Glasgow Smile

We'd been fighting
the entire vacation
as always. Not once
did we fuck on Key West.
At night I walked the strip alone
gazing into cathouses
and sifting through sharp trinkets
with sweat running down my back.
Hemingway's estate was impressive.
Direct descendants of his favorite felines
roamed the property at will.
I drank a beer at Jimmy Buffet's joint
and left a bigger tip than I should have
since the barmaid's smile
was close enough to real.

On the ride back to Miami
we went on an airboat tour
through the Everglades--
the world's slowest death
atop the world's slowest river.
Both of us considered feeding
the other to a family of alligators
though the photos don't suggest that.
There were too many witnesses
for our calculating minds to justify.

At the airport gate
I tossed my keys into a plastic bin
for a badged stranger to inspect
before walking through
the metal detector.
When I picked them up
I noticed an addition
to the janitorial clutter:
a brightly stitched seahorse
clung to one of the dozen rings.
I looked at her and smirked
ashamed of our transgressions.
We'd read at the aquarium
that seahorses mate for life.

I've grumbled when people
have asked about it since then
passing my keys back
with an eyebrow raised.
Last week it finally tore free
of the madness
mingled in the handful of change
I dropped on my dresser
at the day's lackluster end.

It took six years to undo four.
Nothing lasts forever--
even in the sea.


Antiseptic Contenders

The boy asked
about shooting stars;
how to spot them.

I lied and said
to watch the sky.


Wait Faster

We've both got Glocks
hanging from our belts
within a foot of the guns
that get us into trouble.
His boots are caked
with snow like mine.
The end of our similarities
is punctuated by the passing
of my license and registration
through the window of my truck.

Rollers in my rear view
remind me of being pulled over
within a mile of here
in the eastbound direction
two years ago on my birthday
the love of my life
having dodged the radar
as well as she'd dodge my ring.

I don't tell this six-two man
standing in the cold before dawn
next to the crumbling rumble strip
that a song Jackie liked
came on the radio
and made my foot heavy
though maybe that transparency
would have pierced his badge
and Kevlar vest
to find some lingering heart tissue.

He hands me the ticket
reciting his oration
injected with subtle advice
about how to plead
then mentions the respect I've given
resulting in continued courtesy
in the form of a few miles
knocked off the record
that should help me in court immensely
to avoid adding points
to my license.

His robotic delivery is livened up
by instructions to detach
the supporting deposition
at the bottom of the ticket
and make a paper airplane
or origami with it.
I thank him for being a gentleman
apologize for making him
come out in the cold
and refrain from saying I'm glad
to pay his pension and salary.

Some get you coming.
Some get you going.
Some get you coming and going
when they come and go.

Currently reading:
"To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth" by Jeff Cooper.


For Tommy Karamazov

I feel it building slowly
in tingling nerves and tendons
left mistakenly for dead:
a wind-up for a pitch
that takes its precious time
so godlike yet innocent
all at once on the mound
keeping the surprise
from the world up at bat
and even the man who's bound
to throw that red-stitched missile
despite his punch-drunk arm
and a strong disdain for baseball.

A few of you might cheer
from the nosebleed seats.


Memorable Holes

Grateful that the pasta
didn't boil over
dousing the burner
that'd spew gas into her home
(while she was in the shower
required after he left
for another last time)
which would've been ignited
by the candle she'd lit
in the bathroom
since the overhead bulb
was too honest for the mirror
she ate angel hair
coated with a thin, salty sauce
ignoring that ramen
was cheaper and the same.


Survivor's Guilt and Table Scraps

An Irishman belts through my speakers
about his recollections from a gorgeous day
reminding me of a time
when that hit was most ironic.
My brothers and I were coming in hot
from a shift down in the Bronx.
Clouds peppered what was left
of the sky's visible pink hue
as we traversed the Cold Spring flats on 9D
along a white-capped Hudson.
Tornadoes were touching down in the valley
their wakes leaving trees in the roadway.
I'd poked fun at the bad luck
that the driver's car held in its core
when we got a flat tire in the City once
but nothing had compared to this.

The song played out on the radio
as Johnny weaved through branches
across the double-yellow.
I laid low in the back seat
in case the forest came crashing
thinking of how I'd eulogize the two men
in the front of the vehicle
at the next Union meeting
since I was still immortal then.
We entered a tunnel that cuts through
Storm King Mountain and Johnny
expressed his desire to stay there.
"We can't," was the consensus
though neither of his passengers
mouthed the words aloud.
The line of cars behind us
deserved fair shakes
at their own battles with God.

I'm living proof of that day's victory.
Johnny and I went to the gin mill
upon arrival at our rendezvous point
near my apartment
to celebrate our prolonged lives
wrenches and taxes be damned
while our third high-tailed home
grateful to have made it
without the need for drink.

Five years under a spreading belt
and I feel low-pressure systems
as they draw nigh in my ankles.
En route to mine mountains
for a better way of life
than what this thick skull's tried
a song that's won Grammies
reminds me to stay humble.

It hasn't all been beautiful.
A compass is kept in case.