Thursday, January 16, 2020

In jail with Grandma

All hungover and woozy, I drove dizzy
through the woods
to Grandmother’s house.

After hugging and kissing her at the door,
getting down some of what she called her
“chipped-chocolate cookies,” a snootful of
her full-body perfume (Evening in Paris, via Kmart) treatment,
I ran for her bathroom, the walls in there

all jagged fragments of bargain table wallpaper
a weird combination of palm trees and stagecoaches
and Jesus in a frame over the toilet tank, and I threw it all up

half a case of Schlitz and homemade Betty Crocker cookies,
creating a sort of Cirque de Soleil effect on the bowl, wall,
and all over the floor.

I could hear Grandma Mabel’s jewelry clinking, she was
sneakily, discretely hovering outside the bathroom door.
“You ok in there, honey? You been honky-tonkin’ again?”

I wiped up my mess with a wet, pink washcloth and flung it
out the bathroom window to wash later, somewhere else,
if I remembered, and came out through the bathroom door.

“I’m a little drunk,” I said.
“Oh honey love, not again. Why?” she asked, pushing more cookies at me.

I told her why.

“I had a hot date with the head cheerleader two Friday nights ago but I didn’t
kiss her because I was too shy and awkward so she spread it all over school
that I'm gay, which is ok because some of my best friends are gay but not really true
because I wanted so much to kiss her, had been dreaming of it, even practicing, but I didn’t,
and she called off our date for Homecoming to go with the quarterback instead
(bigger muscles, better car, less alcoholic—the cheerleader had a point*), so
the night of the dance I drove to the 7-11 to buy a whole lot of beer and Annie Green Springs
and when the clerk asked for ID, I told him to fuck off, then the policeman behind me
kindly tapped my shoulder to calm down and I flipped him off, so I went to the
Prairie Village jail all night and the morning after Homecoming.”

Then I sat down in Grandma’s dining room and exhaled.

“Bless your heart,” Grandma Mabel said from the kitchen,
making me some Folgers coffee. She brought out the cups, sat down
and went into prayer posture. I went along with it. Why not?
First jail, now throwing up and praying.

But I felt hopeless, praying like that, and dull, drunk like that.
Nothing and no one on the Kansas horizon.
I saw my reflection in a glass cabinet full of Kennedy commemorative plates,
I saw myself looking as old as Mabel.

Or so I thought.

Because, the praying over, Grandma said something else, something very

“I see you looking at yourself,” she said, her full-to-the-brim
cup of coffee, on her finger
dangerously dangling
delinquently dripping
on her lap.

“What do you see, honey? A handsome young man, maybe?”

I looked back into the reflection of the Kennedy cabinet.
I was expecting to see a guy all messed up, lost, confused, wrong,
even bad. But I saw somebody else. So did Grandma.
Who didn't look old anymore. Whatever old is supposed to look like.

“Honey,” she said, “you’d look good in jail!

That was the beginning of Act 2, for me.

Grandma went back into the kitchen. She started laughing, laughter
a little bit raunchy for a grandmother, but she never was a woman into
labels or limitations. She said, from in there, sort of off stage—

“And you can bring that washcloth back in here, honey. We may be in the midwest,
but you don’t have to hide those kind of things from me.”

* This poem, written 45 years later, has a note to bring it up to date,
maybe irrelevant to the poetry, but here it is. The quarterback
is now a rich, pudgy Republican, in jail for sexual abuse and rape.
I'm not in jail, but Grandma was right. I looked good when I was.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Not gonna get held down

My meloncholy is all pink
but I spit out the seeds,
let the juice dribble down
on my shirt, and I’m not washing the shirt.

Come as you are
said the wise-ass but wise nurse
ten seconds after I was born.

I am going to take my tears
and wipe squeaky all my windows.

Nothing and no one is going to hold me down
this year, especially not me.

I’m not gonna get fucking held down
this year
or any other year
they throw at me.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Women charge in

Cast into the forest far above and beyond the castle walls

the expatriate from the patriarchy

rowdy, raunchy, relieved to be free
roughly swaddled in corduroy,
full of garlic and Perrier

laughs his ass off
up high in the fresh blue air, dripping green leaves,
and moist brown bark

as he watches the puny pipsqueak
(mental case, lower case) king
get dethroned

And though the forest has been a little DISenchanted

in the distance                                 he hears

the ringing of caravan bells,
the jingling of bridles,
and the pounding of horses
hooves through the trees

as women ride in
to take charge!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Billionaire Blues

Burying what they were born with
quickly taught to kiss ass, shove women,
men like needy little boys forever.
Money has no face.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The orphanage by the sea

I just drove down here from New York City
couldn’t get the time of day from my family
at that little family reunion, and may I tell you something?
I didn’t really want the whole watch, just the time.

So here I am at this friendly but seedy but clean
seaside motel at Virginia Beach, checking in for the night
or maybe longer. Probably longer, even my car
is giving me dirty looks.

Next, without even changing out of my highway Levis
or the sun to come up,
I’ll go jump in the ocean and float;
it’ll be so soothing to my
better but battered back
and soul.

After that, I’ll come back in here and get online,
I see they have a complimentary lobby computer
so old, the plastic so yellow, I can’t believe they still have it
or that I’m so behind the times that I need it,
and I’ll listen to John Denver all night.

For sweetness
for light
for life
for love
for possibilities
west of here
in a new family

I really will, don’t worry about me.
But first, the Atlantic Ocean.

All those family albums gone
all that scotch tape come undone
out with the tide.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Elevator music

A lonely rainy day—
no real reason to be lonely
except for some stuff that happened
a long time ago, back when I was
from one to four feet tall—
I walked inside the hotel elevator.

It was a new hotel so naturally
I wanted to go up and
see the view from the top.

I stepped in alone and was enveloped
in perfume; a smell so wet and thick
I couldn’t see through it, couldn’t find
the lighted row of floor buttons to push; I inhaled
this enveloping perfume
that was mailing me somewhere else.

The elevator door closed.

I oozed through the aroma, it was wetting me down,
weighing me down, filling me up, found
the buttons, and pushed

I wasn’t really in the elevator anymore
not in the hotel anymore
not lonely anymore
nor four feet tall.

I began to speak, right out loud—

Who was she? Where is she?
Oh, boy ... all the people we’ll never meet
or get to know. 

The elevator wasn’t talking.
But when it got to the roof,
it had the instinct to reverse direction
and blink off the floors
one at a time
back down to the

Friday, January 25, 2019

Haiku this poem to Cuba

So, no one needs me
Christmas Tree Past, tinsel still flashing; 
But I sure am fun!