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.