Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reflections-

About half-past February every year
I turn and I say to Winter-
Great to have seen you again.
It’s been fun.
Let’s do it again sometime.
But- how can I miss you if you won’t go away?

Winter never takes the hint.
Winter is not a self-critical season.
That would be Autumn.
Autumn, under her splendid, exuberant facade,
always seems uncertain and apologetic-
“I’m sorry the leaves aren’t as bright this year,” she’ll say.
“My mornings are a little too cold, aren’t they?
I wish I was more like Spring,
everybody likes Spring best.”

Did you ever notice that those
who really -don’t- need to engage in
that sort of critical self-reflection,
  -are the ones who do it the most?

One morning last week
I found myself reminding a friend
that she is an inspirational political activist,
has a loving husband and children,
and was just named Innovator of the Year
in her professional field-
And she wept gently into her coffee
and listed all the reason she was a failure.

And why is it that the folks most -urgently- in need
of some really objective self-analysis,
sail merrily on, completely sure of themselves?

One evening last month I found myself
having a few beers with three childhood chums
of proud German, Irish and Italian heritage.
They spent the night loudly explaining
That the thing that is ruining this country-
    ...is too many damned immigrants.

Betrand Russell said-
“The fundamental cause of the trouble
is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure
while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

“Cocksure”.
That’s really a wonderful word, isn’t it?
It’s so -perfectly- descriptive.

“I may not have some fancy degree in climate science”,
one friend complains to me,
“but I know what the temperature is.
Global warming, my ass-
It’s fifteen fucking degrees outside.
Those scientists don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“I’ve never really accomplished anything,”
my other friend sighs,
“I feel like my career and house
 and awards are all a fraud.
Some morning I’ll wake up and it will all be gone,
and that’s ok.
I didn’t deserve any of it anyway”.

Winter blusters and blows,
and it’s easy enough to tell him-
Take it easy, man, you’re not “all that”.
Winter doesn’t take offense.
Winter’s not listening.

Spring will be all right-
Spring has that sweet self-confidence

which is just enough
and not too much.
Spring knows what she is and what she isn’t,
and she’s o.k. with that.

But I worry about Autumn.
I wish Autumn liked herself a little bit more.
I remember the last time I saw Autumn,
one sad night in Minneapolis.
The cold, judgmental moon threw her shadow
onto the river far below us,
As she gazed sadly over the railing
of the 8th Avenue bridge,
Reflecting... reflecting... reflecting...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Open Mike, January 28th-


I have no poem to read tonight, I told my wife.
That’s nice, she replied absent-mindedly
as she scattered walnuts on her oatmeal,
The extreme level of the crisis was somehow lost in translation-
Then suddenly she seemed to get it-
she frowned, and asked, with great concern-
Did you take out the compost?

Compost? Sure-
my poetic life is compost-
orange peels and adjectives jostling with
synonyms and rotting onion ends.
Do you know what you get when you toss
a pile of rotting onions into a bag of synonyms?
I’ve got a list-

Lists. I certainly have got lists-
Carefully nurtured lists of potential poetical topics-
topics meaningful-
topics topical-
topics dolorous,
and topics sophmorical-
What I did not have was a poem.

The shower is a good place to think, I thought-
So I took a shower and tried to cultivate
deep, poetical thoughts-
tried to tease some couplets out of my poetic muse-
Instead I got shampoo in my eyes,
jammed my face into the showerhead
and almost drowned myself in an inch and a half of water.
My muse sat on the side of the tub and snickered.
Catherine Zeta Jones would have been proud.

My muse once resembled Catherine Zeta Jones
In that Zorro movie. I wrote a poem about that-

Now my muse resembles Cathy Bates in that
Stephen King movie, Misery, the one where
she imprisons and tortures James Caan.
BUT- even though she shackles him to the bed,
and breaks both his ankles with a sledgehammer,
he still manages to write.
Lucky bastard.
My muse smiled- Good Times, she whispered.

Look, she suggested -write what you know.
Write what I know-
 What do I know?
I know I’m tired of the fucking cold and snow and ice-
I know that life in Syria’s far from nice-
And I hope John Boehner comes down with lice-
I know I’d feel sorry... -for the lice.

No.  Not going there.

Poetry is many things-
It’s the hammer of Justice,
it's the bell of Freedom,
it's the song about Love between
my brothers and my sisters-
I am not going use that tool
to write about John Boehner’s lice.

Well, my muse said-
you could always read somebody else’s poem.
I was ready to grasp at anything
Yeah, I can do that, I replied, but whose?
How about a dead poet? she suggested.
My  muse is original like that.

I happen to have one here, she said.
It’s by Jonathan Swift, and he’s pretty dead.

I grabbed the sheet she was holding.
My poetic muse,
who used to resemble Catherine Zeta Jones,
retains her sadistic sense of humor-

She’d handed me part of Swift’s self-written epitaph.
He composed it in 1731,
fourteen years before he actually died-
But hey, it’s always good to be prepared, right?
I skimmed the lines-

"For poetry he's past his prime:
He takes an hour to find a rhyme;
His fire is out, his wit decay'd,
His fancy sunk, his Muse a jade.
I'd have him throw away his pen;—
But there's no talking to some men!"

Thanks, satiric, sadistic poetic muse,
who once again looks startlingly like Catherine Zeta Jones,
Thanks. That was perfect.



Monday, January 20, 2014

Open Mike, January 14, 2014


At this time of year we are all told to “count our blessings”.
You put on a bright yellow smiley-face face mask,
Screw your courage to the sticking place,
and look at what’s good in your world.
But I hold this truth to be self evident-
          all blessings are not created equal.

Blessings, in today’s America, are like speech-
You can buy them with cold, hard cash.
In today’s America, if you’re rich-
You’ve got a lot of blessings to count.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because you can afford the best politicians
money can buy to write laws
to make you even more money
To buy yourself even more politicians.
Don’t call it Corruption, call it “An Investment”.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
Because politicians have convinced us that we can
only get the poor to work harder by paying them less,
and the rich to work harder by paying them more.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because the tax laws written by the politicians you bought
Make your stock-dividend income taxable at a lower rate
than the wages of the single mother who cleans your office,
or the green-card immigrant who mows your lawn.
Don’t call that “Unfair”. Call that “Free Enterprise”.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
Because Glenn Beck just declared
That the reformed Scrooge was a wussy, pussy Socialist
and the old Scrooge was an All-American role model.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because even though you inherited your wealth,
everybody is sure you deserve every bit of it,
and it’s the the 18-hour a day, minimum wage workers
the media calls “Lazy, undeserving takers”.
Don’t call that “Hypocrisy. Call it “Fair and Balanced”.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because although “energy independence” means
ripping apart the West Virginia countryside,
and ruining the well-water in farmland Kansas,
They’ll never allow a wind farm off the coast
within sight of your beach house.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because when you finance a leveraged buy-out
that bankrupts a healthy company,
and then you sell the parts off to China for a handsome profit,
and end up putting 3,000 people out of work,
Fox won’t call you a thug, they’ll call you a job-creator.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-

Because it’s you who gets to vote for the wars
that poor people’s sons and daughters get to go and die in.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
Because there is an entire news network
dedicated to proving that Jesus
was a white, Protestant CEO from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
And he said that it’s easy for a rich man to get into Heaven,
and it’s easy for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle,
Because the rich man owns Heaven,
and he owns the camel, and he owns the needle.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
Because that poor person caught with an ounce of weed?
He’ll spend the next fifteen years in your privatized, for-profit prison,
and because he’s an ex-con he loses his right to vote,
So he can’t vote for reform politicians to change those laws,
and isn’t that what Democracy is all about, Charlie Brown?

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because if you’re a banker who commits massive mortgage fraud,
and costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars,
You get a golden parachute payoff, and seat on the Board of Directors.
And if you were REALLY bad?  We’ll even discuss
making you a member of the Federal Reserve.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
and declare proudly that “We’re all in this together!
You guys all row the boat!
I’ll stand here in the bow,
sipping my martini,
watching for icebergs.”

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
because poems like this
listing all the blessings you have that others don’t,
are reviled as “Class Warfare”.

If you’re rich, you can count your blessings-
and tell the poor to count their blessings,
Because blessings are better than money, right?
And because telling people that keeps them quiet,
and passive, and poor.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Open Mike, Week #3


My Poetic Muse sits in a little corner of my brain,
(looking a lot like Katherine Zetas Jones,
in that Zorro movie),
and she gives me bad advice.

That’s partly my own fault.
If you take your Muse out on Saturday night,
load her  up with Tanqueray and Wild Turkey,
and then pay any attention to what she tells you to do?
well then- you’re an idiot.

I want to make money with my words,
I told her. That’s easy, she said-
Write this down on a sheet of paper,
And you’ll make bagfuls of money:

“Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Fill this bag with 10s and 20s.
No dye packets”.

Ha, I said, good joke.
Easy to make fun at the expense 
of a tortured, starving artist, and, wait-
Should I capitalize “Dye Packets” ?

My Muse told me there’s a ton of money
to be made writing poetry.
Just look at the classifieds
in the back of Parade magazine-
Hallmark’s hiring.

Making money with poetry is easy.
All you have to do is come up with
57 words that rhyme with “Anniversary”.
News Flash to my Poetic Muse:
There is not a single word,
in the entire English language,
that rhymes with Anniversary.

Of all the ones I thought of,
the one that came closest? Penury.

But I tried anyway.
Happy Anniversary,
Happy Anniversary?
Happy Anniversary,
Haaappy Anniversary!!

Fuck it.
Rhyme is over-rated.

Finally, after consuming 5 pots of coffee,
and the entire contents of that little plastic baggie
I found in the back corner 
of my roommate’s sock drawer (in 1997),
I lost consciousness at my desk,
and dreamed that giant pink Easter bunnies,
(Rhyming, carnivorous pink Easter bunnies)
were chasing me around the Eifel Tower.

I woke up to find that I’d used my keyboard 
to batter my monitor senseless.
Thanks, ironic Poetic Muse
(who looks startlingly like Katherine Zeta Jones).
Thanks.

Look, I told her, I want to write poems 
that make a difference in people’s lives.
Failing that, I want to write poems that
at least make me happy. Failing that- 
Wait, she said.  Tell me the truth!
OK, I admitted- here’s the truth-

I am going to write a poem that gets made 
into the world’s first poetry-based
Hollywood blockbuster action thriller!
Leaves of Grass? Meet Die Hard Eight.
-He’s back, and he RHYMES!
It will be directed by Arnold Schwartzenager,
and star Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman, and-
 dare I hope?
Katherine Zeta Jones!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Open Mike, Week #2

So, last night I read again at Northampton Poetry's Open Mike- a real change-up from last week's piece, this one is titled "Bosnia, 1993" -

The bullets patter like raindrops
on the dusty, packed-earth of the square
while bright pieces of shattered wedding cake,
scattered like snowflakes,
melt in the hot July sun.

This is the square where I teased you and
you made faces at me so long ago;
This is the square where we first kissed,
waking from our childhood slumber
and seeing each other again for the first time.

This is the square where we held each other forever
on that day we said was the happiest of our lives,
before today... before today.
This is the square where you lie so still
on the dust-packed earth,
and I crouch behind this wall
and listen to the patter of the bullets.

You always said your raven-black hair
was not black at all,
You said it had streaks and glints of chestnut red,
and you'd get angry that I could never quite see them,
but I can see them now.

And I think, how generous of your hair,
and how like you,
to share that red of which you were so proud,
to share it with the dry, thirsty ground
where the red glints lie now, crimsoned splashes all around you,
soaking deep into the soil.

Just wait another moment, my childhood friend,
just wait another moment my grown-up love,
wait a moment while I screw my courage to the sticking place
on this pockmarked and shadowed wall,
wait a moment, and then I will come out and join you.



Thursday, November 07, 2013

Haiku

Some Thursday morning Bookseller Haiku:

Yesterday the book
Was here. Now (sold), it's missing.
!@#$%^&&*((*&^%#@!!!!




Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Open Mike, Week #1


Last night I stood up during Northampton Poetrys open mike period and read something I’d written. It was a lot of fun, I’m glad I did it. Now I’m going to be even more self-indulgent and post it here. Friends who read my book catalogs may notice some similarity of tone and style -

Your poem is lovely, she said.
Quite charming.

Lovely? Charming?
I’d hoped she’d say moving,
thoughtful, thought-provoking,
intense, insightful, inspired,
brilliant, barn-burner, bad-ass!
You’ve written a poem that would make
Charles Bukowski weep with pride!!!


But lovely?
Charming?
How about-
cute?
sweet?
adorable?
preciousssss?????

It was a poem about a homeless man
who gets flattened like a pancake by a bus
on the 12th street bridge.
Lovely?
Charles Bukowski gently wept.

I wanted that poem to make her
question her beliefs,
fight the system, rage against the machine,
re-arrange all the paradoxes
and go help me save a little baby seal.

I wanted that poem to make her
quit her job as a bank analyst
and dress up in gypsy bohemian caftan
and write rude emails to Ted Cruz.

I wanted that poem
to make us have hot poet sex
on the floor
of T.S. Elliot’s kitchen.

Charming doesn’t get you there.
Charming gets you high tea
in William Wordsworth’s living room.

I dragged out the dictionary
and logged into my account
on Wiki-Synonyms dot com.
I pricked my finger and,
by the light of a black candle,
swore a blood oath
never to rhyme again.


I tore that poem open,
took a pail full of adverbs,
and stuffed that sucker up.
I removed every word suggesting
a color brighter than gray.
I called my cousin,
the career Navy man,
for some evocative words for
interesting bodily functions.

Well, she said,
putting down the poem,
her eyes fixed on the table,
her face the color of unripe dough:
This is- interesting.
Sort of like ... phlegm.

That’s cool.
It wasn’t getting me into
T.S. Elliot’s kitchen,
and the little baby seals
will have to make it through
another winter without us,
but at least it wasn’t fucking lovely.
It’s a start.




Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Friday, November 23, 2012

That's Spelled How??

Spellcheck shrewdly points out that the miss-spelling "bith" could be either "both" or "bitch". Just to be nasty, I'm making it guess...

Black Friday-

A very cool video which gives black Friday new perspective-

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011