THE MISSING OBJECT

featured in the poetry forum April 9, 2022  :: 0 comments

Nothing’s ever where I left it.
Order defies its name,
prefers discrepancy
or misdirection
or time warp.
But never absentmindedness.
An item in its place
can dissolve,
its surrounds melt,
become shapeless,
ooze through apertures,
creep across the floor
like snails.
It is the unspoken mission
of an object to go missing.
My assignment is to look.
Not where it is.
Only where I’m sure I put it.

editors note:

Wishing we could just call, “Olly olly oxen free!” – mh clay

DIRECTIONS

featured in the poetry forum October 18, 2021  :: 0 comments

You said, watch for the dirt road off the highway
a mile or so past the gas station
and before you get to the big red barn.
The road has no name, you added, but take it.
And keep going, mile after mile,
long beyond the point where you feel as if
you’re not getting anyplace.

Best turn off the radio, was your instruction
because with the thick forest trees and granite cliffs
you’ll pass, the best you’ll hear is static.
So be your own radio, sing every song you know,
commercial-free. But watch out for deer.

Then it was, take a left, a right, a kind of left,
then a right at the fork: (if it still is a fork:
what with the last storm taking all those trees down)
until you reach the rickety wooden bridge
over the creek.
Say a prayer for your tires, if you haven’t already,
and then bump your way over it.

You should start to see occasional houses then,
okay, cottages, but these are the hardy folk
who really do want to live as far away
from civilization as possible.
Ignore the satellite dishes.
And the four-wheel-drive tanks of course.
Mine is the brown A-frame
without the giant satellite dish on top
and no four-wheel-drive monster
in the makeshift driveway.
Come on in. I’ll be waiting for you.

These are the kinds of directions
love often lays out for me.
I’ve a lot of miles on me.
I haven’t got there yet.

editors note:

Not even Google Maps can direct us here, but go we must. – mh clay

TRIAL BY BUS STATION

featured in the poetry forum May 8, 2021  :: 0 comments

It’s 2.00 a.m.,
and I’m stuck in
a bus station.

It’s curfew time
for cheap interstate transport.

No buses are departing.
None are arriving.
The dispatcher has
long since gone home.
The café is shuttered.

It’s hard to sleep
in this cramped seat,
even with my backpack
for a pillow.

And there’s a cop
does the rounds,
pokes stomachs
with his blackjack,
snarls, “Have you got a ticket?”

It’s another five hours
until the next bus leaves.
The red-eyed coked-up guy
sitting opposite me
looks like he’s been waiting
years for his.

A baby screams.
A homeless guy recites
the alphabet loudly.
Another smells like
a distillery at one end,
a sewer at the other.

It’s the kind of company
for which solitude was invented.

editors note:

Cramped crowdsourcer seeks solo stint. – mh clay

BILLBOARD WOMAN

featured in the poetry forum November 29, 2020  :: 0 comments

I was thirteen
and in love with the woman
on the large billboard,
that the bus passed on the way to school.
I had no interest whatsoever
in girls who were my age.
My billboard love
had long wavy blonde hair,
bright blue eyes,
and lips as red as the plums
that showed up in my lunchbox
come summer.
Girls had pigtails.
Their eyes were brown.
The only time
I noticed their lips
was when they
opened their mouths
to give the teacher
the right answer.
Billboard woman
also had the right answer.
I was thirteen.
The question
suddenly occurred to me.

editors note:

Seeking a credible source; truth in advertising. – mh clay

THE HAND

featured in the poetry forum June 20, 2020  :: 0 comments

I’m hunkered in a kitchen chair,
head half to the table,
bottle of cheap booze,
my only companion,
when a hand grabs mine.

Just a hand.
Nothing else,
No arm. No body.
Severed.
But with a grip like a wrestler.

I’m thinking,
maybe it’s my conscience
taking a different tack
from all that fruitless
whispering in my ear.

And it wants me
to stop with the drinking
that’s rotting my gut,
water-boarding my brain cells.

But then it could be the appendage
of someone I’ve wronged,
the surviving grasp of revenge
while the rest of him
went to the grave.

Or maybe it’s my own hand,
my vision so blurry,
it’s hard to make out
where I end
and the rest of the world begins.

Then the hand grabs the bottle,
pours some more of that hooch
down my throat.

Conscience, avenger,
or the clasp of my undying thirst –
I know which one
I’m stumping for.

editors note:

Seeking a hand up, or hands off! – mh clay

A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME

featured in the poetry forum January 31, 2020  :: 0 comments

The breakup may have begun with
that couch we bought at the Goodwill store
and hauled back,
strapped to the roof of the V W,
to our rented rooms in a roach-hotel.
The springs poked through the fabric
which stunk nastily of mold
and it was too big for the tiny parlor.
took up half the doorway into the kitchen.
Having to squirm and constantly shift
while we sat together watching television didn’t help.
If comfort was no more than chimera
then what about our relationship?
At least that torture implement
went with the lumpy mattress
and the mismatched kitchen chairs
and a refrigerator
that hummed like monks chanting for the dead
and heat-pipes as cantankerous as your mother.
But instead of laughing off poverty’s absurdities,
our feelings took on the tenor
of Goodwill and coils digging
into the butt and lumps
and furniture at odds with its setting
and your mother – that was the last straw –
a strange thing for me to say
when you consider the stuffing in that unholy couch.

editors note:

Person, Place, or Thing; which does damage most? Thanks, Mom! – mh clay

THE PANHANDLER

featured in the poetry forum September 3, 2019  :: 0 comments

I tossed a couple of notes his way.

Okay, so it was a few bucks I could spare
and he seemed so grateful
I could have patted myself on the back
there and then.

Did I really think he was going
to get himself a meal?
The angel on my right shoulder whispered,
“Of course he will.”
The devil on my left, of course,
had him headed for the liquor store
as soon as my generous back was turned.

That’s the trouble with panhandlers.
You don’t know whether you’re doing them a favor
or they’re just conning you.
That’s the trouble with guys like me
who reach into our pockets.
Is it their need or our own
we’re really catering to?

It’s a transaction I can live with.
Of all my self-doubts,
this is among the cheapest.

editors note:

A charitable deduction; cheap self introspection. – mh clay

THAT FDA REPORT

featured in the poetry forum December 7, 2018  :: 0 comments

Leave it to the news to tell me that the drugs don’t work.
Just after I’ve consumed a dozen of them,
and have warned my pain of what lies in store for it.

The Food and Drug Administration says that I’ve been misinformed.
And while I’m at it, no shampoo in all of Christendom will save my hair.

The FDA has just begun to prick all my balloons.
They inform me that a man can’t resurrect old love just by listening to a song.
And when I look deep into a painting, I’m not in touch with some artist’s soul.
It’s all just paint. Lick it and you die.

The FDA adds that its chemists have spent years attempting to validate
the meaning in my life
but the results so far have all proved negative.

In fact, they’re closing the book on this one.
They recommend drugs. Then they tell me the drugs don’t work.

editors note: No more cred in the catch-phrase, Better Living Through Chemistry. – mh clay

RIDING FOR A FALL

featured in the poetry forum June 8, 2018  :: 0 comments

riding my bicycle

big nasty truck
rolls slowly up behind me

I could be totally terrified

I could be in awe of myself
for holding up
the forward progress
of a snorting goliath

I was ten years old

his horn was loud
as a football crowd

not even retrospect
has me staying in my seat

editors note:

As metaphoric monsters approach from behind, keep pedaling. – mh clay

PEOPLE AT PLAY

featured in the poetry forum January 8, 2018  :: 0 comments

Dan, you were right,
I should never have gone
near that bar.
Talk about your cesspool.

That tavern’s built
on the misspent wages
of a crowd of tattooed behemoths
with the combined thirst of a desert.

They dragged me into their conversation.
For an hour of boring bullshit,
I sipped on flat beer
and didn’t hear one sentence

that didn’t contain the word “fuck.”
The TV wasn’t working
so I couldn’t get the score.
As for the girls I might have

gone home with,
one’s head finished up
on the bar-top,
half-drowning in vomit.

And the prettiest one,
voted most likely, by me,
to please a man,
collapsed on the floor,

was eventually dragged out
and dumped on the sidewalk.
But it’s typical of
my quests for local color.

I end up in the worst dives.
Whiskey-chic just doesn’t do it for me.
Not even my imagination
could fuel up on the surroundings.

Just people at their worst
when that worst is of no interest to anybody.
I go to the museum tomorrow.
Great art and no artists to prove otherwise.

editors note:

It’s hard work to play at art. – mh clay