Chekhov's Gun

There they were
pinned to her kitchen's corkboard:
her poem I got in print
and a note from her ex-husband
that accompanied a birthday cake
which I was too stubborn to share.
There were three Chinese cookie fortunes, too--
something else I collect
but I was too jealous
to read them.

We slept soundly
even though her dog
kept tossing in her sleep.

I left before she woke
with the sun angled low
and always in my eyes.


The Man Who Braved the Everglades

Ray calls me for my address
though I've given it to him twice.
He's the uncle I saw most.
He's the uncle who Did Time:
15 years for beating his young wife to death
when he caught her cheating, high on LSD.
He's the reason I've never used drugs
outside glass.

First Puerto Rican cop in Rockland County.
First man I saw cry.
First and last person I visited in prison as a kid.

I think of him every time I cross the bridge
and see the lights from Downstate Correctional.
He thinks of me now
as he calls me on a Bloody Mary Sunday
my teeth unbrushed
my knees uncovered
my heart in relative shambles.
I give him my address
and he hangs up.

I know what it's like
to write from a jail cell.


What Do You Mean, You Don't Dance the Tango?

She keeps the gin I love on hand
in case we both get lonely;
never lets me make my own--
though not 'cause she's scared
of my heavy hand.

Sometimes I use
her lovely mane as reins.
Sometimes I drool
cruel words
to spare the innocent.

You only live once
and only with yourself.


Bargain Basement

The package waited
as patiently as it could
for my blade to tear into it.
There they were:
ammunition cans
"Army surplus", they call it
as if such a thing exists--
cubical steel painted green
hinged tops with handles
rubber gaskets to keep the powder dry
yellow stenciled lettering and numbers
that I only halfway understood.
I unclasped a latch
heard the vacuum break, felt my money's worth
with blinded buyer's pride.

There were grains of sand inside.

I opened the other five
all to find the same:
foreign soil in the boxes
that once held bullets
hurled to save the lives
of the frightened kids nearby.

I checked for dents
checked for blood
checked the white receipt
neatly printed in a warehouse.

I'll be buying new next time.
It's worth the extra cash.


Baking Soda, Vinegar, Science Fair Redundancy

"I love your words," she says through the haze.
"So do I," he says through the smoke.
The latter will stay the same.

"I want you write one for me," she says through the rain.
"So do I," he says through the clouds.
The latter will stay the same.

"You're going to write yourself right," she says through tears.
"I'll get it down fairly," he says through teeth.
The former is more accurate.

"She doesn't exist," she says through the door.
"That doesn't matter," he says through the wall.
The verdict is out on transparency.


The Wedding Photographer

I want to be the wizard who keeps the trains on time.
I want to be the only man she calls Sailor.
I want to wear her father's ring on a necklace.
I want to be loud on the Western Front.
I want to deny the continuous supply of female flesh.
I want to be a gentleman of leisure with the roughest hands.
I want to stall the morning commute in an early-model sedan.
I want to tell the men I love exactly how I feel.
I want to chew my tongue and wait for blood that isn't coming.
I want to be reminded that she's poisoned if she's fanged.
I want to be entitled and always photogenic.

Honey, let us settle for waking up forgetful.

The Windy City

She texted me from the Blue
to tell me that she found that sauvignon blanc
I introduced her to out there in Chicago.
It's another detail that means nothing to you
and everything to me.
I was drinking it at the time.
I was thinking of her eyes.

What's mine will always be yours.
Without yours in mind
I wouldn't bother opening my own.
All things grow.
I don't mind.


The milk's soured in an unopened carton.
A blue date scoffs from the refrigerator door.
I've barely been home for two months.
Work has consumed me.
I haven't had time to cook, sip coffee.

As I dump the spoiled contents
into a swirling toilet
I remember doing the same as a kid
when visiting my father
two weeks after seeing him last.
The milk had sprouted chunks
ignored in the corner of a sad bachelor fridge.
He'd forgotten that he'd bought it for me.
The sentiment was there.
He tried.
I'm trying, too.

I push the lever, flush my thoughts
and contemplate the circle.
We've lost the marital privilege.
There isn't sweat to spare.

Currently reading:
"Big Bad Love" by Larry Brown.


Sea Cred

I catch her sketching me
from the corner of the bar
with a rum-and-coke collecting dust
on the plot of oak before her.
She's Jackie in ten years.
She's full-blood Italian.
I'm in lust so I step closer.
The profile of my nose is correct.
The beard has yet to flourish.
"It's a two-minute exercise,"
she confesses between strokes.

I return to my initial roost
and pose to let her finish
but the pressure's been added.
The knowledge is there.
She can't force the disconnection
we once shared
now that I've gone and
ruined it with words again.

Last Call comes and she flies
to another man's shoulder
saying she's too old
but still giving me her number.
I catch a glimpse of her final rendition
before she folds her pad:
Lead's been added to paper.
Space has been added to time.
She's captured a darkness in my eyes;
a sadness.

We'd get along just fine.


To Fight a Windmill

You never quite forget
the taste of blood
in your mouth.
Grade school taught you
to loosen teeth
to completion
and feel the swell
of copper from your gums:
the economy of motion
and general mistrust
of those who like math.

It's practice for Saint Peter
when the first frost hits.
A criminal gets caught
when he changes his routine.