Born Again." yeah, is it any wonder my mother left him, his family treats him like recycled diner coleslaw, and i had a hard time swallowing all of his sermons growing up?] did I inquire if he had any relatives in the area. Oddly enough, he replied "Only in Connecticut." [oh man, this motherfucker right here...] until I mentioned knowing a Mike Vahsen, whom he then acknowledged as his son [gee thanks, asshole. i'm not so proud of my relation, either. keep the house you sold your family in, and the two houses in the Adirondacks, and the crappy cars and thousands in unused fishing gear and whatever rifles you have left, and, most importantly, the debt and shame you'll someday die with. i won't play out my greatest fear: i won't become you.].

His eyes are rather interesting [one of the traits people who've seen both of us always pick out, unfortunately]. They are terribly hard and focused and stare for long periods, but neither warmly nor coldly [i receive the same criticism, though for different reasons. i'm not that bad once you get to know me and see past the hundred-yard stare that takes over sometimes]...rather they seem more empty than angry [i guess ridding your life of what really matters, the people in it, will do that]. He showed me a picture of you as a young child posing with him, and you did not look happy [i wasn't big on forced poses and couldn't muster false smiles, especially when the pictures were taken primarily as evidence to be used in divorce court later on to fight over custody and child support issues].

He wanted way too much for his stuff, listened intently (along with his wife) [birds of a feather i'm sure] as I discussed microwaves, atomic theory, and electromagnetic-pulse weaponry. He refused my offer of free National Geographic magazines [we had a bunch on one of the bookshelves from when i was a kid, though he may have used them for kindling in his effort to get rid of the evidence of my pesky existence], and gave me a book enumerating all the names of God.. though it really doesn't [i remember seeing the book a few times on the coffee table the last few times i went to his place several years ago. it was about five inches thick]. The title is misleading... it should read "All the phrases referring to God in the Bible." [i greatly appreciate Jeremiah's dry sense of humor in times such as this.]He spent for [i believe he meant 'more;' even salutorians are allowed to fuck up once in awhile, and not just in their attempted business transactions.] than a few minutes inscribing it but I could not find the inscription [more of that disappearing ink he inscribed all of my birthday cards with, perhaps?].

Anyway, a strange coincidence [again, no such thing at this rate]. Aside from the shape of your face [it's ok, you can acknowledge the fact that we both have big heads. it's because we each have a second brain whose sole purpose is to foster bad ideas...only mine just tells me to drink on nights when i have to work the next day.] it is hard for me to see you as his issue. Maybe you prefer that [i didn't officially until tonight, no fault of Jeremiah's], I do not know precisely of your relations [neither does he, don't feel bad]. I can't say I took the best liking to him [neither did my mother, hence her filing for divorce when i was seven, though i blamed her for that until a few years ago when i realized just how crazy the man really is, and not even in a mildly entertaining way like Yours Truly], but I generally don't like people with annoying yappy vicious small ratdogs anyhow. ['ratdogs' is by far the best improvised compound word of 2008 to my knowledge. the fact that my old man owns one just may be the biggest let-down thus far. and see? i'm a master of maintaining my sense of humor in less-than-funny situations, if nothing else.].

You should try to get those two .50 black powder guns he is selling [i built one of them, but he can have the money if he needs it that bad and if its absence aids in my disappearance]. I can't make money on them at $100 a piece but they are worth that [not really, he scratched some of the metal on the buttplate on the one i built with sandpaper and i got pissed, despite my timid nature at age twelve]. The ugly figurines of flowers, or birds, or flowers with birds, are not [i remember those too, and they were rather hideous and cheap].

All is busy here. Store is open daily and is making money [please go buy antiques from this man, i'd help his business out by doing the same if my friends and i weren't a bunch of alcoholics who get rowdy at four in the morning and wreck things unintentionally.] but ploughing all back into new merch. We will be having an auction sometime around the 20th over behind Gus's tavern [shameless vicarious plug: Gus' Tavern, Route 9W in lovely Newburgh, NY] in my second location that I just opened. I will be auctioneer.. should be an interesting evening. Details to follow [oh, do tell...] ...

Best [i'll try my hardest, circumstances permitting],


so that's it. i wish it was ed i was working with tomorrow, but that'll have to wait until our scab side-gig on saturday. no, tomorrow it'll be nicky; cold, ball-buster, "leave your shit at home" nicky, and that's fine. i'll warn him as soon as he gets into my truck tomorrow morning-- MY truck, dad...my brand new, $28000 Toyota fucking Tacoma that i bought with my hard-earned money with the job i re-earn every day, no thanks to you...not some used-piece-of-shit that i was always embarrassed to ride around in with you even as a kid...remember the one that blasted the heat all summer or the one that didn't have a functioning driver's-side door that forced you to crawl out of my door after i got out? yeah, none of that-- like i said, i'll warn nick right off the bat that it's not going to be a good day for me, and yes, i had a few strong drinks last night and that's what he's smelling on my breath, and when i light up a smoke and he calls me weak for doing it again i'll tell him to fuck off because it's a rough day. but don't worry, it has nothing to do with you, nick, and i'll make it through the day, and maybe after we pick up the tools and head back home i'll give ed a ring and see if he wants to meet me for a beer somewhere. it'll do him good, too; he has a son somewhere stolen by a lunatic mother or something of the sort, and in some weird way i know i've made that ok for him by not having a father of my own anymore and seeking ed's advice from time to time.

thanks for bearing with me. all of this just flowed out like a shit a long time in the making on that still-drunk sunday morning, and if you made it this far then maybe you're not as fucked as i'd assumed; either that or more-so. then again, maybe you're just another rubbernecker waiting to see how far i can fall until i implode, or worse, repeat the mistakes of the bloodline i try every day to redeem myself for having. either way, my hat's off to you for reading this far. it's been one of those things that makes or breaks a situation, an event that causes fate to decide itself from here on out. i guess i know where i stand now in his life, and i shouldn't feel so bad for disowning him in my head (though still not totally in my heart, secretly compassionate sucker that i am), or not wanting to invite him to my wedding someday either. but Dad, in case your lovely new bride is computer-literate and manages to find this trash someday, let me close with one that i know will hit home, wherever that may be for you:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son." --John 3:16

...but what the fuck did you give yours up for?



There are some things I can
not and will not ever understand
some of which are tangible
others purely metaphysical.

Of the former, gravity, or Gravity
physics, and the Earth's rotation
don't make sense to me.
If you're driving fifty-five miles-per-hour
with the windows down and there's a bee in your car
with a top speed of, for argument's sake
fifteen miles-per-hour, why is it that
the bee is not flattened against the rear windshield
since it isn't traveling as fast?

And if the globe spins at such-and-such a rate
then why is that when you jump straight up
you land in the same spot? Shouldn't you be a few fragments
of an inch behind since the world moved on without you?
(And yes, trust me, it has.)
Granted I dropped my Physics course my Senior Year
and took Forensic Science instead, but shouldn't
this all make more sense to me regardless
after twenty-four hard-earned years of teetering
around under Standard Temperature and Pressure?

Now, for the latter: if a tree falls in the middle of the woods
and no one is there to hear it...
yes, I'll still complain about it.


artichoke .

the rain in Spain
falls mainly on the
artichoke hearts
and kids in fast
"anything ya gotta do, Sarge
just make the pain
no need to pretend
that she's my best

(I told you that I'd not waste time
writing poems that have to


...and mercy mild.

Oh, to go back
to when Mommy made
"roast beast" for dinner
or sometimes "basketti"
if I was lucky.

When Christmas came one year
I sang "Arthur Harold, Angels sing:
glory to the newborn King"
in the school musical production
back before that sort of thing
became illegal.

Hark the Herald, Arthur Harold.
My folks loved it
and they rolled
and they rolled.


Last night I was so hungry
that as I shoveled dinner
into my mouth voraciously
I accidentally stabbed my lip
with the fork--
I mean blood and everything.

Then today my foreman's friend
called up on lunch break to tell him
that his job in Manhattan had been shut down.
Safety inspectors were swarming the high-rise
after the tragedy that had happened this morning:
a twenty-eight-year-old construction worker
plunged four hundred eighty feet
(yes, to his death, jackass)
while taking apart a rooftop crane unit
without having his harnass tied off.
My lip didn't feel so sore anymore.

And now I'm pacing around eating ice cream
alone in my room, scolding the rabbit
for chewing the sheets and laughing eerily to myself
at the hysterical times spent in the many small rooms
I've already inhabited in these twenty-four years
sometimes over-served but never under-stimulated.

There will be more said times
of pondering the peculiarity of the events
that shape me week to week, month to year
and for this I am grateful
though not as grateful as I will be
when I won't be left alone at night
to overanalzye the day.

Maybe my coworker's right:
it's time to take the earring out, I forget
I have it half the time anyway.


"The check's in the mail," and other good excuses for bad poetry.

Hemingway always started
with one true declarative sentence
and went from there. Then again
he had his private boat equipped with sonar
and hunted German submarines
in the Caribbean during the second
World War, so maybe his advice is
not always the soundest
but here goes nothing:

It's eating me up inside, trust me
but I really can't bring myself to
dust my room since you had to go
and use your precious little finger to write
"I love you" (with a picture of a heart
as the middle word)
on my bookshelf
before you left.

(Nope, that was nothing like
he wouldn've done it, and this
is even less:)

And while I'm at it, the way the rabbit
tickled my foot with her whiskers
as my leg dangled off the side of the bed
during tonight's lonely acoustic session
reminded me of when that nosy little rodent
sniffs my feet as they hang off the edge
during other, less convenient times
(you know, like when my head's between your legs)
and girl, lemme tell ya, the weekend just can't
come fast enough.

After I puked up that last shot
that did me in the other night
my buddy sang in his still-cracking voice
"He's only human after all!"
since that's not my style
and it made me think of you
since it's my very humanity--
the flaws not worth fixing--
that endear me to you
and I thank you for that.

Heathcliff was to Garfield
as Gary Bucci is to Nick Nolte
(I did well on the analogy section of the SAT's):
the poor man's version, not nearly as
(insert synonym for 'good' here, it's late and I'm tired)
and all of the others seem to likewise pale in comparison now
that I have your lovenotes and, uh, "other things" to miss
on these quickly cooling nights. What I'm trying to say
in my own deranged way is that I really friggin' love you, Darling
and can't wait for you to come home.

(I know, I know: it got sentimental; but anyone
who needs to write exclusively about drinking
bullfights and war is probably compensating for something;
Ernest, you were always kind of an asshole


It never dawned on Christ that maybe Humanity didn't want to be saved.

What do you say to someone in that position?
"Best of luck in beating my record..."?
"Slow down for your own sake..."?
It's not my deal, but I know what it's like
to face your own music alone
when the drinks wear off the next morning
and the shame sets in
and I don't wish that on anyone.
Word on the street can't compete with casual sex
so I'll keep it to myself this time.
I don't have the clout
in that crowd, anyway; kind of lost
it when I shoved my foot in my mouth
and other things in other places--
all in another life, of course.
If three chords and the truth can't do it
then I've got nothin'.

And then there's our little prodigy of yore
all grown up now, with not quite enough of the wisdom
I'd hoped our mistakes had taught him.
It's true what they say: you really do
have to live it yourself, despite the warnings
and earn yourself your own remorseful lessons.
It's a shame that two well-spoken older brother types
couldn't manage to talk some half-drunk sense into him.
We don't want him settling for the cop career
that'd make his father happy at the expense of postponing
his dream to teach, but we couldn't do more than make him
appreciate the concern of two wasted talents
about to watch the cycle repeat.
Maybe we should just be glad
he's not as impressionable as we once thought
and learned to think for himself along the way.
But for Christ's sake, man--
for someone who wants to teach history
you sure don't seem to learn from it.

Sorry for the soapbox session.
I'm just killing time
pretending not to be jealous
of the passenger in that car
as I sit here helpless
a hundred-and-some-odd miles away.
Don't think for a second that this sinner
doesn't see the plank in his own Biblical eye
and know that your speck is your own to live with
as you damn-well please.
Pattern recognition, that's all.

Currently reading:
"An American Tragedy" by Theodore Dreiser.


The last ride of the Death Machine, or an ode to an old horse about to be turned into gelatin.

I'd left the old blue bombshell
at the dealership the night before
when the salesman suggested I take
the new truck home then and there.
(It didn't take much convincing, mind you.)
Three-and-a-half faithful years
from a thirteen-year-old-car
with over two hundred thousand miles on it
(the salesman laughed when I asked
what the trade-in value would be)
purchased for a measly seven hundred bucks;
she served her purpose dutifully
getting me to and from work
to and from women
to and from and to and from
and never with a Dewey.
I owed her one last romp in the sack
and I gave it to her the day after buying
my new vehicle when my roommate drove
me back down to the dealership to pick her up.

Hitting ninety-five on eighty-seven
with no brakes left to speak of
and no front directionals
no air conditioning and the power everything
failing miserably felt good.
I smelled smoke and questioned if it was coming
from my car, but didn't care much
since the donation people would still give me
the thousand-dollar tax write-off.
Weaving in and out of traffic, breaking the pistons
in again, letting the legs pound the track one last time
passing people who didn't and wouldn't understand
if I tried to tell them.
Then there was the one guy waving his hands
in true Italian fashion at his kid in the backseat, turning
his head to yell every few seconds--
part of me wanted to ram his rear bumper
but I didn't, and with my left foot pressed hard
against the floor I sped by that guy, eyes in the rear-view
to make sure there weren't any Stateys catching up to me.

I made it to the Newburgh exit in one piece
with the stereo cranked to sixty
and no carbon left in the cylinders.
I gave her what was due, alright;
rode her hard, like that last fuck with a girl
you know you'll never see again
to both of your advantages.
And when I called my buddy to come drink that night
I heard exactly what I didn't miss in the background;
like the car, I was glad I'd made
the decision to donate.
It's someone else's headache now.