30 April, 2010

Day 30: More than This

More days pass
and I notice
my beard
is going white
and my eyes
are a tired blue
and the world around me
is bloated with rust and rot
and terminal indigestion;
and even though I am not
a man of faith I understand
why it is that rape victims
and drunks and junkies
hope for a higher power –
because if there’s nothing
then we’re all fucked
and there’s nothing to do
but wait for that moment
when our heads empty
and our fractured souls drain
and that silence found only
between the notes of a symphony
or in a hospital room when an old woman dies
falls upon us

and we can relax
and leave the interpretations
to others.

[This is the last poem of my semi-random Poem a Day to Celebrate Poetry Month event. It's been nice to just focus on poetry again; and even though some of the results turned out better than others, I still feel like poetry is, for me, The First Form. It's the one I've been doing the longest and the one I am the most comfortable in. Poetry, unlike any other form, can do so much with so little.]

29 April, 2010

Day 29:Record of a Death Rattle

I sat with her while she died
talking to her
more than I ever did
when she was alive
while the shallow breathing slowed
and the raspy moans sank
back into her lungs.
Meanwhile, the machines
recorded her progress
bleeping and beeping and buzzing –
and I was (for a moment)
envious of that last morphine shot she got
because the pain she was leaving behind
and her daughter’s mourning was more
than I knew how to address.

28 April, 2010

Day 28: One More Public Service Announcement

On the occasion of his first DUI, Rusty ran his ’87 Mercury off the road, just over the hill out of town. He totaled the car and the Dr. had to cut open his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. He lost his license for six months and developed a slight speech impediment, being unable to speak sound of the letter “x.”

On the occasion of his second DUI, Rusty was barreling home from Shyte’s Bar in his brand new red pick-up when he lost control coming over the hill just out of town. He swerved to miss a church choir bus, and flipped his truck. He shattered his back in 20 places and popped the distinctive mole on the tip of his nose that lent him so much beauty. He also lost his license for a year and had to stay in traction for 36 months.

On the occasion of his death, Rusty had learned his lesson and stayed at home to drink. He stumbled out on the back porch to piss and fell into a large briar bush. He bled out almost immediately when he tried to remove the briars from his limp prick. But before he died, a loose sliver of bone in his back shifted and dug into his spine, paralyzing him from the waist down.

His end was thought merciful and provident by the entire community.

27 April, 2010

Day 27:Extrapolation on a Statement Overhead in a Dive Bar

Give me back the grand delusion and let me be whole again.

I heard the old man speak and his tired blue eyes locked onto mine. I was completely unaware that the familiarity of his face should have alarmed me. He was one more of the wandering herd; the lost; the ignored; the irrelevant. He was one of those people I would give money to when I had it and who I would drink with when I didn’t. The thing most people don’t know and wouldn’t want to understand if they did know is this: every man only has a name when he talks to his mother or his wife, if he is lucky. The truth is that we gave up our names when we bought into the dream taught by American History textbooks and by preachers and by Wall Street Financiers. Verily I say: none of it matters. Because even though we are given names when we are born, people will label us for themselves and call us what they want, and those judgments carry over regardless of how far from the places of our births we roam. The moment we take back the power to name ourselves is the moment we are dead to the world; and while all the prestidigitating preachers got most of it wrong, there is one certain thing. Only in death are we complete.

And by the time I knew him by his blue eyes, he was lost in a crowd of laughter and of forgetfulness.

26 April, 2010

Day 25 and Day 26

Freedom – Poem 1

the axioms don’t match out
when you unravel them
cat style, like a big ass
ball of yarn (like in those
cartoons you watched
as a kid before you realized
that all you’d ever
really learn you got
between commercials)

instead of truths
we were given
mislabeled canned goods
and told it was freedom
when really
it was expired creamed corn – yet
when we complained
all we got in return
was a sad smile
a knowing nod
and another expired can
in which there was a career
we were told to do
it was what our parents did
and their parents before them
and it was unwise to ask why

and when the canned goods
ceased to satisfy
we were told
to resort to scripture –
abridged and edited
for someone else’s benefit
and told
to settle down
to buy a house
to have children
and pay our taxes

and when all that was done
we were told we were to wait
for an obscure obituary
in the back page of a small town paper
no one bothers to read because
everybody knows everybody’s business
the day before it runs

and when they throw the dirt atop our corpse
and all our loved ones mourn us
and leave plastic flowers
and forget
there was once a time
when all that mattered
was that we were alive
for one more sunrise
(and it was glorious)

and then
we will be left
reduced to one more axiom
for a hebephrenic preacher
who wants to spread
his fear of life in favor
of an empty hope for heaven

Freedom – Poem 2

When did I
buy into
all this

24 April, 2010

Day 24: (Only)

Once I met man who swore he could show me Truth.
Once I met a woman who tried to school me in her definition of Beauty.
Once I read a book that made me feel like a fool.
Once I kissed a girl and have never forgotten her face.
Once I had a mentor who would not let me revere him.
Once I had a father who would not share his stories.
Once my heart was broken; I didn’t notice until it was too late.
Once I wrote a perfect poem in invisible ink and lost it.
Once I felt the cohesive nature of the universe – but then I blinked.
Once I thought I discovered Truth but it had no Beauty in it.
Once I dreamed I died. Once I dreamed I was alive.
Once I fell in love and I love her still.

23 April, 2010

Day 23: Two Split Seconds


On insomniac nights
in Northern Illinois
when all the streets
are rolled up and put
away even the stars
have enough sense
to stay home.


During a late spring rain
with rolling off the window
I’m standing on the porch
smoking and enjoying
the lingering scent
of April storm clouds.

22 April, 2010

Day 22: The Valley Out Of The Boy

Though it has been
better than five years
since I last walked your streets
I know them without having
to see them or feel them
under my feet. This is not
a sense of belonging
so much as a sense
of definition—
like that childhood game
picking the picture
which does not belong
knowing without being told
I am the object
I am looking for.

For years I blamed you.
I blamed doctors. I blamed classmates
who seemed less isolated
who were not bound up
with the same silence that has always
plagued me. I blamed
the multitude of churches
and their preachers of impossible perfection;
I blamed the narrow streets and endless cornfields
that first etched themselves on my eyelids
during long hours riding my bike and
wandering fields full of tall grass
I was forbidden to enter.

The truth is while I can no more
call you home than I can
remove myself from the picture
and I know there is no grand homecoming
and that the broken streets
and pulpits and back roads
have forgotten me
you outline the edges of the thing
I have always lacked—
that sense of belonging which comes
from knowing your place in the universe
that easiness which abuses memory
and confuses nostalgia with gravity
and fools people into believing
that the urge to flee
is nothing more than a dream
for children who are too young
to know the fear and the glory
of an uncertain sunrise.

21 April, 2010

Day 21 and a bonus short

Etiquette in the Digital Age

Somewhere around an hour before blacking out
I would become inspired
lock myself in my room
and call every single person I knew
because I had become convinced
they were not real—
that I had made them up
imagined them in the middle of some
psychotic defense mechanism
against the isolation I’d felt

from the age of three
when I woke up in a hospital
locked in an oxygen bubble
and which I’d managed to embrace
except for those moments
when the beer was gone
and the bowl was cashed
and the whiskey bottle
was nearly empty and
none of it felt real. The walls
the bed the desk the phone
all melting through dissolute fingers
and falling through
the gradually dissipating floorboards
and into the center of the evaporating earth
while the oxygen decomposed in my lungs

leaving what little was left of me
to implode in a starless vacuum void.

Maybe I just needed to hear the sound of my own voice
so I could be convinced of my own existence;
so I could know I hadn’t just
made myself up too;
that my entire life wasn’t just
one long breakdown – which

if I had known then
the things I know now
I would have embraced
instead of dragging my feet
in the name of some textbook definition
of what it means to be normal.

These days
no one answers the phone
and so
I send desperate
and repetitive
email dispatches
the same old conversations
until I am left
with no one to type to
because there is no humanity
in an LCD screen
except for a lonely programmer’s
hyperreality version
of that girl from high school
who never gave him
the time of day.

BONUS SHORT: Back Page Item

After the paper came out, Denise sat in her cell and decided on her course of action. Everyone knew, anyway. Everyone always knew everything before the paper came out on Wednesday; but they never knew enough, and what people didn’t know, they made up. All anybody would see was that she had been arrested. No one would be surprised. And no one would bother to listen, either.

Denise liked Sheriff Cleary because he was an old man who still looked at women as the weaker sex and in need of protection. Even when he was forced to arrest one he made sure they were as comfortable as possible. He let her have the starched white bed sheets to put on her bunk, let her keep the toilet seat, and even put a little chair in the cell to give her someplace else to sit. The only other thing in the cell was a rusty sink and an old Gideon’s Bible. Pages were missing and what pages were left was covered with obscene drawings.

She knew if it were up to deputies Marty and Erle, she would have had none of those things. She knew them and knew what they were like. They weren’t men like Cleary. They were like what men had become. Men who saw women as either fuckable or as marriage material, but not both. And both of them had, in their time, fucked her. They fucked her the same way their fathers had fucked her mother in that small apartment above the old laundromat. They fucked her because she was just a townie whore. That was how you treated a townie whore.

That she had been defending herself wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t matter to the judge, who had fucked her mother and had once offered a then 15 year old Denise extra to let him fuck her, too. It wouldn’t matter to the prosecutor who wouldn’t leave her alone even after she married Jeremy and bore two sons. You can take the whore out of town, he told her, but you can’t take the whore out of a whore. It wouldn’t matter to her Public Defender, who was also an evangelical minister that believed she was an evil sinner. All that mattered was that she’d kicked the shit out of Jeremy when he came home drunk and angry and wanting to beat her until she bled again; and she had done it while his young sons watched. And in spite of all the humiliations heaped upon her in front of her sons by Jeremy, to cause a son to lose respect for his father was the greater sin.

She made sure the noose was tight and she hoped the starched white sheets would support her weight. As she kicked herself off, she hoped there was a God and that he would watch over her sons. She also hoped for the sake of her unborn daughter that God wasn’t like the men he’d created in his image.

20 April, 2010

Day 19 and Day 20 Poems

Day 19: I in the Universe

I am not as strong
and the dirt is not as soft
as I would like. My hands
haven’t the calluses
of other men,
and I am old enough
to learn my limitations. But
I am still enough of a man
enough the son
of my father
enough the grandson
of my grandfathers
to move forward understanding
that the world was not created
by knowing but by billions
of small cataclysmic errors,
each of which began
with the rising of the sun.

Day 20: Epigram #1

When human beings have finally destroyed themselves
and the cockroaches take over,
will they birth artists, or will they eat what we leave behind,
then shit it out and call it divine influence?

18 April, 2010

Day 18:Definitive Paraphrases

1. Twigs-n-berries
Some’s got more and
some’s got less, but
everybody’s got something
even if some’s got more
than others.

(old woman sitting at the bar)

2. City vs. Small town

In a city (at least)
they’ll just shoot you
and take your money;
but here
they’ll kidnap you
and lock you up
in the basement.

(anonymous new resident)

17 April, 2010

Day 17: Official Reminiscence

       They said:
he was a happy child
so far as we knew. He
smiled a lot and was
open with strangers; he
held doors open
for little old ladies
at church and always
gave the right answers
when someone asked him
a question and he never
spoke out of turn. A bit
too round, maybe, and he
never could hit a baseball
or run all that fast; but
that was because he
watched too much TV
and read too many books
when he should’ve been
outside playing with kids
his own age. But still, he was
a good sweet boy. And then
one day he just stopped
smiling – though he still opened
doors for the little old ladies
at church and he said very little;
but when he did speak
he would ask questions and use
big words that he’d read in
those big books he carried with him.
And when he didn’t get an answer
that suited him, he would still
open doors for little old ladies,
but there was a look in his eyes
that could pass for disrespect.

That was when it became clear
the boy would come to no good
because nothing good comes from a boy
who can’t play baseball.

16 April, 2010

Day 16:Vernal

I imagine every beginning
is like this one:
stumbling out of slumber
and into a faint light,
like the start of a symphony
or that moment before the punch line
of the joke. There is no world
until the coffee pot is finished brewing
and until I am able to light my first cigar
and sit down with all my words
and the calming silence
between the tick tock of the clock
locked away upstairs
while outside, the early risers
begin chasing dogs, starting lawn mowers,
waiting for the mail, eating, shitting,
complaining about this or that or
some other damn thing. My next door neighbor
the retired postman works on his lawn,
prepares for the work that will come
tomorrow, and is finished
before the hottest part of the day. On good days
I separate myself from the noise and forget
its source and I can close my eyes
and somewhere
between the tick tocking
and the roar of distant lawn tractors,
and the wind whispering
through the magnolia blossoms,
and the twittering of birds
building nests. And by the time
my cigar is finished
and the coffee cup is empty,
I can open my eyes
and tell myself
that it is good.

15 April, 2010

Day 15: SASE

Paying the postage for my rejections
is the last in a long list of random humiliations
heaped upon me by editors who,
because I am not friends
with their sister-in-law’s cousin’s gay lover,
probably didn’t read my story
to begin with – but instead,
gave it to an intern
who still believes
her Contemporary Lit Professor
is the last word on literary merit;
even though he probably got a PhD
because he knew enough to know
he lacked the imagination to write
and that it was easier
to deconstruct the work
of larger minds
possessing bigger balls
than his entire list
of professional publications
can pretend to.

14 April, 2010

Day 14: Digital Immigrants

When there is no other
easy option we will panic
and turn on one another
and worry when there is
no point because
that is what we have been raised
to do. In spite of all my barbaric yawps
the universe does not change
and neither do we; but
the futility of the situation
is no more a deterrent
than all the abject fears
we learned watching television
in the age before cable.

13 April, 2010

Day 13: Public Works

The magnolia tree in side yard
is blooming and the garbage
is set out on the curb. I will know
when the truck comes
when the house shakes
and the cats yowl
and attack one another.
The magnolia tree will do nothing,
continue to sprout flowers,
take in the sunshine, blow pollen
through open windows
that I will not dare close.

12 April, 2010

Day 12: The Physiology of Trains

Monday morning train
soothing chug-a-chug
rolling over the tracks
like a distant thunder
right before the rain falls
echoes this morning
and takes on the rhythm
of my heartbeat

which is still
working its way
towards a destination
that is always outbound
just over the horizon.
When they warned me

there would always be
days like this
they never said
it could take entire lifetimes
to figure it all out:
the surety in other people’s eyes
absent in mine
the acceptance in their faces
erased from mine.

And all I can do
is sit in the still morning
close my eyes and meditate
over my second cup of coffee
that someday the train
will someday find a destination
and stop.

11 April, 2010

Day 11: The Return of Mr. FixIt

The know how is intuitive, stored in the fingers far far away
from the language centers
of the brain. There’s something
about the smell of gasoline
and two cycle engine oil
that tells my bones it is Spring
more so than the grass that needs cutting
or the weeds that need beating back
or the blooming magnolia tree
outside the living room window.
Because I could not,
if my life depended on it,
explain to another living soul
how a lawn mower engine works
I know better than to call myself
a mechanic in mixed company; and
though it has been twenty years
since I last tinkered and labored
with a pull cord that will not give,
I know that if I am patient
and if I don’t set the damn thing
on fire, I will once again feel
that satisfaction that can only come
from the sound of a motor
brought back from the brink
by a pair of hands,
a box-end wrench,
and a flathead screwdriver.

10 April, 2010

Saturday Morning Tao – A Fiction

[Dedicated to Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese]

So I’m thinking about this quote from Thomas Carlyle, a 19th Century British intellectual. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that anything that anybody is going to learn will be learned before the age of 18. He was for the British who Emerson was for America. In his lifetime, Carlyle became one of the most respected intellectuals in the English speaking world; this was during a time, of course, when intellectuals and artists COULD be famous without having to first “leak” a sex tape onto the internet.

Not to say that I think Once Upon A Time was ever any better than Right Now; but people generally focus on what’s glitzy and shiny, and I do think it bears saying that the things we find shiny and pretty are not ideas or works of art, but Megan Fox and Jon&Kate Plus 8. This suggests, of course, that we are not thinking feeling critters but wide-eyed voyeurs – which are more akin to a parasite than a critter. (Some useful definitions from The Parsons Dictionary of Often Used Words and Phrases [PDOUWP]: Critter, n – an independent creature that can be mammal, lizard, or fish. Large brains are not necessary, nor are they strictly useful, as too much thinking tends to result in a quicker and more agony filled death. Parasite,n – a creature that may resemble a critter in that it has an independent body and structure, can and does procreate on a large scale, and that it must, from time to time, move. They are effective because it is often impossible to tell strictly on sight whether something is a parasite or a critter. However, a parasite differs from a critter in that it cannot survive on any level without sucking life, experience, and blood from an available critter.) But to be fair, it’s true that the definitions of terms and ideas change over time; so that a critic, who is most likely a parasite masquerading as a critter, may in fact serve some larger function in that he frames the larger world in a way that higher functioning critters and parasites can understand and that lower functioning ones can emulate after listening to a watered down version in a pop song.

Carlyle, of course, isn’t as highly regarded now, mostly because he was embraced by fascists, uber-nationalists, and other such lunkheads. (Def: lunkhead, n – a subspecies of parasite that, having gorged themselves on critters, turn on their own kind. They become Department Chairs, Lackies, and bill collectors [from PDOUWP]. Note: Critters have a similar subspecies; these are often referred to as Fuckers, because theoretically they should know better.) Emerson is still respected in certain circles; but since he is unable to release either a CD or a sex tape, he is dwindling in obscurity.

I’m not entirely sure what brought on my thoughts of dead British fascists; but I do try to keep these things in context. While it’s true the Carlyle was probably a nationalist and most certainly a vocal opponent of Democracy, this ought to be kept in perspective. He has long since died and it does no good to beat up on a dead guy. I suspect that other people suffer the same fate. After all, it’s much easier to abuse the dead than it is the living – and it’s damned easy to abuse the living, so that should tell you something. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading a lot of CĂ©line lately and he was, after all, a Nazi sympathizer during World War II; people who read his books and want to glide over the ugliness explain and/or justify themselves by suggesting that maybe it was his injury as a french soldier during World War I that turned him wonky. (Def: wonky, adj – nutty; goofy; off your rocker; operating at an intellectual level beyond the range of good taste, common sense, and sound logic. [From PDOUWP]) I love his words but I hate his politics. I feel the same way about Ezra Pound and the comedian Dennis Miller. I will not explain any of these things other than to say that writers, artists, and stand-up comedians are just that: writers, artists, and stand-up comedians.

They are far less dangerous to the world than, say the lunkheads and fuckers in Congress who are the kind of politicians (which can be either critters or parasites, but can never be confused with a Human Being) that would suffocate their children in order to avoid having to buy them new school clothes. Change is bad. Even worse, change is boring and has nothing to do with Jon&Kate Plus 8, Megan Fox, sex tapes, or pop music. Change is what they refuse to give to the homeless and to art programs. And before you accuse me of being partisan, keep in mind that I reject all –isms [See PDOUWP] on the basis of their limited intent and lack of insight. I sort of like democracy, but we haven’t figured out how to make it work yet – in spite of wanting to export it to every nation in the world that has natural resources we need to keep our civilization wheezing along.

And I’m probably being unfair to dead old Carlyle in calling him a fascist – but he’s dead, after all, and can’t defend himself; nor would he probably try to. I do think that even wonky people can sometimes make a good point, and Carlyle, with all his wonkiness, did have it right. Most of what I know is true I learned before I turned 18; and in spite of the reading and wandering and discovering, all I end up doing going back to what I know. I started writing when I was 10 – which I still do. I learned most of my history from watching Loony Tunes and Tom & Jerry Cartoons, along with my appreciation for jazz and classical music. I learned how to be skeptical because of an above average youth minister and because whenever I asked adults to explain biblical discrepancies to me they scolded me instead just telling me they didn’t have an answer. I learned that people who do the right thing will get screwed over just as quickly – maybe even quicker – than people who do the wrong thing; along with that I found out that our society rewards results rather than intentions because the wrong thing tends to illicit the most immediate and gratifying result.

I also learned how to laugh at and appreciate the absurd – which is everywhere – from watching slapstick with my dad; and if you haven’t bothered to watch Abbott & Costello, Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, or Fatty Arbuckle, you should be ashamed and go find them immediately. Fatty Arbuckle, by the way, was very popular until an under-age girl died in his hotel room. And even though he was cleared legally, he was never again successful and died a poor and despised bastard – just like Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense, did because he wrote a pamphlet in which he suggested that all churches be abolished.

Day 10: The Tao of Wile E. Coyote

i[dedicated to people with a sense of humor]

Most real wisdom comes upon us
when we are very young, before
we develop the temerity to believe
all the small minds who tell us
we do not know enough
we do not think enough
we do not buckle down
and suffer enough, and certainly
not as much as our forefathers
whose names are lost
under all the great headings
in all the erroneous history books
with their study guides
and short answer and multiple guess tests
that somehow manages not to cover
all the evil done
by those people we are raised to believe
are heroes. Carlyle said as much;
but we ignore him. (He was a fascist.)

And so
we run out our days
like Wile E. Coyote
what we will never have
and even if we did,
we’d come on it too late
to really enjoy it
the way we do
in our starved
and gutted imaginations.
But somehow,
that means more to me
than all the promises I heard
growing up at the end
of the American Century. And if
my heroes are cartoon characters
they are at least
a more honest representation
than the people my daughter learns about
in school.

09 April, 2010

Day 9: The Community Model

We will like you so long as you
tacitly agree with us by staying silent
and we will welcome you
as long as we know all your secrets first.
Your presence is not required
but we will notice your absence
and take it personally. At some point
in each and every day you must
commit one act, regardless of how futile,
to remind us
we weren’t wrong in our decision to welcome you;
and when we ask for more
you must give without reservation
or any thoughts of yourself, your family,
your sanity, or your soul – because in fact,
they all belong to us
and we are kind enough
to let you borrow them.

People will know you are ours
by the way you dress and the words you use –
which reminds me:
don’t use words we don’t understand
or insult our intelligence
by challenging our beliefs
no matter how unreasonable they are. You will
eat in our restaurants, drink in our bars, and
shop only where we will be able to see
that you have truly embraced us
as (you should hope) we have embraced you. And
after you die,
we will reconstruct the memory of you
so that you will be one of us forever
whether you really were or not;
and your family will not remember you
but instead will embrace our image of you
and your children will aspire to nothing more
than to follow in the footprints
we left for them to find.

08 April, 2010

Day 7: And the man said -- / Day 8: So It Goes

Day 7: And the man said –

when you are hungry eat,
when you are thirsty drink,
when you are poor go to work,
when you are bored go out and play.
when you are horny fall in love,
when you are not jack off.
when you are upset drink whiskey,
when you are upset never cry,
when you are not drink beer.
when you are dissatisfied buy something,
when you are happy sell it all back.
when you are about to die
tell people you made peace with God –
that will make them feel better and
that is the only way
they will leave you alone.

 Day 8: So It Goes

My grandfather was the hardest
working man I have ever known. Even
after he retired from the mill
he had to keep working
like greyhounds have to run
whether there is a track or not. Every morning
except Sunday, he woke up before the sun
drank his coffee and read his paper
while sitting on the toilet and

put on his clean and ironed gray shop clothes
and went out to the workshop
he designed and built himself
and he stayed there
except for a half hour at lunch,
when he went back in the house
so my grandmother could make
his sandwich – unless
someone hired him to build something,
like cute little Nancy Houserman’s parents did.

And when he died
they all attended the visitation,
along with Nancy and her parents
and they all cried a little,
remembering this man
who did not know how to stop
until the cancer gave him
no other option.

And after he was gone
the world moved on
and Nancy and I grew up
and by now
her parents probably sold the house
to people who don’t even know
the name of the man
who built the staircase.

06 April, 2010

Day 6: When I Lost My Faith

She told me I took things too seriously
and that nobody likes to be around somebody
who can’t talk about the weather
or about the latest episode of Friends
or about the lives of the rich and famous. Your stare
is too intense, she went on, and it makes people
uncomfortable, and when you drink (she went on)
all you do is sit in the corner and watch everybody
like you’re studying them for a science project.
People, she informed me, were not lab rats, and
it wasn’t any wonder that women didn’t like me
because I didn’t act the way women like
and I took flirting too seriously
and would never look them right in eye
at the right moment. And I thought too much, too,
and read the wrong books,
and was entirely too deliberate;
and if I wasn’t going to lose weight,
I should at least learn how to be jolly
so that people wouldn’t worry
that I’d sit on them
just for spite.

05 April, 2010

Day 5: Monday Through My Window

The morning after the storm
light pours through the dirty glass;
I hang my coat over and block it out
because I have sat up watching
the night stretch into sunrise
and I am not yet ready
for the thunder to stop.

04 April, 2010

Two New Poems: Days 3 and 4

4/3: Fallen Cedar

My landlord’s sons made short work
of the fallen cedar in the side yard and
hauled it away in the beds
of several full-sized pick up trucks;
I didn’t approach them and offer
to help or to ask them what
they intended to do with the wood
because it was a silly question
and because they might have noticed
from my tone and general demeanor
that I will miss that ugly tree;
it was here long before me
and maybe
before this little old house;
and I also don’t want
my landlord’s sons to see
the guilt in my face because
it was probably my arrival
that made them remove it
sooner than they would have

4/4: In a Moment of Silence 20 Minutes After Waking

We slept late but it’s still
too early and the coffee
takes too long to kick in.
These Sunday mornings
remind me of others

when I was appropriately shod
in uncomfortable new shoes,
fit into unyielding new clothes
and herded off
so’s not to be late
for the absurd Sunday School
Fashion Show and yet another
telling of how the dead
can rise again and how
crucial it is to believe
in the impossible even though
upstairs, the preacher is,
at that very moment,
reading a long list
of the sick and the dying
who will not return
in spite of
what they professed
to believe.

Looking back now
I still find it impossible
to believe or to understand
how that all worked, or why
on those mornings,
it was more of a sin
to sleep in
than on a morning like this one
in which
there is no resurrection
save for the one offered
by a fresh cup of coffee,
a book of poetry,
and a comfortable chair.

02 April, 2010

The Inner Workings of Nostalgia

The best part of my day
is walking out to the mail box
because the neighbor lady
watches me and wonders
what a man my age
is doing at home
at that time of day. Then

I walk to the bar
and catch up on the local news
not covered in the paper
between Rotary Club check presentations
and JV and Varsity Sports
and the ever growing obituaries
that corresponds creepily

to the growing number
of houses for sale
and the emptying store fronts.
Once in a while
the old men include me
in their conversations
but that’s only because

there’s no one else there
to talk to. Mostly I nod
and laugh and when
I get home I wonder
how long these small towns
have left
before all the old timers die

and all the grandkids move
to where the jobs are
and the farm fields are sold
and spliced into house lots
and the bricks that cover Market Street
are recycled and built into a monument
for a town whose name
no one knows how to spell.

01 April, 2010


Brightly colored plastic eggs and fresh squirrel traps
are hanging from the trees,
blowing carefree in the breeze
while the school kids,
on Spring Break, get in
all the play time they can
until its time for dinner
and talk about the new clothes
they must wear
when they go to Easter Service.
The gardeners are out mulching
and turning over tired dirt
and the obsessive lawn mower
is manicuring his grass

while the missus
is in the kitchen casually
dunking hard boiled eggs
in brightly colored dye
while talking on the phone
to her best girlfriend
who is going on and on about
that poor young woman who
hung herself last week
in the County Jail. Tsk tsk, they say.
Poor, poor girl, they say.
What would make anyone
missus begins… and a mother, too
the her friend says, only to interrupt
herself  So they
change the subject
to talk about spring hams

because one of them
nearly drops an egg
from the distraction of wondering
what such a fast suicide
must feel like
instead of the long slow one
necessary to get into Heaven.