Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Iron Jew

The Iron Jew
steps into the ring,
tuxedo shirt
and bulging eyes
and craggy features,
sweat from his fore head
nervousness in his twitch,
he is a mountain
with punchlines
at his 1970s
new York nightclub.

Standing in the spotlight,
gauzed in cigarette smoke,
he delivers
line after line after line,
each one more powerful
than its brother before.

Cynics, skeptics and
each come up and
each is knocked down,
but the sheer gravitas
and invention of this
survivor and his
world-weary shield.

He leaves the stage,
undoes the bow tie
slumps in the dressing room chair,
lights up a joint,
and waits for the next

Scene change:
Thirty years later
on the other side
of America,
I come home
wrung out and hope spent
I go to the garage,
fire up my pipe
and queue up Rodney Dangerfield
on the Johnny Carson show
via YouTube
puff puff laugh
puff puff laugh
and his attack begins:
decades melt as
and he hits,
each hit perfect,
and I begin my surrender:
sides aching,
he punches,
I’m sucking for breath,
 he punches,
throws a three joke combo
with a topper
and I’m almost doubled over in pain,
joyful and liberating.

I have lost myself
and my worries
for a moment,
and I am grateful
as I catch my breath
and marvel that
the Iron Jew
has won again!

Monday, November 18, 2019

My Day, at 56, in Chemicals

Diet Coke
Saline nasal spray
More Diet Coke
More Metformin

Thursday, September 05, 2019

The Eternal Warning (Don't Think Too Much About it)

Looking at the
oily French fries
I saw a stain
on the discolored melmac
plate and I wondered:
what caused this?
Was it a fresh stain or has it been here
for years?
Did the cook wash his hands
or for that matter
did he scratch
his dark oily hair?

As I bit into my pastrami sandwich
the eternal warning returned:
don’t think too much about it.

I’ve been told this my whole life
as I attempt to scale
the holy trinity,

or when I’m trying too hard
to have an erection
that just

I pick up the pen
or seat myself at the piano
and try to disconnect
my brain,

don’t think too much about it.

Let it all drip lightly
like syrup off a stack of pancakes
or the blissful sweat
between her naked cleavage
as she rides me,
both of us
lost in two different worlds
consumed by one love,

but don’t think too much about it.

Where did my children go,
they were just here?
Between holidays and loads of laundry
we traded in our dreams
for beautiful young starlings
who would rather be
somewhere else,

don’t think too much about it
that’s was Evil told me
when I repeatedly rejected her advances
because I knew it was wrong
because I knew she was married
because I knew better
but I did it anyways.

Don’t think too much about it.

what if I lose control and drive my car off the freeway
and if the tingling in my arm isn’t benign
and if our global economy is an illusion
and if no one finally remembers me.

and maybe you don’t really think
I’m the most beautiful person
in the world and that you could be
more easily tempted
than either you or I want to admit.

Don’t think too much about it,

and what dark and pungent mystery
remained waiting down
all those roads I never took?

who might I have met?
what might I have done?
which drug might have killed me?

Would I have been
the sweating and desperate soul
frying pastrami and potatoes
desperately plotting and trying
to escape my existence?

but I’m trying hard
not to think too much about it.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Two Things

Two things I
I know:

Stay humble
or God will keep you
and don't
bullshit yourself.

I try to be

but I know
the soul
inside this

and I keep
for that




Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The M Mountain

I pray nightly,
from my upstairs
bathroom window,
and I look for
the Mountain
with an illuminated
representing my city.

I do not imagine
God is the Mountain,
or lives in the Mountain,
or looks like the Mountain,
but still I look for it
as I pray.

Some nights
it is seen clearly,
while other nights,
the fog,
the smog,
the detritus of
this world
make it difficult to

Especially on nights
when it is not
easy to see,
I remember
all those gifts
I trust in
and rely upon
that I cannot see:


I pray
even though
I cannot see,

I trust
even though
I cannot verify,

I am thankful
even though
I cannot repay.

Some nights
I feel at one with
the Mountain.

Some nights
I just feel the distance.

No matter what
the Mountain
is always there.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019


He gave her
a virginity
no one wanted.

She gave him
a glass slipper
he still cherishes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


You can fight it
but in the end,
it always wins.

So try
and steal as many

If you’re lucky
a handful of survivors
will hardly remember
you were
ever here,
and if you’re
all your missteps
will fade from
collective memory.

Since I cannot
control it,
I try not to fear it,
but rather
I keep it
in the back
of my mind,
and the front
of my actions:

no matter what,
each of us
leaves behind a skull,
some bones,
rare moments truly lived,
and the folly
of imagining
one more tomorrow,
just out of reach.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

The Woman I Married

I spied them
from the kitchen:

she was with him,
my beloved grandson,
and she was
so respectful,
and warm
and fun.

She was always
the woman I married,
but somehow,
I’d never seen
this woman before:

someone who consented
to share my life
and my fortunes,

a woman with a bounty
of lustrous eyelashes,
inviting curvature,
and an oasis smile.

She gives him
her truest,
most unguarded
laughter and joy,
and he is forever changed
one lesson at a time.

I see her expressing
the purest version of love
I’ve ever witnessed,

and the thought comes,

“That’s the woman
I want to make love to.”

Friday, May 03, 2019

Listen, Inhale, Absorb


Before doing anything
that would smack
of reaction,
just listen,

You already know
what is inside you,
you gave it birth,
so there’s no need
to celebrate it
with trumpeting braggadocio,
or eloquent poetry.

The more you can
the less you’ll need
to regret,
to apologize for,
to fix.

We prioritize
when we really need
which is why
I should’ve kept this
to myself.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

The 1993 Balloon

In 1993, I was
an optimistic, naive balloon,
filled with helium hope
but leavened with

The capital O
outrageousness of
Maury, Jerry, Ricki and Geraldo
now seem quaint,
even puzzling.

We shared
anonymous germs
in Superman’s
ubiquitous changing rooms
because there were
no cell phones,
and even then,
was merely
a human actor
in garish tights,
before CGI technology
made him
Super indeed.

There was no
user-friendly internet,
to capitalize on human
avarice and desire,
before the days
of monetization,
before it became a
privacy-sucking machine.

Streaming existed in
air waves,
radio waves,
television waves,
media resistant to ownership.

One merely talked
to another.
No email,
no text,
no IM,
no DM.
The impersonality
of the beeper
should have been
a warning.

became customizable,
we learned to adapt
to the things we
couldn’t change,
and when each of us
endured it,
we had a shared
common experience.

I recall it
as a time
of dreamy possibility,
less splintered,
simpler and slower,
and looking back,
my heart
sighs in unexpected

Monday, April 08, 2019

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


She sat in
the beanbag chair

guilty but not
a child caught
in a lie.

“You gotta decide
whether you want
to stay married to me.”

She just stared into space
not taking any
just wanting it all
to be over.

Then I issued
the ultimatum:

“I’m giving you
two weeks to decide:
it’s either him or me.”

The Lesson In Retrospect:

if your beloved
takes more than

three seconds

to decide
if they want to
be with you,


The Gravity of Faith

I shoot my petitions
into the
like arrows
with tips
dipped in
fiery faith

and though I cannot
see where they

I smile
in the

that all my prayers
will fall
back to Earth

I rely on this
just as I
rely upon

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Open Letter on Immigration

Dear young ones,

For years
I've seen them come
over our borders,
like dirty water
over a dam
and they even don't try to fit in.

They have their strange language
their awful food,
and they don't seem afraid
of our laws.

One of them even made
improper sexual advances
on your aunt,
my wife.

They come over here
and use our resources,
the ones your father,
and my father,
and my father's father,
and they squander them,

but they don't care
they just want a better life for

I want to tell them
to go back where they came from,
but I know that is not right
because this world belongs
to everyone.

So, let us open our land
and ourselves to them.
Perhaps all these things
that worry me
will not come to pass.

Do not fear the white man,
he will not hurt us.

your loving uncle,

February 1, 1848

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The January Hangover

Same thing happens
every year:

after Thanksgiving
the whole world
seemed to be dressed
in red and green
and snow white with colored lights
with everyone was playing
the same music,

and then on
December 26
it all stops.

All the laughter,
the music,

and everything just gets
dark and cold
and dull.

Every January
I go into my post-Christmas funk.

I know it's all
an illusion of
this worldwide party
to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

In December its easier
to accept my longing
for a larger shared experience,

for something special
maybe even a miracle.

So as I gather the Christmas
decorations and the cds and
put them back into storage,

I wait out January
determined that it won't
get me down,

and I look forward
to the anniversary of my sobriety,
to my wife's birthday,
to Valentine's Day,

to February.

[Posted for The Tuesday Platform at Imaginaary Garden with Real Toads.]

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


I do not have 
when I sleep.

I get downloads.

The universe
my helplessness,
the vulnerability
of my unconsciousness

and downloads
what becomes
into my
unsecured brain.

Most nights
the download
is an unholy melange,
of doubt,
and transcendence.

I pray that hackers
will not attempt
to break through
the rudimentary
security measures
I’ve installed
so I can operate
with the predictable
smoothness of glass,
of a perfect machine.

Some nights
the download is so real
I wake up scared,
praying to undo
what I saw in
the download.

Some nights
The Great Coder
compiles the lines
and I awaken
fresh and eager
to live out
these commands.

“So, then,
are you merely a Puppet
of the Great Coder?
What about
free will?”

I didn’t get here
because of any
free will choice 
I made,
so I don’t know
what free will

And, if free will
is something granted
by The Great Coder,
then can’t the code
be modified?

I don’t know,
just like
I don't know
the virgin birth,
life after death,
the mystery of the trilogy.

I have faith
and hope
that the next
might clarify

Pleasant dreams.

[Written for Imaginary Garden with Real Toads ]

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Christmas Present (For the Brokenhearted)

Christmas Past
stays in yellowed,
attic memories,
re-appearing as
days get short
and the nights become
a cold, black
and the ache
in my soul finds
its way
from my childhood
to now.

Christmas Future
invariably promises more-
conspiratorial familial laughter,
opulent –themed rooms,
quiet spiritual contentment-
and predictably,
delivers far less
than my covetous dreaming
could ever imagine.

Both Christmases
are illusions,
yielding only
red and green
pangs of sadness.

This year
I’m foregoing both
and becoming
Christmas Present.

The Christmas Present,
but rather,
fully here
this year.

If I stay present
in this time and place,
I can sidestep
the pain and
the memories
that usually linger
well into
the next year.

Christmas Present
is my gift
to myself
this year.

[Written for Imaginary Garden with Real Toads ]

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

I Pray for the Birds

Every night
I walk past the cage,
dim the lights,
bring my palms together
and solemnly pray:

“I pray for the birds:
please watch over them,
keep them safe,
keep them comforted,
help me to provide for them.

help them to
be kind to one another
share their food,
clean water,
may they enjoy
the sweet brace
of fresh air.

While they are in
temporary cages,
may they one day
fly again,
and when they do,
may they
glorify Your name
and sing Your praises.”

I pray for
the birds,
as I pray for all
of us,

with our feathers ruffled,
songs screeching,
and confused expressions,

for we are no more
grand than
Your birds.

Friday, November 02, 2018

The Darkest Hour

It wasn’t
the darkest hour
when I found out
he died.

I prayed
it was merely
a week-long nightmare
from which
I’d awaken.

I’d cried, laughed
written a eulogy
but mostly
that week
I held my breath
magically thinking
I’d awaken
and not be

The darkest hour
came later
when my widowed mother
couldn’t bear
to let anyone
go home.

The funeral was done.
The reception was finished.
Her house was empty.

by the weight
of his absence
the darkest hour
that started
in 1999

still isn’t finished

Thursday, November 01, 2018


I exhale
and watch
the vapor
in it's lazy,

the curve,
of the ocean wave
the tremble clef,
her ass,

this abstract
to the beauty
and the mystery
of the Divine.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

A Life Like Crystal

Dear Heavenly Father
(for lack of a better term),

Thank You for giving me this day.
Thank You for all the lousy things
that will happen
because they will remind me
of how much
I need your help.

Thank You
for the unsolvable problems of

These poisons
keep me
needing You,
keep me grounded
in my faith.

I want
to keep You
in the forefront,
center stage
of my mind
when things 
are going well,
but when life is
smooth and transparent
like crystal,
I think
I don’t need You,
and I don’t
remember You.

Just like crystal,
it’s all very
beautiful and fragile,
but just one shift,
be it tectonic
or a raised eyebrow
can cause a crash,
a system shutdown,
a flood of tears
with no dam(n)
in sight.

I hate that
I only remember
to call on You
in my time
of need,
my rabbit-eyed fear,
but that’s when
I feel closest
to You.

thank You for all
the misery,
the bad fortune,
the unintended amputations,

without them,
I’d never seek
You out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


The first time
she shared Julie London’s
smooth, rich siren,
that illicit thrill
drew me to
a world anew,
or maybe it was
just my ears
hearing a song
which I recognize
from before
I was born.

Offering her hand,
she led me into
an undiscovered
tropical paradise
hidden within my soul,
and while it all ended
without blood
or acrimony,
she forced me to see
how everything else
was colorless,
and I could never return
to the sad, impotent
monster I knew.

These days,
her visits are infrequent,
but when I hear that song
buried memories materialize,
so I keep that song
in abeyance
for when I need
reminding of the unexpected,
unanticipated good and surprise
in this world,

and how
sometimes it comes
in the form of a
warm cinnamon roll,
with middle Eastern eyes,
a lazy tongue
and a reflection
than I could ever

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Staring Down the Mirror

I’m staring down the mirror
and neither of us
is blinking.

“I see through you”
I think.

I continue staring
half-hoping I’ll find
someone else
without the mundane imperfection
of moles and pores
stray gray hair
and engraved wrinkles
that stay long after the
laughter has died.

And what of this mouth
keeper of secrets and teller of lies
and those sad date eyes?

Suddenly I want to do away with him

and my rhinoceros nostrils flare
as I clench my jaw
and we begin the contest
to prove
who can hold his breath
the longest.

His face becomes red
but I push myself past slight fear
into gentle internal hysteria.

My suffocation from within
is taking its toll on my competitor
as his body starts quivering
and his face becomes an
unpleasant crimson.

I push myself more
and one more second
just one more
as I see him
clutch the bathroom basin
I hear the voice
“don’t give up,
one more second!

Don’t let him win!”

just one more…

out blasts
a mouthful of stale air
as my knees buckle
and my face changes
red to pink to brown.

I giggle
at my lightheadedness,

leaning forward
face to face with the mirror
still panting and laughing
I offer my vanquished foe
the only consolation
I can think of:

“Happy Birthday, Schmucko.”

[It's not my birthday, but I pulled an old writing out for ]

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Beckoning Doorways

I’ve gotten to a point where
I don’t need to walk through
every beckoning doorway.

Most doorways really
do not offer
anything new anyways.

Should I leave the comforts
of my room just to
dance in some fiery meadow
merely because it is new
and looks exciting?

Going from room to room
I’ll never know more than
and while newness
is its own intoxicant
it has also a built-in

staying put
and never venturing out
into the throng of sticky and sweaty humanity,
I’ll never know who I am,
never see my reflection
in the faces of the weary and the hopeful.

This desire,
longing for connection
is proof of my humanity

and ultimately
I am a hostage
as we all are,

trapped somewhere between
peering through doorways
and yearning to enter
and moving quietly
in my room
among my books and things

content in my solitude,

as my mind
races on to the next thing

struggling to rest.

[Posted for Dverse Poets' Open Link Night.]

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Do Not Fight It

It's not

It's not even
but it is
the truth:

when your body
feels the rhythm,
starts moving along
with the beat,

jangling in time
with something bigger,
something more certain
and powerful
than you,

do not fight it,
even if you can,

give in,

That is the presence,
that is the essence
of God.

Even if the sound
is but a memory
replaying on a
mental musical loop
and all you can do
is tap your finger,
or jiggle your foot,

do not fight it,
that is God
telling you
that all will be fine
all is good.

and believe

be alive.

[Written for D'Verse Poets at ]

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

His Simple and Wise Voice

Their dad moved to Montana
the weekend before
Father’s Day.

The two teenagers
acted like it was no big deal
but I knew the truth.

My Little Blonde Talking Monkey
reacted with her expected
shower of tears
and guilty anxiety.

She tells me
“Dad deserves to be happy too”
as I rock her crying heaving

I suggested they each
pick out a Father’s Day
card for him
so he wouldn’t be forgotten
in Montana

(the reason he left:
“there was
nothing for him
in California”

uncomfortably long pause

“except you kids”).

The teenagers
were noncommittal
as they selected their
cards and then went about
dreaming of cell phones
and new clothes.

Sarah couldn’t decide
on a card so
I helped her
read the sentiments:

“Dad, you’ve helped me 
in so many ways…”

"I’ll never be able to thank you
for all that you’ve given me…”

each card flowing
with sentiment so undeserved

“Dad, you’re my best friend.”

I could tell Sarah
was getting bored by the search
but I wasn’t.

I was getting angry.

As I read each card
I kept thinking
Why isn’t my Pop here?

He deserves to be here
and I want to thank him
and I want to hear his laughter again
his simple and wise voice,

but each card tugged
and sometimes ripped
at my heart,

the injustice of it all
was taunting me:

here I am
eating my heart out
picking out Father’s Day cards
for an emotionally deadbeat dad
and I’ll have to
pay for the card too.

Why am I doing this?

Then I heard his voice:
“because you know
it’s the right thing to do, mijo.

That’s what I’d do.”

He was right.

So we left Target
and went home
and mailed off the cards.

Thanks, Pop,
I sure do miss your voice.

[Posted for Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, written in 2007.  Legally, the children in this story were my stepchildren.  Emotionally, they're my children.]

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Acting In (For Sarah)

She struggles,
a naked, electric nerve
looking for reassurance,
calming succor
that may never come.

Some days
she is braver
and walks onto
the battlefield of
self-hating bullets
and grenades
whizzing by,
close enough to destroy,
but luckily,
not quite yet.

When they're younger,
we discipline children
into reigning in
their acting out.

When they’re older,
with access to weapons,
manipulative hustlers and pimps,
I worry about her
acting in –
cutting and suicide –
and beg her to reach out.

On the plus,
she did not renew
the domain name
and website
where she chronicled
her erstwhile journey
to self-destruction.

Whatever tipped that
in her favor,

whether it was
her beloved nephew Oliver,

or the promise of
things unbidden and unseen,

or she just
forgot about it,


[For Real Toads  - Post and Read!]

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


It’s inevitable,
I’m becoming
my old man.

That’s ok
he was the original.

He stood
in privileged rooms
but on the sidelines.

The inner circle
was for others
possessing the right pedigrees,
the right colleges degrees,
the right hair grease.

We both found ways
to sneak in,
to fit in
where we weren’t expected.

He was polite to a fault
and rarely traded in vulgarities,
unless there was
a conspiratorial laugh
to be harvested.

He had more
but I went more places
he was afraid to go.

That fear kept him
from visiting doctors,
to avoid any bad news,
and he was finally seen
when he was in the morgue
undergoing an autopsy.

He was humble,
an outsider
a servant.

He made me laugh,
never excluded anyone
and was generous
beyond expectation.

I didn’t envy his
(now mine)
receding hair line
but I did covet
his prodigious genitalia.

I have his smile
and his kind heart.

He was the original
and I am but
a mere aspirant.

(For the longest time, this was our only family portrait. My Pop is the tall one on the left.  Poem written for Poets United.)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Kate and Anthony

Once again,
outside the cultural orbit,
I watch the world
Kate and Anthony.

I don't buy
designer bags,
and I rarely
travel abroad
I like
exotic food.

strip away
all the fame,
the celebrity
separate them
from all their
noisy, affected

and look at
their eyes,

human, weary
just like my
when she
failed at
doing herself in
at 11,

and I remember
my own fear,
discouraged sadness
and helplessness.

My heart weeps
for them
and those left behind,
with their
days ahead,

unwanted days
of angry rattling,
aimlessly plodding
through their souls
with unborn memories,
empty embraces,
and unanswerable questions.

[Mental illness is treatable and recovery is possible. 
If you need to talk to someone, call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.]