Rebound Blues (A Minor)

You don't want to be with me.
You want to be with someone.

You don't know the smells
that I emit when deep in sleep
or how my semen tastes
if I've been drinking too much coffee.

That habit I have of throwing clipped nails
between the wall and furniture
has yet to grate your nerves.

My transparency's still endearing.
The words can't come fast enough.

You don't hate my father for making me this way.
You're just glad he's back.
The kid's an added bonus.

The passages I've highlighted
in my attempt to find the answers
from the dead who line my bookshelves
haven't made you cringe.

My mother's silent threat
hasn't burned into your retinas.

Long Island remains a pleasant place
without me on its Tea.

And then I'll ask for sodomy
to make my birthday special.

You don't want to be with me.
You want to be with someone.
for both of us
I'm too punch-drunk to care.


Maybe There's a Tenth

Mickey went home last night. The first time we met she asked me to stay over, the wine as an excuse to avoid the drive, so long as we both agreed to keep hormones at bay. We did. It felt right. When I walked to my car the next morning, dress shirt slung over my shoulder, I swore there was an invisible force-field blocking all negative rays.

Last week she had me for dinner on a Wednesday and I didn't leave until Friday. She offered the invitation for Night 2 before lunch Thursday morning to alleviate the confusion of wondering, generous soul that she is. But last night, after a trip to the theater to see the cinematic telling of the most poignant pining novel of love, loss, redemption, and more loss, she gathered her things and left.

"I need space," was her rebuttal to the silent agony on my face. "Take as much time as necessary," I lied. When a man like me feels rejected he builds walls around his heart. I don't want time to do that. The risk here is too great. If only I hadn't asked her that presumptuous question two nights ago. If only I'd kept my suffering my own. Movie film is not the only thing projected. Try as we might, we carry our pasts.

It's been a hell of a morning: rolling in the sheets I changed before her arrival, wishing she'd left her scent in them, trying not to think of what this backward trend means, begging the cardiac masons inside my chest to stall as long as possible. The phone rang once between my dreams of the George Washington Bridge and my first car accident. It was a coworker, probably inviting me to a barbecue since today is one of those summertime holidays reserved for empty calories and socially acceptable alcoholism. I didn't answer.

I turned my phone on Silent Mode to avoid any further disturbances. I'd slept with the volume raised in case she changed her mind. Never turn it off, you'll seem unavailable. A lot is said by the status of a cell phone. "Here I am," or "I'm not here," or "Look at how pathetic I've become." The answers to all never matter. Only a prisoner of his own skull would dig that deep for meaning. I'm a writer by trade, a builder of rooftops to pay the bills. A man who tries to sell words as his own has to do his share of excavation in the mundane. Mickey loves that about me. Now, however, she's seeing its danger-- or she would be, if she'd felt comfortable enough to stay last night.

"The total package," her friend called me once during a conversation that spilled its way into ours in that gracious way reserved for winning affection through disclosure. Mickey was describing her newfound beau to her lifelong friend and confidante, suddenly teary-eyed, when the compliment came. What they often forget to acknowledge, however, is that these "total packages" tend to come with baggage. How can one expect it all without the addition of some caveats? The wheat is not so separate from the chaff. Character's built through fire, but it tends to leave some scars. Mine pop out at the worst possible moments-- like three in the morning, lying in bed with a tongue loosened by alcohol, a truth too honest to tell as the culprit.

I fight the urge to call her as best I can for a few hours. It's a tragic battle between What's Right For Me and What's Right For Us. That's what they don't say in the handbook: the transition from self-preservation to nurturing a bond is as bloody as birth and not as successful. Finally, and with heavy hands, my destiny can't wait. Her phone rings four times and I'm about to abort before the voicemail recording, but then her tired rasp greets me hesitantly.

"Good morning, Dave."

"Good morning, Mickey."

There wasn't enough time between dialing and speaking to compose more of an approach. I stare at the left half of my bed where she should be right now and go all in. My words can't penetrate that rare skull thicker than mine so I aim for the ribcage instead.

"The cat's dead."


"That's why I called. I found him this morning, and..."

"Oh my God. Honey, I'm so sorry. I'll be right over."

"Are you sure?" I ask, faking humble reservation. "I know you said you needed some time."

"Don't be ridiculous. I'm a woman with rules, but I'm not cruel. You sound terrible."

She's not inaccurate. I do sound terrible, though not because of the alleged death of any pets. I sound terrible because of her, because of her absence, because of what I've equated that to in my mind after years of being abandoned by the ones who've mattered in my life. Mostly, I sound terrible because I am. And I'm not going to make a liar out of either of us.

"See you in a bit, babe," she assures me.

"OK," I say before she hangs up.

It takes only a small amount of convincing to rouse myself from the sheets in search of the cat. It never liked me anyway. It's probably hiding under the couch as usual. A jacket and gloves will protect me from the scratches. My illness will distance me from the shame. Nothing, short of God, will protect its fragile neck from the beckoning of my need for love.

We learned more in kindergarten than the sum of what came after.

Some kids pissed their pants for attention.

I used to sit there and not say a word.

Teachers call home for the latter.



She was there.
Waiting for me.
Without knowing it.
Making strides through the dark.
Expertly. Silently. Crafting the mold.
From the cloth we would share.

There I was.
Thrashing blindly in the night.
Against what seemed unfair.
But was only the ricochet.
Of a life once lived too boldly.

When away went a spider.
Replaced by a scalpel.
That would let us cut chapters.
Clean out, like cancers.

There we were.

Here we are.
Now groping at the other's face.
To confirm what seems unlikely.
Still in the black.
But seeing a vision.
That others ignored.
Mercilessly. Thankfully.

Now no one flick the switch.


The Eulogy Fabrication Department

Jacob wrestled with his angel.
I've been sparring 'gainst myself.
So far it's a draw.
There's a dentist taking bets.

And every laugh
she can't hold back
is a testament
to this madman's right
to continue.

One day I'll be
the model I think I am.


Necessary Evils: A Penis Upon Us

It's coined in cuprous saliva
and foiled by caffeine
but the notion
remains the same:
a Freudian slit indeed.

"I'm a passing dream
that makes sense
once in awhile,"
should've been my last words
though they weren't.

With nothing scripted
it's tough to play Bogart
especially without
the smoking indoors.

Gas station roses
and pharmacy cards
will have to suffice
for the rendezvous.
Some nights I envy all of you
until I remember:
you're faking it, too.

It's like when you drive so far
that road names and townships
from your realm are repeated.

It's like when your best friends
are headstones.
What would Doc Holliday do?

He'd make more.


Flagrante Delicto

There's a floral arrangement
on the glass coffee table
in my attorney's waiting room
that resembles something
from that dated cartoon movie
with the wizard-mouse
I never liked.
I want to flick ashes
in the bulbous cups of the flowers
but they'd have me out of here
in cuffs if I even finger-fucked
the Bic in the left pocket of my Levi's.
My copy of "Papillon" laughs from my lap.

"Excuse me. Mr. Vargas?" interrupts the receptionist.
"Anthony will see you now."
She leaves off his greasy Italian surname
possibly an Esquire at the end
for the sake of making me feel comfortable.
I'm anything but.
Their charade isn't helping.
I know an act when I see one.
That's why I'm here in the first place.

His office is on the third floor
of a recently renovated walk-up.
I'm winded by the time I find
his glass paneled door
and enter to the smell
of fresh paint and new carpet.
Crime pays his bills
and business is booming.

I land my ass in one of two
leather chairs, positive that they're real.
Naturally, he's shaken my hand
before a word has a chance to escape.
"How are you, David?" he asks
knowing the answer.
"That's understandable," he replies
to my face's response.
It boils my balls to see how easily
I fall into the script these people
have spent years perfecting.
Sharks are born swimming, alright.

I can't beat myself up
but I could've thrown it back at him
by informing this leech
that sex doesn't feel good anymore
and I want to invest
in people.
There are stories about fuck-sweat
and disco tears that'd have his Guinea ass
scrambling for holy water.
But I spare him and break silent wind
in his expensive leather chair instead
hoping that it reaches his nostrils.

We go over the case.
He embellishes for what he thinks
is my benefit.
"It's happened to all of us,"
when clearly it hasn't.
The best of us, maybe
but not the whole lot.
I can feel salty beads forming
on my forehead.
The oscillating fan on the corner of his desk
must've quit turning years ago.
It's focused on him.

"Is it hot in here?" he strategically asks
seeing the sweat about to run down my brow.
His designer shirt doesn't lose a crease
as he opens the window behind his desk.
I almost acknowledge the lovely view
since a brick building faces us
from across the three-foot alleyway
but decide that he's not worth
my brand of jaundiced humor.
I'm well aware that he wasn't warm
and when I suggest we kill the radio playing
to eliminate any distractions
he looks at me like I've never
had two women in the course
of the same Friday night.
Still, he wants my vote of confidence
since that's the key to funding
his shameful operation:
the converted tenement, the student loans
represented by calligraphed degrees
hanging on four walls, the sleazy secretary
doing her nails downstairs
between sadistic billing sessions.

"Women like bad boys, Dave,"
he reminds me, managing to add
clairvoyance to his list of credentials.
"Men take broken bones
better than broken pride.
They didn't hang Him there all that time
merely to drain the life out of Him."
I cringe at this, though not for
its borderline blasphemy.
There's a degree of sympathy owed
from one potential convict
to the most famous One in history.
Hopefully my tale won't end as poetically.
It unsettles me to think that my fate's
in this man's hands as opposed to some Creator's.
Mythology went to the curb with
the old reel-to-reels my mother
tossed in a box for the trash man.

He skillyfully leaves the question of numbers
to me, furthering his act of sincerity.
"Retaining the firm," he calls it
but we both know it's, "Buying your freedom."
"That's our flat rate," he says in the Royal We
"whether we appear one time or twenty--
short of going to trial, of course."
His offer to appear makes me think
of that big-eared cartoon mouse
in the pointy sorcerer's hat again
this time with the face
of this olive skinned extortionist.

"Of course," I repeat sardonically.
"And here I was worrying that everything
I've heard about you people was true."
"It is, and then some," he responds
with a smile that has perjured the jury before.

I sign a name that looks nothing like mine
glancing around the room for a razor
with which to expedite the process
through opening a vein.

He's won this bout
like I prevailed in the one that got me here.
Eight years ago that beer bottle broke my nose
for the debut defeat, but there have been
a few shots at redemption for that scar.

Retire a champ.
Go out on top.
Do what it is that makes you happy
and keeps a good woman corralled.
But retire.


Blaspheme's Sabbath

Oh foolish child-- Every time you're blessed with sunsine you thank the recently deceased. By that logic, when it storms will you blame them for not protecting you from the deluge? Is the burn of every scorn you've tasted the fault of some supernatural power? How long will it be until you allow yourself to heal? Come to the only conclusion:  the weather is the weather, regardless of you or any superstition you've created to cope with loss and the question of being. Don't mistake coincidence and science for angels. Neither of them care for you. Neither of them sacrifice.

The world owes you nothing; it was here first. Trying to make sense of it will only leave you betrayed, confused, and vulnerable. Accept the inevitable and save the ache of undue suffering. We are placed here to do good for whatever roll of Time's dice we pull. We are blessed with the company of sacred souls and cursed by the presence of others. Still, we persevere. Don't make it to be more than the brief inning that it is. You'll get your chance at the plate. When you're gone what will they say? Nothing, if you're lucky. May the last one out close the door.

Now fetch me my sandals and call off the disciples. I've got work to do today. There's a load to be carried. There's a weight you can't bear. Did I lead you to believe that these weary eyes are speckless? Oh foolish child-- You've got so much to teach me.

Jinxed By Reading 'Papillon'

The lighting caught
his left arm perfectly
to show the weathered scars
I'd never expect to see there.
Another righty
but one who lacked ambition.
Down the road, not across the street.
I suppose I should be grateful.
Dead men tell no tales.

But I shoot looks at my wrist
when there's no watch upon it
and I've been glancing at the wall
where the clock stopped last week.
There's a dog in that car
with the windows closed tightly
and a dancer of sorts
has taken a liking
to a man who's had his shelves and safe emptied
by clowns with dull badges
and no sense of humor.

There are tramps and trollops
mice and mere men
none of whom can explain what to do
with this drawer full of cardigans
and bobby pins left like landmines.

A man on a megaphone
is screaming nothing
but saying it well
while girls in stirrups
claim their own fates.

You take the north side.
I'll watch the south.
Friends save judgment
for after the barrage.
Never again
will I turn myself in
on my kid brother's birthday.
My laughter has limits.



Beware, the Toecutter
that dastardly fiend
who's sworn to his seekers
they're wasting their time.
He's honed and he's crafty.
His madness makes sense.
Believe his threats.
They won't take him alive.

The mistake that was made
presuming your safety
will get your name on the list
of his mates.
Jack and his ripping
through dainty old London
pale when compared
to crime in the States.

The rumors you've heard
on the buses are true.
Most of them stop
at the coroner's door.
The Chief was seen sobbing.
The rookies called wives.
The Toecutter's signature
shows no remorse.

He sings with his shears.
They've never been sharpened.
There's rust and there's blood
and some patches of hair.
Learn, if you must, where he
worships his treasures.
I can't inform you.
I've never been there.