Folding my laundry
in the basement of the house
where I started to grow up
I see a Cub Scout uniform
hanging from one of the many pipes
I've worked on over the years.
The boy's at his mother's place tonight
but I can see his smile at the pack meeting
as the cycle of preparedness and duty
repeats with similar hitches.

Our father, who art in Limbo
hands me a bag
of ziplocked dark meat
he bought from Price Chopper
regardless of their non-Union status.
We discuss our separate
and unequal Thanksgivings
from our respective perches
on improvised furniture.
He rises to hand me a second package
of leg-and-thigh
possibly out of guilt
imploring me not to let it grow hair
in my refrigerator.
I reassure him
that nothing goes to waste.

Simon & Garfunkel play their Greatest Hits
for a private show in my apartment
as I trim the flesh from the bones
with a filet knife
from a lousy set bought by an ex
keeping one hand free of grease
to answer the silent phone
and sip the speaking wine.
These songs always remind me of my mother.
I haven't seen her
since before her hip replacement.
She took her husband back.
She forgot that Italian word for "fake"
that I taught her.
Darkness speaks again
over fingerpicked chords
on an acoustic bound for the zoo
and awkward late-night missives.

Lines about rocks and islands
make me wonder how Jackie's doing
in Chicago, but I'm not drowning
deep enough in the grapes to ask.

Through the window
of my three-storey walk-up
I hear a bottle smashed outside
in an alley too good for itself.
The cigarette crackles
while the box fan draws its smoke.
In the trash can
turkey bones keep secrets
not meant for you nor me.
My last-dead grandparent
laughed in Spanish
when a stumbling cousin
brought a post-holiday carcass
to her home for making soup.

Some meat's gone.
Some meat's saved.
And that's what it's about:
Cutting off the pieces
that might help
make us whole.


Stendhal Syndrome Between Sips

The two of them came
from one of my Vietnams;
far enough up the Thruway to be safe
but close enough to know
that one I should have roped.
It was the night before Thanksgiving.
Regret was on my mind.

Invited to their table
I took the bait
leaving rotten friends
to hold up the oak.
Eight minutes in
I realized it wasn't me they wanted.
I'll never see
the rest of that partially visible tattoo
or learn where those feather earrings hang
when not being worn
or suffer through a bursting bladder
while curly hair is straightened
behind a bathroom door.

"Can you find us some coke?"
the pussy huckster pleaded.
"Just a gram," clarified her friend
not wanting to seem greedy.

"Sucker" it must've said across my face;
or "Desperate";
"Clearly understanding of
addictive personalities".

I smirked like a pastor
resisting heinous laughter
at this dirty joke
and rose with my pint glass
in search of better heroine.


To Shake These Zipper Blues

A nasal Billy Corgan
whines the lyrics
of "1979"
through eight-year-old speakers
crackled by ash
and silica dust
as tail lights
on the bridge
lead the way home--

for an instant
like when those
misplaced words
and chords
made sense
back then.


The Results of Blood-Bought Gaslighting

I'm standing at the sink
washing the week's dishes.
My bare foot finds
a brittle strand of pasta
from a night I'd hit the wine.
It cracks in half
against the cabinet
making me wonder about a stranger
I'd glimpsed at briefly in the darkness.

It was 5:23 in the morning last week.
I was traversing the bridge
on my way to work
when I saw yellow lights
spinning in the shoulder.
A highway truck was crawling
behind a walking woman
with no apparent rush.
I checked local news sources
the next day
to find out if she'd jumped
but no one said much on the matter.
How many cases go unreported?

Once the last of the forks is rinsed
and dropped in the rack to dry
I crouch down to pick up the fragments
of linguine, curious if her neck snapped
when her body hit the Hudson.

The rest of my Sunday's been chipper.



It was the first time we were meeting
and she'd already asked me to rescue her--
more to do with the balding forty-something
seated at her left near the TV
than my own be-denimed measure.
"He called me a racist," she said at introduction
referring to politics he'd foolishly brought up.
His Boston accent hit my shoulder blades
reminding me of our prior acquaintance
at the bar across the street months back.
An Adderall bookie real estate mogul.
A wet dream of Big Pharmaceutical.

"Let me buy your first drink," he implored.
"I've insulted your lady and I'm very superstitious."
He was wrong about half.
I tried to joke my way out of his money
but he insisted, I was too tired to fight.
I pictured her naked
while listening
to her talk about her kids
(since that's what dating is)
until she left to pick them up.

"My girlfriend moved out today," he sobbed
into his lager. "My friends bet me
25-to-1 that she isn't coming back.
The bastards know I can't resist.
Do you think she's coming back?"
A pile of taproom lottery tickets
sprawled out among his currency
sang an affirmation.
"How many times in how long?"
I asked.
"Four times in a year."
"There's your answer."

"One more," I told the barkeep
not wanting to stay, but feeling for his addiction.
He hinted at pool hustling.
I played him, for free, and chastised
his letting me win.
"You're no fun," I told the shark
after every intentional scratch.
"I want to give you long shots.
I want you to feel good."
Uneasy eyes burned deep
so I offered to drive him
to the gin mill where he swindles.

In the lot we saw my landlords.
The brothers smoked thick Turkish cigarettes
while their boys photographed two new vehicles.
My intended passenger tried placing bets
about racing with a car he didn't own.
I saw their Eastern European disdain
for this cripple of a sinner
and pulled him away towards my truck.
"I'm sorry," he repented
when I told him
that baiting teenagers was wrong.

Outside the pool hall
in the dome light of my truck
I reminded him--David--
that she'd left him for his vices.
"There's good in you. Don't fill the void."
He shook my hand three times
and went to beat some fools
since that is what he does.

I found out, hours later
that she can't ever have kids.
A gamble--meeting people--
since that what dating is.


When to Fold 'Em

There are 7 billion people in the world.
There are 7 people out there
who look exactly like someone else.
I slug down my seventh gin-and-tonic
of the night while I weigh these statistics
against Jackie's doppelgänger
sitting near the taps.

Knowing my own tendencies
I signal for the check
far before Last Call
calling it quits
to avoid

the futile effort
of pleading with a ghost.

Lavender Underbelly

Cruise control's fair game
as there's no one else
on this remote 2 a.m. highway
who doesn't deserve to be hit
aside from feeding deer.
The heat's cranked
in an effort to purge out a chill
that's deeper than skin and bone.
Dry air attacks my nostrils
making it harder to breathe
like this cigarette I don't want
but need.

New warmth makes the blood
from my knees flow faster.
I feel it through the denim
congealed against my flesh
regretting nothing
of the recent friction
endured on that floor
of a make-shift bedroom
where relative strangers
vented their best.

And to think
if I didn't fear exodus
I could share a world
that you wouldn't believe existed
keeping you eating
from palms and pockets
the voyeur that you are
no better than this harlot.


Tiffany Teal

She says she loves me
but she's technically married.
She says it's over
but she needs health insurance.
She says I'm a dolt
for needing more than evenings.
She says she's shaved
that bush I begged for.
She says a lot of things
that drown between these ice cubes.

I say what Lefty Gomez preached:
I'd rather be lucky
than good.

Dancing in the Ambulance

Tease not of the antidote
with meat between your teeth.
Consider useless wisdom
like "Turn into the skid."

Ration what's left
to spoon-feed the kids
who choke on Cohen's death
too late to know his life.

It makes you want it all
and it makes you want nothing.
It makes you want a time machine
or a ticket to Chicago.

Currently reading:
"Preacher" by Garth Ennis.


With Mouths Full of Teeth

It might be prior tutelage
or unfortunate abuse
turned green
like weathered brass:

As we get older
they want it harder
gripped around their necks
but my rough hands
can't comply.

Some nights I wish
I'd changed
how she'd wanted.