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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.




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

This is the House That Jack Built

Jack was a carpenter.
Born in Italy,
he came to America in 1910,
and for twenty years
he built waterfront vacation houses
on Cape Ann for wealthy Bostonians.
He died of a stroke on his 46th birthday,
and all that’s left of him are a few houses
and a fading black & white photograph
in a box in an attic in Marblehead.

Jack was a cook.
Born in Pennsylvania, he served
with the 28th Infantry Division
during the Battle of the Bulge in World War 2,
and all through that battle he never heard
the roar of bullets and bombs,
only the clatter of pots and pans.
And even though as the years went by
his friends all told him-
"Don't worry about it!
Napoleon said an army travels
on its stomach”,
he always felt guilty
and a little embarrassed,
and would never talk about
what he did in the war
as he sat on his barstool at the VFW.

Jackie grew up on a farm
in western Massachusetts.
She and her husband Peter
ran a greenhouse
in Brattleboro, Vermont
where they raised orchids
for upscale florists and hotels
in New York City.
The day that Peter died of a heroin overdose
Jackie sat alone in the greenhouse
all afternoon,
listening to water drip from the pipes,
and then she got up,
and went back to packing boxes of flowers.

Jack was a truck driver
from New Hampshire.
He drove tankers
filled with unknown chemicals
around New England for thirty years,
and then his hair and toenails
started falling out,
he had trouble breathing,
and he died in a small motel room
in Nashua, New Hampshire,
surrounded by no one.

Jackie was a waitress from Queens.
She waited tables every night
at a fancy French restaurant in Manhattan,
and three times a week
the maitre d’ would bend her over a box
in the walk-in freezer
and screw her,
and she never said anything,
because she was determined
that she was going to put
her two kids through college.

Jack was a firefighter from Boston.
He rode the hook and ladder truck
for twenty-two years,
and he played the dog races in Revere
every weekend,
and raised four kids,
and 15 grandkids,
and never regretted anything.

Jack was a sanitation worker
from New Jersey; he hauled
barrels of trash in Hoboken,
and every night he went back,
alone, to his one-bedroom,
walk-up apartment
and wrote poetry and short stories.
The day after he died
the landlord took it all,
and stuffed it into plastic bags
and put the bags out on the curb
for the trash men.



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ashes to Ashes-

I have a blank sheet
of virtual paper-
and a virtually blank mind.
It’s not that nothing is in there
(though, sometimes, I wonder)
it’s that nothing that is in there
wants to come out.
Or perhaps there are things in there
that I am not so sure
I want to see come out.
Things that could come out,
but then I’d have
to own up to them,
confront them,
deal with them.

And today seems
an especially bad day for that.
As was yesterday,
as will be tomorrow.

So it is not so much
Writer’s Block,
as Writer’s Lock-
I locked those things up years ago.
Months ago.
Weeks ago.
Days ago.
Hours ago.

And words are the key
that will unleash them.

No wonder words
 are so feared-
No wonder they burn books,
and the writers of books.
No wonder Silence
is said to be Golden.
Illusions are gold,
and Reality is ash,
and it is unnerving
to sit in the middle of the fire.

















Monday, January 19, 2015

Bi-Poetics

Some poems live on the page,
the black type dancing
against the white paper
and setting the brain on end,
or lulling and mulling it
to a fine introspection,
like a brandy-induced pause
in front of a muttering fire.

Some poems live in the air
and merely crouch on the paper,
muscles tensed and taut,
biding time, hiding their power-
only springing to life
when they are spoken.
Shared aloud with an audience,
the words gambol and dance.

Some poems live both lives,
but they don’t like to talk about it-
The page-snobs sneer at them,
and the spoken word crowd
edge away a little bit,
if a poem admits to being bi-poetic.
But if it can stand the stigma,
poems that go both ways
have the most fun.



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Just Say No To Reality-

Reality sucks!
and hey- it may not even be real.
Physicist Julian Barbour of Oxford University
has a new theory that the Big Bang
created a ‘mirror’ universe
that exists alongside this one,
and whatever happens here
happens in the opposite way there,
and backwards.

So screw Reality.
When somebody asks you,
“Is your term paper is done?”
or “Have you mailed that check?”
Just look at them and say-
“Oh, Sorry -was that due
in  - this - Reality?”

And answer me this,
Reality lovers-
If listening to Christmas carols
on my Pandora stream in July
is so at odds with Reality-
then why is July the middle
of the winter in Australia?

Truth is-  there is never
a bad time for a really cool scarf,
and if shoveling snow
in my sandals is wrong,
I don’t want to be right.
 - Having a full set
of fingers and toes after age 40
merely means you missed
some awesome opportunities.

If Reality declares that
my cat only puts up with me
because I am her sole source of kibbles;
 - and I probably won’t win 30 million dollars
in next week’s tri-state lottery drawing;
 - and the earth will eventually
become a fiery cinder;
 - Then who needs Reality?

Reality is an endless flight of stairs
that always goes upwards,
but never actually gets anywhere.
And Reality is full of dead people.
More and more every year.
None of us will ever take on Reality
and make it to the end of the film.

Did you ever meet anyone
who was firmly attached to Reality
and truly happy about it?
Ask any Chicago Cubs fan-
Reality bites.

So next time it knocks on your door-
just say “No” to Reality.
It’s ok- you won’t hurt its feelings.
Reality doesn’t have feelings.
That’s why it sucks.
Put on your sandals,
and join me in the snow-
because in that alternate universe-
it’s July and warm,
And none of our friends are dead.
And we just hit the fucking lottery.