An early sign went undetected.

Over on the neighbor's porch
there's a cat that's been pacing
in the two inches of snow (and counting)
trying to scratch its way
through the sliding-glass door.

If only it were eleven already
I'd be watching with a drink in hand
and a chuckle in my gut
well aware of my status
according to the experts.

Embrace what you are.
It's all you've got.


trite and rote in equal parts

"It's like green eggs
and ham," she said.
"You love it or
you hate it."

The cavalry?:
A laugh.
A fairytale to put kids to sleep.

Like breaking plans with friends
and dodging family functions...

What a perfect word.

And what am I
to mention now?
Lots of the best
has come from Here
but I can't rack my brain
for the strokes that won't be coming.
The lights? The sirens? The whores?
I can find them anywhere, and have.

I'd rather hide out
between blanket and fan
waiting for the night shift to end.
Take me home, Montezuma.
You can drive my truck; I'll sleep.

"It's more like that cartoon," he sighed.
"An elephant's promise:
one hundred percent."


sans confectionary

In certain lighting
and from certain angles
I swear I'm back in time
though I darenot say where

...was the son of a preacher man.

Charlie dragged me along
to a lot of his Born Again functions
when I was a child too young to say No.
Playing catch in the yard
during weekend visitation
was not to be expected; "revivals",
"retreats", "seminars", "conferences"
and many other synonyms
for "Holy Roller nonsense"
were. I saw people "speak in tongues"
and pretend to pass out
when the traveling magicians
would lay their annointed hands
upon the sinners' heads.
In retrospect it was disgusting--
the farce of all farces
based on insecurity.

It seemed each guest speaker
each "minister"
(and I'll refrain from further
quotation marks to avoid redundancy
though you can assume they
are implied)
had some gimmick to set
him apart from the last prophet
or apostle to roll through town:
a new mantra for weak souls
to live by, a fresh-pressed pinstripe suit
or a direly important word from the Man Upstairs.

But it dawned on me today
some ten years since
I've set foot in a church
for anything other than
a secular tradition
that all of those men
had one thing in common:

breath so bad it
would've raised Lazarus.


Snow behind closed doors.

The bedroom door was locked
for a few disheartening minutes
at the party's drunken zenith--
it raised several stiff eyebrows
among the dizzy cocktail crowd.

"What's going on in there?"
a drinking buddy asked me.

"No idea," I lied, sucking harder at my rum.

The truth would've made me
seem quite the sudden hypocrite;
I prefer the slow-burn method:
such a tasteful crucifixion.

When the door opened again
we saw the tell-tale mirror compact
as it checked for evidence
but pretended not to notice.

"They were discussing Christmas presents,"
I fibbed through crooked teeth, well aware
he didn't give a damn about my gifts or me.
"All top-secret stuff."

That second line wasn't a stretch.

It's harder to feign naivety
than it is an air of splendor.


Take your pills.

Herbert Krinkstrom sipped what was left of the instant coffee he'd made and put the empty mug down on the night stand. His wife, Marlene, had recently made him switch to decaf. A mound of pillows supported him as he leaned back against his bedroom wall and sighed to himself. He knew Marlene be coming home soon. That woman was like clockwork. If only he could have a few more minutes of peace.

"Herb? Herb, why isn't the water running?" came her shrill voice through the foyer. She had barely been in the house for five seconds before she noticed his failure to comply. Could she hear the plumbing's silence through the brick exterior walls of their house? "Herbert, you know I like my bath at eight-thirty. Why can't you manage to get anything right?" Her words trailed off as she disappeared into other regions of their brownstone in search of nits to pick regarding the many short-comings of Herbert's less-than-productive day.

"Guilty, your honor..." he whispered to himself as he scrambled down the hall to draw her bath.

"What was that?" Marlene shrieked from some unknown location. "Herbert, I may have to start leaving you a list on the refrigerator. If this marriage is going to work, then..."

But he'd already closed the bathroom door behind him; gingerly, of course.

Herbert Krinkstrom sat on the edge of the cast-iron tub with his wrist under the faucet. If Marlene sprung through the door and caught him ignoring the water's temperature it'd be curtains for his evening. The detective program he'd planned on watching later on that night would no longer be for his viewing pleasure. If Herbert didn't straighten out his act, and quickly, Marlene would force him to watch her shopping shows. He knew this from prior experience.

The tub was finally three-quarters of the way full so Herbert withdrew his wet wrist and turned off the tap. Steam rose from the tub in what appeared the be the same rhythm as his heartbeat. Was he having another anxiety attack? Marlene wouldn't like it if she had to take him to the hospital again...

Rising to his feet, he reached for the make-up mirror on the vanity. It was a free-standing round affair, a thin rim of blue glass surrounding its circumference. The glass was dull and smooth like it had been washed by years of waves. Herbert though back to the sea-glass he and Marlene found on the beach during their honeymoon. It seemed like ages ago. He smiled briefly, until he remembered how that vacation ended.

Herbert lifted the round mirror to his face for the first time ever. To his horror his nose appeared to be elongated and bulging at the sides, his pores dark caverns filled with unflattering bodily oils. It must be magnified on this side, he thought to himself as he flipped the mirror around. Why would women want to intensify their flaws? No wonder they had insecurity issues. No wonder he was so miserable. No wonder half the male population of the city seemed to be homosexual.

"Herbert, stop zoning out with my mirror and fetch me some fresh towels," Marlene nagged. He hadn't even heard the bathroom door open. Maybe that doctor was right. The episodes seemed to be getting worse. No one would have to know about the prescription. No one but Marlene, of course.

"Sorry, dear," he plaintively replied. "I'll be right back."

By the time Herbert returned from the linen closet his wife was already in the tub. Five years into their marriage they stopped making love, eight years in she stopped undressing in front of him, and now she barely admitted to having a vagina at all. As long as things flowed undisruptedly Herbert didn't mind so much. He'd gone without sex for most of his youth; he could manage again in middle-age.

"Marlene, I...I'm sorry to have to ask this, but I really have to..."

"Oh, go ahead and use the toilet, you brute. You had all day to urinate! Why'd you have to wait for me to get home? You know how important my bath is to me, but you completely forgot to have it ready. Now I'll have to hurry if I'm going to catch the beginning of my shopping program..."

Checkmate. The shopping show. If a life-sized queen were in the room he would've knocked it over, preferably right onto his loving wife reclining in the tub.

"...and make sure you sit down while you do your business. I don't want to hear that awful tinkling sound while I'm trying to unwind after a hard day's work. Work. Ha! Remember when you used to do that, Herbert?"

His blood pounded in his temples as he sat on the toilet seat biting his lower lip until he tasted copper. The blow-dryer was still plugged into the outlet next to the sink. Maybe he could toss it into the tub and make it look like an accident. Hell, even prison would be better than this, he thought.

Once the final drop was squeezed he stood and buttoned his pants. It'd only be two hours until he got to go to sleep. That was the only thing keeping him from a jury of his peers and a twenty-year sentence in a medium security country club.

"You're not going to leave that in there, are you?" Marlene asked snidely, shattering Herbert's pleasurable prison fantasy. "Flush that vile stuff!"

"Sorry, my love," Herbert replied in a tone far from autonomous. He pushed the lever down and the contents of the bowl splashed out onto his leg as the violent flush cycle commenced.

"Now look at what you've done to your pants, you slob!" Marlene yelled, her hair lathered with shampoo. "You've truly gotten worse, Herbert. These zombie spells of yours are starting to worry me. Maybe it's time..."

He wasn't listening anymore. His Happy Place descended onto his consciousness like a warm blanket. Seaweed, Herbert thought to himself. He wanted to be reborn as a tiny clump of seaweed waving gently on the ocean floor. Even at the Jersey Shore.

"...and when you're done putting those filthy pants in the laundry basket why don't you go and call that plumber friend of yours and see if he can come fix our toilet tomorrow?"

"Joe's not in town, Marlene. He and his wife went..."

"Oh, for crying out loud! Enough with the excuses. Why can't I have a normal marriage with a responsible husband who takes me on vacations like Mrs....Mrs...What's Joe's last name again? Herbert? Herbert, come back here!"

As he cut the cable connection behind the television set Herbert Krinkstrom smiled knowing he didn't have any electrician friends. Marlene would have to lie through her lipstick tomorrow on her coffee break at work when the other women chatted about those stupid shopping shows.


The barristas sighed in unison, rolling bloodshot eyes.

"Babe, that's him!" I said
almost choking on my
Chocolate Truffle Espresso.

"Who?" she asked
turning around in her seat.

"Albert Taylor," I answered.
She knew the name well.
I'd mentioned him every time
we passed the McDonald's on
Eighth Ave where Albert and I met
three months ago at four in the morning.
I'd been chasing shots of Sambuca
with gin-and-tonics for five hours;
he'd been talking to himself
in busy fast-food restaurants
for a few decades.
Somehow the playing field
was leveled.

When I stumbled through
the Golden Arches
in a non-discerning search
for breakfast food or cheeseburgers
Albert caught my ear, my heart, my liver.
He was muttering to himself about
Xerxes, Thebes, Alexander the Great.
A sheet of music and three wrinkled
newspapers sat on the table
in front of him, a cup of black coffee
in his left hand.

Al was one of those intriguing black men
who could've been anywhere from fifty
to seventy-five. His melon-colored button-down
meshed nicely with the pinstripe suit he wore
and his gnarled, broken teeth sat between
his heavy lips making him resemble
a jabbering hippopotamus.
I sat across from him for at least two hours
listening to his passionate soliloquies
as I ate my Deluxe Breakfast Platter
washed down with orange juice from concentrate.
Twice I offered to buy him something
perhaps a refill for his Joe
but he fervently declined.
All Albert wanted as a soul to talk to, or at
and I was in no shape to refuse
let alone walk back and figure out
which of the three keys
opened their three respective locks
to her apartment.

By the time I managed to escape
the sun was coming up over
the jagged city skyline.
He was talking about the laws of Logic
after my failed attempt to explain the
Law of Syllogism when I finally interjected:
"Albert, the Law of Woman says I'd better
be getting home before mine starts to worry."
He kept on rambling as I rose and donned my coat.
I'd done my part in terms of exiting politely.
He'd done his in helping me sober up a bit.
The odds were in my favor again.

When I told her about my fascinating encounter
she shook her head and said I shouldn't
talk to crazy strangers while drunk
and alone in public. The beauty of
the scene was lost in my poor explanation
as is often the case with my limited abilities.

But now the man was back.
Out of seven million people
bustling about the Isle of Manhattan
I had chanced to stumble upon
this unmistakable individual yet again.
It seemed a gift from God.

"I want to say Hi," I told her
with naive enthusiasm.

"Don't bother. He won't remember you,"
she said snidely between sips.

"I know that. But I remember him.
Come on, I'll introduce you."

"Don't you dare..."

The conversation drifted elsewhere though
my eyes kept drifting back
to Albert's progress through the room.
All the seats were taken
at the overpriced chain coffeehouse
and that was all he'd come for.
After one disheartening lap throughout
the shop he made his way for the front door
and walked back out into the brisk night.
His lips didn't stop moving once
while he was amongst us. Albert
was just as certifiably nuts
as the first time I'd seen him, not that
this came as a surprise.
Part of me was glad to see the man
was still kicking. I thought of
how ridiculous I must've looked that night
sitting at his table listening intently
to all he had to say. Who was truly
the one out of his mind in that scenario?

"I should've said something," I groaned
shortly after his departure. "It's such
a random coincidence to be seeing him again
that it seems like a waste of fate not to act on it."

"No. You're better off leaving him alone."

Too many people already have in his lifetime, I thought.

We left it at that and went back to talk
of Russian literature
and all its confusing characters
and sub-plots. It seemed much
less substantial, though.
Dostoevsky spun in his grave.

Next time, Al.
Next time.

Currently reading:
"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson


The Lab

We were probably too young
to be playing with it
but my mother wasn't about
to confiscate a crazy aunt's
Christmas gift from a ten-year-old.
Besides, limiting the play area
to the back patio of our condo
meant less work for her
when it came time to do laundry--
no more mucky swamps
pricker bushes leaving thorns in clothes
socks drenched with murky pond water.
She didn't mind me inviting friends over
to play with the chemistry set out back
as long as I didn't make a mess.

The first thing we did when opening the box
was toss aside any and all enclosed literature.
A guided study of the chemical world
was not what we sought. Come to think of it
none of us knew what we were looking for
other than an alternate way to waste an afternoon.
We'd seen mad scientists mixing unknown substances
on TV shows and in movies before, what further
instruction could we possibly need?

The company did us the favor of dyeing
the six different substances bright and varied colors.
It made our pointless experimental endeavours
seem more dangerous and meaningful
when the crystals and powders
we spooned into tests tubes
were vivid reds and neon yellows.
Once we'd mixed a few together
and added some of the provided distilled water
it all turned brown, of course.
And when that special water ran out
we stole some from my mother's
bottle of spring water in the refrigerator.

I'd venture to say that the manufacturer's biggest
mistake was including the candle.
Matches were still illicit and coveted items
to children of our young age.
We were ardently preventing forest fires
as per one famous Bear's advice
and some of us still said our prayers at night.
All of that stigma could be disregarded
in the name of science, though.
Most of the concoctions we created
were boiled at some point, the metal tongs
provided in the kit being used to hold
the test tubes over the candle's flame.
One time when my buddy held the glass
too close to the fire the test tube quickly
blackened and exploded. We cleaned up
the evidence of our exciting blunder
and thanked our lucky stars that our
potion was not potent enough to blow off a hand.
Later on in life that friend of mine
became much more proficient with chemicals.

But when the powders and flakes and test tubes
ran out, so did our fun playing scientist.
Back to the woods to play Rambo, back to
the swamp to catch frogs.
All we cured with our brief stint in research
was a case of the Sunday Afternoon Blues.
At ten years old
what else could we have asked for?

His Masterpiece.

"Are you interested in pictures?" he asked
after catching me staring at the wall
of his apartment which he'd plastered
with the one person we had in common.
He politely left the implied "...of my daughter"
part out of his question. There's a grace
that must only come with gray, or so I thought.

"Yes. Please."

He led me into his room
where even more photographs
of his children, mostly his youngest
lined the perimeter. It was like
being on holy ground, or the inside
of a submarine.

"Here...this is me as an infant...right
above her baby picture."

Daddy's Little Girl, alright.
I almost chuckled at the symbolism
but couldn't cheapen his shrine
once I saw his silly grin.
We continued to admire
thirty years of beauty
framed throughout his room.

"God...that hair. It breaks my heart."

"You like her with long hair?"

"I like her either way, but yes.
How it was when we met."

"I like it short," he said
and once again I felt out-numbered.

We shared a few brief silent moments
absorbing her smile until he interjected--

"This one was taken at Universal Studios
when she was seeing that guy who..."

"Please don't," I begged, waving my hand
in his stubborn direction. It was no use.

"Oh, no. It's fine. She was with this..."
he continued with his signature lack
of social tact, let alone remorse.
She was right: he really was oblivious.
I pulled a trick from my former life as an amphibian
and sealed my ears to keep out the bad.
The past. The ones who did her wrong.
We stumbling knights in tarnished armor
always hate the men in ten-gallon black hats.

"How about her lovely tan in this one?"
I asked in a desperate attempt
to change the subject
that he was so adamant about clarifying.

"That's when she lived in LA with her brother."

"She's gorgeous," I said in a tone humbled by beauty.

"That's my girl."

I could've chimed in self-inclusively, but opted
to let him have that one to himself.
The photos proved he'd earned it.
Someday I'll ask if he thinks I could, too.


Love Poem, Redux

Most times
I'm not with you
I just wear
a hat.


I'd offer to help, but...

I'm not sure if it's his brother
or an in-law who's doing it
but someone has been taking
my recently deceased neighbor's
slacks and dress shirts
out to his garage
all morning.

Every twenty minutes or so
he takes a smoke break on the steps
looking out across the lawn
at what the buried man had built.
I wonder if he knows
that I know
what he's thinking.

It's a task that'll help the widow cope.

I hope I find a friend like that.
I hope they throw the clothes away.
Donation's overrated.

He's out there now, taking short drags
and talking to himself.
It's forty degrees, but he's wearing short sleeves.
The bald spot's slowly growing.
He's wondering who's next.
He just caught me staring.

The daring young squirrel on the flying trapeze.

The summer before last
was an odd one
if for no other reason
than the squirrel
that broke into our house
several times.
It chewed through the screens
of open kitchen windows
plundering whatever dry food
it could find on the shelf.
One time I came home from work
and froze as soon as I saw it
poised and ready
on the kitchen counter.
It scrambled back through
the hole it had made
after our five-second locked-eye showdown.
Truth be told I was just as startled as it was.

Casey finally managed to shoot one
with his pellet gun after
hours dedicated to the stalk.
Another screen was detroyed a week later
thus telling us an innocent party
had been executed.
Whether the death set an example
or the burglar squirrel found a new
house to terrorize we never found out
but the break-ins ceased shortly thereafter.
It was a good thing, too.
The next plan of action was one
a bit less discerning than the
single-squirrel assassination.

Casey called his dad in Virginia
who told him a story about the time
he wiped out the yard's squirrel population.
He let some oranges ferment in the garage
and threw them on the lawn
once the alcohol content was able to be smelled.
The squirrels ate the intoxicating fruit, returned to
the branches they inhabited, then proceeded
to plummet to the ground once the
booze ran its course through their veins.
Apparently their impaired motor coordination and blurred vision
made it hard to maneuver from limb to limb
and when they leapt and missed and fell thirty feet
it was no wonder that their cute little necks snapped.
Although the rodents went out with a buzz
and probably never felt a thing
it sounds a bit barbaric and I'm glad
it didn't come down to that.

We still can't open half the windows
in the kitchen because of the gaping holes
in the screens left by that one summer's tyrant.
That animal left its mark, alright.
It's more than some of us will ever be able to say.
But it's two in the afternoon and I can smell myself.
Maybe it's time to shower and stop this reminiscing.


It snowed through the night
and early that
but by five
in the evening
there was a rare
December thunderstorm
that meant something
to someone
or maybe
all of us.

Threadbare lush
in the belly
of the beast--
your fatal flaw
was falling in
love with that

The Japanese have a word
for it:
It means "Die well."

Duelling scars, duelling scars.
They can't take those
from you.

Currently reading:
"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho


7 deadly texts to myself on the tail end of the Express.

The train stops and she gathers her things. I'm surprised-- doesn't look like the Harlem type. The black guy behind her stands, too. He does.

They exchanged numbers earlier. Maybe now they're off to his place to exchange fluids. I turn my head to the dark window as they approach...

Catching one last glimpse of her straight black hair and piercing blue eyes in the reflection. She looks like a Russian model...

Sounds like a raspy-voiced gift from God. I inhale deeply as she passes in an effort to identify her perfume, but...

It doesn't come. My head's turned away to see her; I can't breathe her, too. Though isn't that what Life is? Choosing to see or to breathe?

The chapter ends. I close the book. My choice is made every day: She's waiting at Grand Central for me, smiling like a schoolgirl.

I hope the two of them have fun tonight. Knowing what you decide not to have keeps that grass on the other side brown. It's got nothing to do with Luck.


Proposition 27

Any decent mind would be lying if it didn't admit to pondering how to pull off the perfect crime at least once. That's what keeps most people from acting on the basest of impulses to commit sins against their fellow man: the fear of being caught. Don't let talk of moral fiber fool you; it's strictly the threat of punishment, loss, and shame that keep us in line with society's rules.

You're in a big city, say Manhattan, walking behind someone. Through some strange sixth sense they feel your presence. Out of 7 million people, you're suddenly the only one who matters. You pass them at next corner, let them see your back. Give them that false peace of mind. Men have made millions doing the same. Then, once they feel comfortable again and take the lead, you strike...

But it's not as simple as that, killer. Like any game, like any play, there are roles, characters. Each one plays an integral part, and a poor casting job in any category can strafe the plan like a Spitfire. Let me break it down.

The Donor: If you're going to do this you have to be able to justify those eyes in the mirror. Don't make a victim of the person you're about to rob. View their loss as a donation to a cause, your cause, the most honorable charity around. Sizing up the Donor is crucial. Never let it be a woman. Ordinary citizens, even the meekest of men, turn into Batman if a damsel's in distress. Now that we've narrowed it down to the less-fair sex, Does he look like he's packing heat? Is that middle-aged Hasidic gentleman going to pull a pistol from an ankle holster hidden beneath the cuff of his black slacks? It's illegal to own a firearm in the City, let alone carry it concealed. Does he look like someone who would disregard that law? Does he have too much to lose if he's caught with a piece?, or could he buy his way out of trouble? And how would he handle the Handoff? Would he chase the Runner to try to regain possession of his bag?, or is he smart enough to stick with the Picker and try to have him caught and arrested? Runner? Picker? We'll get to them, don't worry.

The Picker: This is you, pal, if you're smart. First and foremost an analyzer of men, the Picker must select the right target. Part psychologist, part ruffian, part escape artist. He must know who and when to strike, how to overpower the Donor without lethal means, and, most importantly, how to disappear once the Handoff is made. A non-descript black jacket should be worn under a vividly colored coat, maybe a hat in one pocket. Once the Handoff is made and enough distance is placed between the Picker and the Donor to allow for a quick costume change that bright coat can be ditched and the hat can be worn. Anyone looking for a man in a black jacket wearing a hat in a city as busy as Manhattan may as well cut his losses and try to figure out a way to get his charitable donation to count as another tax right-off. Meanwhile, the Picker will be riding the subway peacefully right alongside a uniformed cop on his way home from work, neither of them appearing to notice the other. That look of innocence has to be convincing.

The Runner: He doesn't have the be the brightest, just fast. If the Picker does his job correctly all the Runner will have to do is exactly what his title implies; no thinking, no dealing with a potentially hazardous situation, no split-second judgment calls. A wide receiver whose mother never loved him enough to make sure he stayed in school would be perfect. Young, dumb, and full of...you know the rest. He'll be wearing sneakers, a T-shirt and gym shorts or sweats. This will make it look like he's running home from a work-out, again relieving any suspicions. The Runner will also carry a gym bag to put the Donor's parcel in once out of sight of any immediate witnesses. This, too, disguises the crime. The Runner must be able to be trusted, possibly even a bit naive-- just smart enough to know that trying to cut the Picker out of the score will not end well for him, and loyal enough to meet up at the Rendezvous Point once the smoke has cleared.

The Rendezvous Point will not be the home of the Picker or Runner. That would raise too many questions, draw too much attention, allow for too much interference from uninvolved parties such as friends, family, and significant others. Instead they are to meet at a pre-determined movie theater where they'll each buy one ticket, cash, for the least popular film playing an hour before the reels are to roll and find seats in the back row. There, in the dimness of the theater, the Score will be divided. It's best for the Picker and Runner to meet shortly after the hit is made. Stacks of statistical anecdotes prove that a Runner in sole possession of the Donation for too much time is more likely to do something foolish. A gold-digging girlfriend may make poor suggestions, the little devil on his shoulder may get the best of him, a temporary lack of clear thinking may lead him to believe that the Picker would hesitate to hunt him down in a heartbeat. After all, he selected him as a partner in the venture with the possibility of that happening in mind. What's that they say about keeping friends close?

And then, of course, there is the inevitable. Come on, you've seen enough mob movies to know what happens in the back of that dark theater before the law-abiding patrons show up. I'll leave that part up to your imagination, though. I've laid enough out for you already. Suffice it to say that the Picker wore such a wide-brimmed hat for a reason, as security camera analysts will later find out.

It's been ten weeks since I've worked. The bills are piling up, the upcoming holidays are hard on my wallet, and I've had too much time to think.

So here it is, the obvious question:

Do I know any good sprinters who can be trusted?

No need for a fence.

All day long they came and went;
from the safety of my elevated window
I watched the procession of big dark sedans
park in front of the neighbor's house spewing
sharply dressed septuagenarians with shoes freshly polished
clothing coal black, hair tombstone gray.
The way that they carried themselves proved they were cops
or had been at one time. The way that men congregated
in the driveway told me that something had gone wrong.
People don't stop to chat outside in the cold
unless there's a reason, something to know before going in:
how it happened, how the family's holding up, what not to say.

Even a patrol car or two stopped by, potential speeding tickets
be damned.

All those cops in one place clarified what had happened.
They were paying their respects.
When a police officer goes it's a big deal.
A Fraternal Order indeed.

Richard was a retired cop.
Rumor has it he chased around my buddy's dad years back.
The stroke he'd had ten years ago forced him to leave the force.
The cigarettes he continued to smoke against doctor's orders
took him out of the game in one sense, kept him in it in another;
at least he was still doing it his way.
That's more than most can say.
And he didn't give a damn that his moustache was jet black
while his hair a mottled gray. He walked around his property
thinking and smoking and kicking up leaves
without a worry as to what it all could've meant.
He'd put his time in. He'd served.
What else did they want from him?

This may be the first thing written in your honor
aside from a modest obituary in a paper people only read
for lack of a better one. I apologize for its shortcomings
as would I like to say I'm sorry for that party early on
where your wife came knocking on our door, or my failure
to shut the blinds a few times, and I'm pretty sure
there were several instances where I could've waved
as you drove by in your boxy twenty-five-year-old car
but didn't.

Light one up for me, Rich.
I'll keep my eye on the place for ya'.

Currently reading:
"Lucky Jim" by Kingsley Amis.


The one from Arizona's better off.

Googled myself on the interweb
for sobering shits and ha-has
only to find that I played
in a lot of lousy bands as a kid
and for the Navy's football team.

I'll go with the latter half
and pat myself on the back
for keeping a family tradition alive.

I'll stick to what I know next time.


Don't fall for the peanut butter.

We hear a loud snap
in the next room
followed by the sound
of wood and hardware
bouncing off the floor.

I stop what I'm doing.
She stops what she's doing.

"There goes the mouse trap,"
I say from beneath the sheets.

"Go make sure it's dead,"
she replies, her breath catching up with her.

"No. I don't want to. It'll make me sad."

I go back to what I was doing.
She goes back to what she was doing.

Five minutes later her thighs deafen me.
We've won again.

In the morning I go into the bathroom
to take a leak
and find the mouse belly-up
its head hidden under the trap.
I'm thankful not to see its face.

It was a good night
for some of us.

The rest broke even.


The Home Team

We'd already been playing cards
for three half-drunk hours when it happened--
there was no way to call the tie
without the aid of Rock Paper Scissors.

The two of us threw the same
for six consecutive rounds.
When the seventh came
and my paper covered his rock
he leaned back in my kitchen chair
immediately falling to the floor
when it exploded underneath him.
The rest of us joined him on the ground
rolling around in laughter
till the tears came.

Turns out we still think a lot alike
though in the long run
I'm not so sure
that I'm the one
who won.

You take what you can get sometimes.


Faulty Zookeeping

It's as inevitable
as Death and Taxes
that one day I'll come
home to the cat
dragging the rabbit's corpse
around by the back of its neck
the gate dividing their two realms
having been knocked down
by the persistent predator.

Who's fault will it be?
Mine? God's?
Certainly not the cat's.

I'll have to
chalk it up
to the advice in
the Serenity Prayer.

She must feel it coming--
Her ears just spread apart
and her nose stopped twitching.

Sorry, friend.
It's been real.


Like a bird trapped in the grocery store.

And I could write
of bathroom ties
or what the survey really said:

The twenty pounds scared off of me;
begged and bound we fell from grace.

You should've lied
the first two times--
found another number.

Dragging feet through No-Man's-Land
I find this message in the sand:

You can take your brogue
and shove it.


There's arsenic in apple seeds.

It's a full-mooned Tuesday night
that'd blend in with the rest
if my roommate hadn't asked me
if I'd heard the choppers

The President's in town
giving a speech at West Point
trying to justify his decision
to send 36,000 troops overseas
when he initially promised
to Bring 'em Home.

Any voter worth his lead knows
that vows made in No-Man's-Land
don't count.

I turn off my bedroom light
and crouch down low enough
to get a good view through my window.
There's nothing but the whir
of the rotors and a dazzling white face
made of astral cheese.

Another liar in the sky.

I go back to my book
and stroke my semi-automatic.
Just another night stockpiling ammo
waiting for the other shoe
to drop.

A friendly suggestion.

There's a junk sale
passed off as an antique-oriented street market
that goes on one block up
from her window every weekend.
The vendors come from Massachusetts.
The locals there must be onto their ruse.

I strolled through the tents and tables
two weeks ago to kill an hour
while she slept off the previous night's shift.
Bought a table vice for fifteen bucks
that'll hold my pistols just right
while I work on them.
Flipped through some "vintage" clothing racks.
Read spines of books I'll never bother to read.

But it's the guy I overheard
at the last table I stopped in front of
who stands out most in my mind now.
He was chatting up a merchant
about something other than his wares
and said "If I'm going to put something
on my tombstone it's going to be Try."

His words hit me like a laughable ton of bricks
forcing me to rub the tattoo of the boxer
on the back of my left arm. That image
along with the words "Don't Try" are on
the marble above Charles Bukowski's grave
somewhere in Southern California.
Whether the brief advice was a typically
cynical notion of my wine-guzzling anti-hero
or a positive Yoda-esque message of
"Try not. Do." is something that could ruffle the panties
of book snobs worldwide at faculty cocktail parties.
My bet's on the first horse, though.

Hank-- the next time I see you in the streets of Manhattan
will you take the time to say Hello?
These clowns don't have a clue.