The Navigator

Our first night in Maine was decent
until the mosquitoes
came to claim their dues.
My father and I rolled up the windows
and left the rural rest stop
driving through the night
to the best cheap motel
I remember in a lifetime--
comatose for three hours
until check-out time arrived
since we were on a budget.

He bought sheets and bungee cords
to rig a canopy over his Camry.
I thought of what Bar Harbor wouldn't be
while trapped in a white sedan
unable to escape for a midnight piss.

At 15 I learned
how patient one can be.
Double the number
add a few more bloodsuckers:
I'm still here
writhing, with a smirk
and more fathers than I'd realized.



****** lived in my childhood neighborhood.
He was Pakistani and more intelligent
in areas where I floundered.
Frankly, looking back, there are ways
in which I envied him:
Two years older;
better at math;
an unquestioned knowledge of reproduction;
and the best dirty joke in town
at a time when very few of us
knew how sex smelled.

I was eleven
equally dark, but naive
and ****** seemed to have most of the answers.
Laughing last is laughing longest
but I am doing neither.
I learned last night that he's been dead
for seven years now.
There's an article on a local newspaper's website
on his life and death
with a photo of him in uniform
standing in front of our flag.

Left college to enlist
four days after 9-11;
was ridiculed by drill sergeants
due to his foreign name;
served his country
as a soldier of Muslim faith
like my German grandfather
who fought in WWII
since he was spat on in school during WWI;
earned a master's degree at RIT
after his deployment to Iraq;
gave his dog tags to his little brother
after getting married;
returned to active duty in Afghanistan
as a second lieutenant and translator;
was blown to patriotic pieces
by a roadside bomb with the four men
in his patrol--
a martyr, buried in Albany
too young to be over
and too old for dirty jokes.

The boys in our development
used to laugh at the way
he'd wear his bicycle helmet
even after reaching his destination--
sometimes inside a condo
while we played video games
and tried to muffle the cursing
from our parents in the next room.
We even had a name for his condition:

I wish his Kevlar helmet
had saved him in 2008
but explosions aren't like bike wrecks
or ridiculing kids.

Currently reading:
"The Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks.


Talcum Powder

It's been sitting on my kitchen table
for the better part of a worse week
since I don't know what to do:
Toss it in the trash can
or stash it somewhere safe
for a future belle to loathe
and hold against me.
Her lack of return address is predictable.
The typed and printed destination
is what first implies sterility.
My building number's wrong
but the letter found its way.
My postman knows me;
crumples my mail

like that final cocktail napkin
from a night
the summer before last
careening in Manhattan
while visiting her friend
here from Ohio.
We'd hit several gay bars
on his behalf
and I'd hit the gin
on mine.
When she tried to pass out
on a Midtown walk-up's couch
I commandeered her keys to drive us north--
a modern Dmitri Karamazov
with work to do early the next morning.
I hit the Home button on her GPS
on a taillight-infested parkway.
Not recognizing the address
I barked toward a slouched dress
in the passenger seat
that the damn thing was mistaken.
She told me that valet drivers
can't be trusted, but I knew
she meant all men
because her stepfather had entered her
until, at ten, she popped
to an unresponsive mother.
And that was the end of that
and us;
and now, with this missive
I have her forgiveness
printed, italicized
in font as big as the fold.

Maybe she has the lines
I wrote her
--hiding in a drawer--
that no one will discover
since with our death
died her faith.

I'll do the same.
I'll tuck it in a place
that no one dares.

There are people
there are places
that best remain uncovered
but the envelopes we open
can bring us back to grace.


Rickshaw to Nowhere Fast

I don't expect you to understand this
as more than a sequence of words
but I get sick when I haven't sat to pound keys.
Something in my gut twists until circulation is lost
and purple parts inside turn blue, then black.
I shit dark organs in the morning
or maybe they're wine stains.
The coffee'ed commute
is more comforting than tired springs.
There's no one to impress by making the bed.
A gargoyle sighs and swoops down to Main Street.

I take out the gravity between nine walls
echoing only one voice
on lost souls who have none.
The aftertaste of mayonnaise
is permanent in my mouth
no matter how much I flush it
with 13%.

My Friends With Benefits
are all too sad to fuck
and I'd rather show restraint--
Disillusioned ships
sinking in the Southern Mediterranean
a stone's throw away from shore
or maybe another sandbar.

See what I mean?
I can't write any more;
only type.
But the fact that I'm still here to fail
means the chance is alive:
As it has been.
As it is.
As it will be when they sell my guns
and dump ashes in the Hudson.


Ode to a Clove

They mock me
call me hippie, faggot
assume I reek of patchouli;
But really, why I smoke them
is not their longevity
not their pleasant aroma
not their pungent nature
but that they require
a taming all their own:

If I don't suck
they won't stay lit.
I respect that.
There's a cherry
still present
that needs me;
knows my name.

Djarum Black
I stay true
and acknowledge
the existence of repercussions.



My brother-in-arms parked--
the classic rock station
turned to what most would deem too loud
for so early in the morning--
and rolled down his window
to share sincere suggestions.

"I'll be Tom Petty.
You can be the heartbreaker."

We knew it was going to be a good day.
We were right.



It picked 
a Hell of a night to rain.
That frog picked 
a Hell of a time to cross.
I picked 
a Hell of a second to swerve.
Your brakes picked 
a Hell of an instant to lock.

This is what they tell you
when the Ride is finally over:

You've learned nothing
--wasted space--
if you haven't absorbed
the theme:
We pick nothing.


We pick nothing
(but our words).


Olive Drab

They drafted me in 1969
to fight their fear of yellow men and Communism.
I quickly forgot how my girlfriend tasted
and learned the smell of melting flesh.

When they ordered me to take the point
I led us through the jungle.
When they told me to clear an underground bunker
I grabbed someone's .45, prayed with a flashlight.
But the first time in base camp
when commanded to clean the latrine
I told the nearest sergeant, "My father's a janitor.
I won't die dumping barrels of shit in Southeast Asia."

They never asked me again.


Throwin' 'em Back on Thursday

It stabs me in the eyes:

There's the chop-job she got
that I drove her to
eight years ago--
a haircut of rebellion
since she knew I loved her locks.
I never thought I'd see it again
especially on her 21st--
a bottle dangling from her mouth
when she isn't slumped over on carpeting.

But the world has changed since then;
The world, and circumstances.

We all now know
the same as all of those
whom we pretend to know
and the juniper is strong
and the ice is melting fast
and the years are melting faster
and I'm glad that she married
the man whom she did
'cause I've seen their kids
in pictures
and Damn.