The Worst

featured in the poetry forum July 1, 2023  :: 0 comments

Of all the things we have to live with
betrayal is the worst
unrequited love
requited love that ends up
badly because
you’re a jerk
are nothing
poverty bankruptcy foreclosure
I heard are not that bad
but I wouldn’t know
what I do know is that
on that train from Nuevo Laredo
to Monterrey
I promised them I’d watch their seats
while they took a leak
and a Mexican took them
climbing in through the window
with the other cowboys
at a place called Catorce
where there was a rodeo or something
me sitting there dumb with my lame español
and when the ladies came back
they looked at me
with a distrust
stronger than ANFO-p primed
with stick powder
like I was Judas
for letting a smelly Mexican sit there
and that is nothing
compared to what I did to you
and one more thing
I know
Is that you’ll be waiting
Itching to get even
one last thing I know
is I can’t find Catorce anywhere
on the map
I think it’s gone now

editors note:

All gone but the regret. – mh clay

The Vigorish

featured in the poetry forum January 27, 2023  :: 0 comments

We should have a better way of branding
all those things
we find significant and troubling
things that shout to be
recognized
insurrections
plagues
beheadings
ethnic cleansing
the emotional toll overwhelms us
why not think of these things in terms of
analogy
so they don’t look so bad, maybe just call them
maintenance or overhead or CAP X
since they are a portion of us
but not the whole

We don’t like reliving
pandemics
forests scared stiff by lightning and power lines
tidal waves brutalizing our coasts
glaciers de-icing
flotsam from the Ganges the Yangtze the Irrawaddy
the Rio Grande
choking our seas into submission
why not simplify things and
call it the interest come due?

We have better things to do than choke
back tears at what we see
let us apply a mathematical model or
algorithm to what dismays us
since this fraction is so small
a pittance on that ticket to Ravinia
or Fenway Park or Cedar Fair or Orlando
a surtax at the toll booth the box office the gate
where we wait all breathless
for the show to start
all it is is us getting tithed
for our presence here
a service charge
call me lazy or distracted
but I’m getting tired of being reminded that
all these things will not just go away
these mass shootings the third-world skin auction
assault rifles with detachable box magazines
all of which
statistically speaking occupy
a razor-thin measure of our attention
isn’t there a word to lump them all into one
as stuff we have just learned to live with?
there must be

editors note:

Oh, my word! – mh clay

Twenty Two Pairs

featured in the poetry forum November 21, 2021  :: 0 comments

Twenty two pairs of shoes on the wall
twenty two pairs of shoes
I called Betty at AMVETS
twenty one pairs of shoes on the wall

Twenty one pairs of shoes on the wall
twenty one pairs of shoes
Vito said try Sister Margaret
at Mary Seat of Wisdom
She’s really nice
especially if she doesn’t have to come and get them
twenty pairs of your shoes on the wall

Twenty pairs of your shoes on the wall
LifeStrides and Clarkes and Nine Wests
I made a call to Vincent de Paul
nineteen pairs of your shoes on the wall

Nineteen pairs of your shoes in the closet
on the shelf
on the wall
they all fill me with grief
they leave two by two
I bid them adieux
the Archdiocese just took one more pair
eighteen pairs of shoes on your wall

You’re not coming back
to put on these shoes
I never knew you had
I was afraid to look in there
your closet, your shelf, the wall
you might get sore
you’d think I was snooping
and say ‘what for’?
you were gone in a blink
letting go of your shoes
will take longer, I think
eighteen pairs of shoes on our wall

editors note:

Disseminating the deceased’s detritus, the time it takes to grapple with grief. – mh clay

Understanding

featured in the poetry forum April 28, 2021  :: 0 comments

She mowed the grass
she raked the leaves
she shoveled the snow
she cleaned up the place
she cooked the food and put it on the table
that wasn’t enough
I wanted her to understand me
she said I do understand you
you don’t like to mow the grass
rake the leaves
shovel the snow
I do understand

editors note:

To have is to hold. Understand? – mh clay

Sir

featured in the poetry forum October 28, 2020  :: 0 comments

Sir
is what we called
the Jesuit scholastics who taught us
Latin, Greek, and the classics
at Loyola Academy
and in return they called us
Mister

The first time someone called me
Sir
was in a swanky club
where I took my girl
and he wanted to know if he
could put fresh-ground pepper
on my Caesar Salad
I said
Sure

Now just about everyone calls me
Sir
when I am blocking traffic
when a telemarketer calls me
and tells me about a world crisis
I never knew existed
when the mechanic gets me
to look at the underside of my car
up on the rack
and politely explains
what is wrong
and how much it will cost
to fix these things
that are all worn out
these things belonging to my car
that I never knew existed
and when I say ‘Nix’
he says OK
Mister

editors note:

Call me Mister, call me Sir, just don’t call me late for supper. OK? – mh clay

Disconnected

featured in the poetry forum February 21, 2020  :: 0 comments

Telemarketers have it easy
compared to how it was
four or six hour shifts of nonstop rejection
now an automated assistant answers
when you pick up your phone
no one is there
to absorb those projectiles of
bile spewing from your mouth
no one could take it much longer
than that
I did, though
I needed work
sometimes after a shift I was giddy
people claimed I was different
I sold radio time
lied that we were
‘the Paul Harvey station’
we weren’t
I didn’t care
I got a paycheck
straight commission
drank machine brewed coffee
in cups with playing cards on them
the bottom of the cup had your hole card
what do telemarketers do now?
they no longer recite their pitch
you push a button
get one of them
who, without any energy
any backbone
any moxie
takes your credit card number
doesn’t even have to tape the close
and if you mouth off
he hangs up
That can’t be any fun

editors note:

Consumer rage reduced to quiescent compliance. Oh, for the good ole days… – mh clay

More Or Less

featured in the poetry forum September 5, 2019  :: 0 comments

The older the priest
the shorter the sermon
the smaller the despot
the bigger the hat
the smaller the burger
the greater the fries
the Lesser Antilles
give me the willies

editors note:

And, far as we’re concerned, willie can keep’em. (Where’s my hat?) – mh clay

For Everyone

featured in the poetry forum February 18, 2019  :: 0 comments

For every snowflake that falls on the tundra
there is a package on Amazon’s conveyor belt
in Seattle or Arlington
with a trinket or a gold watch or a
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle
that someone will open up to find
disappointment
because it is not what they thought
so they send it back and get hit with
a restocking fee
and complain to Amazon or VISA or
Mastercard
about how badly they’ve been treated

For every time a man has whistled at
a pretty girl on a street corner and
got nothing to show for it
another pornographic website pops up
in cyberspace showing
how big your dick can be
or how easy it is to get women
or offering you cyberchats that will
change your life
so now cyberspace
is almost as big as the universe God created
on the first day

For every grain of sand on the beach
there is a drop of water in the ocean
for every drop of water in the ocean
there is a piece of junk plastic swirling around
in the Great Pacific garbage patch
a vortex bigger than Texas
for every piece of junk –
straws, Coke bottles, seat covers, sandwich bags
there is an idiot throwing them in the ocean
thinking to himself
‘this is no big deal
It’s just a straw’
for every idiot who throws a straw in the ocean
there is another idiot who thinks
the first idiot should be taken out and shot
so that humanity is divided in half
into two groups of idiots that
hate each other
this is part of God’s plan

then a poet comes along
a real wise guy and says
there are more idiots out there than
plastic junk in the ocean
than grains of sand on the beach
than drops of water
than snowflakes
than stars in the sky
all that is untrue
God, in His wisdom
when He made the universe
saw to it that there will always be more stars
than idiots
we are constantly discovering
that the universe keeps getting bigger
as our telescopes improve

so the poet‘s claim gets weaker and weaker
it is almost like God is saying
‘I made you in my image and likeness
but I’m never going to let you gang up
on Me
I’ll keep both sides of you fighting
each other
until you reach a critical mass ’
so He
in His wisdom
one day may just
scrap this universe and start over
make another one
with sand and stars and galaxies and constellations
and make wiser poets out of us
who look up and see God
smiling like a Happy Meal

editors note:

To us idiots, everywhere: Wake up and smell the Happy Meal. – mh clay

To An Artificial Plant

featured in the poetry forum October 23, 2018  :: 0 comments

Look at you
as I do
a replica of something true
completely fake
of polymer and wire
and yet
from every angle
in our living room
you look to be a
living bloom
what’s it like
to be a fraud?
Or is it natural for you
To pull off this skit
And con us all that
you’re legit?
In spite of all your artifice
the strain within must be intense
to hold this pose
this civil stance
while deep down
you quake
lest we see
you’re just a facsimile
we could learn a thing or three
watching you
your quiet guile
sitting in a plastic pot
pretending to be what you’re not
smiling your synthetic smile

editors note: Questions real from what is fake from who can tell who’s on the take. (We welcome Paul to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page – check it out.) – mh clay

Extrapolation

featured in the poetry forum June 13, 2017  :: 0 comments

Sitting at the breakfast table, reading the newspaper
Trying to guess what the market will do this week
Is like
Standing at the edge of earth with a telescope
Trying to figure out the universe
And discovering it is impossible
From this perspective
Because the future is bigger than the past
And the past is bigger than anything we know

Standing at the edge of the universe
Without a telescope
Looking at where it is expanding to and
Measuring yourself against its immensity
Is like
Going to counseling
Just the three of you
In this cubicle smaller than Galileo’s closet
Trying to figure out who will say what
And wondering why you’re
Wasting your time and your money on
This shit
Because the more you look at each other
The smaller you get

editors note:

Agoraphobics prefer closet to conjecture. – mh clay