Cells to Ourselves

In what fiction
could never muster
she and her father
went through chemotherapy
at the same time
lying on the carpeted floor
of their basement
laughing whenever
one of them puked into a bucket
until mom came home
and they asked her to order pizza.

I think to myself
how my family couldn't weather
paper cuts together
without the grace of God
or at least a Harvest Moon;
but that, more than anything
is what family boils down to:


Heart of Palm

He lived on the third floor
of a brick-and-mortar walk-up
with windows facing east
absorbing summer sun.
It was like a sauna
where he sweat out prior lives

She felt for his discomfort
and purchased dark blue curtains.
"This will keep it cool in here,"
she said, the proud philanthropist.

He bit his lip, wiped his brow
and confessed the point she'd missed:
"We all need a dose of sunshine."

She shook her head
and parted the new blinds.


Ritchie Valens and an Airplane

Elbow against the oak
knuckles against your lips
mojito against some mint;
"Get out of your head,"
her eyes say as she sways by
with a fresh round for regulars.

The jukebox plays "La Bamba"
your grandmother's favorite hit
but you've got no captain's bars.
You're a sailor at best

though complacent
since discovering
time travel's real.


A Victim Who's Not You

Three young boys splash
in lake water up to their shins
so I take my rod and reel
down the shore.
It's 95 degrees
in the shade
and I'm jealous of their lack
of jeans and work boots.

I drift the plump half of a nightcrawler
still squirming under water
by a swath of weeds
where I'd hide from the heat
if I were a bass.
My bait disappears in the glare.
I feel several tugs, jerk the tip back
to set the hook in its jaw
and reel in a sunfish
the size of my palm.
Veins of turquoise
festoon its orange flanks.
It's swallowed the load whole.
Some men would rip the hook out
along with bright red gills
but there's been enough carnage
to last one afternoon.

I cut the line and drop the sunny
back into the lukewarm soup
a shard of steel still buried in its throat.
One of those kids laughs a little louder
as I tie off my frayed line
to a loop in the pole.

This fishing shit's not for me any more.


To Build an Hourglass

Gene had been drinking by himself in a shack of a flat for days; nights, really, since nothing worth remembering happened when the sun was still scorching--not that the bottle aided his nocturnal memory. He'd been dreading that ugly word which had always plagued him:  Almost. Regardless of the law, he knew what he'd seen on the mountain that day.

The air was so hot that the ice cubes in his cocktails melted before he got halfway through a glass and his sweat ran out of salt, as bland as his father's cooking. "Inefficiency's a sin, like Satan sinking in," he recalled from melodic Sunday school classes he'd been dragged to feebly by parents yet to part. Pints of water poured from his pores and soaked the thin layer of cotton that remained on his supine body. He cursed the man who'd swindled him into taking rooms on the third floor, though the farther away from the public eye that he stayed, the longer his freedom would last.

"At least they've got plenty of ice made up where I'm going," he laughed to himself beneath a squeaking ceiling fan that pushed more dust than it did air. His mother had always given him credit for making the most out of Aces and Eights--a trait that she'd claimed as her genetic offering. After her funeral, once everyone respectable had left to their houses and horse barns and preconceived notions of what it meant to pursue happiness, Gene approached her freshly buried grave and plucked a few flowers from arrangements that meant nothing. "Mary Lou will like these fine," he explained to his silent mother. Gene wasn't a superstitious man, even back before the gods got him good, but he swore he heard a mourning dove signal her agreement; or maybe a mockingbird. He'd always gotten the two as confused as lust and love. "They sure won't have this gin there, though," he said, referring to that big house full of ice. "Better enjoy it now."

At least there wouldn't be Sunday drivers. At least no fireworks would make him miss Mary Lou now that she'd gone to visit others conjugally instead. At least there'd be hope, his second-favorite amenity--next in line after a little black dress. Perspiring into a rented chaise lounge as stained and tattered as his life, Gene waited for the knock and accepted his fate with a swig of warm spirits:  He'd rather be loved than right.


Westward of Eastwood

It's one of those epics
that I can't claim as my own
like David slaying Goliath
or gravity, or Gatsby.
Maybe I heard it at coffee break;
read it in the G section of the liquor store;
saw it in a Spaghetti Western
with Guineas painted like Injuns
and a mostly forgettable plot:

A man who wears enough grit on his skin
to make his detractors think twice
reaches into his jeans
tosses a .38 Special round
at the hopeless fool giving him guff
and warns him--
"The next one will come faster."

I thought about writing it into a scene
but decided to err
on the side of integrity.
Instead I'll tell you
like a lame man showing his crutch
before a long walk
off a short pier
as my father used to say.

A writer's nothing more
than a careful recorder of contraband.


A Sleuth and Consensual Sodomy

The drink's served
before I settle into the stool
whether or not that's admirable
or implies a lack of discernment.
Three later, after dodging several faces
I notice a moth
the diameter of Washington's familiar likeness
circling erratically two inches off the light strip
that encompasses the ceiling's circumference.
Its limited path makes it seem
as though it's tethered to the wall.
The empathy passes
like women en route to the restroom
and I resist the urge
to buy a bug a drink.

Restaurant Review of County Fare in Wappingers Falls, New York

Stopped in over the weekend with an old work buddy and was not disappointed. I knew we were in good hands as soon as we bellied up to the bar and I recognized the man in charge of mixing from several prominent pubs in Beacon. After introducing him to my colleague, the menus were pored over. It was difficult to narrow down our selection since so many items sounded delectable, which is a backhanded complaint which only means I'll have to return again soon to sample other offerings. We both opted for the Steak Frites and enjoyed every bite. The sauteed onions brought a sweet mix to the subtly seasoned steak. The meat was very tender and cooked exactly how it was ordered, sliced and displayed in an appealing presentation. With french fries as the side it was hard to go wrong. My meal was washed down with a special beverage, the Hopvinebling beer from Beacon's new Hudson Valley Brewery. Advertised as a "Dry-Hopped Berliner Weisse", the drink is best described as a mix of a sour with Hefeweizen. It went down smoothly as a summer drink should. A few nearby denizens poured some out into shot glasses to try. It doesn't get more "local" than that. Our dining experience ended with differing desserts. My guest opted for the cheesecake. He said it was delicious and I don't doubt his assessment, though my chocolate craving required me to try the nut torte. It was one of the best desserts I've had in a long time and is even gluten-free, in case any patrons have Celiac disease. My sweet tooth was satisfied, though my curiosity about the new establishment is still not totally resolved. I plan on returning in the near future to find out how some of those appetizers fare.


Romanticized Misinformation

Maybe she got
those awful tattoos
so she couldn't
cut there

When the Cordite Mixed With Blood

Straight from a film
I'd want no part in seeing
I stand ten yards across
from a six-foot splinter
lodged for a decade--
her husband
and daughter
watching backyard fireworks
that my friend
who's her neighbor
has staged for the sake of the holiday.

The invitation meant well
but now it's gone to madness.

My cocktail's clutched
in a death grip
as the sodium burns between us
clearly defining a Maybe that was
from a Never that strides in my Levi's.

The show ends, the sparks fade
and memories fizzle out.
Many smirks were meant to be
but this one
isn't one of them.
Part of me is pissed
that she didn't stick
to Olivia.

Currently reading:
"The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" by Haruki Murakami.