ShareThis

Saturday, April 30, 2011

IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS


His little cave of an office was made darker

by oak paneling from the Seventies, flickering

fluorescent lights framed in water damaged

ceiling panels and battleship gray carpeting.

Papers, catalogues, manuals sat on top of

the refrigerator, shelves, cabinets, and in piles

on hit beat up old brown desk. A tired man,

he sighs deeply when he looks around his place.

And people wonder why I don’t take vacations,

is what he says as I stare at a dusty stuffed marlin.

When I tell him about how my father passed away

just a few years ago, he becomes silent and must’ve

wondered if it really mattered if his body shop was

open next week or if he was in the Florida Keys.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A WORLD WITHOUT TUITION


I hope one day to turn on my television and

hear on CNN that Congress passed a new law,

but I’m still waiting for it to happen. I mentioned

it a time or two, I even wrote a poem about it.

I imagined what it’d be like to make education free

to those who wanted to study, to learn, to achieve.


What if they thought of a way to reward those

who want to work, who want to apply themselves?

Wouldn’t it be easy enough for a Senator to say-

Hey, let’s find a way to make going to college free?


And then they could compromise, argue, and debate

before most of them agreed to let the people reach

their full potential. Allow them? No, empower them

to take care of themselves, their children, and families.

Of course, there'd be a catch, a hitch, a pact, a prerequisite.


In exchange for tuition free advanced college degrees,

scholars must make a promise, must sign an exemption.

Upon graduation they must vow to not look for, expect,

ask, or demand Food Stamps, Medicare, Social Security,

subsidized healthcare, low income housing or free cheese.


Instead they'd have to be on their own and live their lives

as independent thinkers, responsible law abiding citizens, and

contributors to our society-socially, emotionally,economically.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS


Sometimes I wake up and hear the birds singing.

I wonder if others know how early they begin.

After checking the clock, I try to go back to sleep.

I know my two alarms will go off soon and the dog

will start his whining, the sounds mean “time to eat”.


The cat will begin poking at me and walking on me.

A strange little creature that seems to understand

how to apply pressure in order to get me out of bed.

But before my feet hit the floor, I pause each day and

say -“What day is it today?” and “Where am I going?”


I stop by the window at the top of the stairs.

I part the blinds to see if it’s raining or if it is windy.

A strange routine for me and the two pets, I think as I go

to the bathroom, as I open the back door, as I make coffee.

I reach for the purple containers; I pour pet food into bowls.


My son is still in bed for a little while longer and when I

check on him, he looks the way he did when he was a baby.

It seems the days pass by quickly and I end up at this point

each morning, leaning against the wall, waiting for the coffee

to finish, for the last drop, thinking how I'm doing alright now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

STILL FALLING


We laugh about it now, remembering the time-

hiking in the Smoky Mountains to the little falls

tucked away on a ridge behind rhododendrons,

laurels, moss covered rocks, and crooked pines.

It’s the trail where we saw the salamanders, snails,

and where a nervous black bear saw the two of us.


You needed to get back to the parking lot, to use

the restroom on a hill at the edge of the parking lot.

You insisted on running, you were warned to stop.

I called out to you, but you kept going, feeling it

worth the risk, you looked fleet of foot on the path,

a mini Davy Crockett, a modern day Daniel Boone.


It was all good until your toe stubbed one of the roots

or jagged rocks and it sent you flying for a moment

before you landed on all fours and began to cry pitifully.

Scraped palms and knees, not the last time, for sure.

“It could have been worse”, is what my father said.

And it was enough to make you listen, to slow you down.

IT'S THE SAME OLD SONG


We yell now and then, when the music

from his room is too loud, too obnoxious,

too offensive- strong language and themes.


I ask him the question asked by all fathers

to their sons and daughters about the music-

Do you actually like listening to those songs?


I ask him what happened to the rock music.

Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Queen, Ac-Dc, U2.

We’d listen together as went on our road trips

.

He tells me, “That was your music, this is mine.

I listened to it because I was a follower then.”

Now he’s his own person, with his own choices.

A CHANGE IN PRAYERS


I used to ask for things when I prayed.

I prayed for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl.

I prayed for first place in the Spelling Bee.

I prayed for fame and fortune in Hollywood.

I prayed to marry some hot chick from TV.

I prayed to be able to travel to the great cities

of the world- London, Paris, Tokyo, Rome.

I prayed for the bright lights of Broadway.

I prayed for a big mansion with a swimming pool.

I prayed for more things, like a black Corvette.


My prayers have changed so much since I was a boy.

Decades later, I stopped asking for things in my prayers.

Instead I pray to thank God for my health, my job,

my little house, my education, and a car that works.

I thank him for my loving wife, an exceptional son,

and for never having to go without a meal or drink.

I thank him for a couple of weeks at the beach,

so that I may sit for a while and look at the ocean.

I thank him for a week in the mountains with my boy,

for the moments when we stop take a deep breath.


I thank him for my big brown chair, gray sweatshirts,

books that come in the mail and Willie Nelson songs.

I thank the Lord for sunny days and baseball games

with cold beers and cheese steaks with fried onions.

And now that I think about it, there is one thing

that I do ask for when I pray-I ask for time, more time

to be here with my family to enjoy all I’ve been given.

A STRAY


When I found you in the woods

it was obvious you’d be taught

to beg for food, to chase rabbits,

to fear the rolled up newspaper,

to cower and shrink from a broom.

You did not think of going inside,

that was the deal made in order

for you to stay with us for 10 years.

I didn’t know I’d be burying you

here, behind the tan shed on the

day before I was to leave for college.

Monday, April 25, 2011

BASEBALL UNDER GLASS


On any given day, in my backyard

you’ll find three or four basketballs,

a couple of soccer balls and in the

bottom of the closet you’ll find many

tennis, lacrosse, and baseballs too.

I know he hates it when I begin the

stories with- “when I was young, I…”

but I had only one ball for each sport.


It was expected that you’d take care

of your things, to put them away and

make sure you didn’t lose them because

you knew you wouldn’t get another one.

And that’s why, years later, on a visit

to my grandmother’s assisted living home

I watched as she limped and braced herself

as she opened the bottom dresser drawer.


Without saying a word she handed me

my old baseball, the only baseball I ever had.

She kept it safe for me, hid it when they had

the yard sales and the 40 yard dumpsters.

She put it away and presented it to me when

I came to visit with my three year old son.

Now it sits on my shelf, in a special case made

for an autographed World Series home run ball.

NONE OF MY BUSINESS- notes from Commerce Street


The names of the streets seem so ironic now-

Commerce, Laurel, Pearl and Broad Streets.

Plastic soda bottles closed the Glass Factories.

No smell of tomatoes cooking into ketchup,

no smell of dye boiling at the fabric company.

Workers and their families, are all long gone too.

It’s none of my business, but it was my hometown.


Department Stores, Woolworth’s, Beacon Auto,

The Enterprise Men’s Store, Morton’s Jewelers,

Riley’s Sporting Goods, Smashey’s Shoe Store,

even the Farmers and Merchants Bank is missing.

Tourism and Victorian architecture were suppose

to boost the economy and stop the city’s decline.

It’s none of my business, but it was my hometown.


When tourism failed, a bid for a new State prison

made the folks say, some will build it, some will

work as guards in it, many will end up living in it.

Victorian homes got divided and rented to multiple

families, you can tell by the dozen mailboxes on the

front porches put up by some landlord’s handyman.

It’s none of my business, but it was my hometown.


Stores are open-signs for calling cards, Ranchero music,

Santeria candles, QuinceaƱera party supplies, taco stands,

whatever else new citizens need to feel at home, at ease.

Men work all day in the fields of thriving nurseries while

young pregnant wives walk the streets with children in tow,

and older children wear maroon and khaki school uniforms.

It’s none of my business, but it was my hometown.


In the last few moments of my visit, I see Big John’s Pizza,

The Towne Tavern, and Terrigno’s Bakery-all still here.

And when I step into Weber’s Candy Store I go back in time

to the heyday of a Glass Town, when the downtown was

a showplace of commerce, industry, and community pride.

It’s all the same, same shelves, same candy, same signs.

It’s none of my business, but it was my hometown.


Maybe I’m exaggerating, but every building looks like

it needs a couple of coats of paint, a new roof, and

new windows. I start to wonder how it all got this way.

I hold back my tears when I see my grandparent’s home

with its faded, dented aluminum siding, dirty windows

and the back door swinging and slamming in the breeze.

It’s none of my business, but it was my hometown.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

MAYBE SOME THINGS DIDN’T CHANGE


After many years I drive on this old highway,

past the carpet store’s giant Viking, still there.

Flat wide open fields where the green beans,

asparagus and potatoes grew for the factory

up ahead, to the right. I can’t tell if it’s open.

Instead, I drive by big sod farms and nurseries.

Glad to see businesses thriving here once again.


Workers are no longer the Hillbillies of the past,

no longer Puerto Ricans, Jamaicans, Japanese

and of course you won’t see Estonians either.

Time wrote about a global farming community.

Now they are from the far reaches of Mexico,

so far away a few claim they don’t even speak

Spanish, some only know Zapoteco or Nahuatl.


Maybe they sound like those actors who played

the parts in the subtitled movie, Apocalypto.

I wonder when I see the young men in the field

if they are hollering to one another in these

languages as they wrap burlap around balls of

dirt and roots of the tiny azalea bushes, the same

way I did 40 years ago at my grandfather’s nursery.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

WHAT IF HE WERE STILL HERE


If my father was alive, he’d know what to do.

He always knew what to say, how to phrase it.

Maybe I’d send my son there for the summer

to spend time with him on his southern farm.

He would’ve taught the boy how to work hard,

to take pride in your work. He would’ve shown

him the importance of rising early in the morning

and not worrying about when it’s quitting time.


Of course tractor driving lessons would take place,

along with how to be strong willed, respectful,

while not to caring what others think about you.

All lessons would be given with a certain firmness,

yet he would’ve caved in now and then, a sparkle

in his eyes, a mild grin, an exhale before speaking.

All signs to let you know it was for your own good.

Only if he were here, he’d make it all look so easy.

SET YOUR ALARM


and get up when it goes off is what he says.

But I roll over to go back to sleep every time.

I promise to get up; I even say that I am up.

I pull the covers over my head. I get up finally.


We argue because I don’t have my bag packed

and I need to print an assignment for school.

I stay in the bathroom too long, fixing my hair.

He announces the time to me every five minutes.


I can’t figure out what to wear, I change my shirt.

He yells when I pause to select a song on my iPod.

I forget my keys. My cell phone is uncharged.

I forget to bring the note I need to give a teacher.


I miss the bus and don’t have time to eat breakfast.

I eat a cold pop tart and drink an iced tea drink box

while he drives me to school, he doesn’t talk to me

but says, “the Breakfast of Losers, not champions”.


I sit silently when he tells me all I have to do is

get up ten minutes earlier to fix all these things.

I look out the window when he says to me-

“No telling how many planes and trains you’ll miss.”


I reply with, “Yeah, I know” but we both know

how tomorrow will probably be more of the same.

Most times, I say “Love you Dad” when I get out.

Most times, he says “Love you too, have a good day”.

Monday, April 18, 2011

MEET THE AMERICAN POET


A boy called Fish, son of a cowboy, son of the beach.

Grown at the real Jersey Shore, found in the mountains.

Changed to Lawrence, “crowned with laurels”, raised

by Bewicks, emphasis on Be, in England, Buick-like the car.

L.L. Cool or Larry squared, double L like Llama they said.

Dreamt of drama, plays, scripts, a call from Hollywood.


In school since 1972, ‘cause he likes a place called school.

Honored to be working with the gifted and talented ones.

Works all year, thinking of his escape for a few weeks to

coastal Carolina, the hills of Tennessee, the streets of DC.

The Jeep knows the highways and all points South, just as

it finds the soccer fields on the weekends with his son.


One morning, crossing The Victory Bridge, he figured out

finally what it’s all about- family, good meals, good drinks,

great books, quiet times. Now he works toward his dream

of finding his book of poetry on the bookshelves of all the

bookstores across the country, before the books disappear,

before stores close, before the words all float in cyberspace.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

THE STROLLER


Those first few summers meant not so many

days at the beach for us, we just started out.

Sundays meant long walks with a baby stroller

on the streets of a small city, always in the 90’s,

always high humidity, always a chance of rain.

Up the street we’d go with a bottle and a diaper.


On the corner was the Eighth Day Lounge with

a pinstriped Yankees car parked by the back door.

Further down, Daisy’s Carniceria with it’s strange

smell of dead animal, we’d buy cans of Inca Kola,

loaves of Manteca bread, or bags of plantain chips.


Down the hill, into the tunnel with the train tracks

above us, the walls dripped and the sidewalk was

painted with pigeon poop, littered with broken glass.

I pushed you up long streets lined with multi-family

homes ,once owned by the richest of folks in Jersey.


Shut down stores, closed restaurants, and factories

now gave way to the Prima Vera bakery where rolls

called conchas piled high on glass display counters.

Sometimes I’d stop and get a Cuban sandwich or a

cup of espresso, but mostly we headed to the place

called Five Corners with a bagel and apple juice boxes.


We’d park on a bench by a sign that said how it was the

capital where colonists and settlers came to market with

their goods here, before it was called the United States.

We’d stop to listen to seagulls screech by the Armory and

look out at sailboats moored in the gray waters of the bay.


I’d speak to the baby, he’d listen, not knowing how to talk,

but he knew how to laugh and he knew how to smile when

I told him how someday; maybe we’d have a boat like those.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

SOMEBODY'S DAD

Surprised at what you say lately, what we now do.

I find myself asking, how did it come to this?

and so this is what it’s like to be somebody’s Dad.

Worrying about our son, hope he follows through.

That sweet little loving boy is what we both miss.

Surprised at what you say lately, what we now do.


Do as you’re told, don’t like it, then too bad.

It’s different now; he thinks we know nothing.

I find myself asking, how did it come to this?

His mind is somewhere else, not worried about us.

Be patient, love him a lot, they say- it’s just a stage,

and so this is what it’s like to be somebody’s Dad.

Monday, April 11, 2011

3:14 PM, DISMISSAL BELL


It is it any wonder the baby boy

born to two teachers waited all day

to decide and come into the world?

Around the time when the book bags

are packed, anxious walkers get let out,

buses get called over the loudspeakers.

Today his parents both had substitutes,

maybe the best reason to be absent.

Finally the doctor pulled him out, after

much pushing by a dehydrated mother

and after much cheering like a football fan

by his father, a man in a green jersey.

Looking at the clock on the hospital wall,

the couple smiled about the time of his birth.

GROWN UP


Never again will you fall asleep across my chest on a Sunday afternoon.

Never again will I break off pieces of a bagel and feed you in the park.

Never again will I run bath water for you or wrap you in a towel.

Never again will you hide at the end of the sofa and shout, “Here I are!”


Never again will I carry you inside the house from the backseat of the car,

Never again will we stand in the store deciding which Hot Wheels to buy.

Never again will you want a kiss on your forehead as you fall off to sleep.

Never again will you call out in the night because you’re afraid of Orcs.


Never again will you choose the left hand or right hand for a piece of candy.

Never again will we walk to our table in the diner with my arm around you.

Never again will we drive to the farm to look at baby pigs and little lambs.

Never again will you ask me the name of flowers, birds, and other animals.


Never again will we listen to the same songs or share the same music.

Never again will you dress up as a pirate, a cowboy, or a warrior.

Never again will you sing Go Tell It on the Mountain at the top of your lungs.

Never again will I buy you plastic ninja swords from the Dollar Store.


Never again will we play army men on the floor or Lego Racers.

Never again will we share Cracker Jack and cotton candy at the circus.

Never again will you ask for a glass of water before going to bed.

Never again will you choose a new Pez dispenser at the grocery store.


Never again will we lie alongside each other and take turns reading.

Never again will I draw a happy face or a soccer ball on your lunch bag.

Never again will I put your clothes out for you on the edge of your bed.

Never again will you say to me, “Hey Dad, hold me like a baby”.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE MONEY


I think of where you will go in four years.

I can see you opening up fancy envelopes

in the kitchen with your nervous hands.

I will tell you not to settle, go where you want

and don’t worry about the money, you’ll have

a whole lifetime to deal with these concerns.

I imagine us walking with you across the

campus of the school you dreamed about.

We’ll go to the college bookstore to buy a new

sweatshirt, a hat for me, a coffee mug for Mom.

WATCH OUR EAGLES FLY


He wore his Eagles ties, played the fight song

on the computer, sang loudly, danced around

wearing a plastic bald eagle Halloween mask.

His students laughed, clapped, jumped out of

their seats, strange to see a teacher being just

as foolish as a kid about his favorite football team.


Out of breath, a promise was made to the class-

if they win on Sunday, no homework on Monday.

Instantly the Eagles gained 23 diehard fans, even

the little Giants and Cowboys kids rooted for Philly.

Watching every game, cheering on the outcome.

They bought green folders, notebooks and t-shirts.


A season to remember as they kept winning and

made it to the playoffs, then onto the Super Bowl.

If they win the whole thing, he promised to bring in

a Carvel ice cream cake to celebrate. On Monday,

the children did not look him in the eye as they knew

he must be hurting because of their team’s defeat.


Silently they ate the cake, brought in by the boy,

from the back, who wore his Patriots jersey on Monday.

Like a wake for an old uncle, they remembered the fun

of winning and took away the pain with each spoonful.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

THE ART TEACHER

Today, it’s snowing outside his classroom window,

it all feels like some kind of April Fool’s Day joke.

He thinks of those comparisons to Andrew Wyeth,

his use of light and shadows to illuminate the canvas.


All of that, hidden now in the back of the closet behind

bins of old cassette tapes and Christmas decorations.

It bothers him most when he sits in this place all alone,

without his noisy students, his few friends, or his family.


He dreamed of studying in London, Paris, Barcelona,

but ended up back here, where he started 25 years ago.

Surrounded by Mr. Sketch scented markers, crayons,

paper mache, watercolor projects, green modeling clay.


Posters of the Great Ones hang around the room to

provide background on Dali, Cassatt, Kahlo, and Escher.

As a young man, he’d point at them and tell his teacher-

One day you can hang my picture on the wall with them.

Monday, April 4, 2011

PHOTO ALBUM


“The present contains nothing more than the past,

and what is found in the effect was already in the cause.”

-Henri Bergson


How pitiful and scared they both looked.

Two teenagers cutting a wedding cake,

staring into a camera surrounded by gifts.

Him- tall, wiry, baby faced. Her- with a fancy

60’s hairstyle, belly the size of a basketball.


And with the flashcube’s blast, a complicated

chain reaction overwhelmed the three of them.

Nobody could have told them how cruel it would

be once the dominoes begin to fall or how they

continue on, faster and in so many directions.


Sometimes he thinks of what it’d be like, if-

he never happened, if- he’d never been born.

“They must’ve loved you enough to go through

with it, many girls back then didn’t follow through,

if you know what I mean”, a lady at work said once.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

POSTCARD TO AN OLD FRIEND

Myles,
Drove by the old place the other day,
looks like somebody finally bought it.
Wonder if they know about flooding?
Life "on the banks of the Ol’ Raritan"!
Thought of you on St. Patrick’s Day,
realized it’s been a while since we spoke.
Worried about your health, let us know you’re ok.
Wish we were there! All the best, your friend- L.L.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

SAFE CORNER

How did I get here? and
I went to college for this?
is what came to mind today
as we crouched in the corner,
lights out, windows closed,
shades drawn, sign on floor, door locked.
This is a drill required by the State,
because of what happened in other places.
You saw the news, Columbine, Virginia Tech.

We’ll get creative in coming months,
making code words, what if plans for
rabid dogs, a gas leak, a wandering black bear,
a disgruntled employee, an irate parent-
practicing for the worst of all case scenarios,
the active shooter.

It was much easier when I was growing up,
all we worried about was nuclear annihilation.
Not much you could do about that.
We joked about evacuations, the absurdity of
crouching under a desk and covering your head.

My kids don’t say they’re nervous or scared.
But they ask me-
“What would happen if it were real?
What would happen if some
crazy guy with a gun came into
our room and tried to get us all?”

Well, I suppose I’d beat him senseless with a little green chair.
And because we can laugh together, we know we’ll be all right.


(Photo taken from-
http://www.retroland.com)