On AC with the windows open and other shameful wastes.

My stomach was digesting itself again
until beer put that one fire out.
My ego caught a mean pistol-whipping
that wasn't half of what it deserved.
My heart and my mind stopped talking
a long time ago, and both have paid the price.

I told myself that Second Best ain't so bad
with a beer in hand as the sun sets, at least not for a guy
who can admit that he wouldn't mind dying
if the right song was playing.

Though this isn't my only recent drunken fumbling.
Last week a jukebox and I managed to rip
a dollar bill in half at that bar where I stole
a bottle of vodka on a birthday dare.
George still winked at me despite my
defiling of his face. I taped him back together
and pawned him off like one of those
good habits I used to have.

So you, you:
you refuse to bleed out in the sand
so we join the Canadian Club instead
swearing to a life of high-proof spiced piracy.
They're right in what they say
about all being fair in both;
you're better at one, I at the other.

This is just another of the many times
when nothing gold could stay, babe.
It's Sunny, and we can't Share.

But what to do with the kids?
You take poetry, I'll stick to prose
and we'll both stay away from dialogue
since it only shows the weakness we have
aside from each other.


Writhing alongside you.

With baited breath
we've all confessed
to reddening our wings.
What desperate men
we've all become
while waiting for the bus.
The bears won't let you blame it
on supply-side economics.
"It's not my thing," she swore...
Play the role that's been assigned you.

Why have them, if not loaded--
and if you mean it, chambered?
"Oh, Lord..." I said and he sang out
the rest with that sad twang.
My horoscope was lying
about that four-star day.


Pubis Vulgaris

The stubble wasn't the worst part.
That I could deal with, especially since she probably wasn't
expecting anyone at the party to find it that night--
hadn't given old Deadeye here enough credit.
Hell, finding stubble down there's a bit of a compliment
to a man's prowess if you stop and think about it.

No, what killed me was the way she kept panting my name
at every other awkward bump of our newly acquainted hips.
At least twice during the shameful act I stopped to
ask her if everything was OK, if she had a question.
She covered my mouth with her hand and coaxed me
into picking up where I'd left off. It was bizarre.
I'd had my share of dead fish floating lazily in the sheets
before, but never an accusatory broken record.
The first option seemed like the better deal.
Hell, no one even called me by name anymore.
I'd been reduced to initials against my will.
What made her any different?

And if anyone else had been on top of her that night
she would've been saying his name instead.
Neither of us were special.
The sad part is we knew it and didn't care.

We were just a convenient combination
of alcohol and a vacant couch.
I hadn't seen the sex for the pointless search yet.
You can't fill your own void by filling someone else's...
or can you?

That's a rhetorical question.

Peace be with you. And also with you.

"I was wearing that shirt yesterday," said the guy
in line ahead of me as he double-fisted his groceries
onto the conveyor belt. He was about thirty-two, your
average Joe with a baseball cap and five o'clock shadow.

I looked down to remember which shirt it was.
A black tee with "I'm blogging this." written
across the chest in non-descript white lettering.

"Yeah. My roommate got it for me as a joke,"
I replied, reaching for the plastic divider to
put between our respective items in order to
eliminate any confusion for the cashier.
"It's not the kind of thing you buy for yourself."

"Tell me about it," he said emphatically.
"My wife gave me mine. She makes fun of me
for constantly blogging from my desk at work."

We felt each other's pain in quiet understanding
and went about our business
feeling slightly less alone in a world
who misunderstands us and our stupid hobby.
We made each other's days
in well under one hundred fifty words.

I bet he told his wife all about it when he got home
right after he told his computer.

A proper diagnosis, considering the family's medical history.

1 Admit to caring who they're fucking and you lose.
2 You still fucking her?
I No.
II Then you lose anyway.
A It wasn't about that.

B Ditch the halo before I puke.

< If you puke, I puke.

> You're starting to get the hang of this.

^ All too late.

+ There's plenty of time for the post-game report.

- They can never hurt you as well as you can hurt yourself.

= And so the student becomes the teacher.

Though really they were one from the start.

(Exit coconuts, stage left.)

Currently reading:
"A Story Teller's Story" by Sherwood Anderson.


Blood on the Tracks.

I worked on my feet all day, mostly outside.
She sat in an office from nine to five, barely awake.
Needless to say we sought to spend our precious
weekends doing the opposite of what
our respective jobs entailed: I wanted to lay around
all day reading dead men in the tranquil comfort of
my temperature-controlled domicile; she wanted
to wake up at the crack of dawn to drive an hour north
haul ass up a mountain, eat a peanut butter
and jelly sandwich at the top, and run back down.
It was one of the many reasons
why it was doomed from the start.
Still, it had its valuable lessons
if not its perks.

"Put those in here," she said
handing me the Zip-Loc bag that
she'd pulled from her pack
like some sort of second-rate
tree-hugging magician.

"Are you serious?" I asked
with the raise of just one eyebrow.
Smoking while hiking was enough
of a paradox; fussing over biodegradable
bits of paper and cotton was
the icing on the cake that I'd rather be eating
with a nice glass of milk and some Dostoevsky.

The familiar half-squint she shot my way
as she pursed her lips professed the severity
of her demand and convinced me to comply.
I didn't want to risk being cut off from
the Catskill Mountain mid-hike sex.
That was the only reason I'd joined her
on the few Sunday excursions that I did.
It made all of those calorie-burning sweatfests worth it
for fifteen minutes or so.

I'll never forget the time that black bear
stalked up along the creekside ridge
just twenty feet from where we were doing the nasty.
He must've smelled it in the air and wanted a piece.
Maybe I should've let him maul me to death then and there
thus saving myself from the beatings that she'd come
to give me later on, and our eventual demise after
almost two years of trying not to lose what wasn't really there.

But hindsight's 20-20 and she always made a good sandwich.
I can live with that.

White gloves, and roadblocks, and tube socks-- oh my!

White folks revel in their shiny excuse to sit in lawn chairs
on sidewalks and in shoulders of suburban byways
as hordes of local girl scouts, boy scouts, veterans
and volunteer everythings march by;
the bolder of the genus call this
painfully rhythmic catastrophe a parade
but I have other, more descriptive names for it
that will be left to the imagination for decency's sake.

My town feels the need to indulge in two of these
festive forays twice a year: today's occasion
being Memorial Day, the other one I'm not sure of
though summer's Labor-related bookend holiday seems
to ring a bell for more than the end of white-wearing season.
Again with those pesky whites.

All roads and thoroughfares in the vicinity of my quiet abode
are blocked off to make way for the bagpipers, buglers
and their brain-dead spectators. I'm a captive in my house
for three to four hours all in the name of a local tax expenditure.
With so many squad cars and fire trucks present it seems to be
a good time to rob a bank or burn your ex's house down
assuming you don't mind walking there.

I'm forced to catch up on my reading in this air-conditioned cell.
But who am I kidding? I'd be sitting here doing the same
even if I could escape the confines of the casa.
As long as my closed windows protect my throbbing head
from the incessant thump of the bass drum I'll be fine.

At least
they spare me the irony of doing the same on Independence Day.

Currently reading:
"The Poetry Anthology, 1912-1977"


We'll never leave the asterisk class.

When I was a kid
my mother would remind me
that 'hate' is a strong word.
Although she was right
she failed to mention
that sometimes it's
not strong enough
especially in regards
to what one feels towards
the alarm clock.

There's a nasty bruise on my knee
and I don't know how it got there.
I can tell you right now
that it wasn't from praying.
God gave up on us a long time
before we gave up on Him.
Pass the rum jug, brother.

But somewhere in the darkness of my driveway
was a breathing diamond ablaze
unencumbered by the limits of modern-day smelting.
I pictured us at thirty, forty, if we live that long, fifty.

And until the cockroaches take their rightful place
he'll never change.

Currently reading:
"From Hand To Mouth" by Fitz-James O'Brien.

I hate it when they're right.

"I can't sleep."

"Why not?"

"That last chapter shook me up."

"It's just a book. Go to bed."

"We both know there's no such thing as 'just a book'."

"Go to sleep."

"I'll try."

"Me too."


Shriveling in the Sixth Borough.

We were on the roof of the junior high school, supposedly to bust some holes with the hammer drill. It was a good gig for a pleasant May morning. We felt momentarily free up there like in that scene from that famous prison movie. My partner had to ruin the mood by breaking the rare silence with one of his typically asinine remarks. I use the term 'partner' loosely; he's more of an opponent than anything else. I've never seen a grown man make so many stupid mistakes, forget such simple directions, talk so incessantly about absolutely nothing to the point where duct tape seems like a reasonable means to an end. I often think he does these things on purpose to test the limits of my patience. Then I stop and realize that he's not half as clever.

"What's that building over there with the dome on it?"

Being the local boy means the questions are aimed my way. Sometimes I'd give up the five-minute commute to change that.

"That's one of those places that would've given you one of those fancy pieces of paper if you hadn't dropped out."

"A high school, I get it!"

Part of me was happy-- not because he got it, but because I wouldn't have to explain it any further. That was a place I'd rather not discuss. Changing the subject before he could interject with another random outburst seemed like a good idea. Is there a lesser form of Turrets?

"It's almost easy to forget we're in the ghetto when most of our view from up here consists of trees."

I was referring to the hill behind the high school. There used to be tales of kids skipping class and hiding out up there for hours on end. A keg was rumored to be buried somewhere with only the tap exposed. All of that was before my time, though-- the time of scanning ID cards with bar codes, passing through metal detectors, armed police officers walking the halls. And I'm supposed to want to bring children into this world?

"Yeah. Your town is scary."

That sounded funny. Until then I hadn't thought of it as 'my town', though it was indeed frightening at times. Almost as frightening as the awful racket that accosted our ears out of the clear blue. It appeared to be a butchered rendition of the hook from a hip-hop song that was popular two years ago. Yes, it was just as painful as it sounds.

"Oh, great. The marching band is serenading us."

We walked towards the edge of the roof to get a better look at the source of the cacophony coming from the parking lot. Our eyes scanned the sloppy mass of teenagers in search of the easiest target. My opponent scored before me.

"Man, why do they always strap the bass drum to the smallest, goofiest kid?"

I hated to admit it, but he was right. I told him so. Both halves of the sentence. I felt part of me die.

A blindingly bald man in his early forties stood in front of that clump of misapplied hormones with a bullhorn in his hand. He pleaded with them to pay attention. It's hard to watch a losing battle, even from a safe and hidden vantage point like a roof.

"Come on, guys! March! No, don't actually move forward! Just lift your heels! No, don't waddle like penguins! And straighten up! There are supposed to be four columns! You were supposed to learn how to line up in Kindergarten..."

My opponent lit a forbidden cigarette despite the school's policy. It was due more to a lack of brains than a presence of bravado. We were our own bosses up here to an extent, but being caught smoking on school grounds would get us instantly thrown off the job.

"At least taking orders like this will be good training for when they're all in prison," I said as I stepped aside to move upwind from the smoke. My opponent laughed and choked on his nicotine fix.

What I'd just said echoed through my skull like a resonating gunshot. It was sad to admit that I believed it. Perhaps it was best that I wound up on the roof of this building instead of underneath it with an attitude like mine; or maybe my cynical stance had developed as a result of my own experiences and environment. Regardless, it made me feel like someone I hadn't been seven years ago. There's just as much comfort in defeat as there is in acceptance if you look hard enough.

One person can't change the world.
It takes a village to raise a child.
And one lousy city has managed to ruin a lot of them, present company included.

Pack it in, kids. The band's budget's been cut.

"You got an extra one?" I asked while fumbling through my pocket for the lighter that I always carry.

"For you? Anything, partner!"

Seven years ago, when I was immortal, he would've been right.


Somewhere in there.

The young black cashier asked
to see my license after she'd already
bagged the beer, probably only
because there was a woman in line behind me
who seemed like she would have no qualms
about making a phone call to the local police.

I passed her my ID with my sleeved arm
that usually serves as proof enough.
The photo hadn't been updated
since I was sixteen. I'd asked to pass
on having a new one taken when it was time to
renew my license because my nose had been
recently broken with a beer bottle at a dive bar;
I didn't think a photograph of me
with stitches across my bridge and two black eyes
would behoove me while having
my license checked during a traffic stop.

"I can only recognize you by your eyes,"
the girl said as she inspected the nine-year-old
photo on my license before passing it back.

I thought of explaining that it was an old picture
that wasn't replaced due to a broken nose
but that woman standing behind me
was already clutching her purse tighter than before.

"Thanks," I said with a sly smile as the cashier
handed me my six-packs, and I didn't just mean
for the beer.


More sacrilege.

There was a parable in the Bible
in which the chief of a village was captured
by his arch nemesis after the city walls fell.
In a barbaric display of power
they brought his offspring to the town square
and lined them up, shoulder-to-shoulder
in front of all the defeated inhabitants.
The conquering ruler ordered three of his best archers
to draw their bows and await further instruction.
As their arms quivered with the tension of the strings
and the arrowheads glistened in the deceptive sunlight
the invading general asked the captive leader
which of his three sons would be executed
as an offering to the pagan gods.
Without a moment's hesitation the answer came
and at the raise of a hand the archers let loose.
The three arrows protruding from the boy's chest
broke in half as he silently folded into the sand.
Tears hit the dust in unison as the onlookers
remembered their beloved adolescent neighbor
whose life had been sacrificed so mercilessly.
Even the cruel despot who had given the order
felt unusually stirred by the scene, specifically
the decisive strength with which his foe had replied.
Not willing to let his curiousity run rampant forever
the evil man stepped down from his horse
and approached his stoic adversary.
Once within arm's reach of the unflinching chief
he met his eyes and asked in an exalted tone,
"Why did you pick your eldest son to die?
Surely he was your favorite."
Again, without the slightest pause, the man
responded in a confident, even voice--
"Because he was the strongest one among them
and would best understand."
With frightened, shifting eyes the victorious sultan turned
to mount his horse, commanding his troops
to fall back. A great commotion erupted
among the ranks as the heavily armed men
fled for their lives.

So maybe this wasn't a Bible story
but it should've been.

Stupid kids talking politics.

Landmines and bayonets aren't meant to kill--
they're meant to maim, leave men screaming for help.
Same thing with bullets with full metal jackets;
they go right through the person, don't mushroom
on impact like your standard lead-tipped hunting round.
The reasoning behind all these lovely little inventions being
that an injured man takes three men off the battlefield--
the victim, and two of his allies to drag him to safety.
Disfiguring a man for thinking differently
and counting on the loyalty of his peers to kick in.
What a lovely way to win a war.

And after it's won, what does one do?
Well, the United States chose to rebuild Japan
after leveling two of its cities with the first and only
nuclear weapons deployed in combat
to date, that we know of.
We industrialized a country so effectively
that it out-smarted and out-sold our technological sector
for the following decades to come.
And the Germans got a similar consolation prize
though not as profound. See, us Yankees stole
the design of the classic German Mauser
to create the 1903 Springfield Bolt-Action Rifle, a military
standard issued to 'Merican snipers right on up until
the turn of the following century.
So, in true diplomatic fashion, after neutralizing the Nazi threat
we proceeded to pay royalties to Germany
for the patent law infringement associated with one of the
weapons that helped us send Hitler back to Hell.
Makes sense, right? At least it's in accordance with
similar common practices of the so-called Powers That Be.

I gave up rooting for the home team a long time ago.
It's hopeless. We're all doomed, it's a matter of when.
I joined the NRA so I can jokingly make dramatic references
to "my cold, dead hands" like the departed Mr. Heston.
They haven't sent me my sticker yet, I hope there's still time.
At this point I'm just waiting for the missiles to fly
and pray that I'll be on the verge of something worthwhile
when the mushroom cloud engulfs my computer and me.

This one wouldn't have counted.



I was nineteen and knew it all
but Death wasn't real yet.
She passed while I was on my way
from Albany to say goodbye.
Uncle Marty called, said they'd wait
to move the body until I arrived.
It seemed kind of them.

When I got there the rest of the family
had already found their respective sources
of consolation, be it a story from years gone by
a comfortable corner of a couch, or a drink.
I made my way to the guest room
where she'd been fighting for her last breaths
having long been freed from her final demons.
Her jaw sagged low, her mouth wide open.
The undertaker's wire would fix that.
Aunt Ronnie was sitting next to the bed
holding her hand that had looked like wax
for the past ten years of her life.
She was ready.

I wish I could say I cried, but I didn't.
It had been a merciful release.
And to tell you the truth
she looked so much more at peace
in that reclined position
than she did at the wake
where I didn't cry, either.

Carmen's final statement was the best of her lifetime.
She arranged to be buried on a grassy knoll
near some tall pines in a secluded Connecticut cemetery
near my uncle's house instead of next to my grandfather
in the plot he'd bought in the Adirondacks.
The bottle, the beatings, and the mistresses had been
punishment enough for her. She didn't want to rot
next to that miserable man forever.
I can still hear her dry cackle when I think about it.

My father said he'd be buried next to Charles Senior instead.
Some sons don't know when to see the man for the monster.
Let them.

I wouldn't have much nice to say in the way of a eulogy.
The tears would come that time, but for different reasons.
Let them as well.

The worst deaths occur before the heart stops beating.
I'm twenty-five now and know that much
if nothing else.


po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

The pre-weekend party-planning phone call
blew up in my face quite nicely tonight.

"You coming out Saturday?"

He's a regular, it seemed like a given.

"Can't. Waking up early for my sister's graduation party."

It wasn't intended to be a dig in the ribs, but it was.

"Have fun with that."

I meant it.


I think he did, too.

And hey, if you're going to shoot me
have the courtesy to use good ammunition.

I hope your compass works better than mine.


Thanks for the ad.

After-school activities were still in full swing at 4:30 in the afternoon. Us stupid fitters were gathering our tools and prepping our materials for a night's worth of pipe-laying misery. My stride was sure and true as I careened down the faux-marble hallway of North Junior High. A buxom young teacher was walking ahead of me with a seductive switch that only a male above eighteen would notice. She slowed her pace to ask a plump boy standing in the doorway of a classroom a quick question.

"How do you like the book so far?"

My ears perked up, my eyes opened wide and shot for the cover. There he was in large white block lettering over a blood-red backround-- Dostoevski.

"It's pretty good," the round little kid replied.

Pretty good? Just 'pretty good', man? Jesus, what was the world coming to? I halted that once-stable gait of mine to catch a glimpse of the title-- 'Crime and Punishment'.

My thoughts ran rampant in my head: Oh Lord, please don't let me fall to my knees right here in this hallway with my partner five steps ahead of me. Don't let Shakespeare go out like this. I promise to learn the Cyrillic alphabet someday.

Little Jimmy in the too-tight T-shirt had noticed my ogling. I had to say something to him to avoid being escorted off school property for staring inappropriately at a minor. But what to say? How would I be able to plug the waterfall of sheer joy and admiration for one of the world's best writers that'd spew forth from my mouth? My knees weakened, and that mouth of mine didn't make up for it with any form of brilliance.

"Dostoevski, huh?"

Chubby nodded his head of curly hair and squinted his beady little eyes. I could tell he's always last picked in gym class.

"He's a bastard," I emphatically declared. Chubs dropped his jaw and cocked his head in utter astonishment as I turned to catch up with my coworker again before he'd wonder what the hell I was doing talking to this kid about a book. Maybe Chubs wasn't expecting a dirty, sweaty construction worker to have such a strong opinion of a Nineteenth Century writer from Eastern Europe. If only he knew that I could spell Dostoyevky's name three different ways, or that I'd read all of the works of the good Fyodor Mikhailovich, and by my own volition.

But "He's a bastard"? Really, whom was I even referring to with that gem? Dos himself?, or that literal lady-killer character of his, Raskolnikov? I'm still not sure what I meant by my statement; it seemed like a good idea at the time, though. Most of the worst ones do. Even Dos and his Existentialist buddies could admit that.

The toils of work led me to and fro across the jobsite. I think by now I've spent more time walking in this school than I did during my entire junior high career. As I lept and bound up and down those flights of stairs I considered what I should've said to that poor kid. Things like: "Do you know Dostoevsky was sentenced to death during his young adulthood for his alleged involvement in a revolutionary group, and that they pulled the mask from his face and pardoned him at the last minute as the firing squad was loading their rifles?" Or maybe "He left his wife towards the end of his life and married a girl half his age who tended to the blinding old nut, even transcribed some of his last works for him." If I wanted to bring it home I'd say something to the effect of "Right up until his death at the age of sixty he was questioning the same things that you may be wrestling with now, like the existence and intentions of God, and the disappointing nature of Man." But I didn't say any of that. I had my chance to play English teacher and missed it. Again.

I made it a point to pass by that classroom twenty minutes later, but the lights were off and everyone had left. My potential Russian Literature Apprentice had gone home to eat Oreos and play video games until his mother made him walk the dog. I'd failed. Again. Second chances and I don't seem to get along.

But now, sitting here at this forgiving screen eight hours later, I don't feel so bad. Chubs'll figure all that stuff out on his own if he's worth a damn, or at least his weight in paperbacks. If not then he doesn't deserve to have those pieces of the puzzle figured out. For the sake of a rare happy ending I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Good luck, kid. Sorry I couldn't help you. And stay away from pipes in general.

I swear I don't spit in their coffee.

"Hey, Jose," came his gruff voice from the darkness of the job trailer. My eyes hadn't adjusted yet, everything was a blur. Slowly, that blur became a blue blob of three-hundred sixty pounds. Pat's small bald head sat atop his oversized denim work shirt like a cherry on one of the thousands of ice cream sundaes he'd devoured over the course of his thirty-five years.

"I got your fuckin' Jose swingin', pal," I said with a smile befitting a humble apprentice. It was too early in the day to throw wrenches or resort to fisticuffs.

"Todd told me you're Puerto Rican," he said in a softer tone. It was as if he'd revealed the fact that he knew I was a convicted sex offender. My jaw tightened, I felt my cheeks jut out at the sides. I wasn't scared, I'd heard stories of this lump of shit getting his ass beat by people half his size. I was just tired of the damn routine.

"Yeah. So?" Eye contact was impossible, the fake smile was just hard.

"Look, you could've told me. I know I make racist jokes, but I'm trying to turn over a new leaf." The sweat trickled down over three rolls of fat on the side of his head. I wanted to puke over this grotesque man's attempt at unsolicited pity. He'd been thrown off jobs before over dropping the N-bomb, calling Mexicans 'Wetbacks', and being ignorant in general. I knew who he was before he tried to convince me otherwise. A reputation goes a long way in the trades, especially a bad one.

"That's good, Pat. Good for you." It was all I could say. I wanted to present him with a mirror to show him that he'd probably die prematurely like his brother if he didn't lose weight, or remind him that he was a notoriously worthless worker without a condom's worth of common sense, or ask him what series of poor decisions caused him to lose his house and force his wife to pile his four kids into their one family vehicle to drive him to and from work every day. But I didn't. Again, the humble apprentice. The typical Pisces. The underdog tired of trying to settle an ancient and pointless score. My lower lip's got scars in the shape of my upper teeth.

"You're a good worker," he spat out like some sort of consolation prize for being Puerto Rican. "That's all that matters to me." His dull eyes tried to smile, but all I saw was that stupid grin that I wanted to slap away from his sloppy goatee.

"Thanks, Pat. Means a lot." I left him there in the darkness of the job trailer and went about my business. Some people still earn their pay.

And later on when he asked why I didn't take off work for Cinco de Mayo I fired back with something about wanting to drape the Mexican flag across the hood of my truck. Make your punchline better than theirs. Steal their thunder. It's all you can do sometimes.

It's not the constant jokes at work that get me. I'm not thin-skinned, and I know that people take themselves way too seriously. Hell, I even call myself out sometimes-- "Not bad, for a Spic," and such being a common response to a compliment from a coworker on my job performance. I can take it just as well as I can dish it, if not better. No, it's not the jokes themselves that get under my dark skin, it's that unwritten expectation for me to just silently take it because I'm a Hispanic on a construction site. It's that requirement to grin, bear it, and eat more shit force-fed by the White Male Republicans (who secretely vote for Democrats since that party is pro-Union). High school doesn't ever end, and neither does hypocrisy.

All of the men I've worked with have vouched for me in one way or another, whether I knew it or not. I'm going to continue to make a name for myself in this business, whether I like it or not. And someday, when I'm general foreman, I'll be sure to remind those creative poets who use their Sharpies to label the inside of the shithouse as "the Mexican Spaceship" that at least those silly Wetbacks didn't pretend to land on the fucking moon forty years ago.


Bikini Scars.

Hid the pearl under his tongue
for a belated safe delivery.
What's that they say about
the truly generous deed
having to go unclaimed?

But there are bigger sins
like kissing cousins
and giving up on what could be
for what was.

I hope the accent lighting on Fifth Ave
doesn't blind you.

She gave me a painting of Jacob
wrestling the Angel as the maids watch
in horror. I forget the outcome
of that Biblical battle
but I know from my own experience
that even if
Jake won
he lost.

We're alive, well, and not yet incarcerated--
Maybe just a bit dehydrated.
I should've stayed on the 405.


Blood in the boogers.

That bimbo barmaid undercharged me as usual:
thirteen bucks, just enough to cover
the pulled-pork sandwich and the first pint.
The first of seven pints, mind you.
She never seemed to make it back
to the touch-screen register to enter the drinks
on my tab for reasons that seem more than
the normal breast-implanted blonde excuse.
Her husband, who owns the joint, is also Puerto Rican.
If she were twelve years younger and single she'd try.
I offered to pay the rightful difference but
she laughed it off and told me not to bother.
Her tip reflected her hospitality.
Sometimes I wonder if in another life
she could've been something more
than a trophy wife used to lure dirty old bikers
and construction workers to an otherwise worthless bar.
I try not to dwell on it, though.
It's too real.

The slightly ossified ride back from the bar
was livened up by a strange turn of events.
I came around a bend and had to slam on the brakes
since a line of three cars stood still in the middle
of the forty-five mile-an-hour highway.
My eyes unblurred themselves and saw
a small black dog standing in the shoulder
on the other side of the road. A red leash
was attached to its neck, but no human hand was present.
A woman in the first stopped car frantically hopped out
of the passenger seat of the late-Eighties convertible
that she was riding in and approached the little canine.
He took off running like a bat out of Hell, a broad
saw-toothed grin on his face. I watched him pass by my truck
and bang a sharp left up a driveway in my rear-view mirror.
It seemed like he knew where he was going.
Or maybe he didn't.
I hope he did; that woman got right back in that
bucket of bolts and drove away in the opposite direction.
Good Samaritans have gotten lazy, doughy in their apathy.

The mall seemed like a logical destination once I got back into town.
I probably shouldn't have been driving, but I was having a party
that night and needed a new multi-media stereo for the occasion.
My initial failure in the electronics department of the "anchor store"
I first tried on my quest led me to question what's wrong with
a world that cannot sell the display model, even for full retail price.
Words were kept civil, though I'm pretty sure the clerk could sense
the frustration burning in my eyes almost as clearly as he could
smell the beer on my breath. I headed for a specialty store.
They had what I was looking for there, it was even on sale.
I paid with exact change and heaved the awkward box onto my shoulder.
It was almost a successful voyage for me in spite of the speedbumps.

But then that damn Piano Man caught my eye.
He was back amongst the overpriced pianos on display
in an intersection at the mall, and he was even more disgusted.
The music wasn't playing automatically this time, but the rubber-faced
gray caricature of himself wasn't tickling any ivories either.
His elbows rested on his knees as he bent over on an uncomfortable
stool with his back to the hunk of wood and metal that he was
supposed to be trying to sell. I was mid-stride when our eyes met.
My boots nearly tripped over themselves when he looked me
square in the face and shook his head slowly.
He knew. Somehow, he just knew.
I hope they bury him in a more expensive tux.


I once knew men from Peru and Nantucket...

You're supposed to use hot water to make ice cubes. I could explain it scientifically, but you wouldn't care. I bet you thought this line would end with the word 'bucket'.

The women who know me also know that brownies are the best way to control my simple self. Yes, I just denied my alleged complication. Turns out chocolate and flour, when combined with an egg or two and some oil, form the demise of my own free will. Totally worth it in most cases. Pawned off the rest of my mother's on lunch break at work last night. One of the guys, his mouth full of chocolate, told me to thank her. It may have been a cheap shot, but I let it slide. Saved the other batch to munch on in my truck during those fleeting quiet moments in between the pipes that I've come to cherish so much. Even heathens keep some things sacred.

Then, as always, there were the silent deals made with God and the devil. It's important to include both in case one's having an off day, and to deny the existence of One is to deny the existence of the other. Sometimes I throw the Easter Bunny into the mix for good measure, but never Saint Jude; that poor slob's got his own list of woes.

See, there were two birds doing the nasty in the lilac bush outside my kitchen window this morning. That's what Walt and Frost forgot to tell you: We're all only human. Even the birds are human. 'Human', as I use the term, means flawed by the unruly combination of instinct and desire. I once had a car that was human, it always stopped at the beer distributor on the way home from work. Those were the days when brew still did the job. Four stiff cocktails and I'm straight now. Straight enough to see crooked and smile wide for no good reason, often times a bad one. Not tonight, though. Tonight I deserve the pain of sobriety. Penance for all this humanity inside of me. The aftertaste of milk is aiding the process.

I got rid of the monkey, but now there's this albatross on my back. And it's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just a thing. A thing I'm not sure what to do with, where to keep. I am not capable of eluding a high-speed pursuit. I'm not capable of anything faster than the ticking of my watch sitting on my dresser to the left of my head. Quite frankly, I'm too sore to do anything but sink into bed tonight. This typing business is just a promise I made to myself, one of the few and true minority.

Citronella candles don't work as well as advertised, but I'm going to buy them anyway. Sometimes I bet the slow horse since I know it will lose. That knowledge is comforting. Almost as comforting as the smell of those burning yellow tins will be, even without the sound of the ancient bug zapper going off in the back of my head. My father and my neighbor shared one. Its bright blue light symbolized all being right in the world back then. It hung right on the property line behind the last peach tree. I hated the peach trees, the fruit would fall and I'd have to clean it all up and the bees would swarm 'round my six-year-old head. That's the head I miss most. It was smarter in knowing less. You don't appreciate good head 'til it's gone. And now I hate my father instead of the peach trees. He cut them down when I got old enough to tell him what I thought of picking up the fruit.

If you have to ask if there's something wrong, there probably is.

But at least the Easter Bunny made the rain hold out 'til night time for once. He's not such a bad guy sometimes, despite moments of humanity.


Frank 6:13

Thou shalt not love anyone as much thou love thine self.


It didn't stay in Vegas.

The sky pissed down as two cops smoked in their squad car.
A Hispanic man pushed a perambulator down the wet sidewalk.

I'm left to wonder which was the greater crime.

Perhaps it was the rain soaking the living room furniture
that someone had left by the side of the road
for the next day-sleeper to sequester.

But we've all done worse for a Klondike Bar
between overhead lights and landing strips
so let's play by the house rules
and fetch our seconds for the duel.

Here I am, laughing at you
not with you
denying the fact that Sin's always ugly.
Satan slept on my sofa once, followed me ever since.

Now, for the love of God
will you all stop calling me Michael?

Coitus Interruptus

We lay in bed on a lazy Sunday morning
with shades drawn and lights out.
She closes her smoky eyes and tilts her head back
for a yawn. My right index fingers darts towards her face
as if by second nature, shoves itself into her uncovered mouth
in an attempt to tickle her tonsils, maybe make her gag.
It's a game I've played for a long time.

She bites down hard, harder than ever before
but I can't let out a sound.
When I finally get my finger back
I see the red indentations left by her flawless teeth
between my first and second knuckles
like temporary reminders of a permanent pain.
It's a game I've played for a long time, but still haven't perfected.



Their points can be valid
their pen-strokes perfect
their cadence and word choice
grossly familiar

but you'll still be expected
to loathe the faceless fraud
whose notes have tainted
the book's margins since
long before you ever dreamed
of getting your grubby little hands
on the fucker.


Weekly Jobsite Safety Meeting #341

"Jesus, Dave. This coffee tastes like shit."

"That's what you get for short-changing me again."

"The union's turning out some lousy apprentices."

"It's hard to find good help these days."

"You hear what happened to Raskey?"


"Not that. Most of the guys in our local have at least one of those."

"So what'd he do now?"

"Got his nuts all twisted up."

"What do you mean? He's always bent outta shape."

"He did it for real this time...well, his girlfriend did."

"How the hell?..."

"She got a little over-zealous with her hands."

"He OK?"

"They had to open his ballbag up surgically and untangle them."

"The members should send him a Get Well card."

"No way, Kid. Would you want one?"

"Good point."

"Keep it to yourself. I only told you this for your own benefit."

"I'll never ask the Old Lady to cup the balls again..."

"Get married. The situation won't ever even present itself."

"You're a real ray of sunshine, Earl. Be a fountain, not a drain."

"You and your Goddamn plumbing puns, Shakespeare."

"That's what you get for ruining my coffee break."

"That's what you get for ruining my coffee."

"Raskey's got it worse."


No homo.

Real love is
putting another man's socks and underwear
in the dryer for him--
not in the washer machine, though;
that's just gay.