Nightmares

featured in the poetry forum February 14, 2011  :: 0 comments

Are meant for mean old men like Scrooge
who were taught the golden rule:
do not do onto others
before they do unto you
unless
you can get away with it
without
visitations from spirits of the past, present or future.

Bad dreams have never been
a money thing with me
but more of a reminder
that I’m not good enough
to live in my own skin. Why? I’m not sure
but I always find ways to re-live my worst fears
of taking those final exams without preparation
not having the proper qualifications for the best job
or being kicked out of my parent’s home for being – adopted.

The best of the lot are the macabre
a murder I did not commit
or one that was recently found out
and I run like the wind
away from the authorities
men in old time police uniforms driving keystone cop wagons
who close in on me in abandoned warehouses
sirens blaring, speaker phones as loud as civil sirens.
I check my handgun
for the number of bullets left in the cartridge
but the damn thing always jams and I’m cornered.
I fail to escape the fuzz but it’s always fun
to nearly exchange fire with Elliot Ness
before I’m handcuffed
and thrown inside a paddy wagon
headed for downtown booking and beatings.

Still, the one I’ll never forget
the one that awoke me
to a heart racing sweat
was not for an electric chair execution
but a visitation of a man long departed.

While boarding abroad
sleeping in my grandfather’s bed
in Cerreto Sannita, a small Italian mountain town
that sent hundreds of immigrants to the good U.S. of A.
in the 30’s to live in small isolated neighborhoods
only to lose their lives in dye mills and steel plants
instead of living the American dream
a man from my past gave me the message:
“Tell your father I understand
why he never returned to our home
. . . and I forgive him.”

I wonder if nightmares
are simply fears played out
in black and white
sometimes color
or simply a nudge from souls departed
to tell us to live our lives
to the fullest without hurting others.

Sleep on it
and if you find out
let me know
what Christmas future
has in store for me, okay?

Night Vision

December 24, 2010  :: 0 comments

Whiskey, rum, wine
may wash away pain
but tonight’s drip drip dripping
of mother nature’s little helper
falls down on me, around me
and through the gutter
playing rat-a-tat songs across the red car canopy
while I soak in the coolness
to another summer night.

Minutes later, I take refuge behind bars of steel
meant to protect me
from society’s infamous
and the innocent
scattered throughout the neighborhood.

And I see them all.

Across the alley
flickering images
through the curtains
of UFC battles on a 3-D flatscreen
a couple coupling to the beatings
like bronco riders taming the wild beast.

The blue and red lights alternate flashing
while the MAN checks on a license plate of the gang cruiser
as another homeless staggers down the sidewalk
and pukes in the street.

Waves of shouts
for the victors
boomerang off the walls
of the bar
as the fans cheer
another loser pummeled
until he taps out
on the thirst for fame
from a ring, a cage
meant more for animals than humans.

I pray for more water
from the heavens
so I can taste the last of God’s blood
the dirtiest of it
puddled in the bucket
and slide it into my Jack Daniel’s
my fifth glass tonight.

Time to sleep off my night
in my girlfriend’s flat
and forget about
my wife’s rage
my baby’s tears
my heart’s numbness
of just another day
worst than the one before.

Jacob’s Ladder?

featured in the poetry forum December 24, 2010  :: 0 comments

Clergy shout it
behind the pulpit
to those below them
in the rows of repentance –
the way for the righteous
is up
one step at a time
to the big meet and greet
with the deity of sublime resolve.

My little lost cowgirl of splendor and grace
the one with the knee high boots
and knockout smile
always reminded me
of biblical admonitions
while roping steers
“God looks down upon us
no matter where we were
even in the pastures” she said
as we stole away moments
of pleasure
under the watchful eye.

One late afternoon in the barn
stacking hay loads
in pens meant for cows, pigs
I borrowed a twenty footer
and up I went
to meet her. Hours later
on my way down
I slipped on a rotted wooden rung
and fell ass first
onto the finest dairy milker of the bunch
breaking my fall
but breaking her back.

“Why did you kill my Bessy?”
daddy dearest snarled as he caressed the diary’s best
in his calloused hands. “What were you doin’ upstairs?”

Reflecting on the man upstairs
and his words of wisdom I replied,
“The crane dumped over the excess hay.
I tried to push ’em in, even and straight
but they fell on the poor thing.”

The haggard rancher stood over me
looked deep into the eyes of his daughter
before saying, “Next time
you help yourself to the milk,
you’d better be prepared to buy the whole cow –
or you’ll climb up Jacob’s ladder
much sooner than you think.”

The next day
I left farming all together
– right after I kissed the girl of my lonely nights goodbye
to take up door to door solicitation
of Gideon’s finest bibles
for those non-believers
who think being scared straight
is only for wicked.

Whatever it Takes

featured in the poetry forum November 7, 2010  :: 0 comments

To stop you
from taking the watery plunge off Golden Gate’s
infamous point of no return
has been my goal since
the first night I met you
in coach as you flew
between cars
looking for anyone to confess
your desolation, isolation, configuration
to your final out of control
spiral through the rings of HELL.

Cajoling, coercing, connecting
to the real you
is a tough road, my friend,
for the part that wishes for life
won’t listen
beyond the immediate pain
unemployment checks used to fill in
with numbers low enough
that bank tellers snicker
when handing
the meager payouts
to your sweating palms
that always need to hold a drink
– vodka – water chaser
a bubbly sparkling blend inside crinkled plastic bottles
that fools nobody
but it medicates you, as you admit,
to accept reality
one more stinkin’ day.

After hours of telephone counseling
the wound surprisingly healed over
a thin layer of, “I’m okay, really,
you’ve cured me.”

But are you?

How did you turn it around?

You haven’t explained it
yet
so is the truth
a convenient lie
Al Gore would be proud of
to get me off your back?

We plan to meet
in person
on that final weekend
of gamesmanship
between the Giants and Padres
for the division title.

But here’s the bigger problem:
Do you promise
to stop me
from jumping off the highest building
if my team loses
or will we go hand and hand
gently into the night
one for lack of hope
the other for
lack of perspective?

Dave Isn’t Here

September 9, 2010  :: 0 comments

“I used to own my own boat,
planned to sail it around the world
until I busted my legs,”
said the hooded storyteller
as I wheeled him
up, over or around
sidewalk barriers
even able bodied people couldn’t clear
just outside my apartment complex
that one night after a vicious argument
with my wife and mother of our only child.

“I used to have a young daughter, too,
a lot older than your 18 month old,
he said in softer tones
as we moved up and across the flood channel
where other men and women of the night
made home in the shadows
with pets as protectors
from cops, others
more desperate.
“She’s her own woman now
a professor in Women’s Studies.”

“Talk too her recently?”

“Yeah, a couple of years ago
but any call from the states
across the Canadian border
just too damn expensive.”

“Bet she’d like to hear from you
– even collect,” I said, wondering if mine
would grace Ivy Halls one day.

“Nah, I’ll call her from Hawaii –
the government owes me
a freebie as a busted-up veteran.
I’ll make ’em pay.”

An hour later,
over the bridge and through the woods
not to grandmother’s house
we parted ways
on the shore
next to the amusement park,
the 75 year old wooden roller coaster
and a place he’d known
comfortably
as bartender
a dozen or so years ago,
not as refuge
but as a human
with wife, daughter, job,
home.

“Thanks man,”
he said for the dozenth time
as he reached out his hand
. . . and I hesitated
before grasping it firmly.

I faced him
for the first time
and although he sounded
more like a man of forty before
he looked the part of a sixty year old
in the boardwalk lights.

Not to wash away the man
but my hands
of the grime his calluses collected
like a bicycle chain in need of lubrication,
I walked into the public washroom
for vacationers with money
for ice cream, hot dogs, sunglasses
but not for men like Dave.

Still, three of five sinks had feces
proudly mounted
as three scoops on a waffle cone
a practical joke
from a fraternity down the street
but one that gave
my friend, those that needed it most,
no sense of dignity.

A minute later
with hands no cleaner than before
I looked for the refugee
of the night
but he was out of sight.

I bike there almost every afternoon this summer
but I’ve never seen him again,
doubt I ever will
though I hope
a post card from Hawaii
or Toronto
might fall out of my mailbox
one day
when I least expect it…

I Need a BIG Whiskey

featured in the poetry forum September 9, 2010  :: 0 comments

Said the man on the street
who shouted high to the rooftops
and low to the little children in the streets
between saxophone toot toot ta toots
that rang true to even seasoned musicians
on the Brooklyn streets.

“I’ll give you what you need
if you can answer me one question:
How the hell you learn to play so well
like the devil blowin’ when he takes a soul to hell?”

After tying a yellow looking shoelace
frayed more than those on my cleats from high school days
he cocked his head up.

“Funny you ask me that question
for the other day
some guy with a pitchfork
and a pointy tail sauntered by
and begged to know my secret.
Know what I told him?” he replied
as he crooked his finger my way.

I bent over to hear his secret.

And he said
– no shouted –
in my good ear

“I need a BIG whiskey.”

After the ringing subsided
in my now other bad auditory canal
I slipped him a twenty.

Sax man shoved it
in his pocket, patted my shoulder
and told me his secret.

Today, you can find me
on a different street
playin’ my horn
and asking for handouts
as I always seem to thirst
for more than I’ve got.

The Howling

June 15, 2010  :: 0 comments

The shrill whistle of the wind
relentlessly clawed
at brick, mortar, and panes
rattling through the air like a Katrina hurricane.

Between the lightening sirens
screams of discontent
thoughts on other storm fronts
erupted like dam breaks
flooding my mind
with thoughts I had hidden away
for years.

I prayed
to my God
I could grab each one
by the throat
and throw them all off
the highest ground
so I
and others
could finally rest
in peace.

The eerie silence of the fourteen year old
military prep student who couldn’t speak for days.

Pillows, sheets and bedding bloodied
and face fractured spoke for her.

A father’s revenge would be swift
if she had been mine
an act for men everywhere
who had daughters
in places that needn’t be.

His large hands
scarred from general stints in ‘Nam and Iraq
were tied behind his back
so all he could do was hold his daughter
the day she finally let go
and cried openly in his arms
for hours.

Bobby Womack’s rendition of California Dreamin’
wafting through the hallways round midnight
of my Ivory Tower job
that owned me like a plantation worker
working for peanuts
and my owner’s wealth.

Five years later
I finally stopped performing
a purposeful dance
around my master’s campfire,
a tango of civility,
to those creatures around me.

Not so long ago I was vital
to poor readers and worse writers
who needed someone, anyone,
to guide them into deeper thoughts
than multiple choice and show and tell tap dances
until I was terminated
by popular demand.

Then music stopped entirely
the day she had entered my life.

Hip Hop was her favorite diversion
the scent of her was mine,
the one who promised me
the time of my life
but only left me with the residue of desire
and a revealing text message
of guilt on my cell
that led me to sign away my rights
on another stack of papers
my wife filed three months later
for custody of our seventeen month old.

Hail ping-ponged on the tin roof
and ricocheted off the glass
like paintball pellets
used on civil protestors on campus
who screamed for less war
more tax dollars for the poor.

What had I done?

I ran for cover
cowered behind a set of tall bushes
next to the WWII memorial statue
home of the brave.

Swept up in a tornado
swallowed up like Dorothy and Toto in Kansas
my Jack Daniels bottle tipped over
onto the mattress, rolled over and over again
as I gazed at the blown-in window
while twenty foot elms flew around the yard.

Ol’ Blue Eyes played softly on YouTube
as I looked into her baby browns
framed like an angel
in my bleeding hands
the ones who would never hold
or sing her to sleep
ever again.

Before I heard
the click of the hammer
after I pulled the trigger
I prayed my little one
would never hear about
my indiscretions
my cowardliness
my final act
until she was old enough
or found a calm in her life
that I never could.

Storyteller

featured in the poetry forum June 15, 2010  :: 0 comments

“Is this a poem?”
she asked after handing me a honey dripping piece
of baklava
as I read her swooning lines
of one word couplets,
exclamations of LOVE
and LUST
executed and convicted
in the usual fashion.

The author blinked her baby blues
my way
before entangling our sticky fingers
and whispering, “You know he’s out of my life, right?”

Caught between the devil and the deep
blue sea I replied, “I see”, and returned
to my psychoanalysis on the crayon scrawled musings
and secrets of a loony bin inmate twice removed.

“So – is it poetry?”

Inching closer
on a bench meant for threesomes
of bus patrons on 10th and Central
the nutcase laughed hysterically
as a drunken college student tripped
on the sidewalk and fell
into her boyfriend’s arms.

“If you breathe life into it
– fiction or non –
it’s poetry.”

“Do you know how much I respect your opinion?”
the temptress responded before folding the paper
into a heart – which I did not wish to take.

As good ol’ number 23 pulled up
to the puke-puddled curb
with misfits aboard who gazed out their windows
like zombies searching for just the right brains
I nodded and tucked away the crumpled
blood-pumping verses into my jeans,
kissed her meekly on the cold rosy cheek,
and waved goodbye amongst the living dead
while wondering which questions of
love lost
love gained
in a poetic fashion
would ever come between us . . .

Before I Go

April 14, 2010  :: 0 comments

Down the rabbit hole
like Alice
who doesn’t live here anymore because
the Queen of Hearts is after
that blonde bombshell and her tea-totaling friends
ready to make mincemeat pie out of the lot of them
I’d better make a plan
in case I find myself
piggy-happy contented
with my life on the other end of the spectrum.

But how could I
find a more wonderful land
that features co-workers
who are pleasant to gaze upon
with rose-pedal breathe
and personalities that would make Jesus jealous?

I know
a universe like that
must be possible
somewhere
but not in the here
and now
or beyond the rainbow
that Dorothy so wanted to visit
before she became
the alcoholic
sex-addicted
emotionally abused crooner
Hollywood threw to the gutter.

Perhaps there is no
dimension of time and space
that leads us to the promised land
Martin Luther King hoped for his people.

But we must keep looking
no matter the pain of travel
along the rocky roads and sheer shorelines
because one day we’ll find our home
and the paths we’ve taken to find it
will simply slip slide away
like vanilla ice cream running down a child’s face
until it hits the corner of her mouth – and yum
we’re in Kansas again, Uncle Ben and Auntie Em
we’re in Kansas again…

Slaughterhouse

April 14, 2010  :: 0 comments

A meat grinder of an existence
where flesh is ripped
from sinew and bones,
bled clean
and packaged for sale
to the local gentry
then fried, boiled or barbequed
for consumption
and tasty conversations
about Dick and Jane,
disasters
natural and man-made,
and how pretty the geraniums look
in the windowsill box
overlooking the white picket fenced yard.

The beast
murdered for beauty?

Too many contradictions,
capitulations for me
and so many others
throughout history,
but lucky Billy Pilgrim
experienced unstuckness
in time and space
in his own meager existence
in perspective
of the world’s beauty
and ugliness in ways
I could never imagine
– or can I?

Who’s to say that we don’t traverse
through dimensions four
in our fondest dreams
and nightmares
everyday?

In truth
and occasional realities
I too travel from place to place
in a Kerouac lifestyle
from Paris, to Rome and Zurich
plus places in between
like so many jazz musicians of the 50’s
looking for a home away from
birth’s brutal scars
of racism, cynicism, ethnocentrisms
while searching for a sliver
of a moment where time stops
on the mountain tops
and air crystal and clear
can breeze through my hair
what’s left of it
as I close my eyes
and imagine…

Aliens transporting me
from a Nazi concentration camp
of a work life, a marriage of convenience,
who train me to jump back and forth
from linear existence
so I can see where my earliest journey began
and will ultimately end.

I’d click the heels
of my ruby slippers
to my childhood
where others worried for me
and took it upon themselves
to guide me, educate me
in ways of morality, civil actions,
and saintly rewards for performing the rituals
that society deemed important
for young men of a certain era.

I’d reply days
with Pop on the city streets
shagging high flying tennis balls
or chasing down line drives
watching out for traffic
north, south west, east
and ankle-breaking curbs.
Afterwards, we’ll eat pie
mozzarella and mushrooms
or just simple sliced bread
dipped in a pot of steaming tomato sauce
the most delectable food imaginable
for both of us
on Saturday nights
and wait for the real homemaker’s
safe return home from work
and dinner made the old fashioned way.

Oh I’d circle back time
to beach picnics,
swimming the currents deep
though I’d avoid
the near drowning episode
when my dear old dad
ran roughshod, barefoot, on the jetty
breaking nearly every bone in both feet
to dive in and save my ten year old life.

I’d move on to high school
as heartthrob of so many girls,
and I’d sneak back
into their adolescent crushes
and find my way into father’s Cadillac’s
backseats, front seats, doesn’t matter
but then . . . where would I be
if not brokenhearted again
alone
and by myself
when sure victories
ended with certain defeats?

College adventures
in activism, political and social,
degrees, advanced ones a plenty
engagements in drugs and parties
graduations and college gigs
of renown and glory in printed research
but with life altering car wrecks
that nearly tore off both shoulders
hung only by stretched tendons and shredded muscle
and moments I’d wished I would have jumped
off the dormitory’s highest balcony
ah . . . those were the days.

Like Billy,
who can see his own life end
with a laser gun blast to the back,
perhaps timely visits
to the past
or my ultimate destination
wouldn’t be the most advantageous
for me,
my loved ones
or those I tried to
make love to
for all those unstuck moments
in time
would most assuredly lead me back
to the same conclusions
of where I am
today
lost in memories
of what should have been
but cannot
ever be again…except in a Kurt Vonnegut fantasy.