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.