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.
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


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


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


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


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


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


featured in the poetry forum August 27, 2017  :: 0 comments

At the end,
we lovers are weary as boxers.
This is no mattress
but a mat.
We’re not in bed.
Welcome to the ring.

Lovemaking is
a befuddling expression
There is no making,
only subtraction –
a pillaging
a wearing away.

It can only end in exhaustion.

And if one of us
doesn’t make a move soon
we’ll both be counted out.

But what about the “love” part
of the word you ask.


editors note:

When either is a winner, both are losers. – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum May 10, 2017  :: 0 comments

So what is she wearing exactly?
Not a short, short dress,
but a man’s eyes.
Certainly not a tight halter top
over small breasts.
Those are fingers surely,
fingers with pink ruffles.
And the red of her nails
is just a mirage.
The paint is really smudged across
another’s churlish loins,
the ones beating like a heart
in his underpants.
And beneath it all,
there may be a body
but a body of what?
Of evidence?
Of water so clear
a guy can see his creepy face
in it?
So who is this one
traipsing up and down the sidewalk,
just this side of midnight,
as the cars roll slowly by?
She’s driving those cars.
And it’ll cost her.

editors note:

And the driven will pay… – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum January 24, 2017  :: 0 comments

He didn’t bark –
he was the icy type –
his look slowly worked the meal grinder,
turning my confidence into hamburger –
then, when he was done,
he dismissed me
with a fierce wind
that blew me from there
like a paper bag running frantic
down the sidewalk –

that’s why,
when you saw me later,
I was nothing more
than a battle-scarred frown
and a mind that felt frayed
like a run in a stocking –

I can still see your face,
small and inquisitive,
pretty but not too pretty,
picking my version of events
out of the conversation like lint –

what could I say?
I was lamb – he was slaughter –
my resume was as thin
as the paper it was typed upon –

but never mind –
the air was rustling up spring.
days met my demand
for something longer and warmer,
and the coffee shop smell
was strong and friendly enough
to hire me in a minute –

but life doesn’t end with one rough situation
so what if I didn’t get the job I wanted –

I got the job I didn’t want –
and my ultimate disappointment
did my confidence
a world of good.

editors note:

No self sale when not self sold. – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum August 30, 2016  :: 0 comments

She was a nature lover
who never thought me green-blooded enough,
who figured my pale skin
should be more the color of dirt.
I remembered she was Marie
but the names of trees eluded me.
I picked a wildflower for her.
She informed me that I’d killed it.

She loved to ramble through the
woods for hours.
She despised the city.
Too loud, too busy, too smelly,
she said.
These were all my argumenta in favor.

She was as beautiful though
as the downtown at night after a rain shower,
soft and neon-colored,
sparkling where you’d least expect.
This comparison stayed with me.
Silent praise knows when it’s well off.

Once she took in an injured owl,
nursed it back to flying.
This is why I never understood it
when she tried to clip my wings.

editors note:

Animal husbandry; never easy for the animal. (Read another mad missive from John on his page; about making more than keeping – check it out.) – mh clay