Riptide Fortunes

I take a page
from some stranger's book
by turning down her drink
while she sprawls across me
on the couch.
"Describe your ideal woman..."
she says, feeling so falsely original.

It's a ten-round fight
in as many seconds
as I dodge my mind's vignettes--
How the girl on that TV show
curls her upper lip over her teeth
just like you do when agitated
or the time I saw the painting
hanging in your kitchen
on the living room wall of a customer
and almost dropped my wrench
or that corner where I spotted a truck
from your development's landscaping outfit
and my friend said "That's a sign"
or the non-existent birth certificates
of those hairy, sweaty kids
you promised to get me back
and the night I walked away
from breaking up that bar-fight
when I felt your hand leave mine

Jackie, if you're reading
you're wrong about the Universe--
All your math be Damned.

I've run from gods I couldn't name
but yours is carved in brick.

Currently reading:
"Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk.


Brooklyn Bombshell

There's no note
on the kitchen table
this time
when I exit
my bedroom
Sunday morning
and she's gone--
but I'm grateful.
Never again
will I see
the sailor tattoos
her old seaman
carved, marked
like claimed stake.

The blurred recollection
of her pulling back
the sheets
to find and thank
my sleeping face
seals the unsaid deal:
With a forked tongue
and a forehead kiss
we never would have made it.

The distance doesn't matter.
We use the same two moves.


The Practice Run

Her dog was 17
deaf and going blind.
The poor bitch
was a ghost
of the family friend
they'd known.

A neighbor backed down
their driveway in her van
crushing the Husky's head.
"My mother swears it was suicide,"
she says, her pupils pinholes
her palms a mess.
"The week prior she laid down
behind a parked Volkswagen
got up and limped away
when its weight was not enough."

Our conversation shifts
but my mind can't leave that scene.
A canine's wisdom tells it
when it's time to leave the pack.
Admirable. Admirable--
Yet humans have a stigma.


Coppertone Gal

Beach-bronzed buns
scamper across
my fake wood flooring.
Tan lines entice
what's left of this romantic.
The amber skin's real.
The blonde hair isn't.
The latter doesn't matter.

I know why the logo marketing
made millions.
When I hear her toothbrush
above my recently cleaned sink
every skullghost dies.

They knew that hope would sell.


Compensated Endorser

Don your morning war paint.
Give them half of what they want.
Keep them coming
back for more
of what isn't yours to give.

A silver fish blinds the meek
with sunlight, doing eighty.
Cutting off your fellow man--
that isn't very Christlike.

They'll claim you've left them tender;
try to flatter you, coquettish
but you can't be very tender
while your hands are wrapping headboards.

They don't make splints for lingchi
with lungs that limit laughter.
If you're still you'll feel the earth spin.
It's scaphism, at best.

Someone pretty block the shrapnel.
Someone else can grab the cab fare.
It's the sand you chew in scallops
when you're dining with dessert.


Franklinesque Experiments

Summer thunder wakes me
an hour before my alarm--
vibrations through the bedsprings;
flashes through the blinds.

It makes me feel much smaller
in a world that's grown complex.
I think of what my mother said
so many times in grade school days:
"It's the sound of angels bowling."
A crash comes like a strike.

She almost had it right
though it isn't fair to blame her.
It's coming from the Heavens
but not balls and pins and laughter.
It's the sound of angry gods
who are fighting for our souls.
Somewhere there's a kid in me
who's hoping for a win.


Common Thorax

I only see
one at a time:
the massive ant
that rides these walls
and pillowcases
here in my third-floor walk-up.

The singularity
leaves me unsure
if it's an infestation
since I've changed the locks twice
after breakups
and the exterminator can't get in--
or one freeloading roommate
too sharp to help with rent

but I never swing to squash it.
I just flick him from my corner.

There are broader swords before us.
"Death is not the Beast."


Pine Bush Blues

"This town's known for UFO sightings,"
he says between our calculations.
"There's a diner on the corner
that's called 'The Cup and Saucer'."

I stare through the fractions
stamped on my tape measure;
stare through the apprentice
fumbling through our Trade.

"I dated a girl who worked there,"
I tell him, boiler room sweat
stopped by my eyebrows.

"Did she believe in aliens?" he asks.
The Kid's a year older
but he's got a lot to learn.

"She believed in someone
more far-fetched."
I grin like a burglar
immune to the Universe
and pull another trigger
that only revs the band saw.

Currently reading:
"On Writing" by Charles Bukowski.


Gideon Bibles

across the page
yellow light
to praise high words
of the living dead
who speak
with those too tired
for sleep.
The ink is running dry
so the rubbing is much harder
blurring black and peeling pulp.
Omission is a sin.

Electricity, like fire
was discovered
not invented.
Edges smoothed by friction
prove that some things gold
can stay.


Soul Food

A reheated plate of leftovers
steams up at my face
on this quiet Friday night--
rice my mother brought me
and grilled chicken from my father.
The plate, so commingled
would make both parents pause.
Who knew they'd be feeding
their only son together
two decades-and-a-half
after the kitchen split?


The Motions

Sitting, sweating
sipping sauvignon blanc
while salivating for a cigarette
fingers dug in
to the armrests of my recliner
the antibiotics at play in my system
as my mother does a crossword puzzle
across from me on the couch
making eyeless small talk
waiting for her to leave
I notice the lampshade
swaying under the ceiling fan
and laugh where I laugh hardest
laugh in my head
since some of us aren't screwed so tightly
some of us still dance.


Two Pescatarians

With callouses as collateral
her pheromones did me in.
We come of royal blood
and leave with moonlit blues.

What they don't tell you in documentaries
is that the slaves who built the pharaohs' tombs
were killed to save the secrets.

It takes a fool to argue with one.
She's a bigger waste of time
than learning cursive.


The Golden Arm

He's a year older than me
but somehow none the wiser.
We all call him Kid
like any apprentice
and try not to let him
lace up for failure.

"I'll bet you coffee break tomorrow
that I can get one of these two apple cores
in that dumpster," he proposes
as the three of us sit in the 9:13 shade
finishing cigarettes and stories of prior greatness.
I take a look at the distance
gauge the trajectory
and mentally count the bills in my wallet.

He sinks the first
then the second just as easily.
"Looks like I'm buying
next Friday, too,"
I say, feigning disappointment.

The Kid, two inches taller
laughs triumphantly
as I toss my butt
to the curb.

That's what it's about sometimes:
Taking a bet
you know that you'll lose
to someone who hasn't
knocked one over the fence
in too long.