The Strangest Science

"Why are you getting dressed?" she asks him. It's pitifully obvious that she's concerned about him backing out of the deal and leaving before morning. Her promise of sunrise coming through the window at the head of her bed wasn't enticing. To him it was a threat.

"I'm not," he gruffly replies, throat hoarse from exhaustion, too many cigarettes and a loud second climax. "I'm only putting my shorts on." He knows his answer won't suffice. He knows a lot more than he lets on, but doesn't let it stop him.

As predicted, his explanation doesn't satisfy her as well as various parts of his body did. They were both naked a minute ago while they laid waste to the sanctity of her bedroom. What changed? She pulls the top sheet over the dark form of her exposed body. A swimmer once; he can tell from the shoulders, arms, hips. It's got to be the fifth one he's landed. The type must gravitate toward him. There were a few state champs in the mix. One broke the other's record, but he never had the heart to tell either. It was strange seeing both of their names on the wall at the high school pool when he worked that summer renovation job. Irony's never lost on the observant.

"But I'm naked. And what if in the middle of the night we want to..." but he doesn't let her finish.

"But what if in the middle of the night someone busts the door down," he jokes. "Have you ever seen a man with no clothes on win a fight? It's unlikely." There's a guy in his union who took a drunken sucker-punch in the back of the head while using a urinal at a bar. As soon as his face bounced off the tile he spun around and swung at his assailant, his arm not the only appendage flailing about in the dim light of the men's room. Who won the fight was never part of the story, but it was enough to make him put the bottle down for good. For better. For best. Looking at the towering, lanky whisp of a man you'd never guess he was a barroom brawler. It's the ones who don't look the part you've got to worry about. It's the innocent girls who curl the most toes behind the blinds. This broad doesn't have any. The neighbors must watch with popcorn. He feels bold enough to ask her. There's nothing to lose anymore. He's gained the highest prize twice over. A dismissal would come as a blessing.

"There's an old ex-convict who lives across the street. He told me he saw that I was cutting people's hair and asked if I'd do his. When he realized how bad it sounded that he'd been looking through my windows he tried to back-track, but it only made it worse."

"So did you cut his hair?"

"Yeah. And he came back to tighten the bolts on my table and chairs afterward since he noticed they were wobbly."

It seems the perfect introduction to an episode of a syndicated detective show. Creep befriends attractive young neighbor. Strumpet disappears. Investigators beat around the obvious bush for the course of an hour minus five commercials. Mystery is finally solved. Justice system fails again through legal loophole regarding collection of evidence. The world is still a dangerous place. Dinner was digested more pleasantly somehow, though. The set is turned off, the alarm clock is set. America goes to bed with a million less brain cells.

"I hope the camera doesn't really put on ten pounds," he says as he waves out the window at the building facing her apartment. She coughs out an accidental laugh and slaps his hand playfully. It almost feels like they know each other for a fleeting moment. The illusion dissipates as fast as it came.

She rolls one leg over him at a time and gets up to use the bathroom. The elastic waistband of his boxers occupy his thumbs as he lays there uncomfortably. It's a relief that she didn't question it further. Forget about kindness. Kill them with laughter, even at your expense. The truth is that he can't feel safe if unclothed in that vulnerable state. There had only been two he could sleep next to naked. He's unsure which was the bigger mistake, trusting them or letting them go.

A familiar chorus plays in the living room where the internet radio was left on for ambience and remains for unwanted nostalgia. "But the truth is I miss you," condemns him in that nasally British croon which spat out four albums, three of which were decent. He can't take the torture, throws the covers off to go nix the noise. When he returns from his silencing trip to the living room he hears the taboo sound of water falling into water through the thin bathroom door and wonders how much of him is leaving her body. All of it, he hopes. There's no room for attachment in a hermit's crusade. It was a pleasant change of scenery, but if home is where the heart is then he lives in another's hands.

By the time she gets done removing her contacts he's already snoring on his stomach, the way he's slept since infancy. His underwear seems higher than when she left the room. It's too dark for her to notice that he's drooling on the pillow. She dozes off shortly afterward, their backs just barely touching. It's the most that one can ask for when compromised with a stranger.

He'll be gone before her alarm clock goes off at 8 a.m. That sunrise won't get the chance to sting his weary eyes. He knows himself too well to risk that. He's working on knowing the world. Their bodies differ in size and shape, but mostly feel the same; their minds are occupied with the wrong questions, let alone answers; their hearts leave much to be desired even though, unlike their lips, they're in the right places. Still, the search fills the days that work used to dictate. It's a tiring job that he reluctantly accepts.


Found and Bound Thermopylae

"Open up or we're breeching the door!" yelled the SWAT cop in Leonard's hallway. There were probably five or six more behind him. It seemed like a shallow threat. All threats were shallow in one way or another if Leonard stopped and thought about it. He didn't like to think about it. It made his head hurt worse than it already did. The voices made so many threats that Leonard had to tune them out somehow. He preferred using classical music, it allowed him to write without bias.

"We'll give you to the count of ten," barked the team leader again. It was hard to respect a man who needed a half-dozen heavily armed thugs standing behind him in order to have the nerve to give orders. Leonard yawned, lit what he figured would be his last cigarette. Funny, he thought, this is the first time I've smoked inside this apartment. It was also not a count of ten, but a countdown from that ominous number. Maybe the commander had read the manual wrong, or at least that part of the script. Leonard took a deep drag and exhaled through his nostrils. He'd never done that before either.

"Don't make us do this, sir," pleaded the adrenaline fueled policeman. Leonard could hear the fear in his voice. He recalled what that quavering tone had sounded like. "We don't want to have to neutralize any threats. Ten..." They must've read up on him, known what he was capable of doing if cornered by the wrong pack of wolves. Leonard was a dog, but they fought just as hard when desperate. He choked on the smoke in his lungs. "Neutralizing threats" was another great euphemism to come from modern-day warfare, much like "engaging targets". Leonard had dabbled in both when called upon to do so. In the flash of a shotgun shell primer he'd be reduced to a target, a sheet of paper, something thin and easy to perforate. He hated what politicians had done with the language he'd loved so dearly. He hated a lot of things and people, but somehow the members of the uniformed hit squad sent to neutralize the threat in Apartment 11 weren't among them. They were only doing their jobs. Leonard missed regular work and admired an ambitious career man.

"Nine, eight, seven," came almost on top of each other. The safeties of various firearms clicked off in the dim light of the tenement corridor. Leonard could hear them through the drywall. It reminded him of flashbulbs going off during a photoshoot of yore. There would be no pictures taken at this crime scene. The right folks would see to that. It was, after all, an election year. Messes of that nature hurt men at the polls. Enough men had hurt due to Leonard's decisions. Well, mostly women in the civilian world, he thought to himself. That list of poor girls grew exponentially. He'd find himself inside one of them eventually. It was easier to stick to sins committed on American soil, though the atrocities were there on both sides of the drink; the atrocities and the victims. He pictured a few of the local variety and wondered if they'd be surprised or not when they heard the news of his demise. He figured they wouldn't. Like most dogs, Leonard was shamelessly predictable.

"Six" and "Five" were more reasonably spaced. A firmness returned to the mouthpiece's timbre, perhaps from the weight of the steel in his hands that he suddenly knew he'd be using. Leonard remembered the feeling too well. Men are born killers and fall into the role quite easily. It's an instinct that can't be bred out of the gene pool. He'd witnessed it overseas. It was appalling how vicious his brethren could be. Those women he'd wronged were replaced in his mind's eye by men he fought and bled next to in the name of a nation that didn't understand. Ramirez was an animal. Slaughtered anything that prayed to the east three times a day without mercy whenever there were no superior eyes watching. Leonard remembered when Rammy took his bullet. Mysteriously, though not written in the official report, it had come from behind him. No one in their platoon asked anything. Leonard was decorated for the skirmish and transferred out to a support position. It was one of the last breaks Uncle Sam would give him. It was one of the few favors he'd incurred after twenty. Sometimes the gods smiled down on the hopeless. Most times it rained holy urine.

"Four. We've only got three left," stated the voice of authority too obviously to be feared. The black gloves were tightening around pistol grips and shotun pumps. There may have also been a few mild erections. Those were the guys you avoided at the bar.

"I've got fifteen," Leonard whispered through the butt of his cigarette as he racked the slide of his Glock, not sure if he'd be able to use it this way. After the ninety-day debriefing that the government mandated before sending him home he swore to never raise a barrel to a two-legged creature again. Three months' time to reprogram an assassin. It seemed the most optimistic estimate going. He'd fought, and in many days died, for his country. What could they begrudge him now other than a closet's worth of broken hearts? The cigarette was barely halfway done, but Leonard smashed it out on the coffee table in front of him. He set the Glock down next to his right thigh. A warrior decided when to fight. A dog was forced into action. Leonard would go out like the former. The sound of Axl Rose begging his mother to bury his pistols in the ground rang in his aching skull. As expected in any stressful situation Leonard laughed at the irony. He wrote once, long ago, that he wouldn't mind dying if the right song was playing. Caution should've been taken in the wish-making process. Prophecies, it seemed anymore, were as self-fulfilling as masturbation.

"Three, two," but One was interrupted by distant shouts from a bullhorn down the stairwell.

"Fall back!" cried an officer with a tinge of terror in his throat. "Wrong coordinates." He meant to say "Wrong building" or "Wrong apartment" or "Wrong anything-else-more-appropriate", but in the new age of law enforcement things were strangely paramilitary. Coordinates, especially wrong ones in Leonard's mind, only existed in places with hard-to-pronounce names depicted by satellite maps.

A cacophony of radio activity filled the building as what sounded like dozens of feet marched down the steps. Amateurs, Leonard thought as he dropped the magazine from his pistol and popped the round out of the chamber, catching the brass-cased bullet in mid-air with a swipe of his left hand. He never heard them turn their safeties back on before leaving. There was always something wrong with the world and the scenes played out in it. This frustrated him to no end. Why couldn't he call a few of the shots outside of his third-floor apartment?

Leonard walked across the room and opened a window to let the smoke out into the crisp November air. It was no time to start living slovenly. There were crucial matters at hand. She was waiting for him in the bedroom. She'd almost missed her shot at immortality. Leonard wouldn't deny her that. He'd fought too hard to come home and wouldn't disappoint.


Conductor, There Must Be Some Mistake

They ride the same train
and don't even know it.
It's almost a sin to smirk at that fact.
Those bodies I've been in
share seats and rub elbows
while bouncing along
eyes fixed on the Hudson.

I wonder if one's held the door
for the other like some trite
video for a song long forgotten.
Then it dawns on me
that the doors are automatic.
My fantasy's deflated.
I go back to swirling ice cubes.
This is what happens when rush
and cocktail hours collide.


deep thoughts with dave vargas

the friendly halfrican hipster (not half rican like yours truly, but part black) who lives below me texted me this evening. offered to give me some chili that he and his lovely ladyfriend made in exchange for a cigarette. i, unashamed of being the building's charity case, agreed to said arrangement. met him out front for a smoke, shot the shit about how ludicrous the fairer sex is, gave him one for the road, and took my little tupperware of chili upstairs to my fortress. he texted me ten minutes later asking how it was; the chili, not the bachelor cave. being that i hadn't eaten it yet but wanted to be polite i said it was amazing and thanked him again. (white lies are ok sometimes.) my creative side went a little overboard by adding that the beer i selected for the late-night mini-meal complemented it quite nicely and my palate was overjoyed. (it's the embellishing that gets you in trouble.) the conversation should've ended there, but it didn't. he went on to inform me that turkey meat was used in the making of the chili. at this point i felt misled, even though i'd fibbed as well. in hindsight, i should've responded by frantically saying i'm deathly allergic to poultry, then flopped around on my floor until it sounded like i was about to crash through his ceiling. after laying motionless for awhile he'd probably come upstairs and bang on my door to see if i was alive or not. i'd just laugh and they there on the faux hardwood floor until the conversation which he'd inevitably be having with his charming better half began mentioning key words like 'paramedics', '911', 'manslaughter', and 'alibi'. then i'd yank my door open really abruptly and shout 'just kidding!' i think this would be hilarious, and no i haven't been drinking. but hey, here he is, texting me yet again tonight to inform me that the bartender i'd sign my worldly possessions over to for a shot at marital bliss is currently slinging drinks from behind the oak at the dive next door. my heart says yes, but my wallet says no. it's a quiet night for me, perhaps interspersed with some hypothetical practical jokes at the expense of friendly neighbors. yes, clearly i need help, though if you actually read all this you may be worse off than i am. my condolences.


Jilling Off Linguistically

It doesn't take much faked goading
for him to recite his latest line.
I wait for the rest of it
that doesn't come.
Time freezes as I try to control my face.
I can't. Never could. Bad liar. Better friend.
My mouth is part of it, which
in turn controls my fingers
that so often get me whacked.
"This is why Bukowski didn't roll
with other writers," I think to myself.
It's like watching the home video
of some self-absorbed whiner's abortion.

("Hypocrite," they're thinking now.
At least I only hang my trash out there.
They can choose to rubber-neck
or drive by.)

His plaintive countenance begs for validation.
My guts churn, but not due to the whiskey.
"It's very raw," I say with conviction. Raw
as in undercooked, incomplete, not ready
to breathe air in the open, critical world yet.
"I like it," and this time I mean the cocktail
swimming in my stomach that enhances my
poor acting skills. Most have some strengths.
We all have our weaknesses. The luckiest slobs
mask the one with the other.
I just keep on drinking and try not to hurt
feelings. At some point during the night
he'll buy me a round. It's too early to
burn bridges. I'm not even seeing double yet
and the hounds don't look like wives.

The ice clinks against my glass
as I pray that no more gems are spewed.
My muzzle has a shelf life.
The truth shall set them free
of any delusions of grandeur.
Stay out of the ring if you can't take the hits.
You do this 'cause you have to
or you don't do it all.
Make the old man proud
for once in your life
like you'll never get the chance to again.

Give a man enough rope and he'll hang himself.
Give him enough words and he'll do the same.
And time?
What do you know of time
other than how to waste it?



Some were standing
others crouched
but the sentiment
stayed the same:
the awkward mix
of fascination
and trauma
associated with
those first glints of death.

The animal, whatever it was:
cat, squirrel, puppy without tags--
laid motionless under
a makeshift paper blanket.
"Here, use this. Don't touch it,"
I could almost hear a parent saying.
The headlights of a van
brought the breath of the young crowd
into view, the cold December night
as good as any for a living thing to die.

When the traffic light turned green
it took a beep from behind me
to bring my focus to the road.
There were far more valuable things
being learned on that sidewalk
than in any classroom or tavern
that those kids would ever enter.

I let my foot off the brake
and scanned the faces of the boys
on the outskirts of the mob.
They were smoking. They were sophomores.
They had sworn they knew it all.
Been there. Done that.
Have the scars and poems to prove it.

Tomorrow, when the blood stains
on the concrete silently remain
the passers by will wonder
what transpired on that sidewalk.
The answer, though they won't know
it, is growth.


Poland is for Lovers

He spins the globe
in his living room
and she stops it with her finger.
She guesses wrong at the continent.
He asks her to name them. She can't.
Calls Africa part of South America.
China and Asia are separate.
Still can't come up with all seven
let alone point them out.
That's when he knows it's over
in more ways than he'd like
to acknowledge. "Some people
major in geography," he snides
"but that seems so cut and dry."
It doesn't sink in that he's
trying to make her feel better
for her lack of fourth-grade
social studies skills.
She'll never know that he thrives
on what's gray, uncut, and wet:
that blurry interface where
discernment reigns supreme.
It's only a matter of time now.
The sacrifice sharpens the daggers.

"Are you on...?" he tries to ask
but is blatantly cut off mid-sentence.
"Don't do it," she responds
putting an oddly playful inflection
on the second word.
It shocks him how many their age
don't bother anymore, and don't
even say so unless asked. Maybe
they're looking to start something, too.
Maybe they're just as lonely.

She lifts the back of her thigh
up with her left hand
granting further access.
Deeper is better in their eyes
unless it's a matter of substance.
He knows what he must do.
He does it.
Both of their minds are elsewhere
by the time it's said and done, only he's
not the one waking up in five hours.

Their farewell in the doorway
may be their last encounter.
"You can stay," he lies
for good measure.
"I have to let my dogs out,"
she graciously declines
following it up with
"But thanks, it was worth it."
When he hears her hit the stairwell
he turns the three locks of his door.
There's something rude about
not waiting until they're out of earshot.
"Worth it," he regurgitates
like last night's bad salami.
None of them can speak of value.
It's a stab in love's cruel dark.

"A dog" one called him recently
but he fancies himself a traveler.
There are many places he'll never see
and many more he wishes he hadn't.
The globe stares from the bookshelf.
It was better when covered in dust.



Crack a porter near
the window, hear a she-cat
get it good.
That tom's got it made
down there in the alley.
When he's done
he's really done.
Make her scream
and make her leave.

Some boyfriend
in the hallway
hums a Christmas carol
more loudly than can
be stomached.
The suds choke
past Adam's Apple
like medicinal black tar.
Those cats don't bring wine.
They don't want to save
any wounded birds, either--
maybe eat them, if anything
and be done with the matter.
"Not tonight, Romeo,"
she expertly plays her rebuttal.
It's healthy to lose so
dare I say
once in a great blue moon.

A thick hot Bloody Mary
flung your boy back in the game.
That pending divorce called up again
asked if things had changed
though, of course, they hadn't:
still two retired whores.
The mattress left the brick
while we got lost in the lie.
A room that had been frigid
was suddenly a sauna.
"Some beds are too big,"
is argued. "Endless springs forever
with no edge in arm's reach."
She disagrees and croons a tune
unlike that hipster's yuletide hymn.
It took some yawns to drop the hint
that the doorknob needed polish.
Another drink was in order
but didn't make it to the tab.

There's mercy in the dance
if you stick to all twelve steps.
This ain't the song of a coal miner's wife.
It's more like the life
after party.


Impressment and 1812

There are men who drive vans
two of them, to be exact
who've turned their heads
from traffic to tell me
I can't go back.
"There are worse things
than being lonely,"
the blue collar sages promise.
I even trust the one
who hasn't given me
a company shirt yet.
Maybe I trust him more.
He lets me wear my own name.

Her change of address
confirmation form was delivered
by my sadistic postman last week.
I tossed it without
the argument
my daylight half
wanted to have.
There is freedom
in an emptier mailbox.
It'll give him less reason
to crumple every envelope
before stuffing it in there.
I don't know what took her
so long to make the alteration
but then perhaps I do
and the nocturnal me
can't blame her:

The Battle of New Orleans
was fought weeks after
the treaty was signed in France.


A Trip to the Mall to Remind Me of Why I Don't Make Them

There couldn't've been
a deeper puddle for me
to step in anywhere in
that miserable parking lot
other than the miniature lake
which greeted my feet like
an unwelcome mat
upon stepping out of my truck.
I lit up a menthol and made
my squishy-soled way to
the northernmost entrance
figuring that heat rises
in Hell as well and I should
get it over with promptly.

When the last drag left my lungs
I entered the portal and walked
all the way to the opposite end
in search of an album released
by a new band with some songs
that almost seemed palatable.
It wasn't there, and neither were
any of the other four records
I sought out in the racks.
The industry's planning on
phasing out tangible musical media
in the hopes of forcing online sales
and I'm its first victim
with my massive CD binders
that'll grow mold in the back seat.
The Loss Management Specialist
or Theft Prevention Technician
or Profit Retention Agent
or whatever the hell
they call security guards
in retail stores these days
looked me in the eyes
and bade me farewell
his sweaty buzzcut seeming less
imposing for a moment.
I didn't fall for the ruse
and stuffed my hands deeper
into the pockets of my sweatshirt
to make him wonder if he'd
done his job that time.

The next stop on my short list
was the chain where I buy
my boxers exclusively.
There's something about
the combination of their
fabric, stitching, array of selection
and perpetual sale price
that draw me to them.
A creature of habit;
who would've thought?
I found three pair
that suited my taste and
walked to the register.
There he was, in gunslinger
flick slow-motion, the tiny
Filipino who'd haunted
my dreams once or twice.
He was still sleeping with
one of the Great Ones
when we started seeing
each other years back.
It didn't take much to pry
her out of his Gollumesque
little clutches, but it still
bothered me knowing
where he'd been, and how.
She also had a habit of giving too
much detail. Maybe she wanted
to make me jealous by recounting
what they'd done in fits of blind
and meaningless passion while
I was still floundering on the fence.
There's no doubt now how I should've
played that out. Given fourth and long
today I'd go for the Hail Mary.
The Flip and I locked eyes briefly
as he headed toward the fitting room.
Something tells me he felt the heat in
my stare and was probably befuddled
as to its fuel. That's how it works
with these green-eyed monsters.
The latter one always despises the former.
I paid for my undies and let that dog lie.

Still seething from the sighting
I pounded the marble floor that
much harder en route to the exit
and safety of my pick-up. The mall
had filled itself with walking excrement
and women who'd never sleep with me.
Every step became a struggle. Window shoppers
tiptoed in my path, forcing me to weave.
The gauntlet had been laid out
for the defeated noontime shopper.
At one point behind me a flustered father
told his six-year-old son that he'd have to
walk the rest of the way, that he'd become
too heavy to carry, that he, essentially
was all on his own. It reminded me
of riding my dad's shoulders as a kid
his head between my knees, his hands
holding my ankles. I felt his long strides
in the form of gentle bounces that, though high
were somehow safer than the ground.
There was one time when we'd taken on
a walk too ambitious for our own good
that sticks out most in my mind.
The fireworks were over and most of
our quiet town was heading back
lawnchairs and blankets and coolers in hand.
I was young then, not up to his waist, and
my legs were so short that it took three
steps to keep up with one of his.
My flat feet were weary, my legs were
ablaze with lactic acid, and a desperate
whining fit was only a stone's throw away.
"Do you want me to carry you?" he asked
or maybe I requested it and am
revising history again; regardless, he lifted
me up and I rode home perched upon the shoulders
of a man who could do no wrong
in the eyes of a boy too young to question.
When did I get too hard to carry?

I searched my skull for the answer to that quandary
and before I had one I was at the glass doors.
A cigarette was out of the question. At the rate
things were going if I waited any longer
my truck might be stolen by the time
I got back to where it had been parked.
My wipers stopped squeaking
on the ride home. That, or I was too gone
to notice them. The rain, brother--
it's been here for years.


Take Your Own Advice, Descartes

There are many women
I've met already
whom I could've held
for a long time;
maybe not forever
since that's not realistic
and they always find the ogre
but for a fair share of birthdays
and an album of drunken walks home.
To love is a noble aspiration
and anything worth your blood
takes work. It's an effort to trust
another beautifully flawed
collection of cells. Anyone
who says that God's greatest gift
falls in your lap is a fool
who should be silenced
with a muzzle or a smack
or a crippling case of the clap.
Liquor's not free or He would've
made rivers of whiskey. Love
along the same lines, takes
a conscious effort.

But where does one draw
that holiest of lines?
How far are we to go
on our quests to find
the partners whose eyes
reflect our souls?
That's the rub
that faces us
and for an addict
or a hermit
or an only child
with daddy issues
it's exponentially harder.
There must be some retention
of clarity, focus, patience
but don't trouble yourself
with dignity. A lot of proud men
have died alone amongst
a pile of spent shells and with
a long list of regrets
most of them being
things they didn't do
for the sake of an image.
One wastes time with
too much fear of losing
that which can be stripped
by an opened closet door.
We've all got enough
skeletons to make
our closest friends cringe.

Be more concerned with
the person who knows
what you look like
when you're not
sucking it in, that your
worst morning breath
may kill some small insects
and that you never really got over
the time your best friend
stole your high school
sweetheart. They're out there;
hundreds of thousands, in fact.
The Law of Averages is on your side.
Keep treading. There's no rush.
If you get stuck late at work
I'll leave the light on for you.

Sorry For Being Here

A weak start's
like a bad kiss
but this one cannot
be avoided.

He texted at eight
called at ten
and when he didn't
hear back for two hours
knew that I was sleeping.
When I roused myself
and checked my phone
I considered waiting
for the sleep to leave
my throat, but there's
no fooling a guy
raised on the corners
where he threw dice
way back when.
"Mornin', Sunshine," he says
and I deserve it. "Are you available
tomorrow? I could use a hand."
The gentleman that he is
he acts like I'm not desperate.

"Yeah. Sure. If you need me
I'm there," I assure him
while standing in the kitchen
rubbing crust from my left eye.
I inspect the hanging fruit baskets
and pluck a few rotten
items to discard. I always
get to them too late
bruises and soft spots irreparable
or a skin hardened like armor.
"Great. See you tomorrow,"
he says in his Bronxese
that's come to be a blanket.
"Sounds good," I say as the pear
thuds against the bottom
of the trash can. The lime
follows too, never reaching
its intended cocktail.
If only I'd done the same.

I go to the bathroom
and brush my teeth.
There's a hair too long
to be mine in the sink.
I can't tell the color
to pinpoint the source.
There've been options lately.
I've been taking my victories
in small doses and my gin
with extra rocks.
I've been taking
it all on the chin
and it shows.

The mirror's unkind
as the pillows have been
to my hair. There's
no salvaging what's left
without a healthy splash of water.
I run the faucet and wait
for the warm molecules
to rise through the
copper piping.
Even on my days off
I'm haunted.
It's a hell of a way
to start the afternoon.

I'm sorry I had to share
it with you.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Today it came
freshly postmarked
and comically late:
The first card received
at my new apartment.
Thanksgiving may have strafed
on by like a Corsair, but my friendly
State Farm insurance agent
wanted to wish me a happy one
regardless, his laser-etched
John Hancock making it
all-the-more personal.
I guess I'll magnet it
to the fridge with that
political calendar I got
in the mail. It's good to
have friends in high places.
It's good to have friends
where you can keep an eye
on them, like across the room
on the Maytag door.

Speaking of doors
any knock on mine is usually
unexpected. I slide to the peephole
since creeping makes the boards creek.
Last week it happened
at my most paranoid moment
right after drowning my angels
in sleep. Who knew that the FedEx guy
banged with such authority? I thought
it was the end. I answered accordingly
aside from only donning shorts.
Luckily he didn't scope the hardware
behind the door. "Sorry it took awhile,"
I lied with a forced cough for effect
as I scribbled a fake signature
with my unoccupied left hand.
"I've been a bit sick lately,"
though maybe that wasn't fictitious.


The Worst Scar I've Ever Seen

You swore it was yours.
It wasn't.

It was a desperate
frown on a kid's face
after some prick
told him there is
no Santa Claus.
It was the instant loss
of innocence that can't
be undone by money.
It was the undying promise
of death given at reality's birth.
Once it's there
it's there for life.
You see it in their eyes.

(I've clearly injected
myself too much here.
How can one not
and have it be real?
Go with it for the sake
of the story.)

There are some things, ma'am
I'd rather not know
like if I'd enjoy Kentucky.
All the rumors you've heard
are frightfully true:
I'm a self-declared bastard
gallivanting down Main
as a martyr too eager
with a pen in his hand
and a gun at his hip.

There's no Easter Bunny either.


The Best Contraceptive

It's usually more
like babysitting than work.
The pipes are mostly silent
but my buddy's son is not.
He's nine and precocious.
He likes feeling useful.
If I can keep him busy I try to
though most times he's bored
and gets in my hair. My friend
brings him along on our
moonlighting jobs to get one
of three young sons out of
his wife's weary lap. It's no wonder
that he's going gray and balding
prematurely. I used to be envious.
That all has changed.

"My dad pays you way
more than me," he whines
in reference to his three bucks a day.
"There's an aggravation tax involved,"
I tell him, sending the joke
clean over his short-cropped hair.
"Did your dad pay you a lot
when you helped him as a kid?"
I think back to my first paying job
trimming tree limbs from the massive
pines on his property
in the Adirondacks. Five an hour
for back-breaking work. I was the same
age as the squirt kneeling next to me
but I had no one around to pester
and mistakes have no siblings.
With my meager earnings
I bought a fox pelt at a taxidermy shop
on the ride home from the mountains.
I've always made wise purchases.
I've always had sweet gigs.
"No," I tell him through
my teeth while wondering
what those trees look like now.
The pelt is long gone
if not in his basement.
The trees might be, too.
He's bad with his money.

My diminutive partner won't let it rest.
"What'd you guys do?"
"Not much. He wasn't very
good with his hands," I reply
with an understatement
as the wrench slips a bit
"or much else."
Junior takes a moment
to ponder the strange existence
of a mechanically useless father
unheard of in his neck of the woods.
I tighten the screws in the floor drain
wishing more than dirty water
could be washed down its void.

A staticky country tune I've begrudingly
come to love blares in the other room
where my friend's setting fixtures.
Aside from the God part the song's
got it right: booze is good, people
are crazy.

"You don't talk about him much,"
the boy says. Clearly we've never
tossed cocktails back together
and if we're lucky we never will.
I don't want to be the same man
when he's old enough to drink.
The next inevitable question comes
timed perfectly with the dripping
of sweat from my brow--
"Is he dead?"

My answer lands before
he can refill his lungs.
It's no lie. There's more
to being alive than breathing.
You've got to have a soul
and not only worry about
whether or not it's Saved.
The kid pulls out his pocketknife
and cleans dirt from under his nails.
If only adults could have the same
detached responses to answers
that made their questions regrettable.

I chisel out some tile to make room
for the drain. The floor guys never
remove enough. It's hard to willingly
destroy your own work, especially
when on your knees.
"Can I do that?" he asks, his knife
no longer relevant.
"No," I say in as kind a voice
as I can fake. "Go help your old man."

Fisherman's War Paint

Right hand on left flank
and the inverse correct--
This is what chromosomes
dealt were predestined.
Face in a pillow
almost forget.
Saint candles burning
straight down like a fuse.
Moans turn to whimpers
and back into moans.
Offer a towel, a cold glass of water.
They know not to call.
They know they've been used
led like white livestock
up three flights to slaughter.
It helps with the yearning
the passing of time.
She'll leave in the morning
with clothes from the floor.
It's hard to think twice
once giving the lines.
She came like a lady.
She'll leave a bit sore.
Fisherman's war paint
misanthrope's fuel
lush's reminder
that Christ drank the grape.
The love's on the mattress.
The heat's in the tools.
You may never find her
at this cyclic rate.



I woke to bastard sunbeams
and the smell of 10 a.m.
There'd been a nightmare
of some nigger who tried
to steal my girl once.
The drool stains on my pillows
proved I'd told him how I felt.
Through the floor I heard
a man carve his day-old bird
to make a sandwich.
I'd spent the holiday alone.
My leftovers were internal.

There was a message on my phone
received at four in the morning--
when the good ones tend to come;
when the coming's all the same.
The area code was as baffling
as the words and punctuation.
An inquiry of the prefix
revealed a western New York number.
My past career of heartache
never spread into that region.
Another unknown psycho
closing in to make the kill.

I rubbed one out, did the dishes
went about my half-dressed business
until the missive piqued my interest
as the song remained the same.
"Who is this?" I asked
knowing there would be no answer.
These vague, clandestine messengers
never cough up their credentials.

I poured a second mug of jet fuel
though the grounds were in the mix.
Had to nuke it for a minute
since it cooled down fairly quickly
with the heat just barely running
to help save on the bills.
There's only one sucker
paying them now. It's equal parts
blood and money.

That's when it came again--
the same encrypted sentence.
This time I noticed a number
at the bottom, presumably a date:
I thought back to where I was then
and whom I was inside.
It held no relevance.
Didn't make much sense
as usual, though the message
as the good ones are
was tragically universal:
CAPS and symbols unembellished.

I dumped that cup of coffee
down the sink into the sewer.
The world had no mercy left
to divvy out today.
The sun's angle promised us that.
It was good to be inspired.
I'd have to lower the shades
creating my own fate
in the darkness
between bricks.


Prom Baby Rain Cheque

My rooms are right
on Main Street.
They can come

maybe twice
if we're lucky
and I'm randy
but they can't stay
the night
they better swallow

the fact that
I've built walls
of copper tubing
lashed with hair
of buried queens
around the parts
that I was smart
to never give her
though my silence
was consent.

Chase, you lucky gambler
all your strikes paid off in rings.
I will wear your tux, and tucked.
I will spring for whiter teeth.
I will spare your friends and family
what would've been my gin-soaked speech.

Yours wants to share
her dark slice
of heaven.
Mine took the rugs
and corkscrew
when she left.

What's three times a day
to the east
compared to begging
clouds for mercy?
There's not a better way
to squander three months'
worth of wages.
Is it after tax, or gross?
If it's real then it won't matter.
Your words were sound and poignant
though you know it's me to try.


Chaz and a Son's .38

An old friend
a true one
the kind you may
not see for years
but still remembers
what you look like
when you're laughing
from the gut
or when you struggled
with algebra and your first
case of the 'ache
plucked me from
my vault today:
a conjugal visit with life.
His brief tour of my apartment
ended down the stairwell.
"Still haven't kicked
the habit?" he asked
as I lit up, not quite sure
which one he meant.
"Only when I'm working
drinking, or single," I replied
not realizing all bases
were covered.

As we came upon his
jalopy he keyed his way
into the passenger door
for me, which I found odd
for many reasons
one of them being
that there was ever
a time without a clicker--
another throwback
to the era when we first met
thus making the illusion
of time travel stronger.
I rolled into the seat
noticing how clean
the light brown
carpets and upholstery
were for such an early model.
The interior was almost spotless
though rust had claimed the bumper

I fumbled for the driver's side lock
but it was already too late.
He'd turned the key
a sad grin fighting its way
to the surface in the face
of our nostalgia.
"Oh no. You failed the test,"
he jokingly accused
fairly assuming that I'd catch
the movie reference.
"I know, I know," I apologized
relieved to be a part
of an inside sort of something
instead of the outcast of late.
He slid into the pilot's chair
and turned over the engine
still the same, but different
in such rare and craved proportions.

I refrained from using his nickname
too much. A man has a right
to his preference
of hat. A spade is a spade
is a friend who remembers
before reputation took over.


Wasabi For the Dater's Soul

Maybe I should've taken
my own advice
and not shat where I ate
by eating where I live.
Maybe I shouldn't've walked there.
Maybe she smelled
the smoke on my breath.
Maybe I shouldn't've been myself.

Maybe she didn't like
that I wasn't shy
and ate all of the sushi
when she put her chopsticks
down for good.
Maybe it was that I loved the ginger
but didn't speak up
when the geisha came
and took it all away.
Maybe it was that her psych major
finally came in handy
though I didn't mention
my dad this time.
Maybe it was my one glass of wine.
Maybe the green tea ice cream
froze her perfect teeth
or the twelve-dollar tip
wasn't good enough.

Maybe it was that
I was full, it was late
and with work the next day
a ride home would've been nice--
so I asked, and was looked at
as crazy.
Maybe I am for thinking
that everyone believes to their
own detriment
and that people are generally
good in this world.
Maybe my peacoat
made me look like a rapist.
Maybe I am in a way
that is latent.
Maybe I'm better off knowing
that two hours of flowing
conversation does not equate
to a shred of trust.
Maybe I'll stick to coffee next time.
It's cheaper, and about what
these hooers deserve.

Maybe I'll go crawling back
to the place I know
that I don't belong.
Maybe it's instant karma.

Currently (re-)reading:
"Love Is a Dog From Hell" by Charles Bukowski.



When I woke
still shaken
by Jeremy's dream
drool marks on the pillow
to prove that it'd been
a real barn-burner

a bird chirped
in the otherwise silent
air conditioner
perched inside
my window.
There was
a faint sound
of scratching
like some twigs
upon some tin.

That friend had
sold me out
put me right back
into debt. Even in my
dreams my back's
a magnet for their knives.
I stood, dizzy from
last night's medicine
and told the world
what I thought of friends.

When I turned the
fan off later on
no song came from
the grill.
Thinking of this
brought on a rare hunger.

Without milk for coffee
or orange juice
to quench the salt
an ironic egg breakfast
was out of the question.

Sausage sans peppers
it was
and delicious.


She Was Fourteen Going On Forty in 1968

Somewhere in the Simon
a theme lost in the mix
a quatrain calls out
from between bookends
and my mother's quiet
croonings while she cooked
or cleaned or asked
if I had homework.

"Time it was, and what
a time it was
a time of innocence..."

where she'd longingly trail off
a son too young
to grasp her woes
lulled to peace
despite the split.

He gets it today, twenty
years later
and loves her
now and long ago
memories and photographs
thankfully not
all that's left
of her yet.
If he's as lucky
as he is blessed
the genes will pull through
'til at least ninety-six.

It's not Joe DiMaggio
for whom his lonely eyes
are looking.



I used to have this nightmare
only it'd happen during the day
while walking on the wrong side
of the road or ordering an
Extra Value Meal
from some kid with fry-grease
acne. A non-descript assailant
would slice through the soft skin
of my forearms and rip out my veins
with a pair of pliers. It looked like
when you're pulling weeds from a garden
and the roots pop out of the dirt
in an intricate system that almost
demands your respect while destroying it
only this was no green thumb convenience:
this was real.

It played on a deep-rooted fear of mine
involving the circulatory system. Ever since
childhood the thought of things pumping
through tubes inside of me has turned
my stomach. Getting vaccinated never
bothered me, but once they tried
to take something out
to draw blood from those hoses I hated
to acknowledge
I'd turn a shade of green
uncommon to the living. The chapter
on arteries in ninth-grade biology
made my wrists go numb to the point where
I couldn't take notes from the overhead
projector. I still passed with flying colors.
I still learned to cope back then.

I used to have this nightmare
about the plumbing of my blood
being stripped of me in the most
gruesome manner, but now I'm
more afraid of never giving it away.

Serial Monogamy

Eggs over-hard and a .44 magnum
bathe in what's left of the Sun's
borrowed light. There are some things
Saint Peter will have to forgive
at the gates for the sake of His
cloud-fucking choir: overcooked
breakfast and overdue bills
and those blowjobs that came
when they needed them most.
There's no use for fathers
for an arrogant son
who's followed around
by some unholy ghosts.

Keep an ear to the ground.
Save a drink for the road.
There's nothing that's promised
except death and taxes.
Whatever you're gunning
you're gutting alone.
Here's twenty bucks.
Go bet on a horse.

And even the gambler
let us all down.
When I first heard his lisp
I felt I'd been duped.
No man with a soft voice like that
had been suckered or hit in the face
with a bottle, a stool.

No one's immune to the ringing
of churchbells. No one forgets
what it's like to miss home.
He's talking in tongues
without any whiskey
in need of a crowd
but prone to go rogue.

How does one die of exposure
exactly? What does it take
to break a man down?
Perhaps it's not literal--
a daily castration
performed by the kid
who can't wipe his nose.

Currently reading:
"More Notes of a Dirty Old Man: The Uncollected Columns" by Charles Bukowski.


What Happens in the Mekong Delta Doesn't Necessarily Stay There

We finish each other's
sentences to the point
of questionable genetics.
It's odd to have such
a familiar relationship
with a man double my age
whom I've only known
for five months.
Drive around in a van
with someone for long enough
and you start to think the
same things, like that
you'd rather have the headache
of the guy who wakes up to
that hot mess in the car
in the passing lane
any day of the week
and twice on Sundays
than play the hands
we've been dealt.
We joke about our fortune
in finding one another
somewhere along the trainwreck.
That latter part, the state of the union
makes me think I'm right
when I tell him we're both
being punished for past lives.

He was in the Seventies service, jokes
about commando operations
in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
Classified, of course.
I toss out a flippant remark about
the likelihood that I was once in
his squad, the one that must've
burned a Gook village a la "Platoon".
My mind wanders as I lay in sour sheets.
I picture myself manning the 60
hanging from the side door of the Huey
hot brass shell casings and ammo belt links
raining down onto the rice paddy below.
The Stones' "Gimme Shelter" plays in
the background as a soundtrack requirement.
Little black-pajama'ed ants in pointy straw hats
scramble for their lives, praying to their rotund
cross-legged god that the napalm airstrike
doesn't come and torch their crops.
He, of course, only smiles wider
that glutton for pointless suffering.

My partner in crime taps my shoulder
enthusiastically and asks to swap spots.
I finish my run of 7.62, get up
from the gunner's seat, and pass him
my flak jacket to sit on in case an AK-47 round
pierces the fuselage and catches him
in the keister. Just as he rips back the bolt handle
and starts to give some yellowfolk lead poisoning
a bullet tears through the belly of the chopper
and severs my femoral artery. The blood sprays
the cabin in regular spurts through the spaces
between my fingers as I make a futile attempt
to stop the bleeding. That younger version
of my buddy lets the machinegun pivot forward
on its mount, its barrel smoking and smelling of sulphur
in order to reach over and light my last Marlboro
procured from the pack strapped to my helmet.
"See ya on the next tour, Shakespeah,"
he croons in that soupy Bronx inflection
which I've carried back upstate. We both know
it's a lie, but it's one that is expected.
The hum of the rotors lulls me into
unconsciousness as I bleed out onto
the diamond-plate floor of the helicopter
and pass into the dark.

Fast-forward forty years and I'm next to
that same wingman. He's older now, has some
more scars, but the eyes remain the same
as they always do in the Great Ones.
"Get a loada dis numba," he says
as he pilots his van to my left, our new
unsuspecting victims not so physically harmed.
The whir of the battered highway
rumbles underfoot to the tune
of ten-thousand regrets
none of them being
that I've met this denim-collared savior.
"Too rich for my blood," I honestly confess
before downing what's left of my coffee.
War, like plumbing, is a hell of a humbler
and they're both about the guy
next to you in the trench.


For Rocco, Who May Not Get My All Tomorrow As a Direct Result

By the third flight of steps
my feet are cinderblocks.
It's not the friendly load of laundry that's
making it hard to climb any farther.
I don't want to swing that door
open for the first time since
she's taken the rest of her things.
When I do it hits me like
aforementioned masonry.
A good wail in the corner
where her dresser used to be
warrants a call to mom
who in turn blames
my father and the abandonment
issues he's so Christianly left in my lap.
We all have our crosses.
Some drag them too far.

When the pep talk's over
I strip for comfort's sake
and see what looks different
around the apartment. She spared me
some silverware. Stole the rugs.
Left me her two plants; company
I guess. Took both the frying pans.
So much for eggs over-easy this week.
It all seemed so trivial and static before.
Now my new home's a pile of objects
a few of them missing, in need of
replacements. More items for the
Things To Do List.
Next up: a shower.

There too are voids.
There's an obvious spot where
that bottle of facewash
which neither of us liked due to its
bug repellant odor once sat.
Her razor remains; disposable, like time.
I crank the shower handle as far to the left
as my skin can take it-- not scalding
but damn near close: how she used
to like it once I got out to dry myself.
My body slowly adapts to the temperature
and feels purified by heat. If I can't control
what I'm feeling over the loss of
two-and-a-half, on-and-off years
then at least I can swing that lever
and determine how much steam
is pumped into the room, how hard
the nerves in my skin cells tingle.
What's that Hump said to Sam in
the Casa? "If she can take it, I can take it,"?
The lathering's left to the bare essentials
since it's late enough and Monday's
an early rise. I rinse and blow my nose
down the drain. Part of me's miffed
that my brain doesn't follow.

When I step out
and wipe the fog from the mirror
it's hard to avoid a red-faced laugh.
Beneath the permanent wool sweater
afflicting my awkward form
there hides a boiled lobster
too stubborn and desperate
to turn down the heat.

But really, I laughed.
I have to.
My plants need carbon dioxide.


Premature Hot Coke Hoe

They whine that the weather
has ruined their costumes--
so many minutes or dimes
while failing to face
that the three sixty-four
are spent with fraudulent fronts
just the same.

Don't get me wrong.
I'm not so above it.
If there was a slim chance
in Hell it's now gone.
The lights flicker briefly
and taunt with a sentence
but the worst of this deal
requires no juice.

Can't even drink
on these antibiotics.
Don't want to smoke
with this hack in my lungs.
Almost put pants on
to let in a stranger
but some saintly neighbor
beat me to the punch.

It's not that it's messy
or messed up my plans.
It's not that the holiday
bar scene is curbed.
A blizzard is meant
for rib-sticking meals
and lovemaking 'til
the lovelies are sore.

The Women Wore Pink Sweaters

One of my new fathers died
in my sleep last night.
When his wife answered the phone
there was silence, then a yelp.
They hadn't seen or heard from him
in days, assumed the worst.
I was somehow teleported
to his basement. Women mourned.
My eyes burned red, I felt betrayed--
a jealous God again.
Sometime in the tangent
the old man reappeared.
He was tired, hair all mustered
in his camo and his boots.
"I was hunting, lost my way,"
his explanation came ashamed.
I threw my arms around him
smelled the copper in his blood.

The top sheet's on the floor now
from my writhing, dreaming grief.
There'll be a time where waking
won't save the day again
if the hunter doesn't find
his way back to the hearth.
Every person's got a shelf life.
All that carbon's got to give.
They're a blessing, these new mentors
but they come with loss inherent.


What Would the Lizard King Say Of Your Bass

If faces come out of the rain when you're strange then one can assume it gets worse with the snow. Maybe the bodies follow. The weather's as unpredictable as the events of these last several weeks. What overpaid, televised guestimators refer to as a "wintry mix" falls tonight a few calendar days before Halloween. The Doors play on my stomach-perched laptop as I lay in bed lazily since the internet connection's down and my CDs are in the truck I can barely afford. Maybe the precipitation will wash the birdshit from its otherwise clean exterior. It took me a week, but the dishes have been conquered and vanquished from the sink. I used to be a stickler for timely, efficient housekeeping. Now that I'm the only witness to my sinful filth it's hard to motivate myself to stay on top of anything other than my bed. Even that's not truly mine; she made me leave my mattress at the old place when we moved here a few months ago. Women seem wicked when you're unwanted; beds are taken for granted until they're repossessed. Now I'm wondering if she'll take this one, hers, when she comes with her mother on Sunday to get the rest of her things. The boxspring and frame are mine. Perhaps some pine boughs will cap them nicely; a bit of a rustic touch to contradict the industrial look of the brick and exposed pipes. How ironic, and therefore hip. That's the name of the game in this trendy town crawling with trust-fund kids. Faces look ugly whether you're alone or in groups. Angsty children piss in the streets of the nation's major cities for the sake of having a cause, ignoring the cue from uninvolved local citizens and small business owners that their welcome's been worn out and it may be time for a different tactic, and the Man's to blame again for speaking up in part for another portion of that already redundant percentage which I won't cite here. Streets may be uneven when you're down, but it's hard to notice through the teargas. The home movies don't lie; neither does the internet. We're headed for revolution with no leaders in sight other than the funnier talking heads who impart their biased knowledge to the Text Message Generation via sarcastic satire. All of this, like snowfall in October, we're expected to accept. Jim Morrison's right: Strange days have found us and no one remembers your name.

Currently reading:
"Rabbit Remembered" by John Updike.


Censored Ex Hell

They can't help it.
It's in the beast's nature.
It's the part of the fissure
that others don't see.

Some of them take a book or two
but I only read them once anyway
maybe go back and skim where
I've highlighted a few years later
rekindling love for a man long gone.
A titled spine staring at me
from one of my sixteen shelves
won't break me; not as of now.
They're lost in the mix.

Most of them ruin a few bands
for awhile. The songs that once
promised one thing suddenly
renege on the arrangement.
You give them time, you call
a good friend or drinking body
and blast those tunes
over cocktails to reclaim them
when you're ready.
It's a surefire way that's
always proved faithful.

But this one got me good.
She took an act of hygiene.
Whenever I shave now
that one tough time when
I'm forced to look in a mirror
for more than twenty seconds
I think of how she'd always want
to do it for me, would scold me
jokingly if I pruned without her aid.
There was trust there once
with a blade to my neck.
How does one get that back?
How do I pick up that razor again?
The same as anything else, I guess:

I'm finally getting down
to my fighting weight now
but there's no one in the ring
left to notice. And a truth
that comes in this late-night
confession is I nick with
my Bic just the same.


The Laziest Faker East of the Hudson

I lay against an ill-advised Sunday
half-glow nap. Woke at noon, lounged around
beat by almost four. Dishes are piled--
a week's worth at least. There's an unopened
package screaming for a knife that
I can't muster the muscle to stab.
I know what it is: a suitcase for a trip
I won't be taking. It can wait.
It can all wait
with the sleeping bag in storage.
There are times I miss the strangest things
like the hot fermenting garbage smell
of the subway in July. This is one of them.

Sleep has no mercy, it won't come so soon.
The leaves on the trees like lightbulbs
to smash. People enjoy what could be
the last weekend where T-shirts aren't such
a rebellious decision. Strangers savor their lives
or pretend to. I roll onto my stomach
closing my eyes harder like a child scared
to death, though this kid's reconsidered.

A football announcer yells through the floor.
I can almost make out the words, it's disturbing.
What have the neighbors heard through
their ceiling and how have I not heard their TV before?
The sound's somewhat soothing, reminds me of
weekends when I'd fall asleep on my father's stiff couch.
It's probably there, blessed and annointed, praying
for an overdue trip to the dump.

The volume gets louder, perks up my ears. There's
no way to drift off with this kind of ruckus. I throw off
the top sheet, consider my options, succumb to
the urge, choke up on the bat.

The romance is clipped by a new sound
I notice, a generous portion of fresh humble pie.
There through the First Downs and Holdings
below me come whimpers and moans
from the cute pigtailed neighbor. The milquetoast
she lives with is telling her twice.
I hear, but can't listen.
I know, but don't care.
I pull up my shorts and go take a leak.
If you prick me, my friend, I promise to bleed.

The Hudson was once my personal moat
though now I feel like a shunned hot potato.
There are times, there are places
for starches like me.
A call from the union could change my
demeanor. It's not looking hopeful.
It's Third Down and Twelve.
The bottle of Sauvignon Blanc
being chilled now should go to the couple
who earned it downstairs.

It's ripe and it's raw and it's rife with
transgressions. It could always be worse.
There's still some shaft left.


No Way To Waste a Friday Night

The whirlwind swings by
to pick up some things
once her train's dropped
her off after work.
"Are you home?"
comes through crackling.
"Yeah," I reply
not sure if it's a lie or not.
"I'll be up in a minute."
Great. I'll still be down.

She keeps her shoes on
which is fine
since I haven't swept
since she's been gone;
asks to use the toilet.
I apologize in my mind
'cause my friends had bad aim
the other night
and I've found it hard
to get out of bed to eat
let alone clean
unless somebody's paying me.
Through the bathroom door
I can almost see her
searching for hairs
too long and light
to be mine.
She won't find them.

The sound of the flush
comes and the door
unveils light upon
my dark kitchen, a stage
perfectly set for the show.
Rotting fruit and vegetables
scream for mercy in the form
of a trash can from
the hanging baskets
that took so long for us to find.
She frowns. She doesn't fight it
as well as I do.
"Take some food with you,"
I plead, not wanting it to spoil.
Her hand pulls the fridge door open
and she inspects with minor distrust.
Sees the beer, probably wonders
who's been over since I'm in
a whiskey mood these days.
"You know there's a whole loaf of bread
down here," she says, rifling through
the misused crisper.
"Most of my grain's been distilled
as of late," I beam through crooked teeth.
She still can't find the humor.
That's the rub; the difference.
I'll joke all the way to the gallows.
She'll scowl all the way to the morgue.

Whatever she needed
seems inconsequential.
A few arbitrary items are tossed
into her big soccer mom bag
that'll probably never be true anymore
since that was my dream, not hers.
I used to help her put on her coat
after the check had been paid.
She taught me how to do that
without fumbling so much.
The urge is gone now
as she slinks into her peacoat.
This farewell will be as awkward
as a catcall at a funeral.
I'm right at a time
when I'd rather be wrong again.

By the time I reach the door
she's already at the stairs.
I stand there, three-quarters naked
and tell her. I have to.
It stops her in her tracks
although I'm no Bogart
and there ain't a plane to catch.
She turns and looks, bewildered
like that famous blurry photo
of Bigfoot stumbling through the creekbed.
"Don't," she spits, her bag seeming heavy.
But I do, and I will
because it's the truth.
If it wasn't I wouldn't be letting her go.
Sometimes that's what's needed
when the shuffle's been rigged.
We were doomed from the start, Kid.
Here's lookin' at you
from a distance
safe enough to wonder
what they would've looked like.


Cheating Salmonella

The morning rain had drawn them out--
Betrayed by Mother Nature.
A few flattened shells lay scattered
on the two-lane highway which
cuts through Orange Lake
while I sped from one task to the next.
There towards the end of the gauntlet
I saw an intact one in the shoulder.
It's a rule of mine to stop and move them.
If not, the guilt and wondering
tail me through the day.
Did it make it?

The guardrails left no room to park
so I pulled over at the cross-street.
A fifty-yard hike against the grain
of traffic and I was upon the painted
reptile. Its head hung low against
asphalt, its tail turned to one eternal side
all of its claws descended into road dust.
I stood and stared at the crack
running down the back of its shell--
a near miss, but barely enough
to end its stubborn road-crossing life.
I was always too late to save them.

The walk back to my truck
was consoled by a Marlboro.
If there was a time to curse
the odds that day
it was then
it was there in that moment.
All too often What's Right
plays second fiddle
to What Shall Be.
We suck it up
or we don't;
we stop or we keep driving;
but those turtles there on 52
are coming either way.

Lefty Bats Righty (and Still Gets On Base)

There's this wreck
I've slept with
a handful of times
over the weaving course
of the last eight years.
The sleeping was never
as good as the part
that came
before it
partially because
I turned and tossed
with one foot out the door
since sticking around
would make too much sense.

This last bout with the starving
lasso artist was almost
too hard to watch
like a naked rodeo clown.
She asked if she should move
or not, if I'd take her in
like a puppy.
A bit of an out-of-body
experience it was--
Is this what it looks like
when someone's hard up
for a godsend to leave their sheets
smelling differently?
Pathetic little pissants we are
made in His image or not.

I know where she is tonight
and I know where she'll be tomorrow
and more importantly I know
that my distant knowledge will be
the extent of it. That's not to say
she isn't a catch; to most
men she would be, but I've been
blessed between the temples
with discernment as harsh as my tongue
and it tells me I'd be asking
for trouble yet again
redeeming qualities be damned.

She's one of those girls
who's just barely pretty.
One minor change
would leave her bereft
I'd venture to say
irreversibly flawed.
Maybe then I could love her.
Until then she's a number.
Somewhere along the way
I lost count, and somehow
became a plumber.


With a Little Help From My Friends

The sequins caught my half-drunk eye, pulling my head ninety degrees just in time to see her slip into the hallway. She'd beaten me to the punch in getting to the bathroom. It wasn't the first time I'd been bested by that woman; regrettably so, it wouldn't be the last. There was another lavatory in the apartment, surprisingly, but it had a door on two walls, neither of which locked. One could not be too careful in such matters, especially at a party with heavy-handed Irish folks pouring up the cocktails. I decided to wait for the safer option in the rear of the apartment. She couldn't be that long in there, or so I thought.

When she finally returned to the festive chaos high above Eighty-Second Street I placed my vodka tonic on the nearest coaster I could find and made my way for the coveted powder room. She must've reapplied her fragrance while in there. The scent hit me before I even turned the knob. It was winter, I remember, because I'm wearing my only sweater in the photos from that night. It was winter, but the small window in that restroom was open when I entered, a crisp Big Apple breeze running down the brick and in above the toilet. I was about to close it when I realized why it'd been opened. That faintly familiar skunk smell crept up my nostrils through the mask of fresh perfume like an out of place dealer at a grade school talent show. Was it really that necessary to indulge at this event? My mind's eye shot to my tumbler in the living room and I wished I hadn't left it so I could take a swig. Perhaps I was premature in judging her need to party to that extent. We all have our vices; some are simply more legal than others. I reached up, closed the window, and drained what my liver didn't soak up to escape.

There was a tinge of recognition when our eyes met over hors d'oeuvres. She saw the latent shame in my face, but her wrinkles caked with make-up lended no apology. Instead she gave a wink as she sipped her pinot grigio, whether or not she'd meant to, whether or not it really happened or my vodka was playing its game again. We carried on with pleasantries and feigned a pure existence. When the night came crashing down we went our separate ways: she, a waiting train; me, a stroll down Amsterdam. In a city where nothing's free we'd both paid our price and then some. I slept next to a lousy poem and woke to my sweater folded neatly on the back of the recliner. There's a reason why some things are saved for once or twice a year. Any more than that and we'd go bursting at the seams.

Inspired By a Bumper Sticker and Another Refugee

So it seems that every second
slut that runs away
these days
male or female
or whore on a stage
who happens to be
packing for the City
sings of Astoria
like it'll save
their sorry souls.
What's there
so great to soothe them
but the warm-eyed
Greeks of Queens?
So close, in terms of time
to those curried Jackson Heights
where the dot-heads run around
adding arms and tusks to God
while us cowboys strip more
of His power every day.

I think it's more the sound
as it rolls off fattened tongues--
the syllables of promise
like parents in the pews
lying to young ears
meek enough to fear
an eternity sans water
like a week with no TV.

It's there in the road
in front of you, children.
It's every time that you obey
the daily curse of your alarm.
Astoria will get on
without your dreams
to crowd it.
You don't pronounce the 'gyro'
like the locals anyway.
And I, for one, am not
for rollicking fake times.

Yes, I have a truck.
No, won't help you move.


Confessions of a Modern Day Ahab

I have a too-nice apartment
on Main Street in a hip town
that I can barely afford
now that I've fired her.

I have a trade that'd make me
a hell of a buck if only
the economy was better
and there was enough work
to go around.

I have friends
whom I can throw
farther than I can trust.
I have a lot of nights in bed.

I have a father twelve miles away
who denies my existence
despite my desperate letters
and thirst to break the curse.

I have an addictive personality
that gets me in just enough trouble
to make me feel alive
with its consequences.

I have a penchant for drinking
alone at home or in crowds
and swear the bottle off
at least thrice per week.

I have a smoker's cough
that'll undeniably turn
to cancer one day or another.

I walk around with a gun
and act like it'll save me.

I'm a grower, not a shower.

I have an ex who finally realizes
that despite my faults
I was right.
I have a lot of exes
in various boats
and mental albums.
Most of it upstairs is skewed
so I can paint it over.

I fall in love with random
strangers in public
multiple times a week
with the excuse
that I have a sixth sense
for beauty.

I'm terrible at sleeping alone.

I can drink you under the table
and out of the closet.
I'll probably ask to try
or try to ask.

My eventual triumph
will be far more
than anything
your degree promised you
as I laugh all the way
to the unemployment line.

I'm twenty-seven
finally living
and wouldn't trade it
for the world.
Hallelujah, motherfucker.


The Surgeon General Wastes Breath With His Warning

The shit-show takes
a much needed break
as half of our posse
vacates the bar.
My newest and best
wanders off to an alley
relieving himself
between the brick walls.
I reach for my pack
and conjure a lighter.
A third party notes
that it's white, there-
fore smart.
"No one will steal it,"
he states
too damn sure
that old pothead lore
of jinxes applies.
I smile through smoke
and nod like he's got me
but really I know
that's it's not
what he thinks:
A person hard up
is a person hard up
and an addict in need
will steal from a leper
regardless of what
the mystics believe.
Their greatest fear
is that we smell it on them.
The sweat?
No, the fear
and a Bic's worth of butane.
I never quite get
why they wager that bet
but over and over
the numbers don't lie.

My friend saunters back
a stain on his jeans
where the joke is on him
like the tip that he'll leave.
"Gimme a light," he demands
through his teeth
and he pockets my fire
when he's done sparking up.
The sad humbled genius
swallows his words
and straightens his specs
without superstition.
"Matches next time,"
I think to myself
as I leave them to ponder
their new Fifth Dimension.


For Fear of More Than Backwash

Main Street was a ghost town lit up for seemingly nothing. The night was young enough to make believable promises though the sidewalks were mostly deserted. Perhaps the recent drop in temperature was discouraging the locals from venturing out into the fray. I was running a few minutes late, but knew I'd still beat her to the restaurant. Late in my mind is only two minutes early.

A traffic light changed and halted my forward progress. Neon glow from the convenience store on the corner bounced off a three-day-old puddle too stubborn to disappear. I pulled hard on my cigarette as the autumn air crept up the loosely rolled sleeves of my red cowboy shirt. Part of me felt like the essence; part of me felt like a fraud.

A rattling sound approached from behind while unaffected cars sped by. I turned and saw a shopping cart full of empty bottles and cans being pushed by one of Beacon's resident homeless. A gray sweatshirt broke the wind from his back and a pair of navy slacks somehow matched. The standard ancient running sneakers propelled him along, this time in my direction. His salt-and-pepper hair sat above a sun-wrinkled face accented by shining blue eyes that were deep in forming a question.

"Smrgls grb," he said with unflinching conviction.

"Excuse me?" I asked the undecipherable pilgrim.

"Arltm fwp, brg," was his puzzling response.

This'd get nowhere and there was somewhere I had to be. Couldn't keep an old friend waiting; ten years was long enough. It was one of two things he probably wanted and my pockets weren't jingling with change. I pulled my pack from my breast pocket and handed him a smoke. He thanked me with a nod and slipped the menthol behind his ear, clearly not ready to indulge in its sick pleasures. His eyes were still glued to my face like there was something more he wanted. My left hand rummaged through the pocket of my Levi's. Nothing but a lighter, a pen, and my bulky set of keys. I was prepared for the awkward denial of currency that always made me feel like less of a decent human.

"Are you new around here?" he asked in a suddenly recognizable idiom.

"Yeah. Why?" Was I an obvious outsider? Was my plaid shirt not up to snuff with the downtown hipster regime? Were my cigarettes not trendy, maybe even disgraceful? Was I a dead give-away for a new Beacon denizen because I stopped to chat? The endless paranoid possibilities raced through my mind in the brief time it took for him to respond.

"I haven't seen you around. Want some beer?"

He lifted a brown-bagged tallboy from his cart and extended it my way.

"No, thanks," I told him as politely as possible. "I'm heading to dinner," unsure what that fact had to do with taking a swig of brew. The truth was that I could've used a drink. The last several weeks had been brutal. They were nothing compared to this man's problems, of course, but difficult in their own right relative to my own trivial life.

"It's my last one," came the humbling reply from my one-man welcoming committee. His tone wasn't sad, it was sincere.

A tingle ran down my spine at the thought of what had happened. Bukowski reincarnate. Another man in the trenches. The snowflake tattoo made sense again: we're really all the same, as different as we are. A man who's lived so hard that there's not much left, like a piston never oiled and worn away by friction, took the time of day to trade some beer for a smoke and make an honest man out of a kid in needless haste. He wasn't aware that the busier of the two bars in town had a limit of two Long Island Iced Teas per customer. He didn't know, and I didn't care. A friend could order those last couple anyway-- a friend like the one who was waiting to meet for dinner. I was lucky to be where I could start over whether or not I deserved it. Beacon was a blessing, even without the intended roommate.

"Take it easy," I said as the light turned green, not stopping to think that it was the only way he could take it.

"Rflp dwt," was barely audible amidst the rumble and clang of a shopping cart starting up again.

I was only one minute late.


What Used To Get Me Sex Now Just Gets Me Sleep.

The shower tastes like sulphur
like the flavor I'll be damned to
when the crowd decides to wane
when the weak ones fall away.
The beer spit comes up thick
in this bloody shotgun throat.
Tonsils swim in the saliva
where she could always smell infection
and the burning of tobacco
that I reserved for secret weekends.
You fooled no one but yourself, kid.
You're not so Double Agent.
Rocco, you father, I've duped you yet again.

Johnny Unstoppable left pill bottles burning
in the parking lot where
I keep my junk, let me save the photos
of me thirty pounds lighter
eight years happier
in the arms of a German Angel
too right to wrong with words.
(Those awkward jawbones, those crisp eyebrows
that longing Spanish tongue, a virgin
before me.)

A gentle giant notes
the recent rise in chloroform
and the evening bleeds out normal
while the Firethorns down their swill.
You could've been a lot of things
but instead you chose to fold.
You could've had some teachers
though you'd rather just become one.
You could've, would've, should've
but you'd rather shut your eyes.


Fredo Deserved What He Got in That Rowboat

Before running out
for drinks with an ex
my latest mistake
made one last request:
"Turn the stove off
in thirty, the soup'll be done."
I flipped through the pages
and coughed through the door
something compliant
responsible, even.

A hunch or an itch
or a hair up my ass
caused me to put down
my book for a moment.
When I went to the kitchen
the room smelled of gas.
The burner went out, the flame
was long gone, the timer was set
on the microwave dial.
A fuse had been left
to even the tally
to settle the scorn
and shake up a sinner.

A laugh chased a shudder
and then the reverse.
I opened a window
to get some fresh air.

When the new regime comes
to tear down your art
I won't ask her to take off
her shoes at the door.



We fucked like starving strangers
while both still half asleep
by accident last week
in the 2 am darkness
of our hollowed out apartment.
Even in bitter dreamscapes
we somehow knew the way.

The following day
I plumbed for the rich
in a county I'll never call home
while she cracked the bottle of white
I had in the fridge
like some sort of sad reverse date
or perhaps a salve to stop the heartache
of over two years down the tubes.
Either way I couldn't blame her
when I saw the cork protruding
next to the crisper later that evening.
A ten-dollar bottle of grapes
is the least a man can do
for a woman whose fire forged him.

Last night my gut was warmed
when I saw the familiar bag
with our liquor store's logo on it.
There it was, replaced
and doubled:
two bottles of wine--
white, my favorite.
I lifted one up off the counter.
The same as the one
she'd polished off alone.
A payment. A replenishing.
A tithing of the damned.
The second one felt heavier
in my hands as I read the label
and laughed. A company called
Clean Slate from some dry shithole
of a California valley.
An apology. A promise.
A rewinding of the clock.
I put them both in the wine rack
and headed off to bed
not sure if we'd meet
in our sleep again
like lovers out of time.

"Where's the other bottle?"
I asked today, oddly frantic
after coming home from work
and noticing the new brand was gone.
"I brought it to Becky's," she said
barely glancing up from her book.
"We drank some of her stock
the other night, figured I'd replace it."
So much for the clean slate.
I read the title in her hands.
'A Farewell to Arms' by Hemingway.
So much for a lot of things.
"Is that my book?" I asked
already knowing the answer.
"Yes," she replied in that tone of hers
that promised not to bend the pages
break the spine, or underline anything
in case it should be more profound
than something my highlighter missed.

I went and ran the shower.
The hot takes a long time to rise
way up here on the third floor.
It's a sad thing, a break-up;
but sometimes it's as needed
as that magic on the rocks.


Behold the Passive-Aggressive Widow-Maker

It's a lot like drowning; no, it's exactly like it, if the timespan could be stretched and drawn like Lucifer's taffy over the course of wasted months and years. Would his favorite flavor have to be cinnamon? And what is time anyway? Relative, like the rest of it; like the lake beyond my black-socked toes as I lay here on this un-pulled-out couch in the cabin of a withered, bitter man who hates me without my calling him Father (and to think I threw my dad's knife into this tea brown abyss two years ago to keep her necklace safe after she'd lost it in the drink). I sip my third beer of a seasonal variety twelver and stare at the deceptively glistening September water. It's seventy-six outside and the ducks still dive for snails so big it looks like they should choke. I watch the shells squeeze down their necks and almost gag vicariously. Still, this isn't swimming weather, or dying weather, as far as the animal kingdom is concerned. The denial-smiled boaters floating by are safe from hypothermic shock, but only a fool would venture out on what we've ironically got here: one-and-a-half working jet-skis and a partially-inflated rubber raft. Then again, only two fools would've made most of the decisions we have thus far, collectively and on our own separate failings. The fucking, the dating, the moving in together and consolidation of commodities. What kind of moron gives away his mattress so soon, and to a kid who doesn't put sheets on his bed? What kind of self-respecting genius would succumb to all that loathsome locked-downedness; oh, right: a self-deprecating one, or the two it took to Tango this time as it always does in tales such as ours. So here we sit, myself on this hand-me-down, farted-into-a-million-times couch and she on the non-matching cushioned chair in the corner that'd be ideal for any number of deviant sexual positions that we'll never attempt again in the company of one another, maybe not at all until we're finished licking our wounds and ready to look and lick elsewhere. I'm pecking at a dusty keyboard between swigs, she's nose-deep in a borrowed book that she'll finish today if it takes her last sarcastic breath and we're both knee-deep in shit that neither will own up to for the sake of battered pride and the dreaded fear of Who Gets To Keep The High Thread-Count Sheets? Who will lay the final sword down? Who will swallow their well-chosen words? Hopefully neither one of us yet since it's a four-hour drive back to civilization and we took her car for gas mileage purposes. I love my Jap truck and have made beautiful lust in it, but it's no subcompact sports car on any day of the week. It's a hell up in Harlem and no different here in the Adirondacks, but at least the terrorists didn't blow anything important up on yesterday's tenth anniversary of The Day We All Hate To Remember (aside from many Hellos and a handful of Goodbyes). Or maybe they did their dirty deed and we don't know it yet. Maybe the effects are still pumping down the pipeline, not ready to be felt yet, like a shockwave from a distant bomb that knocks us off our feet and into a vat of refuse more repugnant than our own. Maybe they poisoned the reservoirs and aqueducts and the outcome won't show until nine months from now when the first batch of mutant babies are born. I'd like to think we're safe from all the sadistic hocus-pocus of the madmen, but if we're scared enough to wonder then the turbaned ones have won. Besides, it's not shrill-voiced Arabs who will kill us in the end; our battlefield lays on the inside of our fortress, in the mind that's left to wander, on this lake that looks enticing but will only yield shameful shivering and an awkward ride home lined with broken promises and threats that sound relieving. Go West, young infidels. Carry your baggage to freedom, or at least out of harm's way of your parents' shortcomings. It's not so bad, this poisoned, frigid lake they've left us. Once you get beyond the smell you've practically got it licked. This last beer's hit triumphantly. I see the sun through the leaves again despite handprints on the sliding-glass door. Anyone care to take a dip?


It's not a fruit, Goddammit.

Nothing's sacred anymore.
You've spent your evening washing down
three-day-old taco meat
with pre-packaged diced peaches in pear juice
while the droplets pelted pavement
like firebombs in Tokyo.
(We killed more Nips that way
than with the atom bombs combined.)

The homeless woman
slightly out of place
in this hip new town
a stone's throw from Hell
is a mere memory now
swimming somewhere in a wasted Sunday.
You wonder if she found that change
that you denied her, mush-mouthed
or some shelter from the rain
that a jealous God cast down
and beat yourself up
for not making her a sandwich
since you made her what she is.
You could've spared a can of tuna
and pawned off some produce
that'll only go to waste this week
since the Boss is out of town.

"Free 'maters for friends"
the sign should say tomorrow
as you pass them out at work
and try to buy some time.
It's a vegetable if kids take convincing.
It's a fruit if it tastes too good to last
and runs down your chin
like the salt of forbidden seas.
It doesn't matter; "Nature's hardest
hue to hold..."

The meat, the fruit, the cream, and your future
mother-in-law's never-ending tomatoes;
only the grain is missing
but you'll drink that down tomorrow
if it's anything like today--
that is, to say, if the bricks
don't float away overnight.
Forgive me, father. I see you now.


Better left for an unlucky tourist.

The first pool in years
and it goes down like this:
a call, a change, a reach
a remembrance.
One hundred and six
with the heat index, kids.
Try not to over-exert the old man.
Conned into trunks
with the lure of her love
and a few cardboard boxes
of pizza, cold beer.
Wade in chlorine
til she knows what I mean
when I say that the sweat
burns the eyes more than tears.

The squat in the shorts
in the shallow end smarts
when I check the side pocket
for sea shells left over
from the ride that we took
through the Keys
we were hooked
and we are
and we'll be
like that pocket
if we ever forget
that we'd never get closer
to finding ourselves
in another weak shell
rolling and trolling
for crimson and clover.



I made her a bloody one.
The tomato masked the vodka
while the flavor still remained:
a heartache is a heartache is
a heartache is a shame.
We sat on the porch, blinds down
to hide my unsheathed body
and our intoxicated bickering
while I buzzed my head
between sips of Summer Ale.
She scratched her arm while
hot sauce, horseradish and worcestershire
fought for dominance in the drink
the vodka laughing all the way
to the bank or the liver or the brain
and the heart.

A cheap cigar cutter forgotten on the spare chair
read in gold from the black plastic makings--
"El Mundo del Rey", "The World of God"--
and the Wind blew a broom
down on my leg to remind me:
If all you carry is a hammer
every problem resembles a nail.


The First Lie I Was Told Of Christ

When I was still a sprouting seed
fresh from the first-grade swing set
a curly-haired kid came up to me
en route to Sunday school
with a tale on his face next to the jelly stains.
"They used railroad nails to put Him
on the cross," he whispered, as though
an older brother had shared the news
and sworn him to secrecy with fear
of wedgies or worse. "Still, they
couldn't keep Him there," he boasted
with the blind Christian pride
instilled by his vanilla parents
who'd never lied on their taxes.

We were getting closer to the
twelve-by-sixteen room with folding chairs
and on-sale snacks for the church-dragged kids
to devour while their parents caught the wrath
of the fed-up preacher's fire and brimstone
so I had no time to spend
pointing out what he'd missed:
They could and did kill Him, and He let them
for the sake of mankind, supposedly.

It didn't dawn on me until today
that the food-faced little bastard
and his conspiratory older brother
were more full of shit than I'd imagined--
Railroads didn't exist two thousand years ago
like God and His offspring don't now
to most of us cut from the same cloth
as Abraham. Don't thank me for
the belated forgiveness; I've done
bigger favors for lesser men.
Just ask my union hall.
(If they don't pick up the phone
keep calling.)


Thrifty Deductibles

In awe of the brash-tongued hexes
scrawled on the fitting room walls
in marker, pen, and pink highlighter
I tried on some shirts given by WASPs
for tax credits and more closet space.
"For a good time call..." no longer a phrase;
replaced instead by expletives and threats
of colorful misspelled diseases, complete with phone
numbers and names to request.
Demand for a tongue in the Valley of Sin
'til tears emerge at the corners of eyes
wins the prize for Most Likely To Make Grandma Cringe.
Some racial slurs thrown in for crisp collar effect
constrict around the white-washed room
like the neck of the cheap Little League Tee
that'll wind up back on the rack in a few
waiting to shame another passer-by.
Grammar traps and a Swastika and at least
three area codes, one of which I don't know
litter the peeling paint worse than the
dust-bunnied tiles scuffed by rubber soles.
The wise guy in me wants to write sense
into some of the sayers of things best unsaid.
My thumb clicks the pen in my left slash pocket
prepared to pass it right to chime in
but the better half wins, the Good Wolf is fed.
I look up as though a Not-For-Profit could
afford surveillance cameras
and resume my afternoon trying on used clothes
like the joke's not as old as the clown
juggling through it.

"Discretion," my new best friend
said once as we rattled home in his van
"is the better part of valor."
He wasn't boastful, only teaching
in the ways he knows best:
through action and goading and turning a wrench.
Men like that should have names carved in stone
where dressing room artists will never ascend.
It's a process. It's a promise. It's a way out of Newburgh.


Pete fell off. Who was left?

The truth is that if you don't wake up tomorrow no one will scribble a word in your direction, let alone pen a song.

The truth is that I like when the fireworks go off lower than they probably should because the thought of half-drunk firemen scrambling from the embers is not so entirely unentertaining.

The truth is that I didn't pull over when a tractor-trailer changed lanes and forced a sports utility vehicle into a ditch while doing seventy during my morning commute last week since I was running late and my coffee wasn't working.

The truth is that I've smuggled switchblades on airplanes and would again without thinking twice.

The truth is that those greeting cards with the New Love heading which probably should read Psycho may have been written with me in mind.

The truth is that driving by my father's house when I happen to be in the area is my own modern-day version of poking my head into the dragon's lair to remind myself that there are worse things than singed eyebrows.

The truth is that plumbing happened to me for a reason and I wouldn't be blessed with the adopted family I've constructed if it wasn't for pipes and fluids.

The truth is that I miss you.

The truth is that the government ending the Space Program is another sign that it's the Beginning of the End, though Orwell and Vonnegut and the boys had the details all wrong.

The truth is that I don't mind the fuzzy feeling of one hundred ten volts of electricity.

The truth is that I roll the windows down just enough to smell July's roadkill, even though no one actually rolls them anymore.

The truth is that every time I pass my high school track I cringe and wish that life was still broken down into one lazy-paced quarter-mile at a time.

The truth is that I apologize for the things I shouldn't and blame myself for what's not my fault.

The truth is that I've squandered time and money in equal parts to the point of self-pitying karmic equilibrium.

The truth is that I'd rather have two good friends with which to porchdrink than a list of acquaintances who may or may not do justice when the ammo runs out.

The truth is that I like the ideas of things, writing and guns included, more than the things themselves.

The truth is that there's a full load of laundry waiting to be folded and I've got limited moonlight before work.

The truth, they forgot to tell you in college and union meetings, is as highly overrated as blood relations.

Currently reading:
"Rabbit At Rest" by John Updike.