The Growing Southpaw Minority

There's more eyeliner on her pillowcase
than what's left of her face.
Her arms are scratched
like she was attacked by a feral cat
in her sleep.
The bed's coarse
with a thin layer of dirt
from the pot that's pulled
desperately to her chest.

That cactus he'd bought her
punctures the sheets
as deftly as her skin.
She's slept with it
ever since he stopped
when he found those orange caps
strewn about her apartment.

It's aerodynamic rebuke
and inspired clinomania
from seeking the face of God
outside katydids
through street lamps.


Staccato Like It Should've Been

He hits the Taconic
at 84's 16th exit
denoting 15 minutes
'til Beacon.
Six years ago
he'd call Kristen then
so she'd know
when to reheat dinner
that they'd shared
for four years
two of which too long
for the one month
he could stand it
before he switched
to zero dependents.

Now he passes
that parkway
six days out of seven
but no clock, road sign
nor odometer
can tell him
when home
will come

and that last curve
felt faster
than the state's
mandated limit


More Than Might

Suture scars
from futures gone
and a Caddy
with Montana license plates.
In dribs and drabs
caught unawares
like an alibi
claims business
in Thailand.

The way the taste
of your saliva changes
as you start to fall asleep.
How it seems so safe
in the forest beyond the fence
where there's laughter.

In the end
all we have
are you
and you and you.
In the end
all we have
are bouncing apostrophes.

Chivalry's not dead--
just limping.


Right on Red

The sun tries its best to lighten the air
as rumors fly in the parking lot
like germs between unwashed handshakes.
Mostly clad in black
true troopers find ways to laugh.
The rounds are made with tactical dodging.
Women cry in tandem
while those gone gray feel guilty.

Two boxes of photograph prayer cards
perched above the book of names
are empty, but an usher reassures
that more are being made.
It's his job to offer falsified comfort
short of shallow hugs and a drink.
An employee choked by a crooked half-Windsor
is cursing at the printer in an office no one sees.

A wandering vagabond smiles with eyes
remembers the shots of Sambuca at Larry's
while loitering in a room of folding chairs
that's carpeted like the Titanic
and freshly festooned with flora of the purest.

"Hot off the presses," that usher jests
when he sees a laminated likeness in hand
unaware that his flippant remark
is a bullet
the same as that needle
that brought us all here.


The Corner of Broadway and Prospect

In the building trades
we die a hundred times
see a thousand murders
and a few dozen tasteful suicides
once a brother's had enough.

Each layoff is an ending.
The next job brings rebirth.
That check will come again
after another safety orientation
and the meaningless doling of stickers.

We're immortal
and building America
with our livers ironically dying.
We go home to wash off the road
and expectorate lies told on tax forms.

Maybe that's why
the real deal hits harder:
We're accustomed to respawning
in some godforsaken elsewhere
on a different contractor's payroll.
"See you on the next big one,"
we say in jest when two envelopes come.

What happens when that joke can't be made?
In a lion's share of confusion
those left will scratch their hard hats
as further proof and cursing
for a safely unspecified god.

En Garde

Our old man's telling another one
about all the money he's about to save.
Those who know him tune these tales out.
The kid and I continue our dinner uncaring
like neighbors through the woods.
This latest plan involves solar panels
on the freshly roofed garage.
Our father pats himself on the back
for extending its dimensions by three feet
during construction, as if he'd seen
this lucrative energy endeavor coming
two years prior while dispersing the loan.

"It will cut bills immensely," he sighs.
"Indian Point is closing down
so electricity will go through the roof."
I think of the still unused generator and subpanel
he had installed in the basement for a small fortune
months before the Y2K Crisis didn't happen
and cringe at what some people squander on fear.

"I'm sad," my seven-year-old brother
blurts with rib sauce on his cheeks
after the need for more eastern sunlight is mentioned
by the amateur project manager
who spawned us decades apart.
No one acknowledges his sentiment.
It's a landmine, a potter's field
a storm worthy of song.

Dad points at folders of literature
on the dining room table and tells us
that this solar swindler wants him
to nag the neighbors about his enterprise.
I pity their foolish decisions to answer his knock.
We finish our Saturday evening meal
catching up from five weeks of overdue separation.
I conserve funds through selling sweat, not death.

Once dinner's done I take the boy for a stroll around the block
to promote more than physical digestion--
just the two of us, as it needs to be sometimes.
"I'm sad, too," I tell him as we round the corner
with forest newly cleared, absorbing our view of the Hudson.
The child's afflicted blessing is familiar.
He senses much for a soul of his age;
remembers what counts; responds.

"That tree is so big and old.
We'll have to take the hammock down."
His voice trails off despairingly.
In my own youth I pretended it was a ship
on rough waters while friends and I struggled
to keep its cords afloat, laughing like deranged sailors.
I should reach for his hand
as he walks the curb like a balance beam
but my own is shaking, too.

Our creator was affected when the row of stoic pines
along the summer house in the Adirondacks
where he spent his boyhood
had to come down twelve years ago
due to blight and risk of falling.
The similar impact of this undue evil
holds no bearing on his current decision.
Nothing breaks the cycle aside from six feet.

Feed a cold, starve a fever
manage to forgive the culprit's best intentions.
It's illegal to deny anyone
a glass of water in Arizona
though there's nothing on the books here
about felling a massive sugar maple
that's earned its place in the soil.