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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ENOUGH


Did he ever say,"that’s enough poetry
about the birds and the oceans"?
Did she tell herself “I’m done writing
about the animals of the forest”?
Did the others ever just give up writing
about lost loves, death and regret?

More than once I sat to write and
found myself writing about all that
happened, all that didn’t happen.
More than once I stopped myself,
clicking the red X, and the No when
the computer prompted me to save.

More than once, I put down the pen,
closed the notebook, tore out the page,
tossed the paper to the side, looked away.
I wondered why I had this feeling, now.
Does it mean that all is forgiven or
does it mean I feel like it’s all been said?

Monday, November 29, 2010

BUS STOP EPIPHANY


Sometimes when I see you, you look so grown up.
While on other days, like this morning, you smiled
that same smile from when you were a little baby.
Maybe I noticed it because your face was framed
perfectly by the window of the bright orange bus.
At fourteen, our years are numbered now- four.
Next year, I’ll wait at this same bus stop as you head
to high school, somehow your mother and I’ll get
you through it. But today I thinking too far ahead to
the day when I’ll drove off and look back to see you
standing at the curb, waving in my rear view mirror.

Or I imagine the three of us standing on a platform
at the train station, the Amtrak pulls into Metropark,
to take you south to D.C. or north to Boston. And when
I see you in the window; I’ll see a man with my baby’s smile.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I NEVER SAW DR. J

We wore mesh basketball shorts,
tank tops with our numbers on them,
Barkley jerseys, Moses Malone t-shirts,
black high top sneakers and we always
had basketballs stuffed behind the seats,
as we rode around Middlesex county
making deliveries in our Hino box trucks.

We’d pull over, take a few jump shots or
play one on one between stops. Sometimes
we’d play pick-up games against other
guys who’d be hanging out on the courts.
Anthony was a Sixers fan too and he’d like
to tell the story of how he met Doc, after
a game, even shook his massive hand and
how he was a classy guy, a true gentleman.

I’d tell him how I felt lucky to have gone to
the Spectrum with my teacher and the rest
of the sixth grade from Irving Avenue School
to watch the 76ers take on the L.A. Lakers.
But the truth of the story is that I only
watched Dr. J on TV, I never saw him play
in person that night, because my mother
wouldn’t give me the money for the ticket.
And I didn’t dare ask my stepfather for a ride.

BLAME THE TECHNOLOGY


Her son throws tantrums when she calls him
to eat, since he must turn off his Playstation 3.
He can’t pay attention in class and finds
everything boring, especially teachers talking.
He hates to read books and tells everyone
how he doesn’t like to write or go to school.

His nephew walks around the house blasting
his iPod, wears it at the dinner table, on the bus,
in the halls, and all he wants to do is listen to
his music. His Algebra teacher writes and
performs rap lyrics to teach him the math,
but he does no homework and fails all the tests.

Her neighbor’s kids watch Disney movies on the
back of the car’s headrests as they drive down
the road and don’t talk to each other,and don’t
look out the window when the parents are driving.
The kids don’t know where their grandparents live,
the name of their dentist or what town they are in.

Her grandchildren sit at the restaurant table and play
Nintendo DS instead of interacting with the family.
They can’t sit in a chair, hold their heads up, order meals,
eat with manners and barely touch their plates.
They complain how the food sucks and how full they are.
They order big desserts and take a few bites before going
back to watch more YouTube videos on their iPod Touch.

Her friend’s daughter copies full passages from
Wikipedia and Google, but denies plagiarizing.
She also has been sending inappropriate photos to
her boyfriend, who then sent them to his buddies.
A group of her friends team up to humiliate the new
girl on Facebook, MySpace, and Instant Messaging.

Your friend’s son never leaves the basement and
no longer has an interest in sports or going outside.
Instead he plays Call of Duty and interacts via his
character in the game and a headset to talk to
some guys that he’s met through X-Box Live.
He doesn’t clean his own room, make his bed,
take out the trash, rake leaves, or mow the lawn.

Her cousin was let go from his part time job for
sexting with a female employee, who liked it
at first, but got angry when she found out
how he was doing it with all the girls at work.
She told the supervisor and he was terminated
immediately in order to avoid a harassment lawsuit.

Each night their daughter was on the computer
chatting with a strange man in Missouri, who
forced her to take her clothes off and participate
in sex acts while using the video camera and Skype.
She told her parents when they found her packing
her suitcase on the way to meet the man who told
her she had to buy a bus ticket to meet up with him.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

EAT AND RUN


Untwisting the wrapper he grabbed a stack
of bread, dealt slices like cards onto napkins
laid across the dash of his truck. We pulled packets
of ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise from our
pockets, mounded them up by the windshield.

Each man reached into the pile, ripped them open
with their teeth, squeezed, spread, threw empties
in one motion saturating the bread with free
condiments he told us to load up on from the 7-11.

He slapped a thick slice of baloney onto the bread,
told us to eat up, we acted shy, because we hadn’t paid.
"I know you ain’t got no money, but we got lots of work
to get done, you boys’ll be worthless on empty stomachs.
I’m planning to get plenty of work out of the both of yous".


He splashed generic lemonade into courtesy cups,
gulped one down, asked us how's it tasting, and shared one
of his many Viet Nam sayings as he disengaged the brake-
“everyday’s a holiday and every lunch meal is a banquet”

He pushed the engine button, switched on the radio,
we still stuffed our faces full of white bread and ketchup
as he turned the big truck wheel and drove onto 295 North
and put it in the wind. I can still hear him singing along
with the refrain of an old Guess Who song as he shifted gears-

“on my way to better things- got myself some wings- distant roads are calling me”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

BIRDWATCHING ON THE OUTER BANKS


I enjoy watching you crows hop around
with your slick little bodies, shining feathers.
Black, iridescent like oil spots in a parking lot.
It seems you all like to work in groups as
you try to sneak up on the tourist’s garbage.
I want to ask you why you all have feathers
missing in a ring around your scrawny necks.

But it's the sandpipers who work the best
together on the shoreline, moving swiftly to
avoid getting your feet wet. Acting like you aren’t
part of a team, pecking, poking the wet sand
with precision, stopping to run each other off.
And then back to work, even though you don’t
find much at the water’s edge, it’s your spot.

Pelican, you stop me each morning at sunrise with a
rapid crash into the ocean, ugly as the beak you use.
You look bulky and strange, you don’t move sharp or
swift like the jets of today. More like World War Two
fighter planes with your direct paths and staggered
patterns that make me notice your numbers; I count
every time this week and the magic number is six.

Gulls, you are all over, screaming like someone’s
done something wrong or trying to murder you.
Somebody told me to look for you to find the wind’s
direction, since you always put your beak to where
it’s coming from. You don’t like ruffled feathers.
I keep an eye on you if I’m eating food because
I’ve seen your sneaky ways at the Jersey Shore.

Osprey, when you fly, there’s no need to count the
number in your flock, you don’t have any partners.
You go it alone, like your famous cousins, the Eagles.
Sometimes people call you seahawk when they
see you glide on currents of air above the waves.
The flight, the dive, the grab with your talons, barely
getting your feet wet. A few flaps and you are gone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

POETRY WITH THE KIDS


(memories of moments,strung together in Tankas)

what’s up with all the
poetry?
is what a boy
in the back row said.
Makes you choose precise words and
finish in less time. That’s true.

rhyming is Old School
a fourth grade girl announces
as I introduced
limericks, quatrains, couplets.
Man, free verse is where it’s at.

rappers and rock stars
sit at kitchen tables with their
own rhyming dictionaries
forcing themselves to find words
that rhyme with cheese and mustard

Kilmer, poet from nearby
wrote Trees, killed on World War I
battlefield in France.
A young student says plainly-
Should’ve stuck to poetry.

Monday, November 22, 2010

HER LAST STAND


Halloween is over, so she’ll pull
down the Rubbermaid bins
marked Thanksgiving and get ready
to teach a lesson like its 1977.
She’ll wear a headband with a feather;
a Pocahontas costume from the Party Store,
and put her hair up in braids.
She’ll stand at the classroom door
greet the kids with a raised hand
and say, Ugh, How, Kemo Sabe and
call them all her little braves.

She’s make vests out of paper bags,
War bonnets out of construction paper,
Tom toms out of coffee cans that she saved,
and wampum necklaces out of uncooked ziti.
Room mothers will prepare a snack and paint
streaks of paint on the children’s little cheeks.
They’ll all trace their hands; put beaks on the
thumb’s outline to make a Tom Turkey.
She’ll call them to the rug for a Pow Wow
and tell them to sit “Native American style”.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

PERMISSION


As a boy, he had to ask for
something to eat or drink.
Open the fridge or cabinets,
they acted like he was stealing.
And if he asked, it didn’t mean he
was getting it. Many times he’d hear-

Don’t drink that Pepsi, its mine.
Don’t take those cookies; those are for your sister.
Don’t touch the Slim Jims, they belong to Dad.
Don’t eat those pretzels; I bought ’em for your brother.

One day after school he ate two of his
stepfather’s Tastykake French apple pies,
the kind with white icing, little bitty raisins.
His mother humiliated him for being selfish
and asked, “Just who do you think you are?”
He was reminded of how much his father
loved his pies and what he’d do when he got
home from work and found them missing.

He gathered his change from his Snoopy bank
and took off running for the path, a shortcut
through the fields, out to the road, past the brook
and onto the avenue to the corner store.
After buying the pies, he ran back quickly to
replace what he’d taken without permission.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

POSITIVITY


When I drive down Highway 77
to my old hometown
I usually dwell on how
it all went wrong
for the city and my family too.
But I still make the trip to see
empty houses, shut down factories
boarded up stores on Laurel Street.

This time, I rehearse conversations
in my head hoping to see someone I know
or who may vaguely remember me.
I’ll say, “Hey, how’s it going?
“It’s been a while” or
“Glad to see you’re doing fine.”

I’ll drive by Quarter Mile Lane School,
and walk through the kick ball fields.
I go past the projects where I lived,
Big John’s Pizza, Weber’s Candy Store,
a friend’s family home on East Avenue,
and park by the edge of Sunset Lake.

I’ll drive past my grandparent’s house and
stand by a big maple I used to climb out front.
I want to see that someone’s painted it and
that the grape hyacinths and daffodils still bloom.
I want to see the new people hanging their sheets
on the line and piling Autumn leaves by the curb.

I'll eat an Italian sub and go to the custard stand.
I’ll drink a free cup of apple cider from Sunny Slope.
I want to smell the fireplaces in the dead of winter
and the ketchup factory in the dog days of summer.
I want to feel it wasn’t so bad or I need to know
something went right during that time, in this place.

Friday, November 19, 2010

FULL OF HOLES


He told us all he was a truck driver and a damn good one,
but he’d often come back off the road with tickets and dents.

He liked to tell the story of how he was a hero at his old job,
(even made the news) but was laid off the following week.

He’d ask to take certain guys with him to be helpers for the day,
then say “he was as worthless as a bucket with a hole in it”.

He was angry about the racism he faced growing up in Carolina,
but always made fun of his Haitian and Ecuadorian coworkers.

He talked about how he had to take care of his sick wife,
but he’d go out on Friday nights with his young girlfriend.

He’d say he couldn’t stand working with dope heads and druggies,
but he’d hurry his runs to get them on time to the methadone clinic.

He always said he couldn’t work for someone he didn’t have no respect for,
yet when his boss let himself be bullied, he brought his 38 to protect him.

He’d complain about the high cost of pills and prescriptions,
then buy forty to fifty dollars worth of lottery tickets each day.

He’d say he’s never late and if he was, then he wasn’t coming in,
but on most days he always had a reason why he needed to leave early.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

LOST AND FOUND ON THE A.C. EXPRESSWAY


A few weeks earlier he learned to drive stick shift
in a 24 foot box truck on the back country roads.
Now they sent him alone to make deliveries on Sunday.
He felt good riding in that Mercedes Benz party truck.

Ten stops to find first, then deliver, and collect money.
It was easy at first, finding houses in Margate whose
streets are names of the States in alphabetical order.
He thought all towns should be laid out this way.

Driving past Lucy the Elephant and into Atlantic City
to his biggest stop, a shopping mall on the beach.
He knew things were starting to go wrong when a
motorcycle cop walked up to him with a ticket book.

He was parked on a ramp to the Boardwalk in order
to unload tables, chairs, linens, dishes, and silverware.
He tried extreme politeness, “Yes sirs” and apologies
but still got a ticket that he’d pay for with his day’s wages.

Next stop was a fancy racing boat in Trump’s Marina
where he was forced to double park as he loaded a dolly
with tulip champagne glasses and silver wine buckets.
The policeman pulled up on a motorcycle to scold him.

“Son, move quick, I don’t want to write another ticket”.
Back out onto the Atlantic City Expressway, shifting gears,
feeling like a real truck driver from those Seventies movies.
In his mind he sang “Convoy” and “East Bound and Down”.

All this happiness came to a screeching halt as he looked
down at the seat and realized his clipboard was missing
with all the invoices, directions and customer’s checks.
In a panic he pulled off to the side of the road and got out.

His heart pounding, sweat pouring from his forehead,
tears welling up in his eyes, he looked at the truck’s bumper
and there it was, the clipboard with all his important papers.
After doing 55 on 10 miles of rough road, nothing was lost.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TELL ME WHY


That old guy stands near this busy highway
in his layers of shabby unmatched clothes.
Always on the small little sidewalk staring
at televisions hanging high above the bar
in this happening place with a trendy name.
It’s a bar where cool people go after work to
take advantage of Happy Hour Drink Specials.
Think there’s something wrong with him?
We see him here many afternoons in the rain,
the blazing hot sun, for almost a year now.
Sometimes he’s scratching his unruly beard,
or rubbing his jacked up hair with his ashy hands
while watching a football or basketball game.
After hearing me wonder, my son says so sincerely-
“Tell me why they just don’t ask him to come in.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

STACKED UP


A plastic water bottle,
a weekly pill organizer,
an old glass lamp covered
over in a layer of dust,
and the clock radio can
barely fit on her bedside table.
This year’s goal is fifty
and that’s why books
are stacked in piles like
Oreo cookies on a child’s plate.
She devours pages, savors words
each night instead of sleeping,
because she knows there won’t
be any crumbs on the pillow
in the morning.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Panic On Highway 81 or Nothin' But the Taillights


Back then, it felt like the truck drove itself.
Young enough, to go to classes, then head out
on a 700 mile road trip at three in the afternoon.
No need to rest, or stop to eat or drink. Just drive.
No need for a road atlas, just shift the gears to fifth,
my little red Ford Ranger pickup knew the routine.

Climb hard, coast down; hit the gas at the bottom
to get back up the next mountain that’d be coming.
Make it out of Tennessee, start thinking how big
Virginia really is since you’re sliding diagonal up 81.
Check the clock, check the odometer. Mark the trip
by the cities-Wytheville, Blacksburg, Roanoke, Lexington.
Get to Harrisonburg; feel like you’re making progress?

Sun goes down, air grows colder, radio always fades.
Marvel at Autumn trees, showing off this weekend.
Think about seeing my wife after being away six weeks,
you smile. Hearing Ozzy’s Mama I’m Coming Home,
you laugh. Notice a car in your rearview mirror.
you panic. A tailgater on this road, no reason to be
so close, acceleration lane clear, he stays behind
making you nervous, frustrated, a bit angry.
Slow down to let him pass, speed up to lose him.
Wonder, if you cut him off, is he the police, a convict?

Twilight now, plan to exit at Stephens City,
before Winchester onto a road called Route 7,
340, US 15? You don’t remember it’s name.
If he follows, you know he’s after you. Sure enough,
he follows. Heart pounds with anxiety, you go past
the familiar line of fence posts of a Black Angus farm,
the curvy road in front of Patsy Cline’s Rainbow Room,
Dinosaurland, the little dinky post office in Berryville.

Still he follows you. You’re almost into Charles Town.
You’ll pull over into Tastee Freeze, they’ll call the police.
For a brief moment you wish he’d just get it over with.
You jump out of the truck, close your eyes, say a prayer,
come to terms with the fact that you’re about to be dead.

A simple man in his early thirties gets out of his car,
walks over to you, smiles and says in a calm southern voice-
I’ve been trying to get your attention. You see, I been following
you for about fifteen miles now. I wanted you to know that
you ain’t got no taillights. Not safe riding up the Interstate
with no taillights. Man could wind up getting himself killed
.

You nod, take a deep breath and tell him you appreciate it.
You mention he didn’t have to do that. You say he’s too kind.
After he leaves, you walk to the window and order the biggest
chocolate malt shake you’ve ever had. You change the fuses.
You calm yourself down, consider yourself lucky and drive on.

THE SERIAL READER


The play’s the thing is what you could say about
my early reading habits, Sam Shepard, O’Neill, Mamet,
Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson,
Neil La Bute lined his shelves, filled his book bags.
Ten years of nothing but scripts, screenplays,
one act plays, American Theatre arrived monthly.
I dreamed of writing a play, seeing it produced,
finding my script on a shelf at the book store.

One day I picked up a Civil War book, Killer Angels.
I turned away from the plays for three years.
I moved on to the American Revolution, World War I
and II. Finally he read the Vietnam War. Five years passed,
captivated by war books, buying the all the best-
A Rumor of War, Dispatches, The Things that They Carried.
I lost track of time, but knew when my mission was over.

It happened to me again, a change of reading habits
when I stopped near the Drama shelves, reached out
and pulled a book from the shelf. I was drawn
in by poetry, a name I’d never heard before-Bukowski.
Words flowed from the page; the book had a different feel-
What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire.
Line by line I read, relating to the poet’s words.
I got suckered in by poetry. I told everyone how
my life had become poetry, writing, workshops, classes,
festivals, readings, a blog, published in a dozen places.

Each night I park myself in my big brown chair to
crack open the latest find from the internet or bookstore.
Now I joke that I’ve got to be careful not to pick up
another kind of book, it may lead me astray and test
my loyalty to my loved ones. I read nothing but poetry.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

WHY DO WE HAVE TO RAKE LEAVES?


I understand the whole process of the leaves
changing colors and somebody said they aren’t
really green anyway, but chlorophyll made by
long hours of sunshine makes them go green.
Their true colors are red, yellow, and orange.
I think what it’d be like if they stayed that way.

Somebody said when leaves fall, trees are making
a blanket to protect their roots through the winter
and when they rot it makes a fertilizer for the tree!
Makes me wonder who came to the conclusion that
the leaves should be raked, bagged, hauled away.

Why don’t we let them keep their warm blankets?
Why do we deny them their midwinter meals?
Because it’d kill the front lawn if we left it down.
Kill it more? It’s been dead since June, when it
burned up in the hot sun. Droughts and being away
on vacation has a way of destroying it every year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

FORGET WHAT PREVENTION MAGAZINE SAYS


Eat lots of fish, its brain food, and the healthiest of the meats!
It’s lean, easy to digest, and will help you live long too.
Be careful though, the tuna and salmon you’ve been eating
has been determined to contain high doses of mercury.

Buy plenty of strawberries, blueberries, great antioxidants!
Make sure you wash them real good before you eat them.
You’d be better off buying organic, the ones grown without
pesticides and fertilizers, chemicals needed to make a profit.

Be sure to eat plenty of nuts and seeds, you will improve your
energy levels, immunity and they’re a great source of protein!
Be aware that you stand a chance of developing diverticulitis
a painful disease that causes blockage in your large intestine.

Red wine is great for your blood vessels and heart. Drink up!
Men can have 7 cups a week, but don’t have it all at once.
Later on tonight you may awaken from your sleep with a
burning in your esophagus and taste throw up in your mouth.

You’re going to want to watch your cholesterol, no more butter!
Suddenly you hear people saying, “Don’t eat man made food,
anything synthetic or engineered in a laboratory can’t be good for
you, only eat the foods that God made.” Go ahead have some butter.

Diet sodas, a great alternative to all the sugar laden colas being
sold and it’ll help you to prevent cavities and save your teeth!
Ever seen what happens when you pour it on a car’s hood?
Avoid juice drinks; they’re full of corn syrups and artificial coloring.

You can’t get enough water! The only side effect frequent urination.
About every thirty minutes you need to find a restroom or bathroom.
Be sure to buy bottled water. Purified water is best, not spring water.
Try to avoid tap water. Each glass is full of harmful metals and chlorine.

Remember, scientists and nutritionists are constantly researching and
developing new theories on proper nutrition. It is important to keep up
to date on all the latest discoveries in order to live a happy healthy life.
By the way,now and then,drink some tap water. Bottled water lacks fluoride!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NO ONE WANTS TO BUY MY HOUSE


or "sometimes I feel like a dog chasing its tail"

In February, a sign went up on the lawn,
papers signed, the process put in motion.
The little house was kept clean at all times.
Realtors brought young couples to walk
through in search of a starter home,
something modest, something to fix up.

Business cards piled up on the table,
weeks and months passed without
anyone wanting, inquiring, or offering.
The price was lowered again, and again.
All hope seemed lost, but an offer came.

Meanwhile, it was hitting the fan in DC.
The President read from his magic teleprompter
throwing around clich├ęs about Wall Street
to Main Street
, and talking about at the end
of the day
and sitting at the kitchen table.

This was the summer when reality struck.
The American Dream became The American Myth.
Record foreclosures, savings and loans failed,
the prices fell, values went down, taxes went up,
the mortgage remained the same, and all
the people came to terms with staying put.

No approval for the buyers, no sale for the sellers,
and no sale for the next guy couldn’t sell his house
to us and he couldn’t buy the house he wanted
to purchase and that guy couldn’t move either.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

THE LOVERS


Would I think of them as lovers
if I didn’t see the title? I am a watcher,
an observer, and a storyteller of sorts.
I look for the story behind the picture,
the way I look at two people and wonder
how they ended up being together.

I look at artwork and relate it to a moment
in my life. I remember at twenty, how the two
of us found each other in the greeting card aisle
of the college bookstore. Two acquaintances
from class who had spoken many times, but this
moment, on that day, changed everything for us.

Would I have seen it differently without
About the Painting on the bottom?
Would I have stopped to take a closer look
at the clothes, to interpret the time period
as the age close to Romeo and Juliet?

Would I notice how he was holding
her hand, the gray tones of their skin,
the use of only six colors, rubbed on.
If I had not read the notes, would I have
seen the “strong silent bond between them”?

Would I have thought it a masterpiece
by one of the world’s greatest artists,
if I had not seen his familiar face in a close up?
Black and white gripping his bald head,
staring like a madman at the camera.
Could I have known it was Picasso without
the About the Artist? Nothing clued me in to
his handiwork, nothing political, no images of
death, geometrically disfigured faces,
distorted bodies made of cubes.

Instead, I may have asked,
Is there news of a baby on the way?
Is she about to tell him goodbye?
Is he looking for forgiveness?
Does it really matter if there’s a story
behind this simple painting?
Just two peaceful young people in love.
Does it matter who painted it
if I find it pleasing to look at?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

DREAM VACATION


One day, is how the story always began,
a description of fly fishing in Alaskan waters,
a pontoon plane for hire, landing right on the lake.
A week’s worth of catching rainbow trout,
sockeye salmon, northern pike on the shores of
Echo Lake, Cottonwood Lake, and Coyote Lake.
Eagles flying above icy waters, the greenest trees.

Now when I stop to think about him,
it’s hard to remember him speaking of a
trip or vacation in his life of labor and work.
Maybe he considered the days of driving a
General’s Jeep in Japan a type of trip.
Working in logging camps of North Carolina,
living in the woods, movable cabins on sleds
dragged to where the timber was logged.
Driving his tractor for a huge factory farm in
New Jersey must’ve been a type of adventure.

Perhaps he felt he’d already seen the country,
truckloads of Christmas trees, delivering shrubs
to the White House, those days as a nurseryman.
In the end, his greatest trip, back to the foothills
of Tennessee with his sons, where they grew baccer,
thousands of acres of maters, and raised cattle.

Each day, content to walk out his front door
to work in his fields, his greenhouses, his garage.
His wife traveled with her sisters to Myrtle Beach,
Florida, river boat cruises, but he stayed behind.
Content to sit in a slow moving rocker on the porch,
enjoying strong black coffee in a old chipped cup,
smoking, telling his plans of one day going on a trip.

Monday, November 8, 2010

SECURITY DEPOSIT SUMMER


I don’t remember how my wife and I
found our second apartment. The first,
just a studio, was too small, too fast.
Noisy neighbors, no place to park,
a shower that abruptly turned cold.

Maybe we found it in the Star Ledger,
it was valuable then, everybody read it,
everybody bought it, everybody needed it.
A colorful brochure, a floor plan layout of
a one bedroom, ground floor apartment.

Close to the Parkway, Turnpike, Route 1.
It would make it easier to get to work
is what I told Marty, as I approached him
for a loan for the hefty security deposit.
He was my boss, but a different kind of boss.

It always felt like talking to an uncle, a brother,
a friend. After a year he looked after me and
cared for me, treated me like I was important
to business, included me in the many plans for
the company he started with his cousin, Alan.

Don’t pay me back; I want you to work it off
on Saturdays through the summer months.

A handshake, a pile of hundreds stacked neatly
in a blue and white United Jersey Bank envelope
and one of the company’s box trucks got us moved.

Weeks passed, we worked side by side in the heat.
Unloading trucks, loading trucks, preparing orders.
Each afternoon around three, an orange soda break.
In September, we agreed- the debt was done, settled,
paid back the old fashioned way, with time and sweat.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

PRO-EDUCATION


I planned to include a quote from Montessori
but wondered how many people knew her or even cared
what she said about children and their full potential.
I won’t begin with the old “teach a man to fish” proverb
or the slogan “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste”.
I’ll start with what some of my grandfather’s words,
They can take your house, your car, even your wife
can leave and take the kids, but the one thing that
can’t ever be taken away from you is your education.

I want to tell the lawmakers and politicians,
Keep your healthcare bills, food stamps, welfare,
unemployment, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
Give us all the opportunity to get a free education
from preschool through college, technical and
trade schools, Nursing Schools, Master’s Degrees, PhDs.
Open it up to anyone who wants to go, to learn, to achieve,
to gain knowledge, to prepare, to realize their full potential.

Total free tuition, no charge for everyone, just give it away!
You’d see a society of strong, proud, independent individuals
who’d take care of themselves, their families, their communities.
If they don’t make it, they'd have nothing to cry about. No one to blame.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

LOOKING FOR IMPROVEMENT


at the Home Depot on Route 9
trying to fix up his little home,
it’s not worth what it used to be.
Finally a decision was made, since
The Economy is rough now, just stay.
“If we stay, we fix it up”, said his wife.
In each aisle he thought about what to get.
A Rustic Iron Hampton Bay fan and light,
glazed porcelain tile in soothing Earth tones,
some easy install Resilient Interlocking Planks?
The 12 x 12 Catalina Canyon Tile is awesome.
Oak Artisan Laminate floors- even better and
like the sign says, Your ideas become reality.
Carpet stair treads with double stick tape,
Roughneck Totes to store summer clothes,
rod and finial sets for living room curtains.
Purple violets for 2.99, but they look sickly.
Anderson Windows would look great, that sign
says, They’re the Windows that More Builders Buy.
Pink Fiberglass rolled out in the attic saves heat.
New numbers, a nine and a one in simulated pewter.
A new porch light has been needed for a while.
Caulk for the tub, since it’s always mildewed.
He walked through the lumber section even though
he didn’t need wood, the smell reminded him
of Junior High wood shop class with Mr. Kelly
where he made bookends and a napkin holder.
The possibilities are endless, alls you need is money.

GETTING OLDER EVERY DAY


I get up as soon as the sun comes up without an alarm.
I put on slippers before coming downstairs.
I go straight to the bathroom to pee when I get up.
I have a bottle of Extra Strength Tums on my night table.
I sit on the toilet for longer periods of time.
I understand the value of Icy Hot, Visine, Pepto-Bismol, Preparation H, and Advil.
I take my glasses off to read and put them on to watch TV.
I have trouble hearing what people say in a crowded noisy room and nod sometimes when I don’t know what they say.
I turn The Weather Channel on three or four times a day to check the forecast.
I get tired around six o’clock, (right after dinner) and I fall asleep in my chair.
I have at least a dozen sweaters and do not hesitate to dress in layers once fall begins.
I enjoy wearing brown, navy blue, gray, and black.
I believe it is important to wear a necktie to work.
I wear a hat when it rains.
I carry a handkerchief in my pocket almost every day, but I don’t blow my nose on it yet.
I wear a sweatshirt that is about twenty years old.
I plan to buy white Chuck Taylor high tops and black cowboy boots. I want the two kinds of shoes that I was forbidden from getting as a child.
I prefer wearing shoes to sneakers.
I don’t wear my newly purchased shoes home from the shoe store and I don’t run through the aisles with my new sneakers on.
I wear a watch every day and I feel strange if I don’t.
I know what time it is within 10 to 15 minutes without looking at a watch or clock.
I don’t like to be late and feel that it's important to be early.
I hate to wait for anyone when I plan to go someplace.
I check the thermostats whenever I walk by them. I adjust them often.
I turn out the lights throughout the house and at work too.
I offer coworkers advice about retirement savings and tax sheltered annuities.
I am proud of myself for purchasing extra life insurance and often joke about how I am worth more dead than alive.
I tell my son not to get caught up with all these young girls. There will be time for women later and they’ll be much better. Your studies are more important.
I tell him that the sweetest fruit doesn’t always fall from the most beautiful of trees.
I enjoy watching my son play soccer and can't think of very few things I’d rather do instead.
I remind him how important it is to do well in school and get into a reputable college.
I worry every time I leave him somewhere that it’ll be the last time that I see him.
I purchase DVDs and introduce my son to old movies and classic television shows.
I don’t get upset the way I used to when my wife doesn’t feel like having sex.
I argue with my wife but we are usually not angry with each other after 20-30 minutes.
I vote straight down the line at elections because I know my wife votes straight down the line for the otherside.
I forget to tell my wife what she means to me and fail to give her the respect she deserves.
I sometimes call my wife, Mom. I called her Mother once and we both felt really weird.
I remember the prices of old food products and articles of clothing and I share these memories with younger people.
I don’t have to buy German beer in glass bottles anymore. I drink American beer in brown bottles.
I know the difference between a merlot, a malbec, and a cabernet sauvignon.
I watch my salt intake and try to avoid fatty foods.
I get food on my moustache and chin when eating soup and salad.
I quote old commercials and talk about characters from old TV shows like they're old friends.
I can sing the Lowenbrau, Miller, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and Piel’s songs from the Seventies.
I enjoy grocery shopping.
I like to do the laundry.
I buy bird seed and fill up bird feeders in my yard.
I know what sounds a cardinal, blue jay, and catbird make.
I find joy in watching the annual blooming sequence of flowers in my backyard in spring.
I like to stand and look at the yard when all the leaves have been raked.
I get excited when someone brings me a cold drink while I’m mowing the lawn and a hot drink while I’m shoveling the snow. I get angry when they forget.
I can sit and stare at the ocean for hours without swimming or doing anything else on the beach.
I check the oil and fluids in my car before long trips.
I walk around the car to check for damage before I get in to drive.
I take secondary roads and always look for an alternate route while driving. I don’t care if it takes longer, I like to keep moving.
I fill up my gas tank before the warning light comes on.
I read the prices of gas on the signs as I drive by and begin thinking about how much it used to cost.
I curse out all the stupid people who endanger my life on the roadways of New Jersey.
I talk about where I was and what I was doing when historical events took place in my lifetime.
I don’t remember people’s names but I do remember where they are from.
I am disgusted by poor service in a store or restaurant.
I enact personal boycotts of stores, businesses, and restaurants with poor service and rude help.
I check the labels to see where things were manufactured. I have given up on exclusively buying American made.
I don’t care what other people think about me and get annoyed when others suggest that I should care. I often say things like “they don’t pay my bills”, “they don’t know me”, and “I could care less if I ever saw them again”.
I let the phone ring and only pick it up after the person begins leaving a message on my answering machine. This only happens if I need to talk to them, or feel like talking to them, or if I actually like them.
I often think about my hometown and talk about making a trip to visit there. But I never do.
I see cousins and comment on how old they look.
I miss my sisters but never call them and I don’t let them know I’m thinking about them.
I think about my grandparents and wish they were still alive.
I think about my father and all the things I wish that I would’ve said to him and all the things I wish that I had done with him.
I sometimes recall kind things that my mother did for me and think about how she wasn’t so bad after all.
I don’t watch television every night. I don’t have a favorite weekly program. I don’t know what’s on.
I rarely watch the entire football or baseball game. I don’t know the standings of the leagues and divisions.
I barely follow basketball and hockey anymore.
I don’t know what times my college teams are playing or what channel they are on.
I began listening to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra lately. I am also quite fond of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Bluegrass music.
I look forward to reading a good book and don’t hesitate to go to bed early.
I don’t wear an earring anymore and I don’t spike up my hair with gel anymore either.
I started combing my hair the way I did when I was a boy.
I look in the mirror and see more white hairs in my beard and head than dark ones.
I noticed that my eyes have black circles under them and have been looking a little puffy.
I see a picture of myself and say, “Wow, I look like somebody’s Dad!”

Thursday, November 4, 2010

THE WHITE PETERBILT


with silver barbed wire pinstripes, a Longhorn’s sticker and
a chrome hood ornament was a horse rearing up in defiance.
An automatic transmission pulled the King of All Horse Trailers.
Shiny, chrome, white, room for four American Quarter horses.
Sections for feed, saddles, complete supplies, a tack room to go.
The front half was his bachelor pad, carpeted, recessed lights
a bathroom with a shower, a king size bed, swiveling chairs,
a fold out table to sit with a cup of coffee and a cowboy magazine.
A DVD player to watch Open Range, Hidalgo, and Lonesome Dove,
on a flat screen TV, a sound system to play 24 hours of George Strait.
“Look in those compartments”, he said to us as he showed it all off.
Inside a week’s worth of briefs, socks, t-shirts, cowboy shirts, jeans,
three or four pairs of only the best boots in various colors and hides.
“I don’t even have to pack, just get in and go when I feel like it”.
Driving across the plains of Texas, he marveled at the flatness,
the vastness, the solitude, the feeling of traveling through darkness.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

TUESDAY NIGHTS ON TEXAS AVENUE


In those days a dime made you a phone call
in a phone booth and it ran the clothes dryers.
Tide and bleach are what you washed with.
Ashtrays stood on pedestals every few yards.
He smoked fat El Productos, she smoked Vantages.
Molded plastic seats hooked in a row to a bench,
lemon yellow, baby blue, pea green, strange
tints of basic colors, dated now as we look back.
Colors like the Chryslers, Buicks, and Pontiacs
lined up on the other side of a painted window.
An evening breeze of the docks pulled the smell
of onions, oregano, oil and vinegar into the
doorway of the Laundromat from the subs
being built next door at the Market for folks
from Philly who called them damn good hoagies.
A great place to pick up Tastycakes, a cold RC,
a Bulletin, an Inquirer or a Cape May Star & Wave.
And when I sat, waiting with my drawing tablet,
I saw two people happy together, my grandparents,
smiling, laughing, remembering as they folded sheets
hot from the dryer. Working systematically, smoothly,
to make a perfectly folded pile of linens to pack up
and take back to their little apartment at the Shore.
Being just eight years old, I thought folding sheets
must be what only happily married people do together.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

AND THE DOCTOR SAID


Your cholesterol level is borderline,
not high, but higher than the last time.
Put yourself on a low fat diet. Avoid pork
products, red meat, greasy fried foods.
Your blood pressure is good when resting,
but it became elevated on the tread mill.
Put yourself on a low salt diet, don’t forget
to read the package labels very carefully.
Walk for thirty minutes, three days a week.

He thanked the doctor, hung up his cell phone.
Looking in the rearview mirror he noticed
that his face looked like someone who’d
just been robbed or ripped off by a crook.
He knew this meant no more buttered biscuits,
pork roll, Italian sausages, bacon cheeseburgers,
fries, chips, half and half, ice cream, or cake.

To think, I almost didn’t answer that, he told
his wife. I mean we are on vacation and
we just got here is what he said as he pulled out
onto Highway 12 from a souvenir shop’s
parking lot. It was the Doctor, he called to discuss
my physical, all the tests, the blood work.
He mumbled to himself with a faraway stare,
wishing he’d had his pork barbecue, potato salad,
and baked beans before he answered that call.

HIGHWAY 81 BLUES


His father, was more angry, than upset.
Don’t come back without that college degree
is what he said as he watched his son pack.
Everything that he didn’t want to get wet or
blown away was stuffed into the front seat
of his little red Ford Ranger pickup truck.
A year had passed; it seemed to be time to go back
to where he came from, Highway 81’s mountains,
curves, and Cracker Barrels would take him to Jersey
the place he’d struggle and spend the rest of his life.

The hardest goodbye took place on the other side of
the greenhouses, by the old barn, under a mimosa tree.
His grandfather waited awkwardly, to shake his hand,
hug him quick and with a tear in his eye, a broken voice,
came one more- “Aye Law”, and a “Hate to see you go”.
“You’ll be back, once you get a little hillbilly dirt
in your shoes, you always come back to Tennessee”.

As he turned to go, he saw his grandfather break
the filter from his cigarette, toss it to the side,
reach into his Pointer coveralls and light up.
The boy paused, waiting for him to say what he always said
to the ones he cared about, who always seemed to be leaving-
“Stay with us”. As he drove off, the boy began to cry
as he crossed the first of many bridges on his way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Neil Young - Heart Of Gold

HARMONIC SOUNDS OF NOSTALGIA

At the delayed green traffic light,
no one’s out tonight, just past eleven.
He’s one of the few, who still listens to the radio,
and one of the fewer who listens to classic rock.
“I listen when I’m in the mood, of course,”
is what he says when people ask him about it.
Tonight he turns it up when he hears the harmonica
at the beginning of a Neil Young song and
wonders if this is the one from so long ago
that made him want to buy a harmonica.
Not a plastic one from Hoy’s Five and Ten
or a cheap one from Dellas General Merchandise,
but a shiny chrome looking one with Hohner
emblazoned on the side. Ones locked away
in a little glass cabinet that spun around on top
of the counter at the paper store, Keltie’s News.
Next to them, sat displays of Imperial pocket knives,
corn cob pipes, White Owl cigars, Ajax unbreakable combs.
And as the light changes, he thinks of how long it’s been,
how he can’t go there, how it can’t be found anymore.
“It’s all gone,” he mumbles aloud, “Man, I’m getting old”.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

RETIREMENT PLANNING


“Today, many people beachcomb for beach treasures and
also because the activity offers them a natural prescription
to achieve better emotional, physical and spiritual health”.
- S. Deacon Ritterbush,
A Beachcomber's Odyssey, Vol. I: Treasures from a Collected Past


If I lived on this beach, I’d walk each day
on the shore line looking for certain kinds
of rocks, specific shells. I’d collect purple edged
clamshells, ones the Leni Lenape supposedly
used to make into belts of wampum, for money.

I’d place them into large half gallon Mason jars
and once filled to the top, a lid would seal them
like the garlic, hot peppers, pickled vegetables
at the A&S Pork Store we used to go to in Fords.
I’d display the jars in my living room on a long
thin shelf above a perfectly matched purple sofa.

In later weeks or months I would move on to find
black rocks, brown rocks, beach glass, conch shells,
whelks, scallops, oysters, and jack knife clams too.
I’d place them in their own jars, on their own shelves
like the way I remember seeing all the materials in
Edison’s Labs in West Orange when he was searching
for something too, something that would work for him.

Friday, September 3, 2010

EMPATHY


I notice my son’s mood has changed
as we sit and sip our Diet Cokes
from huge plastic cups in the crowded
snack bar and arcade of Nascar Speedway.
An amusement park full of go carts,
the home of full throttle fun for everyone.
He nods his head off to the right,
the way I always do and he whispers to me
to look at the 600 pound man strapped
into an extra large motorized wheel chair.
The gargantuan guy can barely hold up
his head as he watches his family
enjoy themselves playing whack- a -mole,
air hockey, skee ball, the claw machine.
My boy looks over to him some more, as if
he’s reading the man’s mind and feeling his pain.
I remind him not to stare and mention,
“He wouldn’t want you to feel sorry for him”.
And he replies- “I know that Dad, but I do.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

CATCHING THE WAVES


At the back of the boardwalk, he stood
holding his General Electric tape recorder
pulled from a crumpled brown Acme bag.
He planned to record the sounds of summer,
ocean waves crashing into pilings and jetties,
alongside Convention Hall’s tiny pier,
by Jean’s Sugar Cone, near Taylor Pork Roll.

When they giggled at his urge to record the
ocean sounds, seagulls, and lifeguard whistles,
he calmly and sincerely explained to them-
I’ll play it at night as I fall asleep in my bed
during the winter, back in Northeast Philly.


Some days he’d wonder why things
just didn’t turn out the way he imagined,
then he would push play and be reminded-
Summer is never more than nine months away.
And when it came, he was there, born again
with the surge and splash of the Atlantic Ocean
at the southernmost tip of Jersey.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A STRANGE DAY ON THE TRAIL


Snails the size of quarters,
black and yellow caterpillars,
skinny squirrels of a different color.
Keep a lookout for aggressive bears.

A strange man runs by in flip flops,
cheap Dollar Store flip flops,
going full speed over jagged rocks
and rugged tree roots, like an Inca
or Aztec is what comes to mind.
You thought of Ancient Greece.
Either one, all I know is that I’m glad
to be wearing my Merrill hiking boots.

Ladies in dresses with fancy shoes
just come from Church, it is Sunday.
Husbands in khaki long pants, polo shirts
and infants strapped to their chests.

Little hillbilly children walking barefoot
for two and a half miles to swim in
the falls, the ones that have the sign-
Four deaths have occurred here
from drowning, please don’t be next.

SONG OF THE SOUTH

When he first headed south
to see all that he was missing,
to make up for lost time and
to find out where he came from,
the song played on the radio
in a commercial for the University.

A single flute, simple, but sad.
It got his attention so much
he had to ask his father-
What song is that?
After a pause,
a sparkle appeared in the man’s eyes,
a grin grew on his face
as he shook his head.

Boy, you don’t know?
That’s Rocky Top.
If you’re coming to Tennessee,
you have to know that.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

MISSING


Silhouette of a bowed head,
barbed wire, a prison’s guard tower,
simply black and white.
How long will this flag fly
on the poles beneath
The Star Spangled Banner?
Will it fly here for
another thirty five or forty years?
Do young people stop to ask
what it’s all about?
Do the old people remember
or are these soldiers
forgotten once again,
by too many Americans?

THE SYMPATHY CARD


When I bought a card for you to say,
“I’m sorry about your father’s passing”,
I meant to send it to you on Monday.
People who know me well, can tell you
I have trouble with sending things on time,
using a calendar, or keeping appointments.
I never sent you the card bought from an
aisle in Acme when I was grocery shopping.

A few weeks later, another coworker’s Dad
died and I thought to send your card to him.
But I didn’t have the address and felt awkward
reminding him of his father’s battle with cancer.

Two months went by and when I found the card
in my bill box, I felt terrible about not sending
it to either one of you. A while later, another
woman at work was headed overseas to bury
her father, suddenly dead, a massive heart attack.
I couldn’t get it together and never sent the card.

Then a paper appeared in the main office, stating
the boss would be out all week making arrangements
for her father in Delaware, who’d been ill for a long time.
I kept the card and wondered what was wrong with me.

In the summer, my sister called crying in the message
she’d left on the voice mail of my cell phone-
Our father had passed away. He had been ill, but no one
could believe that he’d get taken from us so soon.

When I returned from the funeral and went to my desk,
I came upon the unsent sympathy card and it was then
that I finally understood what it was like and how it felt.
And it was then that I cried just a little bit longer.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

HOT ROD LINCOLN


They drove to Sunday School with his
parents who they never called Grandma
or Grandpa, just Ethel and Joe.
Good people who always drove Lincolns.


Whenever the song came on the radio,
Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinking,
if you don’t stop driving that Hot Rod Lincoln,

they’d turn it up, start rough housing,
laughing and making a commotion.


And the kinder Joe was to the kids,
the more bitter their stepfather became.
He’d tell them stories of abuse, cruelty
and how his Dad would always tell him-
You’re eating aren’t you?
Shape up or ship out.
If you don’t like it,leave.
If you’re not doing nothing,don’t do it here.


But the kids didn’t need to hear those stories.
They’d seen it all before,almost every single day.

MADE IN JAPAN


He knew that they must be Japanese.
They bowed politely to one another when
they walked in before the morning meeting.
He can’t help but wonder what it would be
like if Americans bowed to one another this way
upon seeing each other or before starting work.


Later that day, he tells his cab driver what
he saw and what he’s been thinking about-
If we had to bow, would we better off?
Would we be more polite, would we be kinder,
would we be better workers and better at math?


I think it’s too late for us to start that now, is what
the cabbie said turning onto Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

NOT HIM


He’s not wearing a button down
light blue shirt or a long sleeve
white shirt with a striped yellow tie.
He’s not carrying a brief case and he doesn’t
have an open lap top on the sofa next to him.
They did not leave a Wall Street Journal
on the floor in front of his hotel room door.
He didn’t ask for a receipt as he purchased coffee.
He doesn’t have a blue tooth in his ear and
he did not talk loud enough for all to hear
his latest idea, business deal, or proposal.

THE GIANT FLAT SCREEN

television across the room is
placed above the hotel lobby’s bar.
Some guy in a white Blackhawks jersey

hoisting the Stanley Cup above his head
and he’s smiling so hard, it looks like
all the stubble from his playoff beard
will burst from his face. At this moment,
as I wait to check in for the night that

I have a sick feeling in my heart.
Like a man who’s been betrayed

by his good friend or what I imagine it feels
like to see your wife with another man seated
at the corner table in some dimly lit restaurant.
Again I feel the pain of losing you.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

OVERPASS


My cruise control is set to 65,
you know how Virginia is, especially
when it’s Fourth of July weekend.
Above Highway 81 North, stands
an old guy in a black leather vest
and a POW-MIA biker bandana.
He jumps up and down, waving the
American flag on a 6 foot long pole.
His red, white, and blue sign says-
Remember, Freedom is Not Free.
He jumps extra high and hollers as
the driver of a Kenilworth hauling
Little Debbie Snack cakes yanks on
the air horn, to second that emotion.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

MEET THE POET


~for Martin Espada

In a circle we sit, some star struck
by the man whose written seventeen
books of poetry and still more to come.

When asked about a daily time for writing.
he said, “I don’t do anything every day.”
He speaks of poems being work shopped
to death, occurrences of epiphanies and elegies.

He tells us he’s a poet, but a professor too.
First and foremost though, he is a caregiver to
an 18 year old son, who eats a lot, grows too fast
and a wife, who is permanently disabled.

When I hear his booming voice,
the sincerity and truthfulness of his words,
it is then I see the sadness in his expressive eyes,
and I imagine him a poet, no matter what he’s doing.

I see him in the aisles of the supermarket
selecting tomatoes and artichokes while
reciting the passionate odes of Neruda.
First in English, then in Spanish.

I see him walking his three dogs in the
pristine and proper Town Green of Amherst.
I imagine him stopping for a moment in Spring
to share a stanza of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

And when he is preparing the salad and placing it
on his little round kitchen table for his family,
he smiles and announces to them, “Alabanza”.
Then he sits to eat, with his loved ones, just like us.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

ELICITATION


A woman at work’s cell phone
sounds out a familiar ringtone in
the middle of a meeting, fumbling
she flips it open, turns it off,
acts totally embarrassed. Apologizing.

It’s my father’s ring tone and I think
of him and how the phone was always
in his hand, to his ear, on a table by his side.

I want to find out the name of the song,
it’s robotic-electronic music, generic to
most of the people who have cell phones.

I want to hear it ring again and remember
the man who was always so close to me,
but never near enough, most of the time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

WHEN I WATCH WAR MOVIES


I think of the real men who
I knew in my boyhood, old guys
who didn’t say much about war,
but they sang loudly at parades or
band concerts at the Jersey Shore.

Anchors Away, off we go into the
wild blue yonder, from the halls of
Montezuma, those caissons go rolling.

Fighting Sea Bees, survivors of the
Bataan Death March, with Patton
in the tanks at the Battle of the Bulge.

I wish they were here now,
so I could talk to them and
find out more, so I could ask
them all about it, so I could get
more details about what it was like,
so I could truly thank them .

Instead I remember them sharing-
Pretty big rats everywhere.
I was thirsty, never been so thirsty before.
Dear God, it sure was damn cold.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

DRIVE THRU NATION

Circle the lot in your Yukons, Escalades, and Armadas.
Cell phones in hand, waiting for the pampered ones
to call and tell you to drive up and get them at the door.

Your children are not made of tough metal or strong fiber.
They’re made of silk, rayon, or that Under Armor material.
Surely they’ll melt like pink and blue circus cotton candy.

Circle the lot in your Caravans, Siennas, and Voyagers.
Dart through the lanes of the congested school parking lot
you’re on a mission to an uninhabited planet, a quest.

The sons are daughters are inside the building, taking exams
to get into the colleges of their dreams, not the in-state
affordable ones that you like, but the fun,out-of-state party schools.

I park my Jeep at the back of the lot; zip up my rain coat,
pull my cap down over my head and go for a stroll in the rain.
Smiling, I wave and yell, “Don’t worry son, after all- it’s only water.”

Image from Google search - http://90ways.com/images/Crit/escalade.jpg

Sunday, February 28, 2010

GOING OUT TO EAT WITH HIM


We remember how he’d walk deliberate
and slow scanning the restaurant from
left to right, looking for his spot, usually
a table off to the side, over by the window.
They steal four wheel drives in these parts.

If he heard a squealing baby or cranky child,
he’d tell the lady, best not sit us over there.
And when a boy at the next table spilled his
orange soda and it splashed a bit towards us,
we held our breath waiting for his reaction.

We remember how the waiter apologized
for the meals coming out late and how he
promised they’d be out in five more minutes.
That’s what you said twenty minutes ago
is what he said in his matter of fact way.

But we laugh the hardest when we talk about
how he ordered the chicken and dumplings,
then asked a naive young waitress if she was
the one who choked the chickens in the back

HOW TO WAVE


I wave to my neighbor across the street ,
he’s been there for six or seven years,
but I don’t know his name, his story.
We smile, make small talk about weather
as we shovel out the cars in our driveways
from the latest snowstorm, that’s it though.

I remember back when, everyone made
an effort to know the neighbors, I could drive
down the block today and point at the houses
and tell you the family names that are gone now
from the neighborhood where I come from.

There’s a white stucco half a double, just around
the corner, not far from my grandparent’s house.
People took a liking to the lady who lived there,
looked out for her, made her one of the family.

A widow, no kids, no relation to anyone, but when
mothers walked babies in strollers and carriages
Mrs. Wallace made conversation, admired babies,
spoke about living each day, enjoying the little ones.

Don’t remember who started it, we all called her
Aunt Helen, the lady who taught us how to say hi,
and how to wave. As we grew older she invited us
in to her home with candy dishes on every table.
We’d lift the noisy lids,find York Peppermint Patties,
Canada Mints, jelly fruit slices, Reesey cups, Wilbur Buds.

On a hot day, she poured ice water from old orange juice
bottles, tall, thick with an icy texture and an indented side.
We’d step on the pedal of a shiny chrome trash to open
the lid and throw out our little pastel colored Dixie cups.

On the screen porch, in back, clay pots all shapes and sizes
lined the edges of the room soaking in sunshine. In the
backyard was a closed down pool, with massive cracked
a concrete wall, piles of dirt, leaves floating in a foot of water.
We’d ask now and then, why doesn’t anyone use that pool?

When she passed, they explained to all of us kids,
who ranged from four to twelve, she went to Heaven
back then they simply told kids, “She died of old age”.
At the funeral, our first funeral, we all walked up
for the final viewing of the woman who had taught
us all how to wave hello and how to say good bye.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

ALARM CLOCK


How times have changed for me,
each morning the Blackberry plays
the song “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive”.
I’ve set it this way as a little prayer to
begin another hectic day and to remind
me to be thankful to be able to walk out
of bed and get ready for work once again.
My wife says I ought to change the song,
"You won’t like it anymore, if you hear it
every day", and I just laugh and tell her
that she should know me better than that.

NATURAL BORN KILLER


For a week, he sat on my chair listening to
scratching under the front porch steps and
when it’s in the twenties outside, little animals
try to come in to eat, to get warm, to survive
the harsh January weather of a Jersey winter.

My wife says it must be a chipmunk, the ones
we always see scurrying around in summer.
But the cat and I think it’s got to be a mouse.
Early this morning, I’m up before everyone else
and I hear that old cat running around the house
banging into furniture, batting at the curtains,
scampering in short bursts through the kitchen.

And when I decide to check it out, I find him
sitting calmly, staring at the lifeless gray body
of the mouse, and my cat looks disappointed
that the game is over, not knowing he’s made
his first kill after nine years of never going
outside and always eating the same dry pet food.

Instincts from thousands of years of mouse catching
were summoned this morning and to think he did
it without having any claws on his front set of paws.

Friday, February 26, 2010

DISCO SHOPPING


You rush for the last few items
as the 24 hour A&P grocery store
announces to a handful of shoppers
that they’ll be closing in 20 minutes.
A moment ago, unknowingly you
strolled through the aisles, carefully
selecting cans of Mexicana corn,
coffee that was on sale, rye bread,
gallons of green tea, sweet mustard.
You were happy then, drumming
on the cart’s handle, whistling and
enjoying the Knock on Wood song
like never before because it has
a whole new meaning now, a history.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

HOLDING HANDS


is awkward now, for the both of them,
out without their son, she complains
about how her joints ache, how his
wedding ring hurts as they hold hands.

They keep on going, thinking about
how they used to always walk like this.
From the corner of his eye, she looks
like that young girl he found in college.

But they’re both older now, changed.
White hairs on his chin far outnumber
the brown, the red, the blonde ones.
They keep walking, into another bookstore.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

BEHIND

We threw out what was left
of the Halloween candy today,
the Smarties, a few boxes of Nerds,
Laffy Taffy, a handful of Dum Dums.
Finally we take a Sunday afternoon
to rake up the mounds of leaves.

We’re the last ones on the block
to rake, again. Each neighbor’s lawn,
dark green, clear of the faded mess
from the too many oak trees that fill
the tiny yards on our suburban street.
They have their brown paper sacks
lined up neatly on the curb for pick up.
I am behind again, just starting to deal
with my cursed homeowner duties.

Look forward to Thursday,Thanksgiving,
anticipating the day after even more,
a day off to sit, to read, to write, to rest.
Filling my last paper bag, I prop it up
on the edge of my yard and look down
the street, three houses down they’re
stringing Christmas lights on the bushes
and inflating a Charlie Brown snow globe.