Leave the Ivory in the Field

There are lions here
worth shooting.
What they live in's
called a pride.
Watch them bleed out
on the prairie
down the block
from where we met.

Chug that second cup of coffee.
Polish nickel-plated steel.
Mercy always has a limit.
It ends where self begins.

On that bench there is a bounty.
Those thighs contain a lie.
The mailman carries secrets.
Extortion pays the bills.

There are loveless
forms of chocolate.
Probation's not parole.
This lion rifle's rusty
but the cartridges don't notice.

Currently reading:
"Good Prose" by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd.


Like ***** Mixed With *** and Hints of Fresh-Picked ****

While they drain for the week
I lay and read a letter
I wrote myself four years ago
which ends with a claim I made 
for the sake of someone else
--three of them, if I'm honest--
when those rules still applied:

"I forget what she smells like,"
the line lies like rubber.
"Guess that means it's finally over."

Pausing, staring off
into the brick wall of my bedroom
but not cheating with closed eyelids
I breathe deep enough
to suck ten years into my nostrils
picturing the red shirt she kept at my dorm.
I remember the fragrance
but won't share it with you here
nor ever.

"That was close,"
I tell myself
glad, yet again, at only being
half right.

Even a jealous God
leaves a reason to keep trying.

Unlabeled Hades

Strange sex dreams
that you don't want to wake from.
(That Italian gal
with the puddle she loves.)
We want what we want
regardless of reason.
The district attorney's still scratching her head.

None of what follows
applies to the willing:
the denizens dandy
the scurvy that's shared.
Half this town
could drown in its ego.
Tell them your secrets.
They're still not your friends.

Tonic sans gin is alright if there's lime.
It's easy to sleep with a lock of her hair.
Be sure to appease the man in the boat.
A tough one to swallow:
Ares was queer.


How I'll Think of Hell's Kitchen

Reading back through gravity
even a mere two years
sends vapors through the cracks
under my doors.
In the time-warping fog
I see words I no longer know
and people I no longer know
and shudder with a cocktail
of emotions I'd rather not mix:
guilt of mind and heart eroded.

My heavy use of pronouns
for the safety of anonymity
makes my own rambling cryptic
but with a healthy dose
of forensic archaeology
the characters come back to life
rising from the paper.

And one in particular
I'd thought was a dream
rears her head
through vivid words
I assigned her
like pearls
to prove to me now
here in my attic
that I once knew love
and can do so again.

Currently reading:
"Islands in the Stream" by Ernest Hemingway.


For Once Just As It Happened

The old man got rice pudding
and I had chocolate mousse cake.
There we sat
each across from a stranger
comfortable enough
to savor our sweet vices
while making the right eye contact
to claim the same cursed blood.

"This diner's only good for dessert,"
I inform him
as he steals half the dollop
of whipped cream on my plate
like he has since the days
of divorced kid visitation.
He smiles with the knowledge
that his eldest won't piss rainbows.
I've learned to gauge his love
by the things he doesn't say.

We wolf down three days' calories
allowing beasts to sleep.
He left a lousy tip
but I didn't spring to change that.

My father will be missed someday.
I'll tell the boy a fable.
I don't want his inheritance;
only my whipped cream.

In Servile Defence of the Crown

Some Saturday night incorrigibles
ripped the flowers
from that sidewalk pot
for the eleventh time
since living here.
Still his careful hand
plucks the remnants of the roots
while the other holds a cigarette
he'd rather not be smoking.

We're drowning in the rays
of spoiled weekend sunlight
too bright for our four eyes
unwillingly enlightened.
It's partially the color
though mostly due to shape.
David's humble slingshot
tends to find its mark.

Glancing around the corner
reveals the doomed replacements:
another floral cluster
that will only grace the pavement.
He's flicked his burning butt
at a poorly parked convertible.
He pays no attention
to the dirt under his nails.

There isn't much advice here
like fathers who teach nothing
save for stinking sardine Sundays
and how to lose a wife.

What a great man
for someone else.

What a perfect afternoon
for execution.

What's left but the madness
that these silent strangers share?


A Happy One To Choke You

I think that when you die
it goes back to being Nothing
like the blackness that prevailed
before you had a number.

But if there is a Heaven
and if I get to see it
I hope that it's a play list
of my all-time favorite memories.

The film will be repeated
but feel new every time.
The characters will love me
if only for those frames.
The soundtrack will be laughter
that some of you don't hear.

I'm far from misanthropic.
My Heaven Reel is proof.

The Iconoclast

My friend hunts
with a rifle.
You won't see him often
out there on the prowl
though when you do
it's good, my man:
Distance shots I'd pass on;
Only the best trophies;
Never a maimed doe
bleeding out for miles.

But me?
I sling my shotgun
and head to the cafe.
There's not room enough
for dancing so the patrons
watch me read
and with all those little BBs
something's bound to hit.

This fall brunette's in season.
Watch the redheads graze.
And if, by chance, you meet a blonde
save it, dead-eye.
Spare her.


Pining, for a Second

One of the kindest things
ever done for me
was when a love that could've been
moved states and states away.
Not across the county.
Not to Jersey.
States and states.

Never will I see her
in the shampoo aisle
or a traffic light positioned
so the sun gets in our eyes.

A life without temptation.
An ideal.

Maybe once in awhile
I'll spot a tattoo
almost as good as hers
and think, "That's almost
as good as hers."
I can handle that.
The truth.

Some grace us with their coming.
Others with their going.
And the most precious few
the ones who deserve better
than the broken gifts we'd give
grant the sacred blessing
of never coming
and going.



Designated Hitter

Sun fades on the brick
of his crumbling bedroom walls
while recapping the
sins of the day:
His hand hurts now
from cat scratches
remnants of a game
he played with her new kitten
similar to the toying
that rounded out the visit.

A few new books, unread
sat atop her dresser.
"You need to be
with someone like you,"
she declared, making excuses
on his behalf--
as if to say that's easy;
as if they're lining up.
Then she pulled off her shorts again.
(This hurt worse
than the claws.)

There it was, engulfing him:
that pink butterfly
which almost kept him happy.

Her mother called
so she reached to mute
the phone.
Some sick part of him
hoped that she would answer
pretending not to pant
as her back was blown out.

It ended, as always
with seed spilled
snubbing God.

Denim climbed his legs
and he lit up on her porch.
"I haven't smoked all month,"
she said.
"The last time that we met."

He wonders if she'll blame him
when the cancer fills her lungs.

"Am I the only one?"
she asked.
He smiled, sucked down fire.

The only one today, poor girl.
The week is still so young.


from a dream in which she shot me

teams of vivid red
challenged squads of purple
in lazy games of kickball
where no one ever lost.

(you are not a sunset.
you're a kid pissing in snow.)

they say
at any given time
there are six people
in the world
who look exactly the same.

don't wake us.


Mal de Mer: The Stalemate

The stubborn imperfection
of her bottom teeth
almost makes me dial
though I know it isn't right.

They remind me of my own.

Our sheet music was in sync.
That second-seat violinist
and the rest of his orchestra
beyond the bedroom door
were what shortened our reprise.

Or maybe Pavlov's dogs
were just always hungry.


Relative Delusion

Fear not the fascist despot
or his cousin, Commie Czar;
it won't be any monarch
who rules the melded masses
there among the roaches
once the end of days is nigh.
A superhero slouching
won't come close in his powers.
Death, nor even Taxes
can touch What Men Should Dread:

The woman drenched in diamonds
cast upon her by the pens
of a dozen wayward poets
who wasted their best words
on a princess proud of nothing
that a queen would never sell--
a lady made immortal
who'll serve the drinks in Hell.

The Necessary Shakespeare

You have to see her
in the right light
to find it
have her up to your place
for a beer
and alibi speeches
but once you do
it's burned in your skull

that perfect angle
from which she looks more
like an actress
from 19-hundred and 43
than another
shark born swimming
who'll spit you out
over cocktail stories
with friends down at Max's
an exercise in the perverse
at a cost you'll never muster.