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."