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
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

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
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
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
feeding this hungry beast

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.

this is life all around me

featured in the poetry forum August 13, 2011  :: 0 comments

i take in the sound
of the upstairs neighbors fucking
repetitive and dull
almost a sunday chore
hear the dogs barking outside
watch the balls of dust
roll from my desk
collect the cat hair in lumps
and then let them go
watch muted televisions
strain for the music
touch my dead grandfather’s watch
stare at the brown stains in the toilet
the hair clumps clogging up the sink
avoid the soap rings
in the shower
have the coffee and the wine
in one cup
step over the tape
holding the floor together
take in great art on the weekend
without a care
walk the park with everyone else
pick the scabs that won’t heal
misinterpret joy as salvation
beer drafts as intellect
try to think of hatred in the abstract
boredom as a nuisance
film as diversion
look to apocalyptic cities for comfort
while at the street corner
of misery lane and desolation way
there shines a final light
that no one sees
as car horns blare
and little kids cry sonnets
to their lifeless parents
their tears are shed
over nothing and everything
as i say absolutely to myself
this is life all around me.

flag day

August 11, 2010  :: 0 comments

she swallowed
a big mac
chasing it with
a pint of oil
then she
said to me

i just updated
my facebook page
i wrote
god bless america
happy birthday flag
and if you don’t like
the united states
you better leave

then she wiped
her hands
on a mickey mouse
and belched
toward the setting

after that
she dropped me
off at the bus stop
and i sort of lost my
for the whole
flag day thing.

queen of the bar

featured in the poetry forum August 11, 2010  :: 0 comments

she’s the queen of the bar again
because he’s home sleeping one off
because he’s not there to tell her how
much she stinks
how she should get off of her ass
and get a job
she’s the queen of the bar and she
can drink all of the beer that she wants
all of the scotch that they won’t usually serve her
when he’s around and keeping watch
she’s happy because some of the bar flunkies
are talking to her again
they’re his friends
it was kind of hard to before
because she’d stabbed him twice in the hand
in a drunken rage
because she’d been coming in on nights
that he worked
to start shit, to empty the bar with her wailing
and screaming
her begging for a shot
but she’s the queen of the bar today
playing old madonna songs
she orders out for a pizza
and when she’s done with it
she gets off of her stool to pass it around
the rest to her subjects
we take it because we are hungry
but none of us are buying the benevolent act
we’ve been through it too many times before
she’s the queen of the bar
and she’ll turn on a dime
she tells the bartender that she wants to
buy everyone a round
then she stops and says, no wait,
i’ll buy him and him and him and her a round
but that’s it
smirking at the ones who aren’t in her good graces tonight
she’s the queen of the bar
queen of warped wood and the scent of stale booze
queen of a jukebox loaded with her favorite songs
queen of another day slipping away in a loveless haze
the queen of the bar
god save the queen.

so that i know there’s life

featured in the poetry forum February 25, 2010  :: 0 comments

the woman in the apartment
above my bedroom
playing louis prima
and sinatra at full blast
the man next door to her
pacing back and forth
dropping bowling balls
or some other heavy shit

they’re doing it

the old chinese hag
next door
with her television dramas
and grandchildren pounding
on the walls

they’re doing it too

the couple down the hall
making the worst smelling food
the aging frat boys
on the fourth floor who smoke cigarettes
and recite lines from shitty movies
in front of my window
and the superintendent passed out
on a bench with a
wine hangover

all of them
they’re doing it

the dog walkers letting
their mongrels shit
in the foyer
the delivery men playing
their bad music
and honking their horns
and the teenagers throwing up
beer and pizza outside in the snow

they’re helping this along

the exterminator
and the mailman
the cable bill and the electric bill
the student loans
and the landlord
because he’s a part of this too

all of them
every last one
they keep on doing
what they’re doing
so that i know there’s life
outside my closed blinds

ugly gray life
dismal like a traffic jam
or intense diarrhea
and it just won’t stop
no matter how dark i keep the apartment
or my soul
no matter how goddamned long
i hide


June 5, 2009  :: 0 comments

from the top
to the bottom
of the human
trash heap
the people talk bullshit
but it’s all right
because people love
they eat it up
like a fine meal
they drink it down
like an elegant wine
they get stuffed on it
they get drunk on it
they elect it to years
in high office
or pay it millions of dollars
to entertain
people fill up on so much
that they must vomit it out
of their souls
like a wretched yellow
and into our ears
where it sits in our brains
like a soft milky turd
waiting on the first fly
of spring
to come by
and rest its translucent