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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Road Trip

They told us that the road to Fame
went through Maine that Friday night-
so the band ended up in New Hampshire.

I was the roadie for a pack of Boston rockers
who worked at liquor stores and copy centers between gigs.
The only band member who owned a car
was the drummer, and we named his
1978 Chevy Impala station wagon “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.

Our bassist worked in a screen-printing shop
and supplied all the weed we could smoke for our road trips;
we never worried about the cops-
sure, they noticed us,
but a gold station wagon
with its back bumper duct-taped in place,
red and blue lightning bolts spray-painted
on the doors and the hood-
that may be the sort of car you do drugs in,
but it’s not the sort of car you haul drugs in.
We got laughed at a lot-
but never stopped.

I wish they would have stopped us that night,
just to ask us where the Hell we thought we were going,
because we had no idea.
Our lead singer was the navigator;
to him one interstate looked pretty much
like every other interstate;
in those days before GPS,
before the small talking box on the dashboard
which we would name GiGi
who would tell us exactly where we should go-
all we knew was that
the interstates tagged “Ninety-three”
and “Ninety-five”
both began with “N”,
and North begins with “N”,
and Maine is north of Boston, so-
 how much difference could it make?

The Friday night lights in
1980s Concord, New Hampshire
did not exactly rock, at least not for us-
the bar we were aiming for was in Portland, Maine.
But if you hang a sharp right in Concord
and head east,
across Granite State hill and dale,
twilight-wending
on roads with names but no numbers,
past farm and lake and bar and diner,
you will eventually

   (inevitably)

hit the Atlantic ocean.

Turn left then and head north again,
taking care to stop short of Canada.
If you hit Canada you’ve gone too far.
We did not hit Canada,
not that night, anyway.

It’s a hard fact of rock and roll roadie life
that when you and the band arrive at the bar
in Portland two hours late
that’s always the night,
(and the bar)
where the booking manager went on a bender-
  - hit the bar owner
  - hit the road
last Saturday night.

Nobody knew we were late
because nobody knew we were coming.

The manager took the amps and mics
with him when he left,
not that it mattered,
because the owner and the band
and three drunk college co-eds
were the only ones in the bar anyway.

So we bought everyone a round and a pizza,
played some pool and pinball with the co-eds
(one of whom looked startlingly
like Catherine Zetas Jones)
and called it a night,
starting out on the long drive south
on Interstate 95.
-That’s when the trip really went south;
we didn’t stop to realize it at the time,
but just as interstate 93 north
does not go to Portland, Maine,
Interstate 95 South
does not actually go to Boston-

but that’s a poem for another night.



Friday, April 03, 2015

Time bomb-

tick- tick- tick-
The Time bomb seconds count away.
tick- tick- tick-
The only explosives here are the seconds themselves
tick- tick- tick-
They count down in the clock on my computer
tick- tick- tick-
(Twelve minutes until the cats’ breakfast)
tick- tick- tick-
They lurk on the microwave clock
trick- tick- tick-
(7:24, six minutes left to get through Facebook)
tick- tick- tick-
Seconds pound away on the face of my phone
tick- tick- tick-
They peer out accusingly from the cable box
tick- tick- tick-
They hover eternally in the upper right corner of my iPad
tick- tick- tick-

Please do not tell me you lost track of the time-
There are no words for that in my language.




Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

If Wishes-

I want to get so drunk on rhyme
that I pee on Emily Dickinson’s flower garden,
and then I’ll stagger across the lawn
and have a croquet-mallet fight
with her brother, Austin,
when we disagree about
whether his lover, Mabel Loomis Todd,
did a good job editing Emily’s poetry.

I want to become so inflamed with poetic passion
that I punch Charles Bukowski in the nose.
It will be at one of those
public poetry readings which he hated so much
that he always got drunk halfway through,
and after I help him up off the floor
we’ll take some beers
and a basket of ham sandwiches
and eat them together
in a grimy Los Angeles parking lot.

I want my brain to become so addled with metaphors
that I go up to New Hampshire
and challenge Robert Frost to a fence painting contest,
and then I’ll break into his barn
and steal his damn horse
and race it down both paths
in the yellow wood.

I want to have hot poet sex
with Edna St. Vincent Millay
on the floor of T.S. Elliot’s kitchen,
and then Dorothy Parker will
write an indecent limerick about it
which they’ll refuse to print
in the New Yorker.

I want to madden myself with verse so utterly
that I stand,
naked and hysterical,
in a Walmart parking lot
with Allen Ginsberg,
and we howl and howl
and howl and howl
and howl.

I want to become so stupefied with stanzas
that I collapse in the grass with Walt Whitman
and we will sit there all day in the dooryard
counting lilacs,
and I’ll write songs to myself,
sort of like this one,
and then Jack Kerouac will call both of us
“damned hippies”,
and then he’ll take us to a bar
and buy us a few rounds
and then I’ll wake up,
and I’ll wonder-

what's wrong with people
who think poetry is boring?



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Bargaining-

Books tell us that the basic difference
between me and my cat
is my greater cranial capacity,
and an opposable thumb-
but that’s science;
the important difference is that
I make deals with the Universe.

It may seem silly to believe
that if I use a certain spoon
to stir my coffee every morning
during baseball season
the Universe will help the Sox win-
but it’s worked so far,
at least some of the time...

Some people may call that ‘Superstition’,
or obsessive, or neurotic;
I call it Playing it Safe.

Looked at logically,
making it through my day
may not be directly related to
how I butter my toast-
but try telling that to the tiny voice
lurking deep down inside
which tells me that the Universe
will punish my failure
to follow its often arbitrary rules
by making bad things happen.

Sometimes the Universe is very specific-
Going around the left side
of the dining room table
when entering the room,
and always passing to its right
when I leave
may look a little silly-
especially if I forget
and have to re-trace my steps,
but it’s what the Universe says I must do
to keep my 18-year old diabetic cat alive.

Usually the Universe and I
make more general bargains-
For instance,
I know in what order
it wants me to open the tabs
on my internet browser every morning,
and I go along with that,
so that it doesn’t punish me,
so that it doesn’t hurt those I love,
so that it doesn’t
take them away from me.

And I don’t have to worry
that I’ll miss something,
because the Universe
is always there to grab my hand
and say, “Wait- you know
that if you put the spoons away
before the forks,
something bad will happen”.

Cats can’t make those deals
with the Universe, but I can,
and that’s what makes me human.
And if I keep up
my end of the bargain,
it keeps me safe.  

For now-



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Snow Love-

Poetry does not help me love the snow.
It helps me love the ‘concept’ of snow-
It helps me appreciate the metaphor of snow-
the blanket of innocence-
the pure white new morning-

or whatever.

Poetry or not, the snow
has still got to be shoveled.
And there’s a metaphor
to be found there as well.
Shoveling the s---.

And while shoveling I begin to contemplate
the subtle, eternal question
a new snow brings-
is snow really innocent?
Or is snow simply cloud shit?

Is that blanket of stillness
which cocoons the fields and woods,
enveloping all sound,
really just there to cover over
the wake-up farts of sleepy bears?

That’s not a question
Robert Frost would have asked-
but then again,
he had a hired hand
to shovel for him.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Explain-

She watered her anguish
with tears, and kept it fresh.
Repressed memories
no longer repressed
had given soil to the seed.
Late-night nightmares
she’d wake screaming
and sweating from,
were finally explained-
but not really.
Explain it?
No, not easily.

When the one who was
supposed to love her
took his own hatreds
out on her instead,
and hurt her
hurt her
hurt her so deeply-
 she buried it,
planting the seed so deep
it took years to sprout-
explain, she thought.
Please.

Strangers nurtured the seedling.
Sidewalk catcalls,
groping hands on
the bus and subway,
lunchtime leers-
flashbacks provided
fertilizer for pain.

Broken trust,
Broken bonds-
explain, please.
For god’s sake,
she would silently cry-
explain.

please.

She could not.
Explaining would hurt
more than remembering,
but she watered her anguish
with tears,
keeping it fresh,
turning it inward,
turning it into hatred,
insulated and private
so it would not taint
her own daughter,
would not frost
tender leaves,
would not transplant itself.
She prayed every night-
God, let it end here.
Please.






Monday, February 02, 2015

Snow day

It is a Big Bad Poetic Day out there-
the air is alive with syncopated syntax.
Oh, wait- that’s snow.
Blowing sideways.
Back to bed.


Sunday, February 01, 2015

Gifts-

For as long as she could remember,
she had feared the Easter Bunny.
Santa was also suspect.
Experience had taught her that
no adult ever gave her something
without asking far too much in return.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Voyeurs-

Read the sad poems,
they demanded-
bludgeon us with your words;
fist-fuck our tender ears,
give us adverb-strewn images
that blast the luster
off our eyes.
We can take it.
We want it.

I’d rather not, I said.
I have some newer
Nature poems here for you-

God damn it,
they yelled-
we want to revel in
your silent screams,
make us sob and moan
as you surrender hope.
We want to drink it in
like beer;
gulp it down
and savor it.

All right, I said. I’m  poet-
I always carry a little
venom and angst in my pocket.

So I spit it all out,
stinking and sour,
and they drank it all in.

And the next morning
the bar floor was stained
with the puked-up remains
of experience-envy,
gone bad from getting
what it thought it wanted.
Or maybe it was just
the logical result of too many
beers and vodka jello shooters.
It was, after all,
a college town.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow Days-

The squirrels get no snow day-
just ask the cats.
They get no snow day either-
there’s a full day’s work for them
whiskers pressed to the window
watching the squirrels dig
for the birdseed
that fell from the feeders;
no snow day for the birds either,
between huffling their feathers up
against the wind and snow
and bickering with each other
and screaming at the squirrels.

No snow day for the chipmunk
who darts in and out when
neither squirrel nor bird is looking;
a snow day for the hawk, evidently,
who has forgone this magnificent
buffet of fur and feathers
to brood high in his skeleton tree,
watching the party below
with supreme disdain.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ghosts

my amazing technicolor ghost
always told me it loved me
before it hurt me.

people say ghosts
are monochrome,
two dimensional,
dark, or light.

mine had colors,
multiple dimensions,
it was dark, then bright.

it told me it was proud of me,
and then it screamed
I should be ashamed;

I could not imagine ever leaving,
and the next moment
I was fleeing for my life.

my amazing technicolor ghost
is dead now-
except it lives in me.

it speaks to my kids
through my lips;
loves them,
then hurts them,
chilling my heart.

my amazing technicolor ghost
always told me it loved me-
before it hurt me.

Friday, January 23, 2015

In the Footsteps of Captain Scott

I would sell my soul for some heat.
I was told that cold is the absence of warmth,
but that does not even begin to describe
the slicing polar blast that reaches in
and drags my lungs right out of my body,
smashes them, and leaves the splinters
bobbing in the ice-current with the ‘bergs.

I would sell my soul for a candle flame
to pierce the Antarctic night
and cast a shadow on the glacier wall
and heat my last remaining fingers,
grown sullen and crabbed and cracked
with an unbreakable skin of frost,
milky white like a baby’s skin,
but scraped clean of all innocence.

I would sell my soul for the kerosene
that ran out three days ago;
lamps and stove we have,
but nothing but hopes
to burn in them;
and the hope froze solid
the same way Dan and Tristan did;
Unblinking eyes wide open
this dark polar morning.

I would sell my soul for a match
to burn those damned ship’s papers
I signed that got me into this place.
Glory for King and country, they said,
a grand adventure, and
three hot, square meals a day.
Fuck their glory and adventure,
and fuck their damned king,
I’d sell my soul for one last hot meal.

But the hot meals ran out the
same day the dogs did;
roast husky isn’t mutton,
but at the bottom of the world
you can’t pick and chose like a toff
at some fancy London restaurant.

I would sell my soul for the roaring fire
of my mother’s cottage in Donegal
and the musty smell of sheep, 
another chance to lie on the green grass;
Lord, I thought the winters there
were cold and uncomfortable;
what a fucking fool I was.

I would sell my soul for London gaslight,
the flickering iron-perched torches
of the sordid, grimy East End,
the warm caress
of the brown-eyed bar maid
serving more than beer,
though the useful part of my anatomy
is frozen too solid now
to ever again be of much use to her.

I would sell my soul for some heat.
I was told that cold is the absence of warmth
but that does not even begin
to describe the slicing polar cold
that reaches in and drags your soul
right out of your body
and leaves you gasping,
grasping for death,
warm death,
my final savior.








Thursday, January 22, 2015

Words Fuck

Words fuck.
That’s something they didn’t tell you
in high school English class-
word copulation is a touchy subject.
Your teachers knew, but didn’t share,
that Romeo and Juliet were not
the only ones getting it on
on that page.

Most words are discreet about it-
at first glance the sentences and
paragraphs appear innocent enough,
but then suddenly you see it-
“Oh my- Look what those adjectives
are doing with that noun-
...and the noun
seems to be enjoying it.”

Words get randy-
don’t ever doubt that.
There is a reason that
adverbs come boxed
with each one in its own
little cellophane wrapper.
There is no such thing
as two adverbs,
and just what did you suppose
that participle was dangling?

But before we get all offended,
and start banning things,
and passing laws,
remember- it’s all
completely natural.
Words fucking gave us
some of our greatest literature.
So leave them alone-
it’s what God,
and Webster,
intended.