Saturday, November 29, 2014

First Lines-

I keep a butterfly net
by my desk
to snag good first lines
as they flutter by.

Good first lines
are shy little things,
and they have a lifespan
that makes fruit flies wince.

I often sit in the dusk of
early morning,
sipping coffee,
waiting, waiting-

and none wander by.

And then,
while I am making toast
and feeding the cat
one lands on my shoulder.

And I am quick
to move very slowly,
take a pad of paper
and whack that little fucker.

Then I mount it and
decorate it and proudly hang it
on my Poetry wall.
And the hunt resumes.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Time is out of joint

Thanksgiving is barely cold on the plate
before Christmas pounces like a tiger,
raw in tooth and claw,
snarling for my attention.
I hadn't even figured out
what to do with the
leftover cranberry sauce...

Now all that’s left on the table
is a trail of ambiguous red dribbles.

Don’t let Santa’s elves fool you-
beneath happy smiles and
white-trimmed red coats
lurks a burning drive
to see their holiday stay at #1,
and they’ll do whatever it takes.
The day Rudolph’s nose starts to dim,
he’s gone, shipped out of town as fast
as a .202 hitting second baseman.

Santa outsourced it all years ago,
now it’s just North Pole minions
doing high-profile meet-and-greets,
and forwarding his mail.
Jolly Old Saint Nick
retains a 12% controlling share
in Kringle Industries,
which he oversees via smartphone
from poolside in Boca.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

That’s Classified-

PERSONAL: Slightly frumpy 40 y/o M sonnet writer seeks hot slam babe for exploration of poetic themes and mutual phrase parsing.

WANTED: New ideas. WE PAY CASH $$$$$ for hot new poetic themes and prompts. Call 1-800-PAY-POET

WANTED: 25 yo M poet seeks collaborator for epic slam poems, new age sonnets, exploration of outer boundaries of poetic expression. Prefer poet w/ apt. lease & extra couch.

FOR SALE: Bag of metaphors. Unopened. $15, or will trade for futon pillows.

LOST: Poetic muse. 5’5”, 42, brown hair. Last seen walking along I-60 w/suitcase muttering “fucking poets”.

FOR SALE: 2013 edition Poet’s Marketplace. Marked up. Futile. b/o.

PERSONAL: Sandy, please come back. I’ve thrown away the rhyming dictionary.

WANTED: Good unused slam ideas. Must be original. My last 15 posts didn’t get a response, so this is the last time I’m wasting money on this ad.

FOR SALE: Poetic integrity. Took job with Hallmark & won’t need it anymore.

WANTED: 60 y/o F novelist seeks non-embittered M poet, 50-65. No slammers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


This poem took me three minutes to write.
Or it might have been 30-
I’m not sure.
Hell, it might have been 3 hours;
at the point the words start,
the clock stops,
swept aside,
and there is no tick of seconds,
only the tap of keys.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Writing the Sadness-

A sad poem is better than no poem-
so you write the sadness.

That’s easy to say,
harder to do.

harder to write.

There are all sorts of words
for sadness
that don’t quite express
the full, rounded
emptiness of it.

But it makes the words sad
when you tell them that,
so you write them anyway.
At least that way somebody
will be happy.

And if the sadness
gave you energy,
the way anger does,
the way joy does,
the way almost everything
except sadness,

it would be different.

Instead it’s the same.
The same as it was last time
and the time before that
and the time before that,
even though this time
it’s different.

And so you write the sadness
and then you throw it away.
Because sadness is catching.
At least this way
it won’t catch you.

Caught you.

Hello, sadness,
let’s talk.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Disgruntled Poet

Scrolling through my picture files
in search of inspiration-

A photo of a yellow tanager,
gimlet-eyed and hawthorne-perched:

- a jumpy, chrome-yellow birdshit box,
cackling at dawn while I’m trying to sleep,
my mind declares.


A colorful Japanese woodblock print
of snow-capped mountain temples:

- an unwelcome reminder that the snow shovels
have not yet been taken out of storage,
and I have no idea where my snow boots are.


A Facebook-found cartoon of cats
doing something evil and fun and cat-like:

- how long has it been since somebody
last cleaned the litterbox?
Does this cushion smell funny to you?

 Time to move on.

Inspiration comes from odd places-
If you go looking for it,
it usually runs away
and hides under the couch
with the dust bunnies and
those mittens you lost last March.


-the smell of late afternoon woodsmoke
-the purr of the cat
-part of a vagulely-remembered song lyric
-a misread newspaper headline
-a thought that bursts into your brain
in the middle of the night

when one appears,
snatch it before it flits away.
There will be another along sometime,
there usually always is-
but why wait?
Grab it,
and play with it,
and maybe,
just maybe,
it won’t shit in your hand.

And that’s really
all you wanted anyway.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I-ku, You-ku, Let's All Haiku!

Robert Frost emailed-
He needs a nice way to say
“My neighbors are dicks”.


Bukowski Airlines-
Get so buzzed you won’t care where
you end up landing.


Wait - I’m not “All That” ????
I’m a “putrid troglodyte’ ?
... I stand corrected.


Oh- Big Deal Wordsmith!
I’ll see “Palaver”, and raise -


Would you hate me if
I said you’ve a beautiful-


The highlight of my
Olde Traditional Christmas?
Grandma’s pot brownies.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I'm Sorry-

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry about your inner demons-
I’m sorry that attending to my own inner demons
sometimes took my time away from feeding yours.
I’m sorry for suggesting that
my inner demons might also need feeding.
I’m sorry that my inner demons took your inner demons
out to dinner, and ate them.
Ok, I’m not really sorry about that.

I’m sorry that my occasional bouts of sadness
took my time away from your constantly flowing river of angst.
That must have been Hell for you.
I’m sorry for complicating your life
by being a part of it.
I really am sorry about that.
Truly, deeply sorry.
You’ve no idea...
But don’t worry-
That’s a mistake I won’t be making again.

I’m sorry that you choose to wrap your self-pity
around yourself like a blanket-
But at least you’ve learned to take it off,
and to use it as a club
with which you beat everybody around you senseless.
I’m sorry I refused to learn that skill from you-
Ok, I’m not really sorry about that.

And when I’m not really sorry,
 I will admit that I’m not sorry,
Because all too often in today’s world,
‘I’m sorry’ no longer means ‘I’m sorry’.
‘I’m sorry I was offensive’ has become
‘I’m sorry you were offended’,
and I’m sorry, but they are not the same thing,
So when you say to me,
‘I’m sorry that you were offended’,
I’ll reply, ‘I’m sorry that you’re such a dikwad’.

I’m sorry the world today isn’t like
you imagine it was 50 years ago,
back when America was perfect,
back when “Those People” knew their place,
and when “People Like That”
 didn’t have the nerve to go and
be who they are in places where you’d
have to deal with their existence.
And I’m sorry their existence offends you,
and I’m sorry you’re a racist, homophobic, misogynistic idiot.
I really am sorry about that.

I’m sorry you’re offended by my life.
I’m sorry you’re offended by my friends.
I’m sorry you’re offended by my friends’ lives.
But you know what?
Now I’m sorry that I’m sorry.
Because being sorry for you are,
and who I am,
and who they are,
is another mistake that I won’t repeat.
And if that offends you?
I’m sorry- but that’s tough.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The House That Jack Built

This is the House That Jack Built

so says the plaque on the wall-
Jack was a carpenter,
born in Italy,
he came to America in 1910,
and built vacation houses
for textile-mill-wealthy Bostonians
on Cape Ann for 20 years,
and died of a stroke at age 46.
All that’s left of him are a few houses
and a tile plaque on a living room wall.

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

Jack served as a Battalion cook
in World War 2 and never
got closer than 25 miles to the front lines,
Even though they told him
that an army travels on its stomach,
he always felt a little guilty
and embarrassed,
and would never talk about
what he did in the war
as he sat on the barstool at the VFW
downing Heineken after Heineken.

Jackie waited tables
every night for fifteen years
at a fancy French restaurant in New York,
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 going to put
her two kids through college
if it killed her.

Jack was a firefighter for thirty-two years,
and he played the dog races in Revere
every weekend,
and raised six kids,
and 15 grandkids,
and never regretted anything.

Jack was a trash hauler
in Hoboken, New Jersey
and he wrote poetry and short stories
every night as he sat, alone,
in his one-bedroom walk-up apartment,
and after he died
the landlord took it all
and stuffed it into cardboard boxes
and put them out on the curb
for the trash men.

Friday, November 14, 2014


I like it when the prompts
come early,
and the poem is done
before breakfast
and I can think it is good (perhaps);
before time has the chance
to prove otherwise.

Because when it doesn’t-
when the morning wanes
and lunch breaks the timeline,
and afternoon bumps by,
and there are still no words
on the page-
my mind begins to mumble.

And I know that grasping
won’t make it happen,
but I grasp anyway,
ripping words at random,
forcing rhyme and rhythm
to do unnatural, illegal things-
and my mind begins to grumble.

And dinnertime comes
and there is still no progress,
and the words retreat
and lie, hiding in their books
where they worked for others-
but not for me, today.
and my mind becomes humble-

which is not actually a bad thing.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Yes or No?

“Get Well,
or Get Fucked”.

Ying or Yang.
Hot or Cold.
Right or Left.
In or Out.
Up or Down.
Right or Wrong.
With us or Against us.
Sink or Swim.
Yes or No.

Win or Lose.

Live or Die
Laugh or cry-

Shall I Stay or
Shall I Go?

Sweet and Sour.

Beginning and Ending...

Hit Pause
to Continue.

“You are more than just a number to us.
Please take a number for prompt service.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


That was not where the poem was going.
It was not going-

It was fluffy kitties
and dancing birds and
some kid playing a tuba;
a Facebook-y poem
of no account
except to amuse
in some amount-

And then, well, you know,
it went-


It had a rhyme scheme
and some cool syntactical tricks
and a clever coda;
it was the poetical equivalent
of a Seven-up soda.

And then it went-


And I couldn’t pull it back.

Because once a poem goes


the most you can do is
follow it down


and hope for the best.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Emily Dickinson emailed me-

Emily Dickinson emailed me-
she’s not coming to tea this afternoon,
something about being up all night streaming
Beyonce videos.

Robert Frost i.m.’d-
he needs five synonyms for
“dickhead neighbors” that
the editors will allow in The New Yorker.

Thoreau posted a dozen videos
on Facebook this morning-
Apparently he has a cat
at the cabin now...

I am going to ban
Ezra Pound from commenting on
my timeline- talented poet, yes,
but he’s also a raving, paranoid loon.

Oh, Walt Whitman posted
a video too- Firefighters of New York
do Hoboken- you’d better go look fast
before Facebook pulls it.

Edna St. Vincent Millay was trying
to reach you on Skype-
Bukowski’s been drunk texting
her again.

Say what you want about the
limitations of Twitter-
that platform was * invented *
for e.e. cummings.

Damn, gotta go-
my battery is running low.
How the fuck did people 
before computers?

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Dog Days

There is something about Fall
that loves a dog.

Cats are for Winter-
furry purry balls
to keep your feet warm
at night and shed hairs
all over Santa.

But there is something about a dog
and a crisp Fall day
and the bronze brown leaves
and the slanting afternoon late-shadows,
and the smell of woodsmoke-
and the crackly, crispy woods trail-

And the distracted squirrels,
interrupted while gathering the last nuts
chatter, annoyed
more than scared,
and hurl rodent swear words
at the wagging tail, then disappear.

And the Fall-cold stream,
splashing frantically before the freeze,
nips his well-furred toes
as he taunts it by jumping
and then retreats to the bank
for a well-earned rub down.

No Springtime mud on his paws,
No Summertime ticks and burrs on his coat,
No Wintertime ice caking his tail-

There is something about Fall
that loves a dog.

Friday, November 07, 2014


Standing in the airport line
at the Bukowski Counter-
luggage thrown in the heap,
pilots and flight attendants
dead drunk fucking in a pile
over by the window.

It may not matter-
the airline outsourced the engines
to a plane in China.
That ticket buys
the concept of a flight,
not an actual destination.

They’ll tell you that
destinations are over-rated.
The journey is where the fun is,
and the journey starts in your mind.
Be happy with that explanation-
the ticket was non-refundable.

Travel was always like this,
there were no Glory Days of flying.
It was always oil stains on the tarmac,
the smell of jet fuel,
an anonymous line sitting rumpled
at the bar, sipping a dream.

Day #7, Poem #6

Requiem for a Poem-

I never saw a poem
die so fast.

They didn’t laugh.
They didn’t cry.
They didn’t snap their fingers.
They didn’t even hiss.

I mean fuck,
at least hiss.
Then I’ll know
it hit * some * emotion.

That poem was DOA.
A splat on the concrete.
Chalk an outline
around it
and call it a day.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Day #6, Poems #4 and #5:

You’re funny, I said.
he looked at me, surprised.
I’m not sure why-
that’s how he was written
in the script.

At school he was the one
the teachers liked-
good with words,
his mind
was quick on its feet.

He’s the funny one.
In a horror movie he dies after
the overly-curious jock
and before
the frightened nerd.

He claims discomfort
at parties, but he always has
people laughing around him,
while he quickly gulps
a third glass of wine.

I was surprised-
You should be happy,
I told him,
You’re the funny one.
Yeah, he said-

Happy and funny are different.
Happy is the result
of too little information.
Funny is the result
of too much information.

Funny is defense,
because the sorrow and crap
are always piled up too high.

It’s dark in here, he said.
Don’t come in here-
there’s nothing in here worth seeing.
That reminds me, he said-
and then he made me laugh.

- - - - -

And to conclude this set, here is an old poem, because they seem to fit together, in a way-

The jealous rocks mutter early
in the pearly morning light;
grow surly now, sharp words define
the faults of the morning glory vine,
which twists and turns,
turning divine, the craggy,
crabby space it climbs.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Day #5, Poem #3:

Sometimes you catch the firefly,
and the words that come out
and hit the page
say exactly what you

Sometimes when you started
you knew where you were going
and sometimes you didn’t,
but you recognized it
the moment you got there.

Don’t try to catch the firefly-
fireflies can rarely be caught
by chasing them-
and the faster you chase,
the faster they flee.

Just leave the jam jar open,
and your thoughts
and then snap the lid tight
when the moment comes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

#2, on the 4th.

A poem under construction is not a pretty sight.
There are piles of adverbs everywhere.
A pack of similes is arguing with the metaphors,
and the third stanza,
the sad one,
has disappeared entirely,
and we’ll probably get a call from a bar at 2 a.m.,
telling us it’s there, sobbing incoherently
about that cute blond couplet that was
cut from the poem two weeks ago.

A poem under construction is not a pretty sight.
That’s why we put the yellow tape up.
There’s nothing to see here,
nothing to gawk at.
Move along, move along.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Poem a Day #1

I was not going to do the "Poem-a-Day" in November, but then my neurotic fear of being left out kicked in, so I'll try it (first poem below). What you are going to see will be rougher than normal, because I usually do lot of editing, which there won't be time for in this exercise. Here we go-

Morning is Broken

In the beginning,
there was morning.
And morning was only me
and the dark
and the quiet
and the cat,
who didn’t even want her breakfast
only a scritch.

And then the breaking light,
and the gurgling coffee maker,
and the dry dishes in the drainer
to be put away.
But they were silent
as they were stacked.
They didn’t break the stillness.

And then the radio,
and the news and
talking heads
and then the computer and
and calendar reminders
and New York Times
and Weather Underground
and Facebook
and the day comes
barreling in -

and I’m not quite ready.
and then the message
that you had died.

And I’m not quite ready.

and i retreat.

in the beginning,
there was morning.
and morning was only me.