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.


The Time Traveler's Widow

Her train ran late
but better than never.
The hug was expected.
The kiss threw me off.
Somewhere in limbo
wherever that is
a roomful of naysayers*
craned their stiff necks.
(*our friends whom we'd slept with
without covering tracks)

No elephant lurked
in the room where we laid.
There wasn't a better
excuse to call in.
Well behaved hands
with saintly restraint
gripped certain curves
they'd almost forgotten
like a buoy in current
like a place to raise kids.
(If only more of this recital were true.)

The morning was long.
We dove under covers.
She was hungover, I was
in bliss.
There wasn't a smear
of mascara to speak of.
There wasn't a tear
I'd ever admit.

But you can't hang on
to what isn't yours
so I traded kids' waffles
for a beverage we'd like:
complex Bloody Marys
at a spot where I'd had
much like years back
the best of my life.

Let it serve as a testament
to the art of forgiveness--
there in the daylight
she smiled in earnest.
It's got nothing to do
with what I deserve.
Fate works in circles.
Nothing seems strange.


No One Looks Good Within Six Inches

The truth is that
as much as I tried my hand
and others'
I never became a fisherman

but stubbornly I went
launching lures into the lake
quietly content
with the water's still reflection
of burning trees, a crashing sun
and a man who knew himself
well enough
to know the score.

All the King's horses
down in the algae
confirm prophesies from
before eggs climbed walls:

The cat was not the only thing
curiosity has killed.


Name, Rank, Serial Number

How does one deal
with a day that's appeared
after five cheapened years
of hell in a frame?
Two wanderers cut
from the same cloth repent
both hoping to save
what's left of their name.

Burn turns to scrape
turns to scab
turns to scar.
A new understanding
of why men collide
comes forth with the truth
that the fine art of fucking
is nothing and nothing
like riding a bike.

Know what to savor
and know what to swallow:
a sour good night, a drag to the floor.
The whore strolls down Main Street
while nexts-in-line follow
to donate an organ
still hoping for more.

With ears under water
and silverless clouds
the home team
remembers to thank all its fans.
Character's built
behind bolted doors
when a boy takes no credit
for making a man.


Apples and Days and Doctors and Ways

Teach the boy
of carpentry
and firearms
and hangovers.
Remove the straggling
bobby pins
that only you
don't notice.
Hang your missing switchblade
which you swore
a friend had stolen
but was only hidden so well
that its wielder was deceived.

That sinking feeling in your gut
defined as disappointment
should be embraced
as evidence:
at worst you're still alive.
Collect front teeth of players
who left far too much unwagered
and excuse the doubting Thomas
who would kill to have your eyes.

Something rots in Denmark
and you smell it over oceans
or maybe that's the gas pains
of a fresh relationship.
You knock down walls when sober
like your father never taught you
but have to get your shine box
when the bottle frees your id.

Allow a man who's long been dead
his shotgun in his hands
to remind you of a cosmic fact:
The sun, it also rises.

Sleep until you can't sleep
and your back hurts
and you're tired.
Mayhaps there was a mix-up.
This was not to be your life.


Itchy Scabs Eclipsed

You didn't shoot the moon
but then again
you didn't have to--
It was claimed in the name
of your family's tradition.
What a brilliant way
to stay in ones thoughts
for years after blood's
come out from the sheets.

As I pull down Main
and aim for the spot
in front of my stoop
with a door you can't breach
that smirking Old Man
sinks down out of sight
below the named mountain
overlooking these bricks
and I whisper to him,  now
merely a rock
"Serendipity, Babe,"
before gripping the key
in the darkness created
by calling it quits
and starting anew
where I should've been.


Clutch for the Afterglow and Jettison the Rest

It was the first drag taken on my stoop for two months; unaccompanied, pensive, bittersweetly victorious. A young family of three approached on the sidewalk. They must've been going to dinner. Food and sad art pull the purse strings in this town. Kids have no say in what they suck on these days. There would be plenty of time for peer pressure, coffee breaks sans caffeine, and denied addiction. A look of distaste from a parent not ten years older than me tarnished my attempt at rare fairness. I kept the smoke in my lungs until they passed by my calloused knees. It was hard not to choke, but I held back the threat. The blue plume dissipated into the lights under the awning overhead. I flicked my butt at a storm drain along the curb, but missed. That's life for you-- no good deed goes unpunished.

A package on my doormat sent the same message. The return address was transcontinental, though still far too close. I wondered how long it sat there and why no honorable thief did me justice. Its contents were as baffling as the strange codes and places printed on the label: some candy for Easter, secondhand T-shirts, and a small stuffed rabbit that sought to draw blood. I tossed the shirts into the closet for later transportation to my mother's. She could use them as rags, she's big on recycling. The chocolate melted in my mouth as opposed to my hand as advertised. I popped a few more morsels down the hatch than I probably should have as the rabbit stared blankly into space. The candy shells crunched, filling gaps between teeth, and I turned the toy's head to the side out of guilt. A chew toy for the neighbors' dogs? Not even a chance of that lucky fate. Two fools built a home without knowing how, one hermit's torn it down for three seasons hence, an inanimate object sums up the wreckage. God, love is simple sometimes.

It takes eight trips to get my condensed life back into my apartment. The two flights of stairs make their play to wear me out, and win. How any of the boxes, bags, and suitcases sum me up is beyond me. How can twenty-eight years of trial and error in the name of discovery be contained within the confines of any combination of parcels? It makes the nomads of Asia Minor seem right; travel light, move like fluid. Someone in what's left of the world must have it nailed. Chances are it's not on this side of the prime meridian. I moved across the Hudson for a better shot at the search. It should've been farther if to be successful, but the coward in me cowered again. The notion of not having the support network that its constituents insist exists kept me local; us, I should say. It's not a pronoun that leaves my lips often and therefore should be celebrated. An only child flips out his phone and dials his impatient mother.

"I'm home and overwhelmed."

"Same here. No welcoming committee?"

"They're on strike. Do you want to come over and help me unpack?"

"At eleven at night?"

"I was kidding."

"No you weren't. You don't sound good."

"What does good sound like?"

"You'll find out one of these days."

"I'm more likely to be killed by a champagne cork, but thanks."

We go back and forth a bit more, then make tentative plans for a homecooked meal. I pry myself from the conversation through the use of a bathroom excuse. She's a good woman deep down-- strong and stubborn as seasoned livestock. But, like in some lessons I've learned on the pavement, we're too similar to ever be close. Two grays don't make a white. It turns out some traits are genetic. I cringe at the possibility of others surfacing as time goes on, visions of my father's fumbling at the forefront. The horror inspires a smoke break like I'm still on a union job.

The Italian joint owned by Albanians is closing as I light up my menthol. My landlord locks the front door of the restaurant, notices me and makes a face implying that he should. In his soupy, struggling accent he asks where I've been for the last two months and what exactly it is that I do. I answer as best I can, but in reality it's an educated guess. The content of my replies sounds convincing. It's the tone that gives it away. My words come out like scrambled eggs. At least I don't give the typical Beacon townie response by blaming it on some failed passion. There's a time and a place for pity. Death row is one of them. Main Street is not. I lead him on by asking if we can pay multiple months' rent to stay ahead just to watch his face light up like a menorah. Sometimes I do that. Some people deserve to be stroked to a lather. I finish my game and bid farewell to the man with the unlevel building.

A family of raccoons scurries down the abandoned sidewalk like refugees from the apocalypse. The mother leads her three cubs down the storm drain in the curb at the corner and I swear I've seen enough. Without hesitation I head back upstairs for the last time that night to mix up some poison and tumble it down since it already feels like I have been.