Thursday, July 23, 2015

Countrypolitan

The sadder the song
the sweeter the sting;

tales of regret
spun around
countrypolitan arrangements
call to me
as sirens
cutting through the AM static.

Why I am helpless
to I follow them
in bittersweet masochism
though their poignant goodbyes
and scenes of
unrequited splendor?

As I watch my sleeping angel
the answer
comes to me:

once she and I lived in
one of those songs
until the day
I dared to leave
my self-imposed prison
and join my life
to hers.

As the songs play
I hear lessons learned
a little too late
and smile

that
for at least
once in my life

I got it right.

[The definition of countrypolitan, "For the Good Times" by Ray Price.]

[Go post at http://dversepoets.com/ - say hi to Anthony Desmond and buy him a drink!]

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Invisible in a Hyperconnected World

This hyperconnected world
makes invisibility an impossibility. You can stay off the grid only if you want to pay for everything in cash and work under the table and not own property, even if it’s only your name. There’s just too much to steal. Give them a SSN, a street address, zip code, mother’s maiden name, 4 digit PIN, your first phone number, or your saliva off a discarded paper cup and they’ll use it to find out everything about you. I change all my passwords once a week, starting Friday at sunset and ending Saturday at sunset. It’s as close to a religious ritual as I observe. I keep all my money in my security mattress, which is made of metal and is fireproof and I change its password every day. No, you may not take my picture. Don’t invite me to the high school reunion. I ignore anything mail from the government. I have no pets, no spouse, no children, no extended family, no surviving kin. I commit everything important to memory, which leaves little room for anything else, but that’s ok because I’m safe, and that’s the most important attribute of all.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Philosophy of Life (for Brian Miller)

When I was 7
my first poem
was published
by the Fullerton News-Tribune.

I was inspired
by a late-night
tv sermonette
themed
“people are to love
and things are to use.”

It was the first time
I remember pondering
purpose, meaning.

(My grandmother
had the clipping,
ragged and worn,
in her wallet
when she died
25 years later.)

Then came
the long silence
between that poem
and trying to listen
for the voice of God.

Hearing nothing,
I embraced
and espoused atheism,
becoming a
material empiricist.

I embarked on
a life of modest
hedonism,
a suburban epicure.

It made life so rich,
so vibrant,
but ultimately,
it felt empty.

I needed a place
for all my gratitude,
for the roses,
the orgasms,
and the pizzas.

In all those
experiences
I was connecting
to something grander,
something not material,
something divine.

Eventually,
God and I
found each other,
and surprisingly
my philosophy
hasn’t changed much:

Why are we here?
To love
and take care
of one another,

just as God loves
and takes care of me,
and just as I try
to love and take care
of God.

[Written for the great dversepoets.com and my friend, Brian Miller.  Congratulations on getting your Master’s Degree!]

Big Ass

Big ass SUV
to carry big ass man
with his big ass kids
to his big ass home
with a big ass mortgage
and a big ass pool
that distracts you
from his big ass
insecurity

and his big ass wife
wears a big ass ring
on her big ass finger
to show all her
big ass friends
the kind of big ass
love this big ass
man has for her

and they eat in
their big ass dining room
with lots of big ass
space between them
and their big ass kids
who want very little to do
with big ass mom and dad
because they have their own
big ass concerns waiting
for them
in their big ass rooms
each equipped with a big ass
big screen tv

and the big ass son has a
big ass truck
and the daughter has a big ass
tattoo just above here
big ass big ass

and they're all in a
big ass hurry to
get to the next big
ass thing
that they think will soothe
the disturbing and unsettling
big ass questions in their souls

so the next time I see
the big ass overfed and
well to do
flaunting their big ass
out of control
desire

I’ll be thankful
for my modestly placid
small
world.

[Posted for Listen to This: Anaphora at dversepoets.com - come along and have some fun!]

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Rotting Gift

“God gave you a gift,

a beautifulstrange
caramelhotbutter
cherrylippedjaggedchin
gift,

and it took you to places
no one ever knew.

You fed your darling
mutant child,
shined a light
up under all the
maggot infested
earthworm crawling
guck on the bottom
and somehow made it
all
wonderous,
and the gift led you
to where the secrets
were hidden.

You knew you were
gifted,
but you didn’t care.
You let it rot
in the back of the closet,
moldy with black fuzz.
It needed light,
it needed air.

Now, you’re this
soft, aging suburban
Beanie Baby,
no hard edge,
no juice
where it counts.

Go ahead
and comfort yourself:
tell yourself
you sacrificed your gift
to take care of
your "blessings".

You had so much
promise,
so much fire,
but you pissed it all away.

You could’ve been a
superstar.
We could’ve changed
the world.

Enjoy your widescreen TV
with 200 shopping channels
and your paid-off mortgage.

You now have
exactly
what everyone else has.

Hooray for you.

May you never regret
your decision
to forsake your gift,
schmuck.”

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Pennies

I hate pennies.

They are so
not worth the effort.

They’re dirty,
they’re practically
meaningless,
especially if you use them
to buy someone’s thoughts.

They nag at me
when the check comes
and they mock me
in my drive-thru hurry.

A penny candy
can’t be bought anymore
and there is nothing
melodious about
the jangle of them.

So I say
fie! fie on you miserable
worthless pennies!

“Save your pennies”

Why? so I can take a hundred
useless dirty things and
exchange them for one
ragged filthy crumpled thing?

Nope.
Not me.
What good could a
penny be to me?

Nothing.
So, I toss them
aside
in parking lots
playgrounds
and anywhere I see people
who might need
something to believe in.

So, there, you have your answer:

I’m the one
who leaves the errant pennies
where you can find them and say
“see a penny
pick it up
all day long
you’ll have good luck.”

That’s me:
the good luck supplier.

Please,
no thanks necessary.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Don’t Wait Up For Me

Don’t wait up for me,
there’s still music playing
and something left to drink
and I am still looking for
someone,

and I get a sense that
person is here,
hiding in a quiet dark corner,
and if I turn over enough stones
and make enough chatter

maybe,
just maybe,
I’ll find what I’m looking for.

I’m not sure what this person
looks like
but my heart will tell me so,
and I’ll feel less alone
and not feel on stage,

so don’t wait up.

This could take a while,
maybe it's the search
of my lifetime

so if you’re gonna sit up
by the lamp in the window
watching the clock and muttering
I say:
go to bed now.

Knowing that you’re waiting
just makes me move slower
because I don’t want to be rushed.

If I come home,
then I'll know it’s where
I'm supposed to be.

The music is still playing,
this pulse is pounding,
bodies are dancing and
I’ve laughter and desire to burn,

so don’t wait up for me.

There are answers
in this dark night
and I will find them

and its nowhere
near sunrise.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Star Spangled Bender

Oh, say can you see
through the cons and the fright,
how so loudly we failed
to make real our past dreaming?

All the hype and fast cars
made us think we were right,
as our futures we botched
we gave in to fresh scheming.

And do we even dare
in the mirror, to stare,
and dispute, if not fight,
that we don't even care?

We'll pay if that star spangled banner
if only for a few waves,
o'er the land of the greed
and the home of the slaves.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

When the Thing Dies [prompt: dead poem]

Dust for fingerprints,
scrape for DNA,
track cell tower pings.

These only can tell
what happened before.

The greater mystery
is where does that life
go,

that jumping
pumping
springing
animus
that hears the
call of the wind,
follows the scent
of food cooking,
looks up
in silent amazement?

When the thing dies,
laying there quiet, still,
it's the sad miracle
on the far end of life,

the companion piece
to the mystery
of what makes it all

go.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Her World Turns On Weakness

Feeling like a cockroach
that even God pitied,
I went to her street.

I knew she’d be there
and she surprised me
by giggling
“you looking for me baby?”

My blush convicted me.

Giving her the once over,
she looked exactly as I
remembered,
only better.

“You haven’t been around lately”
I had dreamed of her lips,
that playful smile.

“We can make it like old times.
I can’t hold a grudge,
even though you have
been a naughty boy
staying ‘way so long.”

My heart diverted the blood
from all my extremities
save for one.

She was always up for a good time.
She’d let you do any nasty thing
your mind could conjure
and I always wanted to be
the freakiest one
in her collection.

“You’re thinking ‘bout those old times,
aren’t you, Sugar?”

She knew
the phantasmagoria of carnality and excess
we’d known
but my memories were fading in and out
like faulty television signals.

She leaned closer
and tried to sweeten the deal
by whispering in my ear
“I can still suck it good
until your head pops, Daddy.”

Her bluntness told me
she was playing for keeps
and I knew the pathetic cadre
of men
she had snared
and kept.

Her world turns on weakness.

I looked at her, smiling
and shook my head “no.”

She was lousy at being coy
but she tried:
“I’ve missed you.
It’s been almost 18 years.”

Nothing.

She knew she was losing,
so she reached down
and ran her open palm
over my semi-hard Vulnerability
and fixed me with
a purposeful gaze, saying
“I know you want it.”

I continued staring.

“No one will ever know.”

We’d played this game before
and this is always how it ended.
This time would be no different.

As I turned and walked away
her singsong trill trailed behind me
“I’m here anytime you need me.”

I continued walking
thankful I had escaped
with my sobriety
intact.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Once So Perfect, Orderly and Privileged

We must move 
onward,
because there is 
little here
worth coming back to.

Some look back
with soft, toothless 
reminiscences,
while others remember
with anger
that their world,
once so perfect, orderly
and privileged,
must be shared 
with everyone else.

If you have skin
any color but white,
or genitals other
than male,
or had a love 
that dare not 
speak its name,
what is there
for you 
in the past?

By definition,
a conservative
wants to keep things
exactly the same
as before,

and the struggle
is not in bringing 
everybody,
especially those 
originally
labeled as 
subhuman,
as chattel,
into the circle,
sharing in 
the bounty.

No, the struggle
is to convince
the owners
of the wall 
to dismantle it,

before we 
tear it down.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Will There Be Bibles in Heaven?

Will there be bibles in Heaven?
or nations?
or wallets?

The first year in Heaven
will be spent
laughing
at our previous imaginings
of the afterlife,

and the Jerry Falwells
the James Dobsons and
the Pat Robertsons
of this world
will be there too
looking for people
to minister to
but they won’t enjoy it
so much
because it really
won’t be like they thought
it would
or should be,

and some of the inhabitants
of Heaven
will be expected
--like the Christians who
proclaimed Jesus as Lord
and the Orthodox who kept
every one of the 613 mitzot--

but those in the afterlife
may be surprised by the absence
of those who said
they would commit their lives to God
but really never did
and acted holy
for every reason
except the right one,

their souls may be somewhere else
and perhaps that is where I’ll be,

but as I see it
Heaven will have a bible
and a copy of the Koran
and of the Bhagavad Gita
and the Upanishads
and of all the holy books

because Heaven welcomes all books
and all those who find them holy.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pictures of What I’m Hearing

Don’t believe the hype:
vinyl records suck.

The poseurs
can wax rhapsodic
about the warmth
of a record album,
the color…
the ritual…
whatever.

I listen
for fidelity:
truth to what
the musician,
the artist
intended.

Unless
the surface noise
was intentional,
then all the crackles,
and electrostatic pops,
ruin the experience.

Give me digital,
something that sounds
the way it was intended,
not just the first it’s played,
but the tenth time
the millionth time,
every time
it’s played.

But,
I’ll concede
to record albums
this:

those big beautiful covers
that I could study,
gaze upon
for hours at a time
as the music played,
imprinting itself
on my soul,

almost beautiful enough
to distract me
from the

chrrrcshle-sszk
b-bbrrchc-cklle
kcccrmmmlmnnkll
kkmmm-mmmmrllmm

that my music
rode upon.

Almost.

[Written for Fireblossom's Friday My Way Prompt:

The Businessman Speaks Again

"I used to be
a Christian
until I made
a six-figure salary.

Then I became
an American;
it’s easier
to give money
to the poor
when you’re
one of them.

I made it.

I now espouse
the religion
of capitalism,

which I define
thusly:

a poorer man
fellating a richer man
fellating an even richer man
until all that
hot, sticky money
trickles down.

When I was a Christian
I used to believe
“that which you do
to the least of these,
you do to me.”

Now
I believe in survival of the fittest:
it’s easier
and more rational.

Thankfully,
there’s a Walgreen's
next to my bank,
so I can buy
more mouthwash
after I
cash my paycheck."

[Posted for Open Link Night at http://dversepoets.com/2015/06/18/open-link-151/ ]



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hello, Smiley!

This year
I read the
Father’s Day cards
and my heart
didn’t crumple
from missing you.

I miss your jokes, Smiley
and your soft, brown forehead,
like weathered leather,
with natural, wide creases,
made by wiggling your eyebrows
like Groucho
to punctuate a punchline.

I have a toolbox
like yours,
a pliers-like
pincher grip
like you,
and a determination
to fix the broken things
in my house,
just like you.

I hear your voice
whenever I drop
a screw:
“don’t start swearing,
immediately look to see
where it went.”

Whenever I did you a favor
you’d thank me by saying
“your reward will be
in Heaven.”

When we meet again
in the next life,
I’ll say “Hello, Smiley”
and that will be my reward.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Vasectomy

“you can’t unring a bell”

is what I thought 
when I woke up 
March 10, 1986,
the day
I was scheduled 
to have the vasectomy.

The abortion was 
by mutual consent,
but the vasectomy 
was a unilateral decision.

To ensure 
no more accidental
impregnations, 
I made the decision.

I was 22 and 
to default
to my partner’s 
birth control 
method of choice
seemed predictable
and unimaginative.

(Secretly,
I was deathly afraid
of getting the wrong woman 
pregnant
and being forever trapped
with a baby carriage
chained to my ankle.)

I arrived at the doctor’s,
and changed into
the paper gown.

As I lay down 
on the examining table, 
I looked up and 
started counting the holes 
in the ceiling tiles
out of nervousness.

Then someone came in,
and I didn’t even look 
as he announced 
he was administering
local anesthesia.

I tried not to think about it 
as he tore 
a small perfect square
from my paper gown
to isolate my genitals
for the treatment.

His self-assurance 
and precision 
put me at ease,
then
I saw the needle
and felt a rush of heat in my forehead
and then soft warm fingers
gently moved my penis
to the side
and before I could register 
the strangeness of the moment,
I felt the pinprick
on my right testicle.

My eyes widened,
I breathed deep,
and when he left 
I realized:
“this is really happening.”

I propped myself up
on my elbows 
and looked at my package,
laying there, 
groggy and limp 
surrounded by a 
white paper gown field.

“Look what we got ourselves into.”

I smiled 
there’s something about being 
the master of my own destiny,
no matter how small,
it was empowering
and calming.

Dr. Montgomery came in 
and he described everything 
he was doing, 

and then it was all over,
all my worrying 
all my guilt about the abortion. 

I ached for three days after 
but I took it in stride
because I had done the right thing, 

and because
getting a vasectomy
made me feel more like a man
than getting laid did.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Abandoned Pet Store

Before the bubble burst
Kittens ‘n’ Pups
was in its prime,
a garish and glittery
anomaly
among the discount retailers
and the Goodwill store in
the less successfully gentrified
section of the downtown.

They sold rare breeds
and traded in
cruelty-free kibble
and mentally challenging
chew toys.

We almost bought
a Yorkshire Terrier there
but something
seemed amiss –
her puppy eyes betrayed
an air of desperation.

Perhaps she was able
to predict what
economists could not see.

Then the bubble burst.

Now it is
an abandoned pet store
and peering into its
shadowy shell
I recall its better days
and wonder

where do the purebreds
go
in a recession?

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

My Modest Change (for Abel)

When I give money
to the holy homeless
of the street,
I ask their name
and assure them
I will pray for them.

I finally figured out
what bothered me
about this:

when I give
from my
undeserved bounty,
it creates
an artificial imbalance,
because I have
some thing
and other does not,
and it really is
only a blessing
of grace
that I have
what I have
at all.

So, today
when I gave to
the vacant eyed
young man
hopefully named
Abel,
I assured him
I would pray for him,
and then
The Holy Spirit
spoke through me:
"and my name is David,
please pray for me too."

It helped to remember
that I needed his prayers
just like he needed
my modest change.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Simple, Sacred

Explaining
social stratification in
post-World War II
suburban America,
or the proper use
of inferential statistics
in null hypothesis testing,
or demonstrating
how to tie a
Windor knot
might seem complicated,
even complex,
but they're not.

They're just a sequence
of discrete,
man-made tasks,
and are, therefore,
profane
and mundane.

However,
the simplest,
most basic,
elemental things:

air
water
life surging
through a living being,

these things
remain
beyond our grasp,
sacred and divine,

and we take them
for granted,

until they are
in limited supply.

[Written for https://aprompteachday.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/prompt-1-simple/ - go and play along!]

Friday, May 29, 2015

Numb

I numb myself
so it doesn’t envelop
me,

so it doesn’t hurt.

Wrapping myself
in my invisible protective coating,
I withstand the quills
of every porcupine I meet,

and I seem to know
an endless supply of them.

My gallery of scars
suggests my plan
isn’t foolproof.

When mistreated,
I just numb myself,
and then I experience it
as though I am watching
a black comedy
starring a tragically
bumbling
protagonist.

Through denigration
neglect and abuse,
I stand firm and
do not fall
in the public eye.

I confess only
to God and this blank paper
as I fear neither.

In the solitude
of an empty parking lot,
with ink and prayer
I step out of the numbness
and inspect my puncture wounds,

some of which
go 51 years deep.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Holiday Poem for Absentee Fathers

"It’s holiday time again
and many of you
are prying yourselves away
from your televisions
and your new families
(the ones with the children 
you chose to raise)
and you probably want to know
when everyone’s coming over
so you can have
your Norman Rockwell
picture-perfect
Thanksgiving
complete with laughing happy children
a bountiful turkey
and genuine warmth.

Well,
as someone who sees
the everyday injuries
that your past indifference
hath wrought,
let me respectfully say:
stay the fuck away.

If your children are really little,
don’t get their hopes up
only to be gone for another
stretch of hopeless emptiness,

they don’t know any better.

If your kids are old enough to have
forgiven you in the hopes
that they’d be able to salvage
some kind of familial bond,
don’t exploit that optimism,
it just isn’t fair.

So,
before you pick up that phone
to invite them over,
remember all the times
you didn’t call
or didn’t email
and treat this holiday
just like it was
any other day.

When you call
you reset their
Hope switch
and they become
little abandoned babies
all over again,
and it is cruel, indeed,
to keep abandoning the same
baby
over and over again.

Those of us
who are married
to your daughters
(the ones you never
made the effort to know)
and who raise your children
(the ones you just won’t make
that weekly visit for),
we carry them past
the gaping holes,
the bombed out craters
your absence wrought,
which pockmark the landscape
of their precious
and hopeful hearts.

Don’t call on the holidays
because it only underscores
how infrequent
your contact with them will remain.

Don’t call on the holidays,
those are the pay-off days
for the family who see them through
the rest of the year,

through every nosebleed,
every disappointment,
everything, everyday.

Those of us who do
the everyday heavy lifting
find it galling
to have to "share" alternating
Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays
with the absentee father.

If you want
to keep your integrity,
stay the fuck away
this Thanksgiving and Christmas
just like you do
during the rest of the year.

Let your sons and daughters
have their day of thanksgiving
with the people
who really love them,
and take care of them
on the days that aren’t holidays.

After the holidays
then you can make contact,
and pick up that phone
everyday,
ask them how they’re doing
everyday,
console them when they’re down
everyday,
tell them you love them
everyday,

and keep making contact
and maybe by the time
the next holiday comes around
you will have earned
it."

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Crow with Heart

Waiting to turn left
I spied a crow
in the opposite lane,
valiantly attempting
to pick up
a brown paper bag
from the Del Taco,
most likely discarded
from a moving car.

The bag was as big
as the slick black bird,
and he kept
grasping and dropping,
grasping and dropping,
the rumpled bag
from his greedy beak.

He kept trying
frantically,
until an oncoming car
turned into his lane
and he fluttered off
with only a scrap
of a used napkin
in his possession.

In my car
I cheered this crow,
because even though
he didn’t win,

he played with heart,
passion,
and determination,

which is the only way
to play this game
of survival.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Translation

Sugar is my kryptonite.
Anger is my pilot light.
Booze is my funhouse mirror.

Music is my fruit.
Time is my mockingbird.

Sex is my glue.
Writing is my revenge.
Groucho is my long lost uncle.

Silence is my prayer.
Desire is my serpent.
Jealousy is my jailer.
Gluttony is my downfall.

Television is my comfort.
Hope is my tomorrow.
Fear is my bully.

Memory is my curse.
Lenny is my prophet.

Forgiveness is my love.
Scars are my receipts.
Life is my material.

You are my mirror.

[Posted for OpenLinkNight #149 - go to http://dversepoets.com/2015/05/21/10429/ and link up!]

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How Richard Pryor Saved My Life in 1980


Back in the late '70's
before it was the OC,

stuck in a high school of
blonde, born again Christians,

I was the Mexican outsider.

Every June
I sighed relief
which lasted all summer
until I returned
in the fall
feeling very Mexican.

Until the summer of 1980.

In a used record store
I found a stack of
Richard Pryor albums
for 25 cents apiece.

Something about those
album covers,
that face,
brown, comical and dangerous:

"Bicentennial Nigger"
"That Nigger's Crazy" and others.

I didn't know
what I was looking for
but it damn sure
felt right,
and I immersed myself
in these sacred texts.

He taught me
and that brown had
its own feel
its own soul
and it was good.

He was my supercool prophet
rarely bowing to authority,

dismantling hatred with ridicule,
especially my own self-hatred,

and he made me laugh
so much and so hard.

So, wherever you are
thanks, Richard.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Drunk (A Magnetic Poem)


A challenge from AngieInspired - go make one yourself at http://magneticpoetry.com/pages/play-online .

Charity

It’s never a question
of whether I’ll give.

I remember His words:
“that which you've done
to the least of these,
you do to me”
and with a grateful heart
I perform my Christian duty.

My policy is to offer
the bill on the outside
of my money clip,
regardless of denomination
(as I trust the Lord
and He will not leave me
penniless).

I try not to feel too good
about my modest act of charity.

Lately I've taken to
asking the recipient’s name
and telling them I would
pray for them,
presumably later.

As I hand them the money
and say “God bless you”
I shake their hand -
a token gesture of humanity
so it’s not just
about the money.

While the warmth of their
handshake is still in my palm,
I return to my car
where I keep a bottle
of hand sanitizer,
squirt a gelatinous glob of it
in my palm,
and furiously
rub away any germs.

I feel a pang
of guilt:

what are you so afraid of?

Eyes Everywhere

What do you crave?
Make up your mind.

A fake
Jean Claude Van Damme
ass-kicking,
a heartwarming scene
hidden in
a Hallmark card commercial,
the cold hard dirty truth?

Pick your poison
because there's a world full
of meaningless
garbage
all waiting to distract us,
take our eyes off
the true deserving targets
of our vitriol.

How many
sit in quiet offices
wondering how to
to fuck up this corrupt system
and leave no fingerprints,
realizing as I type this
my boss may have installed
spyware
and is reading this
before you all do.

Never mind Google sending
every search to the FBI,
I keep looking
over my shoulder
and peering into
the air conditioning vents,
wondering "is that a camera?"

Is this the way a
patriot acts?

There are eyes everywhere
in every corner
of the rundown
mom and pop store
to the highest court
in the land.

Not only is
big brother watching
but we are watching
big brother
as he is watching us

and as long as
we are watching
something
then nothing will ever need
to be done or undone.

We are a nation transfixed
by smartphone screens
and television teats,
narcotized and pliable,
the true objects
of our desires.

The happy distraction machine
and the eyes of big brother
finally married in a culture
where everyone watches
everyone else,

keeping us all in check
so no one gets out of line
so no one does something
different,

as the rows of
black half-domes
peeking from the
Wal-Mart ceiling
watch us
and all eyes are distracted
from the wholesale sell-off
of civil liberties
in the name of fighting
terrorism.

We find reality tv
entertaining
because reality isn't,

and blah blah blah

and you're all probably
fucking bored by now.

So am I.

Change this channel.
I want to be amused.

Monday, May 18, 2015

KC

Just about everything
about him is
in transition,

not yet arrived.

Still wet and unformed
but I can sense
the outline
the nascent adult profile
and his unimaginable future.

His eyes are bright
and he sways from
left foot to right foot
unsure in most situations.

He is an odd admixture
of musculature and braces
and he has big dreams
big ticket dreams,

and I try to show him
that big ticket dreams require
big sacrifices
and long pants.

I know he’ll be
just fine and
maybe I don’t need
to stay on him
every second,

but that’s the
same way my dad
stayed on me,

and he earned my lifetime
of gratitude
love and
respect

and deep down
that’s what I want
from my son.

Love is not always
hugs and nice words

often
it’s honestly
showing your son
how the world works
enough times
so he’ll remember
the lesson
long after
the teacher
is gone.

Mount Rubidoux

I rode my bike
to the top of
Mt. Rubidoux.

I hadn't done
it recently,
so I wanted to see
if I could
still do it.

All the way
my quivering legs
my rioting heart
were both threatening
to desert me,
but somehow I made it
up that bastard
and I pulled my bike
into shady corner
of the mountaintop landing.

I was dizzy
lightheaded,
sucking in as much
oxygen as I could possibly inhale.

I laughed as I lied down
to keep from fainting,

"such a small mountain
and still it kicked your ass..."

my heart
kept raggedly pounding.

I have many other things
to tackle today
but I'm going
to savor this moment
up here.

As I enjoy this view
of my neighborhood
from a mile in the sky
I smiled

knowing the only way
to get such a view
is to make such a journey,

and often
the only way
to do it
is just
to do it.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Soul Mates

"Look!
There he is, Eddie.
Every morning
same time
he leaves the house.

Don’t worry,
this’ll be easy-
he’s predictable
like a Timex.

Yeah, I know,
he looks like a real
tightass.

Yeah, I got your money.
You know where
he works, right?
Just give me
15 minutes.

She never needed much time.

Did I tell you I saw her
at the store
the other day.

Naw, she didn’t see me.
Looks great.
She always looks great.

What?
Naw, he ain’t
gonna give you no trouble.
Kick his ass if you have to.

Just bring him back here
so he can watch it
with his own two eyes.

Of course she still wants me.
We were soul mates,
she said so.

She’s just with
him for his money.
Yeah, she always was
kind of a whore.

I called last night
but when she answered
I hung up.

There he goes, man.
Follow him.

Okay, I’m hanging up now.

Yeah,
got to reclaim
what’s mine."

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Teardrop Indictment

After decades
of male socialization,
they sneak up on me,

sometimes during
a tv rerun
or after hearing a story
of true altruistic love,
or if I hear an
especially perfect lyric
to an especially perfect
melody.

Something in my belly slips
and knocks something loose
in my chest
and it rises and catches
in my throat
and
down the tears fall,

and I should hate them
as my training dictates
but I cannot,

because I have known
tears caused by fear
and adrenaline
and despair that weighed upon me
like cement shoes,

but for the first time
I see life clearly
and I see how beautiful
it can be
and how sweet it can taste.

I also know how
fleeting it all is.

She brought all that
to me
by her touch,
her love,

in a place
far beyond words.

So I stand accused,
indicted,
and convicted
by my occasional
teardrops,

proof of my inescapable
humanity.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Losing the Good Fight

Surveying the front line,
the inevitability
sinks in with an
undeniable gravity.

The General confesses:

“You soldiers deserved better –
you were furious lions in youth,
each with the strength of Samson,
and standing high and proud
as a rooster’s comb.

However, we are locked
in a war of attrition
and time is not
on our side.

But it’s not in our blood
to hire mercenaries
or sacrifice ourselves
in mock-heroic suicide.

No, men we will stand here
staving off the enemy
until there is
not one of us left standing.

History will not forget
and our children
will long tell the tale
of our resolve and true grit.

We never bowed,
we never surrendered,
but rather died
with courage and honor
on this battlefield of

male
pattern
baldness.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I Brush Her Hair

I brush her hair
because it relaxes her,

and I am transfixed
as I watch the waves
of long silken honeygold
sway with each stroke
of my hand
at my command
like a sorcerer-king.

I silently marvel
at my good fortune
as she watches the TV
unaware of my rapture,

thousands and thousands
of strands
each one
beautiful,
perfect,
strong.

I pray
my luck holds out
and that I am given
one day with her

for every hair on
her head.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

I Play With Broken Toys

I play with broken toys,

the dolls with missing eyes
and three wheeled fire trucks.

I don’t go looking for
broken toys
but they seem to find me:

orphaned teddy bears
with stained bellies
and torn seams.

I collect my broken toys
and refuse to honor
our disposable culture.

I play with my broken toys
enjoying them,
accepting their shattered dignity
and trying to see the grandeur
of their former nobility,
but I don’t fix my broken toys.

I can’t
because I’m a broken toy too.

The Fires Always Come Back

Years ago, I asked
the wise Dr. Warren:
“in therapy, what happens
when the insurance money
runs out?”

She smiled
to soften the truth
spoke in jest:
“We say,
it looks like
the patient
is cured.”

This week
Sarah graduates
from her
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday
program
at the world famous medical clinic,
and at least this time
the therapists spoke the truth:

“The insurance company
believes she’s met
enough of her goals
and they don’t want to pay
for any more.”

At best,
every therapy has only
given her two-thirds
of what she’s ever needed:
they spray water
on the fire,
but never actually
extinguish the flame.

The fires always
come back.

So, on Thursday
I’ll proudly celebrate
her hard work
for the past eight weeks,

and reconvene
the search
for a therapist who can
complete that missing third,
and
for the faith
to believe a miracle
is still pointed
in her direction.

[Note: Lest anyone misinterpret, I am totally grateful and thankful for the compassionate and skilled mental health providers at The MEND Outpatient program in Loma Linda, California.  In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, please consider making a donation to Loma Linda University at advancement.lluhealth.org.]

Monday, May 11, 2015

For What Binds Us (Mother's Day, 2015)

For what binds us
are not the bonds
of blood and heredity.

It is the mutual
care and interest and love
freely given:

Earth to animal,
animal to human,
human to Earth.

Love is nothing
if not volitional,
and the phone lines
go both ways, Mom.