A History of Seizures

I was a rookie then.
If you ask most patrolmen
I still am.
But I was new enough to wonder
why no one ticketed
that guy parked in the double-yellow median
on Dupont Avenue
as he sat there drinking coffee.

I pulled up once
rolled down my window
and watched as he ignored me.
Unable to get a copy
when radioing dispatch
I rolled, feeling confused.
His Grand Marquis
became a permanent fixture
immune to any law enforcement.
I was left perplexed.

It wasn't until weeks later
when reading a plaque
in the locker room
that it hit me:
That was Officer Rilo
slurping down decaf, retired
for a decade.
His partner had been killed there.
Drunk driver, no insurance.

There are still times
when I ask questions
though they never involve
the sins that we ignore.


The Gambler

The tattoo's honest.
I've held
Aces and Eights
in my games.
Wild Bill Hickok
carded the same
when he bought it--
six-shooter holstered;
back to the door.
I've taken that seat
this time.
It's worth the stakes.
She's got potential
to bite like an asp
but I'm familiar
with wrestling fangs
and shanty Irish.

Don't speak to me
of gambling
if you've never doubled down
on a hand you couldn't win
without the Hand of God

or locked your door
behind the person
you pray to share a key with

I've seen the eyes
of men who've folded.
I'd rather take chances
choking on chips.
There's a face held in common
by those too stubborn to lose
and I wear it.

One day, hussy
we'll sing of this.


Pagan Concessions

What the Hell was that?
you ask yourself
at the rip on the rooftop adjacent.
That building ends a storey shy of yours
so you've never worried
about wandering naked
or racking slides in your apartment
with the lights on late at night.
The unit's for sale
and you've wondered if some Hipsters
from Brooklyn will break the roof hatch lock soon.
But tonight, exhaling smoke
at a fan perched in the window
the repetitive noise of slamming and tearing
on that rubber rooftop has you drinking faster.

It's the brand of fear
only made worse by acknowledgement.
If you look through your window
to identify the source of the raucous repetition
it'd be akin to pulling the blanket over your head.
You take a pull, wipe out a red ash
that fell to your skivvies
and try to appear unmolested
by what you do not know.
It happens again as if on cue.
It's a person.
There are people.
Moving now would scream defeat
so you sip your Spanish red.

Somewhere across the river
you've always lived along
another Unknown looms larger.
Last on that list, but not the best saved
that willow is weeping
and runs its own course.

Currently reading:
"Hearts in Atlantis" by Stephen King.



Field day was fun
in the fifth grade.
They carted us off
to a camp in the woods
for elementary parole.
Team-building tests
trust falls
obstacle courses
designed by smiling sadists
cleverly disguised as teenage camp counselors;
it was enough to fill a postcard to parents
though we'd be returning that afternoon.

I was dressed in camouflage--
full paramilitary regalia
to sate my inner Rambo.
The girl who'd taught me
how to use a combination lock
was on an opposing faction
poking her tongue my way
when applicable.
She's married with a baby now.
Her tongue has been retired.

There's one event
that's stuck in my head
like that witty reply
that comes to you
hours later
in the shower
too little too late
for the maelstrom.
We'd been tasked with creating
a device out of nature--
forest floor detritus
rigged to shield an egg
which the Powers That Were
would drop from ten feet.

My team was ill-fated.
No amalgamation
of leaves, vines, and moss
would protect our doomed yolk.
Not even that clever girl
who knew of locks
and other adult things
could figure out the riddle.

Cracked shells and yellow abortions
littered the ground
as the sun set on a day
that most have since forgotten
while now, before an omelette
the camo's deemed transparent:

It's not about the scorecard
but boarding that bus home.


Regarding Lucky Pliers

I was an apprentice in my second
or third year of the program.
It was a Saturday and I almost ran late for work
probably due to overabundant revelry.
I'd left my tools at home in the blur.
He gave me an old pair of Channellocks--
Model 420, missing the rubber grips
with a noble patina adorning the steel.
"These were mine when I was like you."
We completed whatever miserable task
we'd been summoned on a weekend to achieve
and I added that tool to my roster.

There were many days like that
back then; not the hangover--
that's increased with the decade.
Skills were imparted, jokes were shared
bonds were formed with men
I knew, admired, and came to love.
My father had stopped talking to me
due to his own vicious demons.
Seven years without a dad
will mess with a boy in his twenties.
I was grateful to be part of a fraternal organization;
perhaps more grateful than most
since family is something I've had to build as well.

I started carrying those pliers routinely
even though the teeth were worn
and gripping pipe was tedious.
No matter where I was
or what feat I was attempting
I'd always have that man
who took me under his wing
right there in my back left pocket
ready to answer any mental question I'd ask.
What would he do?
It was a token of appreciation
for the blessing of a brotherhood
bestowed upon me at an age when needed most.

Years went by.
I got out of my time, became a journeyman
learned when to figure it out on my own
and when to ask someone
with more burn scars on his arms.
The previous owner of those 420s got sick.
I was working four hours away
at a nuclear power plant on an allegedly Great Lake
when I got the news
that he needed an organ transplant
or would die.
Our traveling crew went out for dinner that night
and word of his illness was mentioned.
"No one would shed a tear if he croaked,"
someone flippantly said.
I put my fork down and calmly corrected him.
The procedure was performed.
That father figure from my early adulthood recovered.
I stopped lending those Channellocks out
to people who didn't bring their own.
"Read our contract," I'd say.
Things mean more to those who have the least.

On one job a kid I managed to teach
ripped the blue grips from his own
to make them match mine.
Circles are full.
Circles are round.
Circles are more than the ends of the pipes.

You can break my stones wide open
for something you know nothing about.
You can draw your pictures
mock my values
tell me I'm pathetic
for holding tight to what matters.
The pity is for you, my friend.
You've missed the point of unions.
We both get paid the same somehow
but I've had more to gain.



bastards that they were
father-daughter kinship
through the window
I realize as I peer
through my own
at the second consecutive
Yukon Gold of a moon
encased in bluest velvet
that their love of night
was more than literal.

It's a club whose scorn's
now cherished.
The sky is not the only cycle
we should aim to break.


The Blood Calls

"There was an accident,"
she tells me
checking the statement's validity
with her tone.
The subtle question goes unanswered.
It's safe so she proceeds.
"You were crying on your uncle's shoulder.
The old lady walked over to comfort you."

There's more to what she says;
more to what she doesn't.
That's how it is with one's mother.

Our matriarch's been dead and buried
for three years.
So many of these women I've loved
only live in dreams now.

There's a superstition
in her culture
our culture
what I've taken for mine:
A person is supposed to share a nightmare
to prevent it from coming to pass.

Here's to being cultural:
My brother will end up like me.


Vein Compensation

I'm eight minutes late
or too soon to be fashionable.
He's 75 so the difference evades him.

"Your handshake isn't as hard
as I'd expect," he informs me, disappointed.
"With your build and your trade and all."

I rub my dry palms, kept soft by gloves
requisite by asinine safety regs
designed to justify job titles.
"I hurt someone once," I confess
not telling him of the blue-collar dinosaur
much like himself
whose hand had been worn ragged
by decades pulling wrenches.
"It stayed with me."

We conduct our business.
There's a signature involved
resembling my own
though throughout the transaction
I dwell on my shown weakness:

Sometimes, with men
I've adjusted to folly.


Skid Marks at the Bend

He feels several factions
fighting for his soul.
It's the only thing convincing him
that he is not a deity.

Coming down from cumulus
aerobic respiration
seems another heartache--
With carbon comes decay.

Behold the nonplussed fathers
who chew on their dismay
while the constant blight
of paperweights
helps to build a harem.

It's waterlogged and sutured.
It's serpentine and slow.
Stolen kisses taste the best
and guilty heads will roll.

Currently reading:
"Love & Misadventure" by Lang Leav.


A Journeyman's Psalm

In your daily actions
and with your chosen words
never forget
that you'll work with these men
for the rest of your career.


To Bequeath a Meteor

My mother's missing hers
and this son has been aloof
tending instead to the stitches
most ignore--
but he listens, he reads
he hopes she finds the anchor
that evades the best of us.

"Remember that stone?"
she asks.
"The old lady said it came crashing
down from the sky with a flash.
When she walked to the spot
where it hit, this oblong rock
with rings in it was waiting for her hand
perfectly smooth and warm."

She goes on to tell me
how my grandmother laughed
as it spun like a top with minimal effort
whenever she twirled it on a flat surface.
I try to recall, but can't.
It's not a block
but someone else's memory
that's collecting dust on a shelf
in the house where I grew up.

Some people leave us
with the same bright burn
as that stone brought.
"Asi es la vida,"
she'd say through dementia.
Such is life, indeed, old darling.

When nothing else feels right
we smirk.

Vitamin D

The same sun
that reveals swirls of airborne bedroom dust
while you tug on layers of cotton
to face the nameless strangers

is the same sun
that thaws the countered frozen steaks
that you bought with two in mind
at a time when that seemed right

is the same sun
that blinds you, brass under your arm
which is perfect like the month
when you must have been concussed

is the same sun
that you miss
as you cross back over Main
to the shadow of the awning
that almost blocks the rain.

Currently reading:
"Facing the Music" by Larry Brown.


An Addict Relates

My mother used to date
pacing my apartment with eyes cast down
these guys when they first split
where the fuck's my lighter
and I get it now
I get it
she had needs
the bathroom matches will do
but all of them were younger
crawling on my hands and knees
and none of them deserved her
under the table while she drives home
one of them bought me a VHS tape for Christmas
it'll pop up as soon as I buy a new one
and I guess I haven't forgiven her for that
until now when my Bic's gone missing.


The Prizeless Fight

For fear of never learning
her favorite stretch of road
or how her sweat smells
when she's nervous
you'll chase a ginned-up legend
that revolves 'round parameters.

There's that red fleck in his eye
from a rage that never left
and canyons cut in cheek skin
that came with combing deserts.

Bullets riddle.
Cancer riddles.
He's riddled by a memory
that sank its claws too deep.

Kaleidoscope fantasies.
Fishers of men.
Those who don't cherish
a smoke after sex.

This scarlet sky at morning
proves blood has been spilled.
It isn't a threat--
It's a promise.

Currently reading:
"News of the World" by Philip Levine.