Miles from Mercy and Nicotine

His name is John
but I call him Lurch
behind his back;
mid-forties, vagrant, gentle
and soft-spoken.
He's got to be six-three
a ragged, over-sized T-shirt
always hanging
from that frame that carries flesh.
There's a bald knot
which may or may not
be a tumor
protruding from his close-cropped hair
which was definitely cut
with a dull shard of steel
by a friend doused in drink
or a barber with no conscience.
His face looks as though
he had some great idea decades ago
as lightning struck his spine
freezing his nerves in place forever.
And I like him, mostly;
especially after that
second-to-last time
when he saw I had one smoke left
and volunteered to take the empty pack
throwing it out in his travels.
A man who knows the value of a favor
should never go unappreciated.

John crosses the macadam
whenever there's a smoker
from whom to bum
on the opposite sidewalk.
I'm aware of this
as I know which dogs not to pet
on Main Street
(the ones that are on fire).
Tonight I went down
for my after-dinner cancer
commando style
with one Marlboro, a lighter
and my book of Chinese poetry.
No sharing of my pack
with the proletariat this eve.
There's a layoff coming.
Mine must be for me.

I suck the last drag
from my menthol
before tossing it into the street.
I'm half-way through a stanza
when he approaches
from the adjacent corner.
"Can you spare a..."
but I cut him off before he can finish.
"I don't have any, John," I say
pointing to my sparse items
on the stoop next to me
proud to be prepared
basking in my shamelessness
suddenly less compassionate
than I ever thought I'd be.

He turns, defeated, and picks up
my butt from the pavement
pulling hard with his lungs
on the burning cotton filter
and taking his time
to cross the double-yellow.
A truck swerves around him
this man with my saliva
and it just may be
the closest I've come
to kissing a true human.

Jesus, I curse myself.
I should've gone upstairs for one.

"Thanks," he said
when I gave him my last smoke
that other time.
"Some people get all bent out of shape."


Love Poem For a Woman I've Been Warned Does Not Exist

You're my favorite frying pan for eggs.
You're the way I always know how far it'll shoot.

You're that cocktail, made just right
where the last dram fills the glass.
You're the wax I'll never scrape
from the surface of my table.
You're the rifle on my wall
to which my guests' eyes all adhere.

You're the half-bottle of tonic
I'll drink when nothing's left.
You're the feather on the pond
that floats farther away
the harder I writhe
to catch you for my cap.

("So he knows,"
they point and say.
"He knows, and does it anyway.")

I have an ancestor
whose dying wish was honored
to not be buried next to
her long-dead, horrid husband.
The priest spoke of forgiveness
while our family counted miles.

Maybe never meeting
will nurture best our love.

'Should' Is a Funny Word That Way

Then she reminded
me that you get
more flies with honey
than you do with shit.

I told her her
I wasn't looking
for flies
and went on about

her business.


The Gunless Summer

And it's funny
like the time
you forgot
long division
or how the homeless curse you
for giving food instead of money.

The secret
according to my Tao
is to realize and accept
that at any given time
you are just as alone
as at any other time given--
regardless of the presence
of humanoid holograms.

Only then will your coffee taste better.
Only then will your cigarettes not kill.

Good morning and good morning
and good morning.
It's great to be "with" you today.

Currently reading:
"Bright Moon, White Clouds:  Selected Poems of Li Po", edited and translated by J.P. Seaton.


Nocturnal Journalism

Who hasn't seen pricked blood
and wondered
Could that really be clean?

What do normal folks think about
when they drive over bridges?

Where are the rest
of the lucky ones hiding?

Why were my grandmother's
last few breaths
more like the gasps
of a fish with dry gills?

When will that Thomas
remember to doubt?

How short is a life
without reason?

These are the questions
the bricks fail to answer.
Carve it for now.
The Rapture is coming.



There must be
a short word in Chinese
for the type of base life
he's been leading of late.

Thankfully, though
nude pity's in vogue.
Hell's cartographer
fakes his complaints.

The Mark of the Beast:
Repeater's Disease.
The Knights of Columbus
fought in no wars.

A hand from on high
unzips, bares her thighs
when God thwarts the hunter
by closing a door.