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?