the jaywalker

featured in the poetry forum August 27, 2016  :: 0 comments

we’ve lived in the same building
going on eight years now
see each other in the hallway
the laundry room
in the basement when i’m throwing out
the cat litter, food scraps and booze bottles
on this long street we pass each other
maybe three or four times a day
going nowhere good
me to work or the liquor store or to the grocery
and he to go and sit
in the laundromat or citibank vestibule
and with each passing it’s the same thing
how’s it going?
have a good one
each time we meet in the apartment, too
there are these customs we have
a head nod, a tip of the hat
i don’t know which one of us started it
eight years of these trite greetings
and no other conversation, thank god
well, yesterday i was coming down the street
coffee and a bagel and a wicked hangover this time
and he was coming up the street
we both looked steeled for the same old same old fate
when suddenly he broke between two parked cars
hustled his old ass across the street away from me
with angry people honking their angry horns
leaning their heads out windows to curse him out
on their way to church
not even a head nod my way
eight years broken in one bold move
and as he limped off toward wherever
i watched him
not angry
not sad at being shunned as such
but feeling happy and full of grace
that someone in this world
had finally taken the time to get to know me
and what i really wanted
after all of these silly
wasted years
on such hollow kindness.

editors note:

Honesty for false honors? Good trade! – mh clay

charlie watts

featured in the poetry forum November 25, 2015  :: 0 comments

she had me
sweating bullets
she had me
not wanting to hear her voice
i swear to christ
she was trying to drown me
in her petty jealousies
but she was right about everything
i was out there looking
for her replacement
day after day
night after night
but i found no takers
other than the hip line
of a tanned stripper’s g-string
our dinner money
our movie money
going against that sweet flesh curve
she had me
on the line for a week
without calling
going mad
getting mad
drunk joyous at the thought that we were over
every time the phone rang
jumping at my own shadows
she had me
finally
on the other line
giggling and laughing like a schoolgirl
like nothing happened
the way we’d left it
and all she wanted to know
was the name of the rolling stones drummer
for her mother’s
fucking crossword puzzle.

editors note:

We dangle on the line, searching for a clue; a four letter word, “v” the third letter; crossword is “vile.” Hmm… – mh clay

peckerwood

featured in the poetry forum April 3, 2015  :: 0 comments

there was already a line
to the back of the liquor store when he came in

the only black face in the entire place

we were somewhere in the upper middle
drunk from an afternoon in the grassroots tavern
but wanting more to kill the night

the wine store kept the smaller bottles of alcohol
behind the counter at the register

it was the store’s way
of teaching drunkards the value of patience
or to stop them from being so damned cheap

he found me right away

my wife claims that i have that kind of face
it’s welcoming and the antithesis to the fiber of my very being

he said, hey man, you know how it is
then started motioning up toward the register

of course i knew how it was
but something about him rubbed me

it was rare that i found a face in this world as welcoming as mine
most people were ugly without even trying

i said, i know how it is, man
that’s why i’m standing here with all of the other stiffs

i said, getting in front of me won’t help your cause any

he said, look, man

so i said, why don’t you go and ask each
and every person standing behind me
if they’re cool with you cutting then i’ll clear you a space

well, he just stood there with kind of a crooked grin

i wondered about the type of person
who found his face a soothing salve to come home to at night

he said, what if i just cut you in line

a man must do as he must, i answered

then he leaned in
he reeked of vodka as i reeked of beer

we were brethren of a sort

i thought to myself that i should’ve let him cut me
but then he called me a peckerwood

ain’t nothin’ but a peckerwood, he said

hear that honey, i said to my wife
now i’m the victim of racial intolerance

he went to the front of the line
cutting each and every one of us

the cashier sold him a pint of rum without hesitation

the hoi polloi held their bottles and gasped
their conceptions of law and order thrown to the dogs

someone called him an asshole
as he waved to the crowd on the way out

the woman behind me
threatened to get the manager

everyone else just stood there
checking their phones

a pack of peckerwoods

waiting on anarchy
waiting their turn in line.

editors note:

A slice without a knife; a line, a pint and a hapless pack… – mh

bolero

February 22, 2014  :: 0 comments

tonight i am sick with wine
sick with family

my wife asks me what i want

i tell her devotion and adulation all the time
or nothing at all

or i want to cease, i say

i want to stop looking into the mirror
every morning
and have this fat, gray, unrecognizable
blob of a man stare back at me

i tell her that i want more wine instead

it’s then that bolero comes on the radio
its manic repetition building
until my wife and i are bobbing our heads

she tells me that she thinks
bolero should’ve been the song
they used at the end of battlestar galactica

the one that bound the cylons together
instead of the dylan song

when bolero comes on the radio
i always tell my wife about my favorite part
of that thomas bernhard novel

the part where all of the characters let go of their hate
to listen to bolero
as if something unexplainable and joyous
welled up inside all of them at once

but tonight i only tell her that
battlestar galactica was a really good show
instead of telling her about bernhard

or that i want that feeling of everlasting exuberance
or that she is still exciting
that existence is exciting when i let it be
and that this sadness
this sadness is only…

but then my wife asks me for more wine

and we sit there drinking in the silence between us
moving our heads to the music

until maurice ravel sees fit
to finally set us free.

thank you for your kindness

featured in the poetry forum February 22, 2014  :: 0 comments

it was probably while i was watching
the plastic bottle of parmesan cheese
roll toward a slush and snow bank
that i realized i was still alive

my hat had flown off for sure
it ended up in your path and i’m sorry for that
but i lost a jar of pork gravy in this
and a can of black beans was dented

i landed right on my left arm and my ribs felt like hell

for a moment i thought maybe i’d cracked them
but i figured with the way
i was writhing around on the icy pavement
that maybe they were just very bruised

it was pretty amazing that i didn’t crack my head

i think that says a lot for my will and instinct
to just twist my body in midair like that

anyway you saw the whole thing
so there’s no point in me rehashing it here

also, i’m sorry for my display

had i known that i was going to hop up off the pavement
in a fit of blind rage
and start shouting invective into the gray morning
while my ribs burned and my left arm hung limp and useless
i would’ve made sure to warn you

it’s just that those bastards never salt their sidewalk
and i’ve been telling everyone
that something like this was bound to happen

well, it happened to me

so excuse me for calling the people next door
lousy cocksuckers
telling their closed front door that i wished they were all dead
threatening to kill the dog across the street
for barking while i stumbled around in pain
trying to pick up my hat and my groceries off the ground
without slipping and sliding and falling again

and i’ll forgive you for never stopping to ask
if i was all right
not while i was laying their prostrate
and not when i was standing there battered and weak

we’ll just pretend like you gave a shit
instead of looking back at me and shaking your head
before tip-toeing into your apartment

we’ll pretend that when i shouted
thank you for your kindness
that i was being genuine and sincere

and that after you were gone
i skipped home for coffee and the sunday paper
my faith in humanity bubbling over

instead of stumbling around on the street alone
trying to figure out if those thick spots all around me
were patches of pork gravy or my blood.

editors note:

When the milk of human kindness freezes in the slush, we respond in kind; makes us feel better. – mh

first world problems

January 10, 2013  :: 0 comments

i have first world problems
a phone that won’t work and no internet service

but she sets me straight

she sits across from me
and starts to cry before she can even speak

can you dial a number for me? she finally asks

although the boss hates when i let the public use the phone

i dial it for her anyway
but the line is dead

you can’t get through, she says

no, i say, thinking about my phone and my internet

she says, i need to speak to my therapist
my building is flooded from that hurricane

there are dozens of us seniors stuck there
and the management won’t do anything

they say they’re pumping out the water
but it’s starting to stink

they say they’re calling FEMA but no one has arrived

it’s dark and cold and i’m scared, she says
i have no one else to call

i dial the number for her again
wonder if i’ll have internet access at home
if i can call for a pizza tonight instead of cooking

the woman is saddened when i can’t get through again

tells me that she has pancreatic cancer
and doesn’t want to have to live through this
so close to the end

i shouldn’t feel this way
but i’m sorry that the woman walked in here

i was doing all right worrying about my first world problems

sorry about my phone and internet
sorry that i’ll have to make dinner tonight

do you want me to call FEMA? i ask

could you?

i try FEMA but the phone lines are so fucked
that i can’t get through their maze with my sanity intact

FEMA tells me to check their web site and i laugh

i’ve never seen it this bad, she says, after i hang up
my dog is still there with all of that dark and water

i think about her dog and phones and the internet

why don’t you stay here for a while, i tell her
because i’m out of options

her eyes light up
really? she asks

then she thanks me for listening to her

you’ve done more for me in five minutes
than FEMA and my landlord combined

of course this isn’t true
it couldn’t possibly be true

i’m just a guy that they pay to sit in this seat
for eight hours a day

a guy with no phone and no internet service
awash in my first world problems

as our little world collapses
and keeps spinning new born hells.

u.s. male

featured in the poetry forum January 10, 2013  :: 0 comments

the u.s. male
has his hand on this arab girl’s wrist

i’m not lying

this is going on right at the corner
of bay ridge parkway and colonial avenue

a fitting street for the u.s. male to be standing on
if you ask me

because he knows everything about the founding of america

the u.s. male keeps telling this arab girl
that america was founded on judeo-christian beliefs

you can’t deny it, he tells her
america is a judeo-christian nation to its core
giving her wrist a little tug as her kid cries

where else can you get this kind of democracy?
he asks

egypt? they want to kill all of us, he tells her

because this u.s. male is obviously well-informed
so well informed that he’d make rupert murdoch proud

i don’t know what the arab girl is saying back to him
she looks nervous and she talks so quietly
plus her kid is crying and making a lot of noise

she can’t really get a word in edgewise
what with the u.s. male shouting into the november cold
and schooling this chick on decades
of american foreign policy

while all of his good old neighbors walk by
telling the girl to go back to where she came from

you’re probably asking yourself why i won’t get involved
and you’d be right to ask this

but, see, i’m just a guy on a street corner
on his way to the grocery store

all i wanted in this world on a saturday afternoon
was a six-pack of beer and some barbequed chips

i didn’t want to come face to face with the u.s. male

i’ve been there plenty of times and i always lose
because there’s no arguing with ignorance
and a corrupt sense of manifest destiny

plus this just seems too surreal to be happening

some wealthy
white-bearded
golf hat wearing
windbreaker loving
u.s. male douche bag
tugging on this arab girl’s wrist
right here on a sunny autumn street
telling her to take off her hijab
if she knows what’s good for her

but it is happening

i’m serious about this

this is going on right now on a regular block in brooklyn, new york
in america in the twenty-first century

less than a week to election day

and four days after another annual
once-in-a-lifetime-hurricane

that has them still plucking bodies out of soaked basements

with another storm
on the way.

editors note:

When this one hits the box, mark Return to Sender. It’s got waaaay insufficient postage anyway. – mh

murder in manhattan

featured in the poetry forum July 14, 2012  :: 0 comments

tourist girls on
9th avenue
trying to poke me in the eyes
the walking dead
thumb thumping
stopping in the middle
of the block
to transcribe their immortal thoughts
on social networks
as car horns blare
and alien dogs ride shotgun
in baby blue
convertibles
wagging their tongues
at the dim lit masses
this sunday
with the sun blinding me
with every train rerouted
and comic book trucks hijacked
the bars are packed
with afternoon drunks
shouting
at television sets
making out on barstools
as if this moment of bliss
had been scripted in a lab
placed here
as an experiment
because it doesn’t seem real
none of it
because there is murder
on the streets
of manhattan
commerce stabbing
serenity’s last gasp
the flesh and bone
in agony
the blood of the material world
running red and swiftly
down times square
sewers
feeding this hungry beast
eternal.

editors note:

No harm, no worry – full participation ensures full enjoyment. They said so, “Feed the machine and the machine feeds you!” – mh

it wasn’t her fault

featured in the poetry forum December 15, 2011  :: 0 comments

when her family arrived
i stayed in my bedroom
listening to prince and madonna
cassette tapes
because i’d spied her from my window
blonde and tan
more beautiful than i remembered
i’d become a fat and lonely monster
since we’d last seen each other
and i didn’t want to disappoint her
so i thought that i’d just stay in the bedroom
the whole time her family visited with mine
but it only took ten minutes
for my mother to knock on the door
then open it
without me saying to do so
and there she stood before me
so goddamned blonde and tan
california gold from head to toe
the smile fading from her face
as my mom grinned and shut the door to my dungeon
leaving the two of us alone
to sit on opposite sides of the bed
listening as the music played
hoping that it wouldn’t be long
before they all called us downstairs to dinner.

editors note:

Here’s a great holiday tweaker for us. How’s that go about family and fish? Get ready, folks; the family will be arriving soon. – mh

larry calls

August 13, 2011  :: 0 comments

larry calls me
while i’m at the job
high on something
either cognac or those pills
that the doctors keep pushing on him
larry’s got problems
ex-wife problems
daughter problems
granddaughter problems
legal problems
wants to knock out his son-in-law
but he’s so high
and in pain all of the time
larry can’t do anything
but sit at home popping pills
and watch the
jason bourne movies
over and over again
he tells me this world
is a motherfucker, kid
as if i didn’t know it already
i can’t read anymore
i can’t think anymore, he says
larry, who falls down the stairs
at least once a month
walks with a silver cane
has to wear a brace on his wrist
and a truss whenever he goes out
larry, who loves it when
those pills pollute his mind
tells me all i wanna do
is sit here and watch
these bourne movies
have a couple of cognacs
but the goddamned world
keeps trying to bite me in the ass, kid
larry with his women troubles
and dirty jokes
his lawsuits from new york to california
that miserable family of his
larry calls me at the job
high on booze and pills
only because i need a voice
who can understand me, he says.