Flight Risks, Other Than Crashing

I've been seeing eagles
while working on the river.
I suppose that may sound funny.
Most rivers work on me.

There's a lion's share
of tiger's blood
within the disco inferno.
Valor trumps discretion.
The drawing board's redundant.

Mother was right:
No wonder they run.
Sir, may I offer suggestions?

Leave this town.
Never look back.
There's a pregnancy test
in the trash can.


You Deserve the Love You Don't Expect

Studies have shown
that the bayonet
has always been
a useless tool
in battle
as human beings
have a hard time
with the physical act
of stabbing
and will use the blunt end
of a rifle butt
to bludgeon an adversary
before prodding his torso
with a muzzle-fixed blade.


Vanity Plates

A blizzard.
A truck.
A mem'ry of two drivers
crazy enough to venture
where their parents warned
of wrecks.

Unhanded wheels and trust
too easy to pretend.

A road trip.
A border.
A photo turned to painting
but never quite completed
before the altered lease.

That immortal laugh
too evil to appease.

He still drives in shitty weather
when it's worth it, only slower.
She can thank his guilty conscience
for the breaths she takes with ease.
There are some mistakes you learn from--
Rattled cages sworn for sabers.
That dreadful thing that drives you--
Never pry it from your sleeve.

Currently reading:
"Journal of a Novel: The 'East of Eden' Letters" by John Steinbeck.


Necessary Nativity Evils

It's a rare thing for Marty Guilfoyle to catch a break so close to Christmas. Usually it's unpaid bills, expensive gifts on installment, a whispered suicide too far removed to matter. When his foreman rings the bell hours ahead of schedule on Christmas Eve without saying a word, the men on the production floor don't ask questions. Factory work is hard-- harder with a boss who only speaks to kick your shins-- so every little drop of humanizing grace is savored. The day shift punches out in a huddle with talk of pungent eggnog, women too weary from chasing excited children to put up a fight, and sanctified gifts of matrimony that only come on special occasions after the honeymoon's faded. Most of them are lying. They'll sleep as unsatisfied as ever. A wise man once warned Marty not to marry for love, but for friendship. Love will recede with beauty over time. A companion of the truest form will be there when you wake without teeth in the morning someday. That same sage went mad years later. They said it was work-related, but Marty knew better. There are thousands of ways a man can make money, but far fewer means of rationalizing the race. Something told Marty the catalyst had a name and a face, a way of pinching the outside corners of her eyes when she smiled. He thinks of what she might smell like in the morning as he lets his coworkers clock out ahead of him to embark on their hopeful homeward dash.

Marty's trek is not a long one. When he and Ethel picked a place to call their own he made it a point to keep it close to the living, breathing building where he slaves for minimum wage and partial benefits. Even on his days off he can hear the whistle that punctuates the beginning and end of lunch break. Ethel has always criticized him for his inability to expand his horizons. This year he's hoping to make up for his simplicity with the boxed and wrapped necklace he's clutching in the pocket of his heavy overcoat with threadbare elbows. After last year's mistaken gift of a kitchen appliance he swore he'd never fall short in the present department again. Ethel never once made waffles, before or after that doomed twenty-fifth.

A headline jumps out at him from the remnants of a tattered newspaper decomposing in the gutter. The Communists are taking over in a land too far east for him to fathom. Marty could never comprehend how a foreigner's chosen system of government could affect his daily living or justify sudden absences in positions once held by young men at his factory. That was another point of contention for Ethel-- a prime example of his naivete that kept her crawling up the walls. The concept of a Cold War escaped Marty's narrow thinking. If anything, he sometimes joked to himself, the term should be used to describe love after forty.

When he climbs the steps to his apartment a chill comes over his shoulders like a cold breath from above. Something doesn't feel right. The hallway seems too quiet. There are no squeals of merry children sneaking under loosely fitting doors. Without noticing it he clings harder to the small package in his pocket that cost him three-weeks' pay. Ethel's taste is specific. He hopes he's gotten it pinned this time. A strange unfamiliarity descends as he reaches for the lock with his battered brass key. The knob turns, but the door is caught by the chain. Ethel never uses that added means of safety and laughs at Marty's paranoia when he secures it before bed. No lights or sounds come from the gap revealing his slice of rehearsed Heaven. Marty looks down and sees a pair of boots he doesn't recognize on the uneven hardwood floor. Instantly he knows; he knows and doesn't want to.

"Just as well," he whispers to the peeling paint of Apartment 4B's entrance. With a loveless toss the perfectly wrapped jewelry box lands in the Stranger's left boot, a penance paid for having come home too early for the motions to continue. There's an opportunity for overtime on the aptly named Bachelor's Shift that appeals to the place where Marty's heartache should reside. A man, if given the chance, will gracefully go gray. He hurries down the stairwell hoping not to hear the whistle that designates beginnings of the shift and his new life. Saint Nick and the Communists aren't the only coming red-clad men.


Reading, Writhing, Rhythm Tic

Not that it alters
the story for most
but I was jewelry shopping
when I saw him
this time.
Unlike the last
I reintroduced myself
eighteen years after
his heart taught my mind.

"Last name?" he asked
to filter out thousands
of others he helped
through the system for years.
A warm recognition
came when it hit him.
He shook with his left--
his right on a cane--
proof that we've both
had our battles since then.

There wasn't the shame
there had been before.
Success is not something
one mounts to a wall.
And still, like in grade school
the pages hold answers.
He nurtured a searcher
who's still on the trail.

Contingency Plan

From my 10:03 window
on Christmas Eve morning
a bouncing squirrel stops
to drink from the edge
of a frozen puddle
formed on the rubber
of the roof next-door
by the faulty pitch
of a day-laborer
who cared not
if the rain
made it to the gutter.

By the time I return
from typing this
it's gone in search
of the next small break
waiting in a frozen world.
I crack my last three eggs
over a warming pan
grateful that none of my parents
kept a room for me
when I fell from the nest.

It took two weeks
to remember the name
of the last girl I dated
after she split.
They may all be flight risks.
I'll go unchanged.
Unshadowed convictions
won't douse my flame.
There's a reckoning with irony
that I'll live to see.


Two Is One and One Is None

She's been sick
for the last two days
with the hacking
fevered congestion
that only falls
upon the undeserving.
After working
with her husband
I swing by the diner
that makes her favorite
matzoh ball soup
and drop it off
at her condo;
two orders
in case she wants to share
or savor it.

Her first of three husbands
was Jewish and this kosher spin
on comfort food
is all she can stomach
when ill
to this day.

"How'd you know
I wanted that?"
she asks from
the top of the stairs
pretending that her son
doesn't know his creator.

One day I'll find my secret comfort
maybe someone to discover it
and when I give them both up
I'll know what it is to love.


The Sirens of Pompeii

Was it karma
catching fire?,
or a show
of beating flesh?

A white cat
on its tenth life
darts from the alley
while I smoke
Maybe this is what
good luck looks like--
a drawer full of anagrams
what have you.

And I will help you hang
your pictures
since you've helped me
rip some down.
Only Christ could dangle
The rest all longed for blood.


We've Got a Live One Here

If you can dish it
bet that I can take it.
I've done my time
and know that mine
has always served a purpose.

The way you lay them on me
when the urge writhes in your flanks
regardless of the sidewalk
has me giving thanks
for the many men who made me
and the women who were wrong
about a twisted minstrel
with a complicated song

and even to the evenings
that start and end like this.
I hear the party on the street.
It's nothing that I miss.

If you can stand it
I'd like to lick your soul.
"Wolf!" cried boy
and every toy
he ever had was worthless.


Oxford Comma

It's a rare real conversation
with a man I love
who made himself scarce
for years.
The wife's gone to work.
The kid's asleep under my arm.
The steak dinner and stars have aligned
to allow two kindred ships
to pass closer in their darkness.

He lets me lead for a change, smiles
knowingly when my hits score points.
I can tell he's surprised to hear sage words
come from the lips he passed down, a soul
he helped form whether or not it was intended.
"Like your father used to say, 'There's a little larceny
in everyone's heart'," I jab with a ringer.
His eyes gleam at the familiar advice
heard from a freshman he told ten years ago.
He shouldn't be so shocked that I've cited
a kinsman who died before I was born.
A writer, if nothing else, is a keen observer.

The years have been kind to him, at least
on the outside. Time has smoothed his face
like driftwood. There are no deep ridges
like windtorn valleys digging through
his aging countenance. And still the eyes--
always the eyes, the deep brown orbs
that reach as far inside of him as mine do in me.
A yellow glow warms the living room
where part of me grew up
as I cherish every word exchanged
not knowing when the last will come.
One never does.
He must read my mind.
The eyes again.

"God forbid anything should happen to me..."
he begins, his hands rubbing themselves
as if to feel for some latent illness
waiting to rear its head.
I nod and stroke my brother's arm
loose with the peace of dreamscapes.
Life's not worth the burden
until it's lived for someone else.
Torpedoes be damned, I have that now.

We wander back to the baffling
doled out by the fairer sex.
Years' worth of failed coronary experiments
are summed up in a matter of minutes.
One of them even gets a name.
I owe him that much, one character
in my tale. Some things, however
I keep for myself.
Only I know of the clandestinely acquired
ring sizes, the accidental misgivings, and
what they all mean to the penitent.

There's only one left to chamber
so I fire it
confident that my bullet will pierce.
"It's hard for a drowning man
to grab a buoy slowly."

My father picks my brother up
and carries him to his bedroom.


Save the Date

It's nailed to my refrigerator--
a constant thin reminder
of the chances that exist
regardless of the sand.

There's a formal one to follow
this embrace in black and white
with its swooping cursive letters
that sing of my friend's fate.

Ten months stand between us--
ample time for suits and gifts
perhaps a Plus-One venture
if the pendulum swings true

though that's not what it's about.
Selfless joy lays like a rug
in most people who've forgotten
what the Good Book vows on love.

From the Latin

The only one that matters
if the Editor should ask
is the group of honest stanzas
that had to be released
despite the burning redness
which the doctors couldn't cure
in these eyes that soak too much
of what's right and wrong and real.

There should always be a price
that is paid for making waves.
If the penman's heart's not in it
there's no blood left on the page.
When the feet-thick, dusty manuscript
is laid at Peter's toes
there won't be time for repentance
since offending parties know.

It's not so much the weather
that has him wearing sweaters.
If the Editor should ask
it was in the name of science.


Ode From a Morbid Whore

Jesus Christ
that little jump they do
when squeezing jeans on...
I'd give my
I lost it in my ankles.
To think
not once
but thousands
of bygone better times
I've witnessed such communion
and lived to humbly miss it.
These catatonic rods and cones
may never see again
so hold the line
and keep the faith
for sins of omission
prove equally mortal.

All points east are out of bounds
for a noose-burnt harrier on the prowl
though it's just as well
he has his limits
that his tether snapped.
The denizens of sea-faring towns
and those who build the world
are skilled in the realm of tying knots.
But me?
I've lashed my hands.

In the words of a better man:
"There'll be water if God wills it."

This is the strangest lick of love
the likes of me will pen
as all fingers are left out
along with senseless questions.
Sometimes, though rarely
the best man wins
but when a loser gets lucky
he'll only break toes
for kicking the curb
when out it runs
like the ink
like the blood
like the time in our lives.


The Soiled Misadventures of Johnny Rap-Sheet and the Skid-Mark Kid

Cruising passed a Red Lobster
I think of my conception:
a waitress, a lecher, some gin--
It doesn't take much.
"They broke the mold, alright,"
says the Happy Accident never.

How Spartan of him.
He's smitten with a franchise.

I could get used to this
firm water pressure
if only her eyes could
pierce like the weather

but for now it's back to the rules:
-No sex in the champagne room.
-No guns on the coffee table.
-Please turn down the music
while this party is bleached.

They've exhumed corpses
and found claw marks
in the caskets.
How much more real
do you expect it to be?

Currently reading:
"East of Eden" by John Steinbeck.


Bombardier's Eyes

The scene's two pickled cowboys
at ungodly three a.m.
thumbing through the pages
looking for the lines
while trying to succeed
in the remnants of a city
where public transportation
still has the right of way.

"Pass the pen, I found it!"
my conspirator exclaims
prior to reciting
a bit on shameless death.
It feels so right
to share our prayers
regardless of our state
since a jester lacking audience
is more or less a fool.

To love is to surrender
and reality's perception
so even if they take this night
I've had it, I don't mind.
It all flows back
to the same old bit--
they don't want
what we can't give.
We whip them off their pedestals
and strap our six-guns tight.

I'm often not at liberty
to share my true adventures
but this one made it all worth
coming home to face my sheets.
There's nothing like a friend
from smoother trails who's seen your
stumble and still reserves a spot
on your couch when back in town.


Road Soda

I can drink you under tables
and remember the whole evening.
I can perch a house of cards
on the backs of sleeping demons.
I can build you up
and tear you down
all with the same tongue.
I can paint a pretty picture
with an ugly set of crayons.

I can tell what that long thumbnail's for
and it isn't turning pages.
I can thread your little needle
and sew what needs my string.
I can start off on the bottom
and still come out on top.
I can throw a fool's Hail Mary
on a whim to win the game.

But there's something
in my eyes
that warns them
all's not right
as I slice my way
into imperfect wombs
and wait for morning.
The better sex is with
the girls with poorly placed tattoos
but they tend to count my scars
while I'm still adding blessings.

Currently reading:
"The Dangerous Summer" by Ernest Hemingway.


Pavo Flaco

"Maybe your cousin will offer you a turkey carcass the day after Thanksgiving," my mother quips. It's a reference to an old inside joke. My grandmother pretended to be thankful for the sad remains of a turkey delivered so rudely by one of her many granddaughters years back. "You could make a soup out of it," was the accompanying phrase, though being invited to the feast in the first place would've been preferred. Good old grandma smiled thankfully and waited until her company left to throw the skin and bones into the trash can. It was an instance the three of us would laugh about whenever poultry came up back when there were still three of us.

"One can only hope..." I type from the safety of my cell's keypad in response. It dawns on me that this will be our first holiday without her. It must be breaking my mom's heart, too. Neither of us mention it, but we know. A mother and her only son always know without saying.

I stop what I'm doing at the time, which doesn't amount to much, to think of what I'm thankful for this year: a new brother, an old father, and the beautiful life and gracious death of the woman who taught me the most about love. Suddenly it's not so bad; lonely still, but not so bad. There are people who will need me around a bit longer. There are promises I've made to photographs on shelves.

I go back to painting the mask I'll wear tomorrow when meeting my father's in-laws and hope for, among other things, the paint to dry in time.

Currently reading:
"The Selected Poems of Robert Creeley".


Water Cooler Talk From a Far Away Place

"Hey. Did you hear about Chuck from the mail room?" asked Dante as he stirred sugar into his coffee, his hand as dark as the cup's contents.

"No, what happened now?" Lamar replied, tightening the knot in his tie with the help of the mirror mounted over the kitchenette sink.

"He chased his girlfriend through their trailer park with a butcher knife and was arrested." Dante drew a sip of his brew, inserting a perfectly timed pause for dramatic effect, then continued. "The company let him go this morning when the newspaper hit certain desks." His voice was that of disappointment thinly veiled by false pity.

"That's the second honky we've fired this month 'cause of this type of shit," Lamar whispered scandalously.

"Oh, don't sound so disappointed," Dante accused in his booming baritone. "These people are their own worst enemies. White-on-white crime is higher than it's ever been. My wife wants to sell the house because of the recent influx of crackers."

Both black gentlemen looked around the break room to establish that it was safe to continue speaking freely. Such language wasn't encouraged by corporate. When the walls were real instead of cubicles the truth often came out. There had to be a time to vent. Being an equal opportunity employer was one thing, but to condone such a lifestyle for the sake of contrived fairness seemed insane. What company could afford such folly?

"Be easy, brother. Don't go throwing your bigotry around here. I have a lot of white friends."

"And by that you mean you want to pound out Charlene, that dainty little butter bean that winks at you while she pushes her broom down the hallway. If her body was any straighter they'd have Hank in maintenance run the flag up it every morning instead of the pole out front. Jesus, Lamar. I'm no racist, but statistics don't lie. And don't you remember how close they came to costing us that labor contract with the Christmas party fiasco?"

Lamar tried unsuccessfully to hide a smile before answering.

"It's not their fault they can't dance, Dante. Not everyone is born with rhythm. The playing field's not level."

"Listen to you, man. You sound like a bleeding-heart liberal or something. They shouldn't have taken such full advantage of the open bar if they knew it would get ugly. Those people can't resist their Pabst Blue Ribbon, though. They almost ruined it for all of us. Thankfully Jamal understands that they can't help themselves-- a little too much, if you ask me. The only reason he promoted Scott was because..."

"Now you stop right there," Lamar interjected. "Scott and I went to high school together. He was always one of the good ones. In gym class he didn't even bother trying to shoot the ball, he'd pass it right to one of us who could sink a basket. That's being a team player, and it's a trait that's carried on into his career. Scott deserved that raise whether you like it or not."

Lamar flicked his wrist toward the floor in a tic that only showed itself when he needed to make a point. The heavy links of his gold watch jumped and landed again, their settling sound punctuating his statement.

"Try telling that to my kids when they're ready for college. Lord knows I can't afford to send all of them to private schools. At least one may have to go to a state university, unless they get scholarships. Do you know how hard it is for black kids to get scholarships in this day and age? It seems if a white boy can spell his name right some government agency wants to throw our hard-earned tax dollars his way to send him off for a degree he'll never use. Two semesters go by and he's right back on the streets selling meth anyway, only now with a little more chemistry experience for his crank-cooking activities courtesy of hard-working Niggas like you and me. Doesn't it turn ya' muhfuckin' stomach?"

A new presence was felt in the room, but Dante was not to be slowed.

"And the way they can't pry themselves from their damn televisions Sunday night, and then be talkin' 'bout that shit all Monday. Or if they lazy asses finally figure out how to cook sumpin' decent and feel the need to take pictures of it to show all they friends. Or how 'bout when..."

"Excuse me, Mr. Jackson, but I find this conversation quite..."

"Goddammit, Leroy! You get yo' ashy ass up outta here before I beat you upside the haid with that 'Uncle Tom of the Year' trophy the comp'ny gave you."

Lamar shrugged his shoulders at quiet old Leroy Jefferson and turned back to an enraged Dante, who would now be visibly red had there not been so much melanin in his skin. It was all a necessary evil. A man could only take so much before feeling like he was being used by a system that abandoned him decades ago. The country was going down the tubes, partially due to the recent trend of giving hand-outs to people who didn't want to work, some of them being white. It was enough to anger any God-fearing, self-respecting, taxpaying citizen like Dante Jackson. Lamar could sympathize. It was, as Dante often said, enough to drive a Nigga crazy.

An Easy, Late-Night Let-Down

...and she was nowhere near
my ideal woman, the one
who'll someday crack me open
for the final time like an egg
hitting a tile floor, but seemed
to be a real sweet gal for someone else.

"You have perfect teeth," I replied.
"I could never date someone
with perfect teeth."

Thankfully for both of us
I never heard back.



I was basking in that precious brand
of warm, mid-Autumn sunshine
with the afternoon's first cigarette
dangling from my lips
as a man, perhaps a vagrant
careened westward down the sidewalk.

He reached into the garbage can
spewing on the corner
and removed a brown beer bottle
that a merrymaker left.
At first I thought the refund
was the gent's intended bounty
until he tipped the bottom up
to suck a stranger's swill.
When the last drop hit his tongue
like the gods' most sacred nectar
he jettisoned the longneck
moving on about his day.
I thought I did the same
until it dawned on me this evening
that he must be out there somewhere
grabbing joy by its thin throat.

I've seen cowardice so blatant
that I've looked for hairless tails
and I've walked by dusty mirrors
and lakes on windless days
but the bravest man I've seen this week
was chasing down a thirst
that no white boy prone to staring
could make him fail to savor.

Cloak and Dagger Tulips Too Soon

"Turn yourself in, Dale," Melanie begged. "You've got too much to lose this time."

She mostly meant herself, and Dale agreed with that assessment, though he couldn't let on that any of it was true. The moment you gave them the satisfaction of having wings you were done. It was an unspoken truth that she'd swooped down and plucked him out of his self-imposed gutter. It would be that much harder to crawl back into it while pretending to stand the stench. Dale didn't fear the law as much as he did what the ramifications could imply for his fate with Melanie. He couldn't believe he'd put that at risk. Even after all the changes he made to prevent himself from losing this chance, the cut ties and deleted numbers, there was still one fact staring him in the face: Dale had a streak of sorts exacerbated by the bottle. It wasn't necessarily a mean one, hence his omission of the word; but it was there. Too much reading of cowboy novels, too many calibers collected like the paper proverb contents of fortune cookies, too long on the trail that almost brought him to that final clearing. Dale had given up on blaming genetics. His father could barely be held responsible for his own actions, let alone those of his wayward progeny. If there was one thing Dale was good at it was simply being Dale. He hoped that would be enough for Melanie. He hoped for a lot of things, but rarely spoke of them sober for fear that mentioning his dreams would scare them away like precious feathers floating on the water in which he'd been treading for years.

"I can't, sweetheart. Not yet."

The pained look of disappointment on her face at the sound of his refusal cut his soul to its stubborn bone. How could he say no to the one woman graceful enough to love the likes of him so completely? It made him want to bury himself in that foul trench from which he'd been rescued. Men of his staggering gait deserved every bit of karmic justice which came their way. Dale felt sick at the thought of what that meant for his hand. It'd been Aces and Eights for far too long. A few pair of Queens came and went along the shuffle, a Suicide King adding blood to the mix. It was his turn to call and watch that black-hooded villain read 'em and weep. Sore knuckles and a barely blackened eye were saying otherwise, however. "Don't think I've come out of this unscathed," one of those Queens had slung at him during a textbook farewell speech. He supposed the same held true for brawling. Winners and losers-- they all walked away with a trifling bit of a limp.

Her eyes never met his, but he felt just as guilty. "It's about time I wash this blood off of me," he said, changing the subject to one equally scandalous. Most of it was not his, not that he mentioned that to Molly. Saying so would have made him sound barbaric, a gloating sadist glad to have inflicted pain. That was not the case. It was merely a fact. He had delivered more blows, and to the face. Not unscathed, though not as worse for the wear as his dance partner.

Dale excused himself to the bathroom. He wiped gingerly, his reddened knuckles resisting certain angles, then took a plunger to the ever-clogging toilet after relieving himself. He'd miss the faulty plumbing if the plan didn't pan out so graciously. Through the hollow bathroom wall he heard his neighbor playing an electric guitar. Something soothing, clean, arpeggiated. He'd miss that, too. Everyone should share at least one wall with a musician, Dale thought as he loosened the shower handles. Warm water came down from the head in giant beads that seemed to find more sore spots than he realized existed. He winced as he scrubbed and he rinsed. Not enough dirt swirled down the drain.

A combination of the warm stinging sensation and the rhythm of the water had him hypnotized as he stared at his toes in the controlled deluge. That's when the lights cut out. They've killed the power, Dale thought, one too many Hollywood shoot-'em-ups swimming through his aching skull. But no SWAT teams burst through any doors or windows to slam him with an arrest warrant after pinning him to the tile floor, naked and ashamed. Instead a thin hand reached through the darkness and drew back the vinyl curtain enough for a lithe female figure to slide in next to the fugitive.

"Room for one more?" Melanie asked as she  wrapped her arms around Dale's torso.

"Always," he said, a grateful desperation in his tone. The legal consultation could wait until Monday. There were larger things at stake than securing a retainer. If and when the time came they'd face the firing squad together; not Dale and his advertised attorney.

There, in the silent assurance promised by an unseen tenderness, the lucky couple made love without the need for intercourse.


No One Can Love a Broken Record

For the first time in my life
"Angie" by the Stones
comes on without me dumping
money in the juke.
After realizing Mick's point
I delete her number--
long overdue, with the rice
in her shoes.

When the barkeep
makes eye contact
I halfway raise my left
while downing the Club
with my right. He's pouring
out more whiskey
as the final chorus ends
with a promise and a pleading piano.

As the ice cubes hit my teeth
I make amends with
a twenty-year-old
who got too cocky
without having the knack.
The cocktail slides my way
as I try to tell the difference
between late Winter
and early Spring.

It's tough when you can't
trust the women
who've let you inside them
and worse when you can't
trust yourself
but we don't have those problems
here, this man serving the drinks and I.
(The waitress called him Mike, poor slob.)
We've trued up ancient sums
and I'm about to pay him, too.

It will be a short drive home.
I tip thirty percent
and feel I got off easy
though honestly, when do I not?

Currently reading:
"The Wind Through the Keyhole" by Stephen King.


Never Tell Me the Odds

It's late and I'm sober
when there's no excuse to be.

I can hear the bricks
of my bedroom walls breathing--
The sound of karma snoring
deep beneath the waves.
"Keep your heart small,"
the rhythmic pulse entreats
though I know nothing
of such travesties
and might yet die
an honest man
if I can stay the course--
Here, for lease, with option to buy
and a lifetime supply of adjectives.


A Marksman On Retainer

The thought of turning cheeks
was more daunting at the time.
Details make the lie
and liars make their deals.
Say what you will
but the kid can take a punch--
A soiled name in circles
and without a bridge to cross.

Starting over's hard
when your fists still write the script.
"A man walks in a bar..."
and proceeds to plead the Fifth.
There behind the oak
is a woman pulling strings.
There's a rhapsody in progress
that'll pass you if you blink.


Behold the Bride Iscariot With Emeralds In Her Eyes

"You don't have to go through with it, Linda," her sister-in-law said sweetly without knowing her breath was wasted. "The family considers you a member. That'll never change." Gail's eyes weren't visible through the telephone wires, but Linda could see them looking up and to the left. She couldn't blame anyone for feeling as they did. The heart wants what the heart wants. Linda had been through enough transformations to know that like math.

"Thanks, Gail," Linda answered, still cringing from the bit about being "considered a member". They made it sound like their kinship was some sort of elitist country club to which she'd been, and would be, an honorable guest regardless of her low-caste bloodline. It was a favor she didn't want from anyone, least of all these stunned Anglo-Saxons scurrying for cover. She slid the pile of forms closer to her and began filling out boxes and blanks, careful not to use any lower-case letters in case Uncle Sam raised his eyebrows. "But I think it's what Paul would've wanted-- for me to be free, to move on and rebuild, without having to think of him every time I sign my name."

A silence fell over both rooms simultaneously despite the dozens of miles between them. Mention of the deceased had brought it back to brass tacks. He'd barely been in the ground for a month, but then again they'd only been married for two anniversaries. Time would always be relative, whether or not these strange people would consider themselves the same. A mass of confusion had muddled the circumstances surrounding his death. A suicide, and with no note; it seemed uncharacteristic of their beloved Paul to react so intensely, and to what? The lack of explanation was unlike him. Paul was more verbose than those around him could tolerate at times. He was the one whose drinks were watered down first at family parties for fear that they'd never end otherwise. Once his lips got rolling it was hard for them to stop. Aside from his verbiage, his passion raised questions. Theirs was a love he'd always been seeking. To give it up so brashly after finally finding solace in the storm made no sense. Passionate, rational, and long-winded:  their son's demise failed to fit with any of these traits for which they'd known him. The abundance of alcohol in his system at the time of autopsy deemed an investigation unwarranted, however. Local police wrote it off as another maudlin drunk's permanent solution to a temporary problem. There was little that loved ones could do to refute this. Statistics, like bedsheets, don't lie.

"Well, as you wish. Let me know if you need anything. Being back there again must be so difficult for--" but Gail fell to sobbing before she could finish. A love nest turned crime scene was what the home had become. Linda had refused to enter it until now even though the last strand of yellow police ribbon had been plucked from the premises weeks ago. Suicide was a crime, but not one that could be tried. Paul would have his Maker as his soul's sole judge. And Linda would have the pieces to collect, though not necessarily by herself.

"I will. I promise. Give your family my love. I really must be going, though," and with sparse goodbyes and verbal curtsies the two women ended what would be their last conversation.

Linda had almost completed her Change of Name paperwork when the telephone rang again. The afternoon had waned to evening without her noticing the change. At first her hand hesitated for fear that it was another ex-in-law, but something in her gut swore otherwise.

"Hello?" she asked from behind a timid veil.

"Are you almost done over there?" came a curt, masculine voice, gruff and sore and soaked with whiskey.

"Yes. I'll be heading out shortly," she sighed, a slight alteration in her tone. "Shall I bring anything special?" Linda knew well what he'd be desiring immediately, particularly after the alcohol, but her pawn in brute's clothing understood that saying so would only cast it farther out of reach. The fairer sex knows how to sell it.

"No, darling. Just you," he said with a schoolboy's sincerity.

"Good. I'll see you soon."

After signing away her brief former self to the sanctioned powers that be, Linda walked around the house turning out the lights. She wouldn't miss that place or the future it could've held for her. The money was now hers, and time. What else could've mattered? She thought nothing of it as she pulled the lamp chain above Paul's desk and left the answers in the dark to be discarded by the real estate agent prior to the showing. There, in the wastepaper basket tucked under the antique roll-top, was a crumpled ball of receipts she'd failed to hide well enough from her groom, as well as the charred remains of a letter scrawled in nervous strokes that ended with "Goodbye".

"How could you?" was her favorite line, a rare succinct sentence from her former lover.

She had a lifetime to reply.


Wayward Waterfall Companions

"Someone call the sawbones!"
and then the Inquisition.
The promise ring has tarnished.
The junkie shoots up Hope.

A mammal cried for Mercy
when the catheter was yanked.
A peasant's face, a Russian's
by candlelight sans icon--
In lieu of further sexcapades
go tell yourself you're owed.

I've ridden this horse
into battle before
and notched my pistols' grips.
Most times the shortest chapter
is the best one in the book.


On Playing the Minefield

the Duke
tried in vain
to tell us
with film:

all for you
it's all

("I remember
what's behind
those trusting eyes,"
she said
capping our convo
on Change.)

Judas here
the hottest
he ever held

and envies
his lesbian neighbors.


26 Light-Years Apart

Cheap photo frames
for pictures of fathers
sons and corrections
in plot holes that gape.

I'll take the chipped one.
My mind's eye remembers.
I don't need perfection
to prove I was there.

He gave me a whistle
to blow when my brother
isn't behaving.
It runs in the blood.

Cheap photo frames
and a whistle, unused--
We'll laugh hard about this
when cocktail years come.


The Light Brigade, Wasted By Powers That Be

Somewhere over the rainbow
someone cares, I swear it.
Try not to think
about prior matches
hosted atop
your hand-me-down mattress.

So I chase flies
'round the kitchen
with a towel
mostly naked
swinging desperate
like those who put faith
in the Reverend Jim Jones
and his recipe for Kool-Aid.

He did, in that case
what any self-respecting
searcher would do
after such a misfire:
He went where it hurts.

In this tone I've mustered
despite all the fluster
I'll answer the question
that's burning your tongue:
No, I haven't lost weight
or bullets.

(It'll rattle around
a few dozen times
before stopping
and lodging for good
when it comes.)

They say he's been studying racing forms.
He's betting on a losing horse.
But is there such thing as a winning one?
Save time by asking the Trojans.



While waiting out
these storms
with a tongue
bound by the law
I can tell you safely
that those troops
who guard the Tomb
of the Unknown Soldier
should consider themselves lucky
that the dead don't notice flinching
as much as you or me.

Currently reading:
"The Dark Tower VII" by Stephen King.


A Pawn Like Jack Ruby

The best part about having connected Albanian brothers as landlords is that no one fucks with you; no one who matters, anyway. No one who could truly hurt you would be foolish enough to piss in their pool. Those greasy little pseudo-Greeks would kill you for a dime. Take money out of their pockets and consider it a declaration of war. Whack a low-level thug living in one of their properties and they're losing rent. Do it on premises and you've drawn police attention. Rub out some punk who lives above their money-front of an Italian restaurant and you've signed your own death warrant-- their patronage will decrease at the initial shock, increase briefly in the name of morbid curiosity, and then plummet again once the cursed crime scene stigma fastens itself to the joint for good. That's a bell curve you don't want to produce. That's a wave you don't want to make. That's exactly why I moved to 564 Brewer Street, Mordred, New Jersey when things got hot at the old pad. My fanclub started monitoring me, taking notes on my habits from conspicuously close stake-out sedans with tinted windows. It was only a matter of time before they pounced. It takes a fool to fuck up, a man to admit it, and a genius to work his way out of it. I'm not claiming any of those titles, but I'd bet my unknown bastard children that I'm safe. For now.

The problem is that I got greedy. Pigs get fat, hogs go to slaughter. Some sage I worked with at an up-and-up job told me that once. Then I got the axe while he stayed on with the company. Guess I was a hog there, too. Goes to show you what sweating for a living will get you. I'd prefer to bleed a little, barely enough to turn a profit. I bled a bit too much on this last gig. Drew that attention I didn't want, though this kind wasn't from Johnny Law. It was from Chen Lau. Don't ask what my scam was. I wouldn't be much of a magician if I showed you what was under my hat, much of a crook if I was honest, or much of a salesman if I told you how much coin was to be made on the sheep of society. Want to buy some swampland in Florida? I'll sell it you cheap. Bring waders along with your sunglasses.

But back to this Johnny Lau. I went into my endeavor with the same mentality from high school:  pick on those smaller than you. That was another mistake on the long list of them. Those little Chink cockbites don't seem like much face-to-face, but what they lack in size they make up for in numbers and sheer tenacity, not to mention brutality. Never underestimate the sadistic side of a Chinaman. I've seen what's left of those unfortunate enough to land in their clutches after screwing them. It isn't much. It isn't pretty. Still, I pushed buttons and assumed the role my agent's created: arrogant smart-ass typecast ad nauseam. I used to call them Orientals during our brief transaction discussions. It became a miniature game for me, a side wager placed while the big bet played out. How many times could I refer to the short little pricks with the adjective used to refer to rugs without them Bruce Leeing me prematurely? Every money lender envisions making his debtor go away eventually, one way or another. On the darker side of things it's never with a handshake and a smile. The borrowing addiction runs rampant in our world, even more than smoking or fixing. All of our lives are spent in some debt. The nation's at sixteen trillion. Great example, Uncle Sam. You've paved the way for all of us and enabled a legion of lenders.

The slant-eyed faction was my chosen poison. I figured any thug I could roll into a ball and use in a game of garbage can bowling without breaking a sweat would be my best host to leech. Little did I know that there are a ton of them, and they're loyal, and most of them have unquestionably legitimate businesses. Why is that? Because it all looks great on paper. The numbers add up since the accountants are Asian. Racist, you say? Not in the slightest. That race has been spanking us scholastically since our silly boys first sailed East for spices. Now, when I tell you the Spics are too lazy to come get me here, the smarter of the Niggers are too afraid of becoming another statistic, and those I-talian Guinea-whops know better than to cross an Albanian by shitting where he eats-- let alone two of them bonded by blood and bank accounts-- that, my friend, would be a statement worthy of criticism. I'm not prejudiced. I fall into a few of those stereotypes myself. Let me not admit that too vividly. It makes for a weakened antihero. My head's tired enough these days from keeping my ear to the ground to listen for tiny, pissed-off feet. I can barely carry this story.

What's left of it adds up like those numbers the yellow men in black suits were scrutinizing; there are, in back rooms of third-generation businesses on Main Street, USA, tiny abacuses with golden "Made in China" stickers on them being manipulated by hands smaller than my kid nephew's. It turns my stomach to think that they've got me holed up like this, but it's my fault for not getting out of the racket in time. I knew that I wish pushing it with that last one. I knew, and didn't give two shits. Not even one. There's a saying I never understood. What I lack in brains I make up for in hardware. I've got enough tools of the trade stashed to hold off a small army of them until the boys in blue arrive. Everything's registered and on a permit. My story holds water. My shit reeks of roses. The District Attorney would have a hard time pinning anything on me other than a few unpaid parking tickets. I keep those around for the sole purpose of not coming off as curiously clean if I do finally get pinched. Everyone's got some facts worth hiding. If it smells like shit it probably is. No one trusts a man with no dirt...

...Which reminds me that I really should do laundry tonight. It's almost two in the morning, the perfect time to run sorties without being noticed. A new twenty-four-hour 'mat opened up down the street last week, Lucky Dragon Launderers or some forgettable name like that. It's locked at night to keep the homeless from loitering, but there's a sign to bang on the steel door in the alley around back for an attendant to let you in. How convenient it is that I don't even have to drive to wash my clothes anymore. Meals are delivered by busboys set loose, the dumpster's right below my window, and the only time I have to leave the protection of my safehouse is when I run out of clean underwear once a week. Good luck nabbing me, Charlie. I've got this all figured out.


Weather's Here, Wish You Were Beautiful

It's tough to sweep you
off your feet
when I'm still gathering
pieces of me
pulling bullets
biting wood
and marking words
in shelf dust.

A comedienne
made a joke of a man
and the nurses
couldn't fix him.
Henry Miller
said to turn
the lost ones
into prose.

A letter came
a stolen photo
a call when surgery hurt her.
A cripple read cursive
a blind man admired
and a masochist gave a sore shoulder.

There comes a time
to pack it in
declare your own blood poison.
A eulogy should write itself.
I must still be alive.


Filled Up, Let Down, Still Won't Tap the Rockies

When Pangaea split
my heart went as well
feeling its way through the harbors.

This tetanus shot's
had my arm sore for days.
Maybe the needle was rusted.

There's little to say
on medals and scars
that isn't carved slowly
in driftwood.

When my heart explodes
the blood will form islands
that no steel or bronze
will inhabit.

Baffled by Esperanto

It comes as a virus
infected by man:
the stacking of milked Mother Nature.
In one spider's web
a smaller arachnid
has spun another
in two outer frames
like a gross display
of our politics.
The light catches it
while my smoke gives depth
to the evening steps
and a car pulls in
to the same spot as always.

Its driver ejects
with the force of much grain
and dances upon the macadam.
Still unimpressed, he squawks at his friend
who's keeping a window
open quite late
since it's already half through October.

"It's cold," he states
to me or to him
but I take up the reins
with a dull "Little bit."
It dawns on me later
as it tends to do
that I should've said
"Not if you're drunk."
That kind of quip
and its typical risks
was burned with
my little black book.

Hearing a door
and peering its way
reveals that it's only the hopeful.
The small spider waits
for its turn up at bat.
Don't forget the face of your father.


Skin Over Troubled Waters

Laying here
with heads horizontal
and faces four inches apart
her aqua eyes half-cocked
as if gazing at fire
or Infinity
it dawns on me why
God gave her eyelids:

I'd fall inside those pools
otherwise, never to return
and pay taxes.


Plenty of Frauds

Last week, for the second time
in my life, twenty-five years apart
I left a drink unattended and
sucked up a bee.
At least this time it didn't sting my tongue
(which now does most of the stinging).
I say "it", but it wasn't the same one.

Don't you get that I don't learn?
It wasn't on a milk carton
or in the bottom of a cereal box
but there in the stuffing
of a thoughtful body pillow
a placeholder made
by one who can't ward off
the wasps every night
so leaves an assistant
to soak up saliva.

Father, I don't ask for much...
That's a lie.
I do, and sometimes get it.

You can keep what's left in the sea.


Shadowbox Contortions

No photographer am I;
nor a model;
nor a scholar;
but in studying the photos
of a long awaited prayer
it focuses like crystal
what the aperture reveals:

One learns more about a person
from a candid shot they've taken
than a fistful of self-portraits
or another one they're in
since we're all just postcard memoirs
who long to want what we can see.

In the best frame there's an attic
where the two of us have been.


Mendacious Retellings of Lesser Elections

She's the opposite
of Cinderella--
once the grape wears off
and the curtains pull their weight
in the first moments of mourning
she rescinds nocturnal fumblings
with a simple set of words
that I've no place to tell you
since a beggar's got no tongue

but rest assured it's poignant
and equally deserved
by a klutz who burnt the clutch out
trying to leave first
and who longs to suffer silently
beside a coiled snake
who can't fuck with the lights on
let alone to opera.

Currently reading:
"The Dark Tower VI:  Song of Susannah" by Stephen King.


Heartburn to Follow

It doesn't take much imagination
to picture the contents
of a bachelor's freezer
but when he's laid off
bored out of the remnants of his mind
and trying to pinch pennies
every meal discovered
is an extra day above ground.
It's usually less glamorous
than leftovers from
another aborted date
but waste is the predecessor
to pride and the fall.

Today's lunch and tonight's dinner
came from the icebox's bowels.
The plastic container was covered
in white crystals telling its age
like the rings of a tree.
I scraped it off until beans
suspended in a red base
were visible.
A lonely bay leaf garnished the middle.
Not my cooking.
Not my doing.
I knew from where this manna came
though at the time of its conception
things were far from heavenly.

But today every bite of spicy nourishment
reminded me that someone once cared enough
to save a spot for later
and maybe there's hope
that they're all...
...no, that I'm not so bad.

I succumb to the urge to thank her
instantly reconsidering.

"Find a nice young thing
to have and hold,"
she tells me
delirious from the sleeping pills
she's still depending on
wherever she may be.
The typos in her message
prove my smirking assumption.

"Dead birds. Taxidermy tethers the body
but what happens to the soul?
Encased? Prisoner?
Or escaped? Free flying?"
Rare form indeed.
They must've upped her 'script.
I reply as honestly as possible.
"No worries there.
You're a bird that can't be tethered.
That much I learned,"
and bid her goodnight
as the beans do their work
proclaiming their march
back out of my body.

Love's never extinguished.
It only changes form.
I'll send mine down the drainpipe
in the morning.


He's really got no clue.
He's somehow more wrong now
than he was four years ago.
And no, he isn't speaking in third person.

"Long time, no see," I say
through a cloud of grey smoke
more out of expectation
than disappoinment in the absence.
Sometimes my stoop feels like a portal
that brings me ghosts to ponder.
I blame it on the cigarettes.
They seem a likely source.

"Yeah. How goes it?"
he asks, neither caring
nor introducing me to the artsy cliche
dangling from his arm, panties itching to drop.

We always had a professional relationship.
We were two thieves without honor.
We only have one thing in common.
He brings her up.
"So she moved all the way out there..."

"That she did," I echo.
It can go one of two ways from this fork.
True to spineless character
he takes the tine that reminds me
of why I was never a fan.

"She'll be back," he says
in that arrogant sneer
so perfectly matching
his pompous chest piece
which is practically throbbing
in anticipation of exposing itself
to this poor trend-setter
foolish enough to lay underneath it.

"You think so?" I ask
with smiling eyes
cool as a gunslinger's
sharp as a writer's
faster than he can outdraw.
It's unnecessary, but I follow
it up to drive my point home.
"I don't."

He flounders about on the sidewalk
for a moment, squeezes his latest's hand
and makes an excuse to slink away.
Finished with this farce, I grant him his easy out.

There's no such thing as coincidence.
We were meant to meet that afternoon
if only to remind me that some people
are too precious to be contained by a town
full of small-minded repeaters.

Somewhere, a few time zones away
a fairy gets her wings
and a happy hour cocktail.
It's a beautiful life indeed.
Amen, girl.



Woke up with a sweetheart
I couldn't do real justice.
"I smell it on you, baby,"
but methinks she meant the booze.

Seven Long Island Iced Teas
times six shots in a drink
equals I'll be slung low in the saddle
for forty-two dull hours.

At some point
a parade goes by
possibly in honor
of the best bender ever
or the biggest charlatan.
The snare drum tortures on
in cadence, my antics unappreciated.
I pray for merciful silence
until my guts scream that they're mummies.
Stumbling to the icebox
culls a phrase my father said:

"Love the sinner
hate the sin,"
or maybe that's the opposite.

A squad of flies
swirls about
practicing maneuvers
for when their chance will come
to feast and lay their eggs.
There's something rotten in this place
and I'm sure it's me.

I stay safe deep in sleep all day.
An ex calls by mistake.



There's a roving tribe
in east Mongolia
who don't take "No"
for an answer.
When pillaging villages
no one is murdered
and prisoners aren't
the agenda.
A foe is tethered
once he's been disarmed
and a slice is made
in his torso--
typically back near the kidneys
though it's been done
to the cheeks
on occasion.

It wouldn't be civil
to say what comes next
but believe when I say
it's effective.
What happens in huts
burns through the night
as the shame is imposed
by the victors
on men on their knees
who scream at the moon
and curse the day
they first noticed
what manhood is for
and the pain it can cause
if you fuck with the wrong
east Mongolians.


Notes from Under Floorboards

Jim takes a break from his one-man engagement party in the bowels of his bachelor's bathroom. While reaching for a fresh roll of toilet paper in the vanity he notices a chink of light coming from down below. "Funny," he snorts into the sink as he scrubs his hands under scalding hot water as though they owe him money. Very few people, let alone body parts, owe Jim any money. That end of the bargain isn't in his blood.

It comes as no surprise that the couch is as he left it. A half-empty mug dies on the second-hand coffee table that he rescued from the dumpster. Multiple servings of his favorite concoction of Canadian whiskey and flat ginger ale have been beckoning him for most of the evening, but none of them have scratched the itch. They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different outcome. Jim's a repeater, as original as he'd like to think he is.

Two maraschino cherries await him at the bottom of the glass, not that he needs additional motivation to lessen the liquid's level. He'd also never admit to being an alcoholic. "That requires drinking every night," he tells himself. Years later it will come out that Jim was a lot of things he never claimed to be; some good, some bad, some best left to be determined by his Maker. Self-evaluation: the hardest glance during brushing ones teeth. Vampires, the only immortal lovers, have worked it into their contract to be invisible in mirrors. There's method to their madness. There's merit to their claim. Jim managed to avoid his reflection while taking his bathroom break, but now that he's back on his sofa he's safe; only it's not more sitting and sipping that Jim wants. Another vice is calling his name. The cocktail's left to fester as the door locks shut behind him.

He lights up on his stoop, leans against the wall, turns his head, sees a spider, and jumps. An owl-like twist of the neck is employed as he inspects his surroundings to make sure no one noticed. They didn't. They don't. Jim blows a lungful of smoke at the spider. It doesn't move-- a trooper; a realist. A few nights ago Jim took a cigarette lighter to the spider's relative, but that was when his neighbor was joining him for a puff. There's no one to impress now. Jim's mostly at peace, at least on the outside. He gives the arachnid another gust of second-hand smoke and ponders the possibility of its appreciation for the rush. Maybe he likes it like I used to, Jim thinks.

But no golden silence can last more than a moment. Jim's is interrupted by the tell-tale timbre of female laughter coming from the lot on the other side of Main Street; attractive women with the nerve to have fun so late on a Sunday. "But they're allowed to," says a voice in Jim's head. "And I'm supposed to stand here on my portion of rented real estate," the voice says, this time through the butt of a menthol cigarette. Passers by heading to the restaurant on the ground floor of Jim's apartment building often look at him as though he's trespassing by being in front of his doorway. Two weeks ago, days before giving birth to a child he wished had been his, an old flame and her new husband strolled down his block of sidewalk, saw him smoking his post-commute Marlboro, and settled for the eatery immediately accesible since it wouldn't require crossing his path even though no one goes to that establishment. He didn't have his words picked, but the adrenaline dumped in his stomach made him rest assured that they would've been perfect. It was a moment meant for Bogart. Nothing bitter. Nothing nasty. Just a simple "How d'ya do?" from one exhaling human to another-- the way it should've been six years ago when Jim still had a go of it. He held himself more tightly than usual that night, but didn't succumb to sobbing. His skull would not allow it. He's a man of contemplation before a bleeding heart.

They're all getting married now; all of them at once, a barrage. Does the three months' salary engagement ring rule still apply in this economy? Jim assumes it doesn't, though he's not known for social graces. Still, he'd like to get off easy-- the way he used to; the way those girls on the other side of the street will pretend to later on that night. But betrothal isn't in his cards anymore, not with the hand of Aces and Eights he's haphazardly dealt himself since the age of eighteen. Jim would have an easier time selling ice skates to a paraplegic.

The smell of burning cotton alerts him that his smoke break is over. He flicks a half-burnt filter at a storm drain, goes wide right.

Once back inside he heads to the bathroom, swats the lightswitch, reaches for the toilet paper in the cabinet below the sink, and is distracted by a light coming from a missing sliver of wood in the floor. "Funny," Jim croaks as he rubs off the first three layers of skin cells from his hands, red like steaming lobsters, in the comfort of the left handle's heat.

And he's right, maybe for the first time of the night, for the man with the blessed hex of seeing humor in the macabre lives in the basement apartment.


This Car Almost Climbed Mt. Washington

As we still see
the same toxic sunsets
the rest of our senses
ignore time and miles
as only confessed
when the pen and sword drop
like the message she sent
when I ran out of wine:

"Sometimes at night
I don't know if I smell you
or if we entwined
along the way, Babe."

I answer with vigor
that's fueled by the spins.
A radio man on a torn battefield
beats wildly on his handset receiver
to call in an airstrike
and level the ground

but that napalm don't come
and the war rages on
without Heaven's mercy
rained down like the Rapture.

You're damn right we melted.
Those years of our lives
won't go down as Missing in Action
for me.


We All Live In a Foil Submarine

Hidden behind my landlord's cupboard
I have live-action tapes
in Technicolor
of the Beatles
confessing their farce.
They did it all for pussy;
all of it.

George couldn't play a G chord.
Ringo was an alien.
John and Paul
were one and the same
aside from the mirrors
an epic effort in stage effects
to split a man in two.

They didn't even inhale
but pretended since the Stones did.
Lucy flew the mothership
that dropped Ringo off.
Sgt. Pepper was the nickname
of a local kleptomaniac
they left back home in Greece.
John-Paul said, in the most
disturbing excerpt
"There are far few things more puzzling
than staring down at vastly
asymmetrical labia gripping at your girth,"
end quote.
Yoko cackled for weeks over this
tape rolling
and sold it as a record.

Ask Ike.
He'll tell you twice.
Love had everything to do with it, Tina.

But don't be fooled.
The Beatles wanted more than to hold your hand.


Career Ender

My death came as news
for which I wasn't ready.
Who ever is?
How can one be?

It was more of a revelation
than a shock to the system.
A lot of things suddenly made sense:

The feeling of transparency;
the steady loss of friends;
declining luck with women;
an indestructible liver;
the turkey vulture
I'd seen previously that day
that flew off before I could avenge
the rabbit it was eviscerating
on the double yellow;
the rude and common tendency
for sneezes to go unblessed.
No wonder. I'm invisible.
I've been on borrowed time
since high school.

A car squeals by behind me
loose fanbelt with an owner
too lazy to have it fixed.
The 9/11 memorial flag is
hung in the display case
of the shop window I'm staring through
while my eyes are transfixed by the name
I chose long ago to be myself in stories
or any other time when I'd rather not be me
like at dog fights, clinics, short-stay motel rooms.
It's printed in white on a red stripe
along with the thousands of others.
One among many, none of whom I knew
until now.

The backlighting goes out
as if on cue with fate.
My reading is curtailed
so I turn from the dark storefront
leaving my dead nom de guerre
to rest there with his peers.
And to think they call that other old stuff
Depression Glass.

If I still believed in a God
that was more than a spiteful voyeur
I would've said a prayer
for a man I'd never met.
Instead I muttered
Sorry for wasting your time."
And I was
and I am
but at least now
pieces fit.


Human Fire Hydrant

I swear they do it on purpose--
little hints left
for the next female guest
staking some sort of claim
though it's pointless.

Bachelor X plucks a hair
from the bathroom sink
but misses the clip
behind the soap dish.
Healthcare Professional Z
(since they always are anymore)
knows where to look
finds artifact/evidence/marker
and is left with two options:
ask Bachelor X now
or wait until he's down.
The veterans go for the latter.

Bachelor X can't tell you
how many straggling bobby pins
he's thrown away over years
which is odd since he rarely
sees them removed.
He used to leave them around
for awhile, a faint female touch
in an otherwise dank lair
reeking of testosterone
but their perches on windowsills
bookshelves, and in the medicine cabinet
soon became points of contention.
They can't be pawned off.
The girls know the difference.
The tokens had to go
which was hard
since he barely
noticed them any longer.

But in the morning
when they slink
for fear of the awkward
dodging of breakfast
all that matters
is that priceless stretch
revealing cool, untouched
bedsheet real estate
that lulls him back to sleep
in a dream that's free of nurses
and other folks bent
on saving the damned.



They sneer at the holes
we left in their stockings
and cringe at the thought
of lilies we picked
then wonder why pseudocide
seems like the option
that best fits the likes
of lustful old pricks
who won't put it down
but can't keep it up
for fear that the naming of names
will prolong
the alibi's epilogue
the salts' lonely song
that's hummed in their quarters
aboard moon-drawn ships.


She looks like the beat
of beauty's tight drum
sitting on the curb
near my corner pub
and I look
at her
through dogshit irises.

Her knack for bedside manor
must bleed into the realm
of awkward small talk
with exes.
We skate over topics
like landmines
each more fruitless
than the last.
"How's your mom?"
"Haven't spoken in a month."
"How's work?"
"Laid off."
But she takes it in stride
as she has all along
and I take it however I can get it.
It's a shame I wasn't so
palatable at the time
when it mattered.
Que sera and such.

Her partner in crime
sucks the last of her smoke
and heads back toward
the commotion indoors.
The hug is coming.
I feel it.
It does.
A mutual pecking of cheeks
is followed by a quick one
on the lips, mouths closed
of course
in one of the rare frames
that the Editor spares
in the cutting room
whether or not
it's deserved.
We're not here for long enough
to let the union or untying of knots
dictate what slips by.

"Be good."
"Take it easy."
And that's how those
three flights up
to my apartment felt
for the first time all day.

It's not so bad
this sleeping alone
as long as you know
they're still out there.


Urban Planning At Its Finest

Traffic on Verplanck
was unusually fucked.
It must've been the tail-end
of commuter train stop exodus.
A voice he used to recognize
sprawled out to his right.

He snapped the first menthol
while fumbling to light it.
The second slipped from fingers
flicking ash at pavement.
If the song on the stereo
didn't require a third
he would've cut his losses
but he's never taken hints
on what's not meant to be.

His lids slammed shut
at his favorite, final verse
but his right foot
paid no attention.

"What're you doing?"
his passenger asked, pawing at the door.
"Open your eyes, you're driving!
You'll put us eight feet under!"

But that cancer tasted too sweet
to lose his bet with memory
or succumb to schizophrenia.
He always won
on borrowed time
just as we all live.


How the Best of Them Bite It

"They had their barf bags out
and ready," he said of
his fellow Cessna-mates
on the flight back to Vegas
from the Grandest of Canyons
twenty years younger, the blink of an eye.
"The captain yanked the yoke
back steady, but didn't seem
too worried."

There were two men
accustomed to turbulence
onboard-- one more
formally trained than the other
though neither shy of seeing it.

"A couple next to me asked
how I stayed so calm.
'What are you gonna do
if it goes down?
I told them
and went back to my brochure."

He pointed his nose up
as he does at the end
of a story, crystalline blue
eyes much younger
than their true age.
Tufts of red hair poked out
from under his ragged welding hat
and looked orange
with the end of summer
shining through.
There was no denying
his stance in the world.
Off the record, I was jealous.

You can tell when a man's
embellished a tale.
There tends to be
a flutter of lashes, averted pupils
a twitch in the corner of lips.
There wasn't.

It's sage advice of the free variety
like the old man
on his deathbed
surrounded by distraught kin
who replies wisely
when asked what to do
when he passes:

"Last one out shut the door."



He stood framed by trees
in a trackside creek
along our highway home
naked aside from his unbleached skivvies
with skin the color of Dutch cocoa
and the chisel marks of breeding
from a time when his oppression
was more blatant.
The look on his face
showed stone cold intent
though I'll never know
what called him
to the water that September
in the north side of the Bronx
hidden there in a polluted stream
that only a middle-aged, God-fearing Negro
could appreciate.

If my head had been turned
any other protractor reading
than ninety degrees
I never would have seen him
fly by at seventy-five.
My life would be the same.
I've read of John the Baptist.
There are far more frightening demigods
I've birthed inside my skull
with less imposing noms de guerre
usually ending in vowels.

It's something of a sobriquet
the codes used for each other.
The witch's minions had it right:
"All we own we owe."


Bender Crescendo

[Timpani rise to the speed of human wrists.
The Strings forget the key.
Woodwinds lose the tempo.
The Brass all clashes.]

"You have me
now," she says.

[Fade to clarinets, sotto voce.]


New Fire in Old Forge

Fraudulent photos
show them smiling
under shades
laying face-down
on that dock
their toes not touching
the tea dumped in the lake
with a crossword and a book
between them, anything to distract
two hapless fools
from the writing on the mattress
clouds shaped like elephants
and the growing of her breasts
which would shortly shrink
to normal size
then wither with their love.

There are some things
for which one can't forgive.
The remainder gets trapped
in a bottle and shelved
until the liver calls for poison.

What do children know of casting stones?
What constitutes a child?
A clump of cells
we're stuck in
'til the Reaper calls us home.


Swallowed Sayonara

It'll be so funny, Love
at our nuptials
when I mentally confess
to responding
to your drunken masquerades
even though
you wouldn't
do the same for me

And then like wilted letters
foreign fibs go
to the scar massage party
where your envy comes out.

When we exchange vows
I'll mean every word
wondering where
to send the Thank You Hallmark
since your RSVP
won't have a stamp either.

Stills sang of eagles and doves
the lusterless side of love
and until now seemed the sellout.

You say you've got
high expectations
for me
but I'm not sure
whom that means
well knowing whom it isn't.

for the Kingdom of Heaven
is at hand."


A Proclivity for Arson and Making Fast Friends

like a glove.
like a leaf.
as pistachios.
with sore strangers.

A lie is a lie
no matter the size
Chantilly Lace
a pretty face
and other things
not worth repeating.
A billboard
en route to work
said "Blue suits you,"
but not as well
as a smile.

Say "Cheese."


But None of Them Feels Like Home

Speak not to me of addiction
or the taming of the shrew
romancing of a rock
or a swamp made in the sheets
with mascara on the pillows
and bricks in lieu of headboard
that never seem to stop them
from clawing at the wall.

I talk until I shouldn't
then drink until I can't.
What's a hardened criminal
but a man self-justified?
Face, without the body;
body, sans the soul;
spirited psychosis
runs through dainty veins.

This boor can work with none of these
sodomized aspirations
so sleeps instead with voodoo dolls
indulging in Palm Sunday.
Remember, kids
if nothing else
the lie within the rubber.
No Strings Attached--
there's no such thing
when speaking of a junkie.


Torpedo On the Road

There are mornings
when I must remind myself
I am not Dimitri Karamazov.
Or Ivan. Or Alyosha. Or any of those
Brothers Dostoyevsky dreamed up.
Or am I?

It won't pay to correct them:
It's not a new me they're seeing--
it's the old one, with friends
and the same wanton desire
to decorate the mahogany
with crumpled dollar bills

and that impeccable timing
which tugs at ventricles
like when a nicotine fix
calls me to the sidewalk
right on cue to see my ex drive by
shaking her fists, regardless.
But now you know better
than to blame the cigarette
the clock, and most of all
the skirts:
It's you at the helm;
you and some greedy ghosts.

So what do we do?
We hang prints they gave us
many moons prior
to decipher what they saw
in a spark bound for gas.
We pitch perfect double-headers
and choke down rotten grapes
while recalling glory days
unscathed by sucking bottles
with flame arrestors on them.
Now a stiff wind makes our heart jump

and some nights
truth be told
the rest of us wants to follow.

What do you know of being unhinged?
Of having a compass that doesn't point north?
We didn't notice our shoes missing.
You didn't notice our wave.

"...As we forgive those who trespass against us."


On Earth As It Is In Heaven

Maybe it's the angle
of the setting August sun
or the hole in my shoe
that let loose the tonic
or the bummed cigarettes
that go one way

though more than likely
it had to do
with all the hands held
on the sidewalk down Main
and the sundresses begging
to find a floor soon.

Saint Peter and I
have one thing in common:
We're both sick of standing
outside Paradise.

The Strong, Silent Type

It wasn't on the battlefield that Napoleon lost his war. It was on the wretched roadway.

He decides to break form by not riding the right lane to pass the cars stacked up for the left hand turn when approaching the red light. It's Friday, the last commute of a long week, and some things must fall in naturally. A wait is not always the worst of things. Besides, he hasn't stopped to watch the heat lines radiate from the tops of sunbaked cars in some time; not quite smelling the roses, but akin. Even his right foot which is usually prepared to pivot from one pedal to the other in the blink of an eye is slow to respond during this savored rush hour ride. The gap between his truck and the bumper ahead of him opens up steadily without his boot leaving the brake. Hesitant leisure is taken advantage of yet again as a car rips into the newly formed space.

"Unbelievable," his passenger says along with some colorful expletives.

The statement rolls around in the driver's skull. Not really, he thinks to himself. His uncle used to tell him that the only stupid question is the one you don't ask, but there are some conversations not worth the breath spent; that is, until, the right nerve is pinched.

A prison warden's grin spreads in the rear-view mirror of the offending party, the one that says "You're mine, I've got the better of you." Nerve pinched. Mood altered. Tongue unleashed.

The driver tosses what's left of his butt after taking one more drag. It bounces within inches of his new intended target, a precursor of the barrage to come.

"But in this guy's case it's understandable," he says while exhaling the last of his menthol. "He's clearly over-compensating for something in his shorts with the jet black Mustang convertible. Middle-aged, bald spot, poor driving etiquette. Take a look at that yellow ID badge hanging from his mirror. He feels the need to advertise what his life's amounted to. I can read the word 'SUPERVISOR' from ten feet away."

The Mustang creeps ahead a few feet. Its driver must feel the sting.

"And get a load of that vanity plate," the sobering orator states with conviction as the newly revealed lower portion of the sports car incriminates ever onward. "The man has the audacity to proclaim himself the 'NIGHTOWL' as if his position in middle management wasn't enough of an ego boost. There he is, waiting for the sun to set so he can swoop in on God-knows-what. The man needs help."

It's clear the rant is over. His passenger turns his head forty-five degrees, almost afraid to lock eyes with his rudely awakened cohort, and comments. "You just summed up thirty years of therapy in thirty seconds. That guy's a prick."

"It wasn't rocket science. It takes one to know one. He's a cliche on wheels."

As the light turns green all three men are propelled forward into whatever awaits the rest of their weekends: questions from women that can't be easily answered, lingering headaches for various reasons, a few bottles in which to hide. Monday morning will prove that it still isn't over. The blue collar boogie passes the time, but he rightfully observes for a living.



almost an "it"
stops in the middle
of the intersection
light as green as envious eyes
to pick up some trinket
left on the asphalt
but puts it down gently
after deeming it useless
then wanders on in our headlights
headphones loosely dangling from his ears
sweat pouring from the recesses in his temples
where the curly black hair retreated
like his loved ones
long ago
before the cheap cigarettes
like the one plastered
to the corner of his trembling mouth
became his only hope
and all I can think
as I step on the gas
and cut through the night
"That'll be me someday,"
if it isn't already.


Just Eat the Sausage, Don't Ask How It's Made

Who wouldn't sleep better
with a nine on their nightstand?
Who wouldn't get lost
with a cock for a compass?
Good from far, far from good
like a pack of candy cigarettes.
I'll give my judges
five sincere words:
Tempt not a desperate man.

All roads lead to roam
and the grimace of remembrance.
Mr. Hyde holds office hours
to ignore the undercurrent.
Cut loose the light infantry
move on to heavy hitters
when your tea comprised
of liquor and liquor
exudes alacrity.

The night started off
like a three-legged dog.
Hell hath no scorn
like a slam-pig's revenge.
Ulterior motives
exist in the lot.
I don't want to hear it.
We bleed just as often.

Have a nice trip.
See you next fall.
Backhanded compliments
send young men west.
Dear Saint Anthony
please come around.
Something's lost
that must be found.


The Wet Look

A boatload of Merchant Marines
returned with the tide late this morning.
Parents and lovers lined up for miles
with "Welcome Home" signs and broad sun umbrellas.
Cadets in crisp white descended the ramp
to greet sweaty loved ones they'd missed for six months.

My bird's eye view from the third storey stairwell
keyed in on a chiseled young man on his knee
with a black velvet box and a beauty before him.
My heart stopped to witness a moment unstolen.

Her wavy green sun dress met curled auburn hair
at a set of tanned shoulders of which he had dreamed
while floating abroad, embarking on life
which'd be dedicated to captains and seas.
Her hand touched her lips as he whispered the words
that only the worthy ever should hear.
The drone of the crowd and the tools on the job
drowned out the exchange of vows I hold dear.

A small hopeful corner inside of my chest
lunged to the edge to yell at her, "Yes!"
but I didn't have to succumb to that act.
The telltale embrace told me she'd agreed.
Victories happen on every square inch
of sidewalk and sod if you know how to look.
I felt my mouth widen, vicariously happy
though I'm sure that my eyes
matched the hue of her dress.

His sister came running, rounded the corner
and screamed when she saw the ring on her finger.
His mother strolled over to welcome a daughter
and sighed with relief while the boat emptied out.
There were nods of heads.
There were pairs of wet eyes.
Oh God, there were wet eyes all over the scene.

My partner approached with a hammer in hand.
It wasn't my turn.
I sank back to work.


Protege, Years Later

He lifts his cocktail
to his lips
with both hands
like an old vagabond
sipping free Catholic soup

knows to roll his eyes
when I try to get away
with verbal murder

and when he's gone
I find my toilet seat up
like clockwork

since we've seen all sides
yet still we strive
to keep alive
like flies stuck in a shithouse
not so much complaining.

All the worst heroes die
due to voids
dealt in cards.
The worthiest
suck down shards
of cork in wine
without so much
as an eyebrow.

I'm lucky to have
such a place to hang my hats.


Rhythm Method Semaphore

While you battened down the hatches
you lost your cloak and dagger.
Half your acts are Hell-sending.
You bed down with cadavers.

Burn out the clutch.
Stay off the sauce.
Pump and sweat
to your heart's content
Machiavelli and his Prince
were wrong on ends and means.
They only whip a horse that pulls.
Dont be gun-shy wearing war paint.

And there, seething in the myst
is the earned truism
that the sun doesn't only
set in the west.
It sets on you and me.


Snippet from a Stumble

His work boot's
steel toe
catches a high-lipped
sidewalk seam.
Part of it's the ache of Friday
when he shat blood for the shop all week;
the vodka's guilty, too
but at least he tipped her well;
and more than either
aforementioned reason
it's ignorance on the block

"They love one another
he completes her,"
a wispy blonde
whose circulatory system
shows through the skin
not covered by her
earth-toned summer dress
explains from her nose
in a British tourist's accent
that easily whites knuckles
of any blue-blooded Joe.

She and her companion
also of the fairer sex
stride by a blind cartographer
taking with them what's been promised
by a fairytale that started
down between some woman's legs.
Trying not to burst out laughing
like a maniac on Main
he decides to ask
a looker out
as soon as he finds home.

If one squints hard enough
they almost all look sane.

He never met a horse
that he could bet on
but he finished every race.


He Floats Through the Air With the Greatest of Ease

An intruder was the last thing I expected to see when I arrived home last night. Most times I have to plead with potential company, rambling of the alcohol and offering consolation prizes. Fortunately I was sober since none of my real friends are single and the thick summer love hanging like dark velvet had claimed victory over revelry again. I noticed as soon as I tossed my keys onto the table. Someone had infiltrated the dragon's lair in the hopes that he was fresh out of fire. Little did they know he could barely push steam, even when paid to do it.

"Don't shoot!" came an earnestly terrified voice from the darkest corner of my bedroom. He must've seen the gun cabinet and figured I was packing. I wouldn't have thought to draw anyway. They say it comes down to training and muscle memory, but there are stronger clumps of flesh than what's in my trigger finger. I decided to defuse things the best way I knew how.

"I was going to ask the same of you, but I guess you didn't find anything useful."

There's silence for a moment while my unexpected guest considers. Then he throws a curve ball. The lamp on my nightstand's flicked on, revealing the image of a desperate young man in a tight black T-shirt and skinny jeans screaming for release. He looks vaguely familiar, but most criminals do. His features fade to statistical data composed by female historians. Something strikes me from the blur. Strung around the portions of his arms composed of bi- and triceps are tattoos in bold, dark colors. He can't be more than twenty. He can't be dangerous. Yet.

I step into my quarters and offer him a seat on the bed. He denies the invitation without making eye contact. Those big, brown globes could suck the soul from a virgin, but perhaps he's met his match. He knows the risk that a true gaze takes.  Windows, the ignorant call them; "projectors" is more accurate. One can tell too much by what the eyeballs offer; more, most times, than what their reluctant owners choose to confess.

"Can I make you a drink?" I ask in an amiable tone. It seems a pointless gesture. This kid's got bigger issues than punishing his liver. Still, the willing host in me feels an obligation.

"Anything but Jack Daniel's," he mutters, a reminiscent smirk pasted to the lower half of his face. He looks like the cat who got away with raiding the cage, though this time he's been caught. A faint odor of industrial-grade cleaning solution used to disinfect the hallways of a state-funded college dormitory permeates my nostrils at the end of his request.

I comply and pour up two Bacardis. The ice cracks audibly due to the temperature difference. "My grandfather's favorite," he says after a swig. Another strange coincidence. They tend to come in threes.

Not willing to be unsettled on my own ball field, I down the tumbler and retort with a declarative. "Listen, kid, you seem pretty swell, but you can't go busting into people's apartments. How'd you get in, anyway? Was it the fire escape? I have those alarms on the windows, I'm surprised nobody in the building..."

But I'm cut off by a nod he makes in the direction of my spare room; the one where books and other dead men rest. An eerie myst rolls from under the whitewashed door. As much as I don't want to admit it I'm well aware of the scenario, the score, the truth being stranger than fiction, and this wayward man-child being no stranger. It all adds up to one of two things: I've finally lost my mind completely, or Einstein was right about more than what he's credited for by the reasonable world.

"I'm not here to harm you, though I'm not sure you'll exist if what I'm trying to accomplish comes to be," this suddenly assertive doppelganger states. "There's something I need to do back home, but that lousy warehouse job you've blocked from your memory ain't going to fund it anytime soon."

What's left of the ice cubes melts in our glasses. Whoever said honesty can only be a virtue clearly hasn't meddled with Time. My jaw relocates itself high enough to speak again. The words that come out are impromptu and instinctive at the same time. Part of me has always wished this could happen, even if the repercussions are drastic.

"I don't keep any money here. My card won't do much good, either. The rent was due this week."

I watch his fists tighten and hear his knuckles crack like those ice cubes. Escalation may occur after all. Everyone has his breaking point. Disappointment is a natural culprit. If junior's going to make it as far as I have he better get used to that old dog. He paces around my bedroom looking for something of value, but we're both aware it'll be to no avail. No one can lie to you quite like yourself. A twinge of pity rises up to my Adam's apple. It doesn't take any Oscar-worthy performance to act upon it. Compassion's in our blood.

"I may be able to help you. Here. Give her this," I command him, transferring my father's ring from my favorite bookshelf to his hand. "If she's worth her weight in salt she'll get it. You haven't received it from the old man yet, and who knows if you will now at all? I'm not so familiar with this type of physics."

He examines the circle of gold in his palm, doesn't ask what the inscription means. When there are less pressing issues at stake his inquisitive nature will lead him to the answer: our name in a language we can't read or speak; typical of our father, of course. Like one of the loose marbles inside my skull he rolls it around in his hand, sees it's flat on one side, feels responsible. "Thrown against a wall?" he asks, knowing how his temper can get. Half of my mouth curls heavenward. "It must've been a bad one," he whispers apologetically.

"They were varying shades of awful in her wake," I assure him, taking the liberty of altering the context of his remark. "Don't blow it. She's the One. Now get out of here before I feel less gracious."

Without a wasted second he heads for the door where his portal awaits. The fog begins receding as soon as he passes out of sight. It takes a mustered strength to refrain from running into it behind him. Those old sci-fi movies suggest it'd cause a fatal collision anyway. My feet stand firm to the crooked hardwood floor of my suddenly surreal bedroom. I reach for the pack of cigarettes in my pocket, light up inside my place for the first time, and wait to see if I suddenly cease to be. Part of me hopes he succeeds.

What makes a good winner is knowing when you've lost.

What makes good fiction is the truth.

I'm waiting.


A Blurb In the Obituaries, a Tab That He Can't Pay

It was middle-aged catharsis night
next door on my oak altar.
Arms like swinging hams
chased my cocktail up the straw.
I fled to my apartment
for an old and botched routine:
a few more gin and tonics
for what could've, should've been.

Left like toxic garnish
from three time zones away
was a message the next morning
that would break the donkey's back.
It was deleted from a distance.
It's a song that doesn't change.
Whoever lands in those hands
should increase their life insurance.

Tonight on my stroll home
from a married inspiration
with three beers swimming inside me
and alarm clocks on my mind
I saw something that stirred me
from my fear of spraying skunks.
The phone lines were intact
though the dent was undeniable.
I wondered if it was the pole
that made the barfly cry
when after shots of Irish whiskey
he told me of his wife
who had wrapped her car around it
twenty years ago at least.

I walked him home that night
since he spoke of sad solutions.
When I see him now I wonder
if he fears I'll pull the favor
but he doesn't know I've gained my share
in knowledge from his plight.
Some folks have worse reminders
than a voicemail in the morning.
(I swore I saw some hatchet marks
below the impact splinters.)

The Romans paid poor Judas
thirty pieces of pure silver
for his infamous betrayal
that wrapped around his neck.
My last kiss was different
as was the gift they gave me
though the curse of observation
keeps the pensive wide awake.

It's time to ride the calm
and forget there was a storm.


Rachel McAdams and Other Regrets

It sits on the dresser
that could legally vote
pissing away its ticks
in the wind.
There's a reluctance
to cast it out
from this den
where the unmade bed
and amends crave the same.

Its spot on my wrist
was replaced by a clone
when the band snapped
one morning at work
with a buzz.
The previous night
a fight down the street
raised my blood
raised the hair on my neck
like a dog.

It didn't take long
to flick my fresh smoke
making the hottest
march late in May.
There, never learning
with justice a farce
intervening like someone
with reason to care
we tossed them aside
like rag dolls in Kansas.
It was over before it began
like the best.
Later that week
the word on the street
was that one kid
attacked his friend
over shoes.

It left a poor taste
like the time decades back
when Dylan let friends down
by going electric.
I was forced to retire
a watch that worked fine
over something so null
as the tale tends to go.

She always cared more
that her thighs didn't touch.
I wouldn't have noticed.
Her ring size remained.
(The secret to reaching
the reader is simple:
Make them all think
your words are for them
when truly yourself
makes the pour worth the paper.)


We're Not Mere Sloppy Seconds

What I witnessed in the moonlight
that squeezed between my blinds
were your teeth clenched at the ceiling
that I couldn't call a smile.
The razor's touch had not been felt
for days, but I prefer that
since it proves it unexpected
as life's best blessings are.

This isn't a trick question
but there's part of me that
wonders: Who was it you saw
with your eyes closed
underneath me?
There's nothing wrong
with healthy doses
of unhinged pretending.
Funny, I'm the opposite.
It's missionary finish.

But it's myself I don't see
when I miss and catch the mirror
after washing off the handshake
that old friends aren't scared to make.
That's why I douse myself
with the same cologne I've worn
since a junior high school virgin
(back before the break)--
The scent of known components
in a system bent for lead
helps remind a drunk spelunker
that there's shimmer in the wake.

It's not dehumanizing.
We're not mere sloppy seconds.
There will be maps drawn on deathbeds
for the half they'll never puncture.



This time last week
there was breakfast to make.
Those dishes are still
in my sink.
A holy hangover
Sunday's true best
numbs my legs
as I've craved since
Long Island.

Today's not so
social, the pack has
been thinned.
The record is spinning.
The worn needle skips.
It's all been right there
in black and in blue.
You're right:
You're a fool for not knowing.

These frail little systems
which clutter our lives
as only they can.
A sage stuttered something
on feeding two wolves
but the hungry one
just gnawed my leg off.

The circling starts
when there's blood
in the water.
The Pinball Wizard strikes deadly.
Someone declared
Every Man for Himself
and we've all paid the price
ever since.

Head versus heart
versus dreadful appendage--
a battle that's raged
since the caveman.
My first-grade teacher
gave me a wink
that said
"Son, quit while you're ahead."

It's hard to be wrong
at five in the morning
but I'm not afraid of a challenge.
There are three things loathed more
than hot Monday mornings:
being born, being buried
and being alone.