Waiting for Rain

Anne Sexton wrote:
"God has a brown voice,
full and soft as beer."

But I think no, 
more a shot of cask-strength bourbon – 
"Wow, shit. Woo! Hoo boy." 
Or "Hoo-ah!" like Al Pacino
in Scent of a Woman.

Holy – fiery midnight 
tossed back without sentiment,
the stars sway and shake
as they did at creation.

No sotto-voce stage-right, 
no sorry Romeo in crestfallen overcoat,
no sentimental trombones
stepping on valentine shoes
doing the boxing-step waltz.

Or if God has a soft voice,
maybe like asphalt gone formless
on a burning hot day,
the sky a void – 
no place for bare feet
on the road.
Waiting for weather.
Waiting for thunder and rain.

For Shay’s Word Garden

Ferry Service Terminal – Weehawken, NJ

Here, an overdose of pigeons –
brown and grey as a dime bag of scag –
they needle at french fries and trash
in a proximal race with rats
for bloat and blessed anesthesia. 

As do I, as do I.
I sit on a bench by the river,
mainline the romance of rusty barges,
the charmed smell of diesel and transmission fluid
In the wasteland of a ferry repair depot.

It is thusly Charon and I converse.
He, a charming industrial ghost –
part ferryman, part dilapidated
freight warehouse in tux and spats –
we veer into conversations on jazz and sports,

What 'Trane and Billy Holiday 
had to say as they crossed over,
their eyes and livers hardcore,
burned out Detroits of the soul –
the Babe too and Jesus

A chatterbox who wouldn't shut up
and didn't leave a tip.
I have no axe to grind with death,
but also no yellow bricks to lay end to end
then say goodbye – a road
paved for the caisson,

Its distant drummer's march. 
A cop drives by, shines his light.
At this late stage, it doesn't take a brainiac
to come in from the park.
I'm a junkie for the dark.

For Shay’s Word Garden


Sometimes a cheroot is just a cheroot
said Anna Freud’s lover, chomping a lilac cigar –
embers flaring like sunspots,
peony juice jetting into the spittoon

As brass as the reign of George V’s 
morganatic mustache –
where a century later on Hampstead Heath 
I pull hairs from the beard of Modernism 

Declaiming poems in front of her house
and biting heads and arms and legs
off those gingerbread men
of literati, history, badinage,

Stanching the wounds of PoMo amputees
with crumbs and frosting – 
while we carry on alive, unfettered,
in ecstasy of symbols.

For Shay’s Word Garden

For Jackson C. Frank

I heard you sing “birds burn alone”
thinking you meant to rise,
a firebird

Now I see you standing lost and lonely
in Piccadilly Circus,
a ghost wrapped in curls 

Of carnival red and yellow flame –
not standing tall from the ashes,
but leaving a residue of hunger

Like water marks on stone
where you live under bridges
burning memories and trash

to keep warm


The clouds were tired of smelling my feet – 
old man legs that swing, swing,
until toes stub the sky –

God's vast blue nostril inhaling
summer's residue and blister,
dead skin of bestsellers litters the beach

OK, no, only my face in the towel bag
huffing sunscreen fumes;
you said it was time to go

For all good things must come to an end,
like Columbus I sail
off the edge of the world

Pull the ripcord and parachute with all the others
in our Chevy Niñas, Pintas, and Santa Marias
down I-95 into Manhattan

Hurricane of returning vacationers,
lightning flash turn signals,
children the howling wind and rain in McDonalds

And you, as always, in the passenger seat
with your movie star face –
oversized sunglasses and bored look

We hang suspended, swaying
from the ends of steel cables on the GW bridge,
close enough now we can smell New Jersey

You say, as you always do:
"Never again. Never."
The dogs need to pee.

The Sunday Muse

Opera on the Half-Shell

Soprano:Seagulls, various
Basso Profundo:The Seal
Chorus:Beach bums
The Band:Banjofish, Harmonicafish, Washboardfish, Jugfish
Act 1, Scene 1:Dogman, walking the beach.
He contemplates, life, death, and hotdogs.
Dogman:This hotdog sings the mustard, sings the relish, relish the sky, relish the beach, my tongue in a pickle all day la la.
Beach Bums:Yes! Yes! Sing with relish!
Dogman:Sing with abandon! But abandon means bereft. I sing and am alone forever, my lungs lost in a forest of breath.
Beach Bums:No! No! He must not be lost!
Dogman:Like Popeye I smoke the spinach of storms. I flex my blimps.
The Seal:(Burps).
Dogman:A great fishyness fills the air…
Seagull:Yessiree yamma yamma fishfishfish.
The Seal:God said let there be squid, and there was squid.
Seagull:Yamma yamma squidsquidsquid.
Dogman:Clams are an open book of wagging tongues, shoal-mamas. I attend death at their pearly gates.
(Clam harmonica  plays…)
Dogman:I see the angry red kimono of sky open, naked sun flashing the sea.
Beach Bums:What do you see, oh what do you see?
Dogman:I see ramshackle clamshackle clamtastic fantastic hallelujah.
The Sea Hag tosses my fate like dice eyes.
Snakes in the house of Fate, spots scratched out, rolling blind.
Seagull:Yamma yamma
Dogman:The sky’s white lei’s of lightning, welcome to stormwash.
Flowers of heathen dance shock my neck.
My Popeye’s sailor pants are salted and scrimmed and scrummed.
Beach Bums:“O Fortuna
velut luna
statu variabilis,
semper crescis
aut decrescis”*
Dogman:Oh monsterous fate! Whirling wheel, malevolent and vain.
(Clam harmonica, repeat)
Dogman:Is there no shelter from this sky? Is there no hotdog for those shriven of sin?
Seagull:Yamma hotdoghotdog. Absolution and Cheez-its!
Dogman:Fortune, speak plainly now. I beseech you!
(Thunder rolls in the distance)
Dogman:Lo! I have had a vision! I abandon this hotdog to the gulls. I craven crave crave but a Mermaid taco! This shall fulfill me at last. To feast on a Chimera!
Seagulls: (unison)Skree! Skree!
Act 1, Scene 2A simple cottage near the shore.
A mermaid hangs wash on the line
She, struggles to remain upright…
*"O Fortune,
like the moon
you are changeable,
ever waxing
ever waning"

-- Carmina Burana 

The Sunday Muse

In Memoriam(ish)

Death says to me: soon enough, he will call collect.
(Only pay phones in hell.) (No burners?)
But the phone companies killed all that years ago –
"Operator? Operator?" A bot buzzes in the receiver
like a dying fly.

My cell phone screen is cracked with jokes
and I don't recognize this grim reaper's smile
staring back at me from the lock widget –
gives new meaning 
to saving face. 

Saved by the bell, or ringtone. Sitting out on the deck –
listening to woodpeckers' hard words with bark beetles.
"I hear you knocking, but you can't come in."
I skipped Morse code in Boy Scouts
along with Lifesaving and Bugling

Which means I can't play taps for you, my friend –
only these fingerprints
on Gorilla glass, tracks in the sand
draining down the silicon hourglass.
If survival is eulogy enough, we are still here.

*”Death Calling Collect” – Don Tracy, 1976 (among other versions/sources)

The Sunday Muse


Now we’re inside the hat trickWhat? You say I’m stuck up a magician’s sweaty sleeve, packed with flowers, a bunny, and silk?
I thought a hat trick was in sports.Performing the nifty magic of being a man — are those roses or a crown of thorns? A fancy red hanky or was I coughing up blood? Is that my lucky rabbit’s foot or road-kill?
Three wickets, three goals, three strikes.Maybe I’m a fire-eater, but you wanted a mind-reader.
What on earth is a wicket?If I hold out a rope to the audience, slit its bight, do I slip the noose?
And why are they sticky?Ouch, I cut to the high card, it’s a suicide king.
This is mixing metaphors.Magician’s rent their doves. I thought you needed to know that.
I am confused.Yes, that is the trick.
What is the narrative?Let’s do the escape thing at the bottom of a tank of water. Or Everclear.
How does this tell us about men?Dressed in my best flak jacket tuxedo. Either I undo the shackles or drown.

The Sunday Muse

Flower of Power

Your head is a flower!Yes, I am the beautiful “Metamorphosis.” Kafka’s vision abducted at birth, found alive in a crack of pavement outside Prague. Passionate. Unbowed.
“After a night of uneasy sleep, dreams pressing roots deeper into the soil, fingers aching like thorns, Gregor Samsa awoke to find he was transformed into a wild rose.”
But sadly.Yes, sadly past peak. Drooping and wilted. What can one do?
How do you see without eyes?You mean how do I smell when it is I, rose, the center of the world?
It is for you to pluck and die with not knowing, to find your way to me by scent alone.
You have become one, not many.
You have sacrificed your humanity.Liar!!! The world pulls through my veins into the very color of my petals.
What sustains us, the garden of origin and eternity. Let there be light – flowers were first to turn towards god.
If only you too welcomed bees onto your face, felt their tongues.
As well the wasps with murder in their eyes and bellies. They, too, dab for nectar.
What? What would I know?
You are just a begonia, high on plant food.
It is really irritating.My thoughts are a choke of pollen, wind sweeping across the pavement. Wipers pushing to and fro on the windshield of your car.
Please be practical.My wife no longer needs a vase. She can clear out the cupboard over the stove.
And you?

The Sunday Muse

Going, Going, Gone Fishing

Let’s use poems like can openers!I’m lost in the isles of ACME, nobody knows where the can of worms might be.
Reader? Can you take a quick whack at it for me on Google or Amazon?
Sixteen bucks??!?!
I couldn’t wait, just did it myself. Reader – good help is hard to find. Can you please, please step it up?
Open the SpaghettiOs of personal history.When worms arrive dead.
Reader, I agree this is not your fault.
And I accept your reticence in the matter of the SpaghettiOs.
What other fun can we have with blades and gears?Oh, yes, beware Tin Man!
Or Aluminum Man, or whatever.
Cell phone ringing…It’s you, Reader! What? Yes, I have violated the fourth wall, opened the tiffin of poems, the Tupperware of nightcrawlers.
A wriggling, moveable feast.
You prefer SpaghettiOs. Fine.
The container arrived, says “minced bloodworms.”Blood and dirt a muddy soup.
Pour, heat, and serve.

The Sunday Muse