5.23.2017

Soul Sommelier

A liver-spotted old-timer
wearing a blue veteran's snapback
with wings and ribbons on it
crosses the macadam in front of me
at a red light on Main.
He smiles through my windshield
with mustard-colored teeth
and puts his hand on the hood of my truck
as a silent blessing while shuffling by
en route, I assume, to the mom-and-pop pharmacy
down the block.

It was the best goddamn thing
that happened to me all day.

5.21.2017

Unionistas on the Sabbath

We fill a field he owns
with brass, hot from expanding gas
and the Sunday May sun.
For three-and-a-half hours
we forget a few faces
by putting holes in paper
and random scraps of steel;
lead therapy and thirdhand smoke.
Towards the end of our session
there's a propensity to dump magazines
as quickly as our fingers will allow.
I wonder if we're picturing the same
in our minds.

From our time packing gear
to the ride back to my truck
I pull 33 ticks from my clothes and skin
between bits of shop talk and
locker room exploits from a jock that never was.
Their exoskeletons crunch between my fingernails
and the blade of my pocketknife.
"I want to settle down."
"But can you?"
"Sure, if I'm not settling."

We return to his homestead
where his wife will roll her eyes
and check his back for burrowed parasites
once I've hit the road.
Back at my apartment
I've got a few mirrors
that will function for the task
as long as I don't look too hard.

5.19.2017

Whippersnapper

Gypsy blood
and righteous tongues
didn't cut it
so he put his war paint on
the night before
to skip more antics
and episodes
the next morning.

Traffic was jammed
on the bridge.
There was honking
like it mattered.

Three miles north
they found him
according to an article
but do they ever truly
find them?
A man of the cloth
would speak of pearls and swine.

The hat that hangs
in my dining room
falls twice
and in that
I spot my answer.

5.14.2017

A Hallmark Omission

My old man rang this afternoon
kicking a rock
a question
posed as a statement.

He dropped words
about intentions
to call his ex-wife
for Mother's Day
to thank her for being;
dropped tears
when he said
how grateful he's been
to know her.

I didn't drop my telephone
like I didn't drop my stare
like I didn't drop my six-gun
when the last one shot me down
as in that song by Leonard Cohen
that I want played
when it's time.

We hang places:
up, down, around.
I get on with my day
meeting my other maker
for late lunch and vodka
veiled by tomato juice.
She speaks of his message
briefly, yet in stone.

I remember to stare
without dropping.
I remember that I
was made in love
and precisely what
my star-crossed duo
has taught me:

If you've loved them once
love always.
Hallelujah.

5.13.2017

Achilles at His Best

Contractually obligated
to be the deepest redeemer
like coral reef Christ in Key Largo
you look up the meaning of "madrigal"
and decide it's got nothing to do with you.
Sometimes even a rain delay's
a win.

Gypped by her wide-set eyes
--soft, demure, and feline--
you're cussed out by the snot
that's oft mistaken for trench art.

If enough folks say you're wrong
then you're wrong
like that twenty-something kid
who said he won't learn shit
on a jackhammer.

Damned is the sea wall
since the ampersand arrow
knows just where to strike.

They don't want what's left.
They only want the piss in you.
Timing's a real cocksucker
in fairy tales.

5.08.2017

The Lost Art of Eyeliner

You wash down the salty
with the sweet as always
and $90 (plus tip)
then wake to a cat's inquisitive face
three inches from your own
though you don't have any animals.
Part of you wants that nightly domestic company
but your rational half would feel guilty
for adding another crutch to the stable
so you refrain and drown in words instead.

The room is darkened by blackout curtains--
something else you've clandestinely desired.
At 33 you should know better
than to be a burning dog
but we live in a world so detached from itself
that cuddling contractors exist in major cities
a-dollar-a-minute the going rate, with clothes on.
"Need" has become an ugly word like "hemorrhage"
and "almost" in this age of bars with no bouncers
where overserved sailors sift for a second shot
in all the right places but home

so you walk there
before she wakes.

5.06.2017

A Flicker on the Mountain

Sifting through junk mail
and debt consolidation offers
at my cluttered kitchen table
I receive a rare call
from a friend alone in Amsterdam.
It's midnight there
and I hear the whiskey
from across the Atlantic
as he breathes into the airwaves.
He tells me I need to vacation there
with an empty notebook
sometime before I die.
A few weeks ago he mentioned
the beauty of love's ending
offered up as a theme
should I run out of steam.
That's unlikely or it's happened
depending on whom you ask.

We spew false promises
to make time when he gets back
as if that can be done
without the need for quantum physics.
I let him return
to his foreigners and bourbon.
We hope and we wait.
In the meantime we make.
It's his poem to write--not mine.

5.03.2017

Swallowing Swords

An amateur DJ fighting off a hangover
announces that the final film
with Robin Williams will hit theaters soon.
He voiced a dog's character
in a British sci-fi comedy
before taking his own life--
the two events presumably unrelated.
I've read recently that his wife
hypothesized that his choice
was due to the declining grip
on his mental autonomy--
the final sad act
of an actor who feigned laughter.
I feel for the family
and wonder how this last hurrah will hit.
The radio doesn't seem safe so early.
I switch to the disc in my stereo.

It's a mix made twelve years ago
by the first man I loved platonically.
All of the songs seem hypocritical now.
Even the playlist's title is accusatory:
"You've Made Your Bed".
I remember this old friend
blessed with charm that could conquer any soul
and cursed with lies that even he bought into.
Those are the most dangerous type
but believing his lines
was a favorite drawback of mine
so I sing along now
like I did then.

The coffee, too light, rolls down my throat
as I try to wash down the bitterness
seeping from my speakers en route
to a job I've come to hate.
My tired tongue presses against
the back of my incisors
and I swear I feel them move.
It doesn't matter which blow loosened them.