Garnished Beloved

The sweat's still drying
in the denim of my shirt
from a day of wrestling sinks
and toilets and tubs.
I'm waiting on a makeshift bench
at the only flower shop I trust
since it's run by Asians
and they focus on detail.
They killed us in poetry
("Keep your heart small")
numbers, now cars--
even invented gunpowder
so we'd blow ourselves up.

Some poor slob
in a Tee three sizes too tight
is pacing near the counter
a look of remorse plastered
to his droopy mug.
We never make eye contact
though not by my volition.
There's a song on the radio
that I'd comment on
if the ice was properly broken.
It isn't. He's too buried in shame
to notice my expression.

"You'll be forgiven," the fine
young female florist says
as she brings his bouquet
to the register.
He doesn't respond, merely hands
her his card
to pay for his flower-bought penance.

The sight's too sore for blue collar eyes
so I gaze passed the tips of my outstretched boots
at the indoor pond they've had here for years.
Moss grows on the fountain
and the goldfish sprout cancer.
Some saps along the way
have mistaken it for a wishing well.
I look to join their folly
and fumble through my left pocket
but no change jingles.
All I feel are keys
half of which go to locks
I've long forgotten
thank God.

The fake carp mouth their understanding
in my general direction.
No need for luck.
We'll wing it
as we always have.

That boor who beefed up
slinks toward the door.
I suck in my dogs
so he can get by.
Part of me wants
to tell him the truth
but it won't mean a lick
if it's not learned by fire.

If you win
say nothing.
If you lose
say less.

"Tulips," I tell the florist
as I rise to be helped.
"Tulips are her favorite."


Sushi On Saint Mark's

To wake from Freudian nightmares
too symbolic to repeat
to a message from the only one
whose scent you still remember
is Divinest intervention
or perhaps Old Scratch's act.
I pray whatever ends it
sneaks up quietly at least.



The man who tried to add this part
was never read again:

"They begged to pry that cross
from Him
along that desert street."


Ad Hoc Safewords

I'm no Creationist
though the facts stand

that you can't make something
out of nothing;

that your grandfather's flag
means less folded;

that the cowgirls are gone
but forgive you in your dreams.

No expectations
yield no disappointments.

I never, in clear conscience
could've named someone Olivia.


Indian Giver

Words like 'maidenhead'
never passing through your lips
you wonder--
Who will scratch the itch
that's been dealt
and firmed and seeded?

The man in red and black
who gives out rings like candy.

He'll defend his lady's honor
even in her absent evenings.
He remembers what was on her
in the morning when she's bare.

There can only be redemption
once you've fallen through the filter.
Save it up for days, oh stubborn
human driftwood.

Currently reading:
"Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James.



"She can be as lithe
as liquid
or like a boa's grip.
I can't finish
if not in it,"
and by that he meant his heart.

The best confession's over cocktails.
We let him ramble on all night.
When he left we changed the subject
damn well knowing he was right.


Faux Politico

The hero hangs there bleeding.
The room is dim, a light bulb flickers.
His hands are bound with razor wire.
He wishes they'd fall off.
His toes are already gone.
They didn't fall.
They were harvested.

Two chatting lovebirds enter.
Each draws a knife.
Each takes a slice.
One cuts left, the other cuts right.
There are hundreds of lacerations.
It's been going on for days.
None seem to show remorse.
Neither of these two hesitate.
They wipe their blades, sheath them.
Their conversation takes them to the hall.
The hero groans pathetically.
Dark blood oozes down his ribcage.
Mercy died with God.

Words he thought he'd never fear:
"It's time for your transfusion."
Three medics wheel the IVs in.
Veins are stabbed haphazardly.
The art of needling's lost.
They pump him with more fluids.
It seeps from spots he's taken steel.
It seeps from everywhere.

A drain below catches crimson rivulets.
The tile floor is slick.
One of his prodders almost slips, curses.
When they're gone the sprinkler opens.
It washes down the red.
The grout lines are a scarlet grid.
The tile's white again.

There is Freedom in the plumbing.
There are Rights in jars on shelves.
There are those who'd let the strangers cut.
I'd rather arm myself.


Cristóbal Colón y San Salvador

The cabinet held medicine
that did him little good
until a victory came silently
with a swing upon its hinge.
There amongst his toiletries
laid a toothbrush not his own
brought and used and left--
the implications lovely.


Somehow, Regardless, They Always Grow Up

You pull into a driveway lined with stones he stole from a demolished institution. Exotic ornamental trees in dire need of pruning attempt to draw your attention away from the heaving pavement and its unsuccessful disguise made of tar. An ancient pine frowns down at you from the confines of the front eighth-acre. He tried donating it to the Rockefeller Center for use as a Christmas tree one year, but even they didn't want it. Such is the way.

As you approach the crumbling concrete steps you can't help but notice the sun-faded blue tarp draped over the garage. When its roof caved in that's all he could muster. There, in the moldy darkness, rust hundreds of tools that he never learned to use. We curse our fathers for what they didn't teach us. We fumble our ways through precious lost years.

The first room you'll enter is laden with cedar; a Florida room they call it, though it's anything but tropical. The kid's got his toys rightfully strewn about as his predecessor once did. It's a great room to play in, even with its leaking skylights. The wood's grain is warped, its color tinged dark. His early addition's a lesson in acceptance. We'll leave this room now. There are too many windows.

Linoleum so hideous it shames its creators clings to the floor of his out-of-date kitchen. Its plumbing, at best, is like an old ship's. There wasn't a way to heat food sans the stove until last month when his son gave a gift in the form of a microwave found in his closet.

A new wife convinced him to rip up the carpets. They were matted and tattered. They'd been soaked through with humans. Lo and behold there was hardwood beneath. A mother's intuition may have sniffed out the wax. It won't matter long. The dogs' nails are sharp. Some living rooms do a lion's share of living. It's best to forget most memories there.

Cast iron baseboard surrounds the circumference. It's the Cadillac of heat, though the main floor was barren without their knowing for years. That zone's pump had failed them. No hot water moved. Circulation was halted while the boiler cranked-- and then that same son. There's a tally somewhere in an odd drawer in Heaven. There's a list of the deeds we never should mention for claiming their worth negates any merit. How does one go through a life with such discipline? It seems a waste to fear being mortal.

There's only one bathroom. That never would fly for a four-bedroom house built in today's age of modern convenience, or even by the standards of four decades ago. Extra space abounds where its three owners aren't. They take turns. They share. It's a novel idea.

And in my favorite place, the basement, the wood-stove's still warm. The smell of charred timber mixes with mildew that no amount of heat could remove from the rug or the walls or the layers of my brain cells. That basement floods easily. There's no ark in sight. They'll all be okay. They're watched by a hawk.


Less Obvious Vermeers

You boil a bone
and sell it as soup.
The furniture's nice.
Let's wrap it in plastic.

Some kid calls, drunk
to play-act the friend
but I know better--
mine died in the war.

I swore that this time
I'd be second to say it
though saving it up
is for misers and men.

There's something about
getting caught lighting candles
that ruins the mood
you were trying to set.


Lest We Forget

I savor days like this
when the fog engulfs Mount Beacon
making plain the view from all three
of my eastward facing windows.
The church's rotting steeple
seems the zenith of the landscape.
A conjured crow appears
and pecks at rooftop puddles.

It reminds me that perception
is often not the truth
and the folly built by man
is the altar of the damned.

The cars splash by on Main Street.
The buildings strive to climb.
But that mountain, sneezed by God
will be there again tomorrow.

Coronary Lassitude

Keep your nose clean, Corporal.
No one here is prone to jump
claiming "I am Spartacus,"
as we're circled in this valley.

A romantic hates to say it
but the realist knows it's true:
We're all born and die alone
with some solitude between.

No one cares for your Green Gables.
We're all capable of painting.
The purest here among us
hid little with the brush.

There's a hawk perched
near the off-ramp.
Addictions all catch up.
"Pry your hands off the merchandise,"
a decent sport would say.


The Ebb

The Ambassador is leaving
and with him
voice of reason.
Who will stop
the tourist
from falling into
gaps and grapes?
There will be exchange
of platitudes
some sacrosanct cliche
and a bottle tipped
toward ceiling fan
in the name of work undone.

A few months back
they found a corpse
by the tracks a mile south--
twenty-five with no regrets
'cept for unread stacks of books.

One can hear the snap
crisp and clean
like a glass rod
used for stirring highballs
or a more formal concoction.
Most choose to ignore it.

I was lucky.
Mine would knock.


When the taxes are paid
and the hatchets are buried
and all the wrong reasons
are finally set straight
I'll be driving some highway
when there from my right
she'll pass a lit cigarette
(though we're trying to quit).


The Hessians

The trout were biting
well into dark.
My brother ran around
with our father's flashlight.
The lake took our blind casts
with the familiar grace
that makes even the slow nights
well worth the trip.
When our fingers
couldn't bait the hooks
we wrapped up
poles and buckets.

I carried him across
the field back to where
we'd parked.
My hands pressed his thighs down
against my shoulders
like my dad used to do for me
when I was too tired to walk
as a kid.

His tiny hands gripped mine
releasing their hold as his snoring began
there atop my head.
Somehow, despite the bounce
he managed to fall asleep.
"Do you have him?" Dad asks
as we haul gear to our vehicles.
I assure him of the ease.
Pleased with himself
and the fruit he's yielded
he sings that 60s chorus
"He ain't heavy, he's my brother,"
in his off-key voice
I missed for half a decade.
Behind him I smile
over what'd make some cringe.

Later on, after tucking in the boy
the two of us split an entire
carton of ice cream.
He tosses its remains in the can outside
to get rid of the evidence
before the Powers That Be
can arrive home from the night shift
to discover our decadent indulgence.
It was his idea.
I only complied.
And I'd do it a thousand times over
if given the blessed chance.

Most folks only
get to live through one childhood.
I pity them.

Forgotten Wisconsin

When her hand reached
to answer
he was sweating there
wondering recipients
of a pleasure
doled by nature.

"Hello?" she coyly asked
while muffling short breaths
a furrowed brow above
eyes locked into passion.

At first his string was shortened
by apparent lack of interest
until he smelled intentions
of a heightened play with risk.

She nodded in agreement
with her unaware inquisitor
simultaneously signaling
her lover's ardent steam.

The two continued knocking
at their small back door to Heaven.
One entered the palace.
The other followed soon.

Somewhere in the offing
a caller ends confused
as to why those yelped responses
seemed to have a steep crescendo.


Slaughter At Jericho Hill

The State Department
regrets to inform
that it didn't matter

that he was loaded for bear
when the bombardment commenced

or waited 'til he saw the whites
of their eyes

or rationed his ammo
when the cavalry came
too late.

A hat clung to his brow
when they found him.
His heart was in his throat.
And the brass horn
he almost mastered
will be shipped
after polishing
to join this flag.

Vote Turner.


Graphic Novels Are Glorified Comics

There are gains
for which blind men fight--
a vessel large enough
to hold what's been seeping
from seams--

and in the meantime
deaf warriors write
to keep their hearts from sleeping;
to vitalize their dreams.

If they will
or if they may;
if they huddle up
like blood clots;
there shall be
a note resounding.
It'll echo through
your dark.