Antebellum Vellum

I've yet to meet
my newest neighbor
but I heard him
for the first time last night
crying through the door
of his parents' railroad apartment
as I exited our building.

It hit me then
as hard as when She leaves:

There are doors I'd rather be behind
and tombs I'd rather leave behind
and anything less
than knowing the joy
of a pink and screaming baby
would be a wasted life.

I'll risk it.


Faraday Bag

And if you think
for one red second
that any of the madness
the stale cigarettes
and potholes on the ride back
the afternoons spent alone
on a couch, clutching guts
and a bottle and a smoke
burned down to the filter
while words replay
in a mind unduly cluttered
by the need and search for love
would be traded
like a baseball card
for one that's twice as shiny
and might increase in value
in some parallel universe
where everyone knows what matters
then, my friend
you've missed the finer points:

Read English;
speak Spanish;
try not to hurt anyone
on your stumble home.


Pontius Pilate of the Alps

there's a layer
of Hell
than burning
jet fuel.


Savings in the Circular

I was mostly going for produce.
It was a Sunday afternoon
with the golden hour approaching.
Two cars were parked
on the far end of the lot
nowhere near the entrance
of the supermarket.
I knew.
I knew because I'd been there
twenty-something years ago.

Pulling closer to the scene
revealed that I was right.
A father hugged a daughter
of elementary school age
one last time for the weekend
before she'd hop into the sedan
where her mother was waiting
to bring the child back
to her version of home.
The courts call it "visitation"
but that's far too fair--
an overabundance of sharing
with a kid who's more like cargo;
a childhood of goodbyes;
sunsets fucking ruined
since they always meant the end.

I lucked out.
There was a spot right next to a handicapped.
My cart wandered the aisles for awhile
but I found those vegetables eventually
and brought them home to share.
I lucked out.


Armed Cosmonauts

The old man wasn't home
and the boy was taken hostage.
I didn't leave a note
for fear of being honest.
There's comfort in an evening ride
as dead conversations
play out in my mind.

Colors fade
from warm to cool
a border of white
between them.
Heaven's reflected
in silent ripples
on the only river I've known
above another mountain
refusing still to move.

The skyline's a melon rind
and I'm not finished chewing.

"Christ, kid.
I'll protect you from Christ."
A flock of one sleeps safest.

Currently reading:
"The Martian" by Andy Weird.


Deposit Slip

There's an engraved sign screwed to the heavy wooden door that seems more official than is justified. White letters stand out against a maroon rectangle that vaguely suggests some clinical version of warmth. Regardless, Rich enters the Production Room as if he owns the place. For a few minutes he does, and will be rightly compensated. It's not his best work, but that ended years ago. A masterpiece is only a craftsman's last achievement in the forgiving world of fairytales that dies with income tax and puberty.

Eschewing raw material left for his endeavor, he thinks of things outside of what's expected while coaxing his contribution:  virginal nicknames unused by prior suitors; the only person he knows who folds a fitted sheet with ease; a case of wine that soured when it froze in the back of his car overnight. "I'm doing this for us," he tells a beaker, unsure of whether walls have been soundproofed--or if some nameless nurse is giggling or frowning or both. The corkscrew motion settles the matter as it has since some ancient fellatrix informed him of its merit. It seems a shame to leave so many possibilities behind. Fate is out of his tired hands, parallel universes be as damned as the torpedoes.

After the crescendo and sterilized cleansing, he stops at a reception window to collect his check. The woman filling it out reminds him of a dream he once had. Rich wonders if it'd be like putting his tongue on battery terminals. He shakes his head free of the intangible world of maybes and reaches for his payment. Fifty dollars richer, he walks through the double-doors and ponders where to apply this temporary bandage--a typical modern American with just enough credit card debt to remind him of his follies.

He kicks his heel inadvertently while stepping off the curb, smirking since none of it matters more than what's waiting. At the end of the game, the pawn and the king enter the same box. He heads home, where he'll shower, eat dinner, and be taken by the woman who knows what scares him most. There's little more to ask for than a love as strong as sickness.



It's in the mail already
though its meaning is uncertain.
The postman holds an envelope
that must, to him, feel empty.
With so much pinned to words
it's a wonder that we love them.
Ink is never permanent;
in air, in print, on skin.

Currently reading:
"Pulp" by Charles Bukowski.


Cut the Kid in Half

An old version of myself
would have rolled back out of bed
to make a tall White Russian
opened the living room window
lit a smoke for old time's sake
and told you some misquoted
parable from the Bible
decreed by King Solomon
the wisest man to have ever lived
aside from Charles Bukowski
about how "Power is the ability
to destroy something, but not."

This newfangled variation
of the same flawed heathen
who insists on bastardizing Scripture
in the name of a few drawled lines
has mostly followed suit
but this time, as the smoke's sucked out
by a fan perched on the table
I'll leave you with some words
uttered through the vodka
that may not be profound
but hold the weight regardless:

Power is the ability to love
from a distance
and I, like this cocktail
am stronger
than any
dead and buried king.

Currently reading:
"The Giver" by Lois Lowry.


The Universe, etc.

"The thing is,"
he says, whiskey-swaying
in his kitchen
"that shard
from the glass you broke
is never gone."

He slides a sweating tumbler
and dries the countertop
hanging his towel
from the oven handle
as early punctuation.

"You'll find it again,"
he assures
his captivated guest
"in your foot."


I Needed a Pack of Smokes, or The Day I Saved My Block From Exploding

So I decided to put pants on for the first time all day and walk to the bodega on the corner for some nicotine. While traversing a section of sidewalk in front of the Beacon Theater (the local one, not the good one) I noticed the pungent aroma of natural gas. I paced around, sniffing through my congested nostrils to see if it was a case of wishful senses pretending that I was back on the job engaged in some repair work. A neighbor-friend walked by with her dog and I asked if she detected the scent as well. She did. I called the police to report the circumstance and waited for the proper authorities to respond. "No big deal," I insisted. "Don't send the whole cavalry."

They did. Seven fire trucks descended upon Main Street, closing off the intersections at either end. Some guys in fire-retardant gear approached me and I showed them where the utility company, Central Hudson Gas & Electric (whose last bill was outrageous, I may add), had done some underground work a few nights prior. I remember seeing them out there with their excavator and some guys messing with something in the ditch. I'd been drinking wine with a good chum all evening while the boys in blue collected overtime for shoddy craftsmanship. Anyway, the firemen agreed that the presence of natural gas was evident and called the utility service to send a crew to the scene. The block is still shut down so parking and traffic are hindered, but I can't bring myself to apologize to any inconvenienced parties. I did what I felt was right and may have prevented the loss of life and property; at the very least, a waste of natural resources was curtailed.

If you smell something, say something. Union pipefitters don't leave blatant leaks of combustible materials in high-traffic areas in their wake. Smoking saves lives. My work here is done. Carry on. 



We were fueled by rampant hormones
and an awe of unknown sins.
Those with true experience
had the least to share
while the boys who bragged of conquests
romanced their own hands.
In the locker room we pulled on shorts
and T-shirts like thin armor.
Earth Science had bored us
right until the bell
but that period of basketball
gave us time to vent.

There were teams picked
based on strategy.
The Spanish kid was fast.
The Mormon had a three
and socks up to his knees.
Those whose parents didn't come
to conferences were best.
I was never first
but I was never last.

I threw my weight for rebounds
since I didn't know the rules.
No one ever called a foul.
It didn't get us ready.

Fourteen was a funny time
of change and mass confusion.
I wonder where those kids all went
and if, like me, they find themselves
still playing in their dreams.