Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Ex-herd animals 

This morning—
I positioned myself 
between his ears
(way past wake-up time)
got my head 
behind my dog’s puzzled head
looked out over his
got his view of the world, and said:

Go on, boy! 

Do something new. 
Something else.
Something different. 

(After that, both our tails were wagging!) 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Alzheimer’s, &
Christmas Eve

It’s so much easier now 
that my mother doesn’t even know 
who I am. 

In my good old childhood days she’d feed beer
into her mouth, it'd go through her head,
wake up her dad, then she’d aim those eyes 
right at me
those dumb dull darts. 
Drinking beer by the cases. 

Tonight, when she looks over at me
just like when she was drunk
though her aim is off
she sees nothing
those eyes empty  
as pillow cases. 

The woman never was nothing but 
a stocking stuffer. 

It's a happy new year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2 mothers, no father—
no waiting 

My dad died in London
bang overnight; that was quick 
I was nothing but a baby, though PUCKISH!
dad had said in a letter
a couple of months before this sudden bang, and gone.

Then, my mother and sister turned around
together, like a fence I'd have to get through
and looked at me like I'd broken something
maybe him, and I knew—even a baby like me—
that it was going to be a long haul.

I guess I just stood there on my two-year old legs
trying already to stand my ground
with this woman, or mother, who'd gotten lucky
two years back, and this sister (who'd come about
in the same way, seven years back) and whew!
I said in that spot, wiping my baby brow;
I knew I was about to be unlucky.

There, in London, in my family of orgasm.
I couldn't wait to get away.
I'd be running for years.

I still feel criminal sometimes when I get happy,
or a little peace.

Walk, don't wait, to the nearest exit.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Stick a pin in the Sun

The man was so mad at summer
he began to wear red and yellow coats 
and black corduroy pants, against the sun. 

See that? he said to the sun.
Aren’t you hot? everybody said to him. 

He said he was sick
of being smothered
day after day after day
by the predictably tedious sun
not to mention watching the family outings; 
he wanted to get away from the get togethers; 
summer’s over, he said. 

And, he went on, I don’t like the Beach Boys. 

Anyway, he went on some more, it’s Halloween 
and that cold is so refreshing. 

They scolded him, but he said—

You know I know 
that the world doesn’t revolve around me, 
but I do need it to revolve within me. 

That cold is so refreshing. Or, 
I’m just used to it.

At night, the lunar snow will be his nightlight. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


I have many Witch friends too, now. But it wasn’t always the case, 
and I fumbled a few social moments; there were some faux pas. 
In Boston, in 1984, I was at a New Year’s Eve party, flirting 
with a woman in black hair and purple everything else. 
She was smoking, I wanted to, I was into menthols back then—
I asked her for a Salem. She looked violent for a moment.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

If you lived here 
you’d be home now

Jesus wasn't what I expected when he finally came by
in a red corduroy suit 
driving a matching red MG sports car
yelling—Alright, everybody out of the pool!

Being Good Christians, we got out
dried off
asked—What's the matter now, Jesus?

Well, I'm ok, he said, but God is very incensed
watching your rituals down your church aisles
smoky with deferment and depression
He's even got His inhaler out. 

Now, wait a minute! we said—still in our inner tubes. 
Jesus went on:

We're worried about you guys
looking all around for God, or me, so listen—
Drop it. Knock it off, look
where you are! It's beautiful. 
Take off your watch and listen 
to yourself ticking. 

Drop the Bible, drop Heaven,
drop your thing called Facebook, 
drop your parents approval drop 
your teacher's grade, your boss through 
the floor, and the next door neighbors
you think are watching you. 

We see (from On High) that it starts early
worrying about good grades
best team
best school
best town best country
best actor
best-seller list
respect of your peers
respect of your community
biggest funeral, everybody 
laughing, crying, missing you forever. 

You seem to think it's all important
maybe even fun, and maybe it is, I can see that. 
Probably God can't, He's a little stiff sometimes, 
but what if that kind of success doesn't happen?
So go on, I dare you, drop the hilarious joke of success. 
Isn't it really, not much? 

So Jesus, one of us shot back, bouncing
up and down on the high dive board,
what is important? Nature? Love … all that jazz? 

Jesus got back in the MG and turned it on,
radio too. 
It was Charlie Parker. 

Yes, he said, and all this jazz. 
And, the next full moon—full WHITE
making the rest of the sky deep sea blue;
or the next Aurora Borealis you might see; 
or the deep blue sea (and the Devil, we like him too!);
acts of cheerful sweetness out of the blue 
by strangers deep in the countryside—out of gas,
stuck in the snow, or deep in the middle of a city—
stuck in a room; strangers on a plane, talking
through the clouds, through the night
about anything but success; your deep down
creative desiring instinct, and don't question it; 
not to mention the feeling in your bones 
and on your skin, next time you're out of control 
with laughing—notice that, do that, it's all yours.
So, be in the moment, not the monument. 

(Oh that's a good line, Jesus said to himself,
writing it on a pad and throwing it in the glove box.)

It's not that it's important, he finished up,
but that it's free, all over the place;  
not even made in China. 

Get it? laughed Jesus, revving his MG.
I'm funnier than my dad, he said, 
already in third gear, then
already gone. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Expatriate from 
the patriarchy 

I never really ran with that gang anyway, 
always was sort of a lone wolf. 
And if women run with the wolves,
I’d say I was raised by them. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Eternity Ward

Are you having a senior moment?

Someone just accused me of that.

How many deadening cliches and
imagination-limiting catch-phrases,
how much social mediaocre 
and news broadcasts, national anthems,
and polite church services 
do I have to live through?

After all, when I was born
I popped out 
and the first thing I did
was lose my car keys. 

So what?
I remember clearly
my Third Trimester (plus 5 minutes) 
Momenteverybody was laughing! 

And the doctor (she admired me, I could tell; 
I admired her for being a woman doctor, 
there hadn't been much of that in the last 
life; in fact, I recognized her from before) 
said: This baby wants to drive! 

And while I didn't accuse her 
of being in a senior moment—
I knew she was in an Unlimited Moment—
you won't believe what she said next: 

Get this baby down the elevator to the Eternity Ward! 

I couldn't believe it, either. But I found my keys. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Born with nothing to lose 

Born smart
born happy
but surrounded 
by the deliverer, that dull dumb mean one 
(her muumuu tied around your throat)
in two rooms.

Your baby shoes, the tv guide,
the tv dinner, your first and last  
job application (not filled out, already rejected) 
on the tv tray.

Sooner or later you’ve got to get in the way
or else become a helper, committee member, tv starer, 
facebook follower, church youth camp macrame mentor,
good deed runner.

Or—you get way out of the way
and run like hell. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

That’s no music for LIFE

I don’t even drink anymore
I rode the alcohol to get off the pain
and for me it was a Tilt-A-Whirl
with a permanent ticket, so I got off,
but since I do care about others 
why is the liquor store CLOSED 
at nine at night around here and all day Sunday?

Don’t say that, because everyone knows God likes a drink.  

God drinks it all in
all our restrictions, in His name 
swishes it around in the God mouth, spits it out and says—
don't look at me 
and who's to say I'm a He? 

God drinks, drank, gets d r u n k 
every time they put their cold clammy ecclesiastical 
inquisitional hands 
on that pipe

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Boy Scouts of America
(and elsewhere) 

She shot me with the novocaine
the warmest funniest woman 
my new Cuban dentist friend
then she told me in a nutshell 
as I went numb
about her life of limits, from
grandfather to father to husband;  
she couldn’t do anyone’s teeth 
couldn’t deaden a man’s mouth 
in Cuba. 

But that's over; in a nutshell—she ended it. 

I asked for another two shots
of novocaine, because I couldn’t take it
then I lay there in the chair and thought
(as she whistled, getting her silver diggers 
and pokers out of the autoclave)
of all she’d had to take 
because of misogyny. 

Some men are gonna need surgery. 
Maybe even a dictionary. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Tunnel into the trees

And to think that 
I used to have a chip 
on my shoulder. ( Ha! )

I don’t even remember who 
the Old Block is 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

In therapy, but in no way

A whole childhood sitting there 
reading the side of a cereal box, fighting off 
the roaches, left and right, the wise cracks,
over and over, but who wants to talk about that 
anymore - let’s flash forward to us up in the High 
Sierras, up to the top - heads warmed in the sun 
unlimited blue sky over all that new white snow
surrounded by far sees over miles of fir trees
chittering birds and chipmunks and somewhere
bears and coyotes hanging around up here 
(so watch out!), sage all through the free wild wind
and, of course, through the likewise you and me
(so wise now!), and how did we get up here
in the sparkling and gurgling 
out of that bad old neighborhood 
in the barking and burglaring, 
while meanwhile, down there
in that blue sometimes green river 
beneath the froth and cool bubbling, friendly fish  
are making eye-contact with us; one of those fish slinks 
smoothly into a side pool alone, floats peaceful
gets still, looks up here, bubbles pop 
out of his mouth, float up through the blue 
sometimes green, then at the surface, POP
which means, up here, on the mountaintop, 
after translation:
                               Howdy neighbor! 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Keep away 
from the Joneses 

Eccentricity equals peace of mind.
Eccentricity equals freedom. 

It switches you back on. 

Lights up your dashboard within, 
while the dimmer without says, be like them. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Slapstick Suicide Hotline !

Part 1
The snow is piling up high outside. Beautiful. 

Ok, I'll put down the gun. 
(Where'd it come from anyway, me, a pacifist?) 
Ok, the razor blade. 
The bottle? ok.  
I'll even turn off the Facebook, the TV, the cell phone; 
all the screens of life. 
Then I'll turn back on the cell phone and call
Suicide Hotlinewhen I'm ready. Am I? 
Ok, ready. 

Calling now. It's ringing. Still ringing. 
Hey - someone's answered, HANG UP! - no,
I'll hang on - I think they've dropped the phone, 
in the background I hear Herb Alpert and 
the Tijuana Brass. 

Now, out-of-breath breathing, and, 
"Hi! Suicide Hotline, may I help you?" 
"Yes, I was about to - "
"Oh, you were about to - "
"Well yes, but the snow is so pretty - " 
"Isn't it? More tonight I heard - " 
"I heard that too, anyway - "
"You were about to?"
"Yeah. Sorry."
"Oh no, it's ok. We get it all the time."
"I bet you do." 
"Sure. We'll send a team over. Address?"
"77 Duke Ellington Way."
"His birthday today, you know."
"Yes! A reason to live right there, isn't it?" 
"I'm the house at the bottom of the street."
"We'll be right over. 5 minutes." 

I'm watching my watch go round for 
the five minutes to go by and already 
here comes  a van. 
Fast, for the snow. 
Too fast, for the downhill. 
I'm worried for them. 
And for me, since they're coming this way. 
Maybe it's one of their suicide distraction tactics. 
I can see excited faces and hands in the windshield, 
hands waving at the driver to slow down
and I think he takes the advice, and brakes.
Maybe too hard. 

The van is sliding and beginning to twirl. 
Now it's sideways and yes, it's them alright.
The side panel of the van says
                         Suicide Hotline!
                                        plus their phone number. 
I wonder if I should get in the attic. 
The van is going faster, getting closer, staying sideways. 
I see a cardinal in my tree about to flee, a chipmunk 
on the snow about to spring, and I should go
maybe up in the attic, or back in the kitchen
but I'm frozen, watching what's coming. 

Now the van is inside my house, it has come 
through the front door, the entire front wall, 
the cardinal and the chipmunk are far away
and I'm sitting on the front seat of the van
its dashboard and radio in pieces 
on the floor, with a lot of snow, but somehow 
still playing Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. 

"That's the song I heard on the phone," I say. 
"Yes sir, it's our song," says the driver.
"What is it? It's familiar."
"It's called: 'Gotta Lotta Livin' To Do.' "
"Well, that's good for a suicide hotline."
"Yes. We think so. We're not subtle."
"I can tell by the way you showed up." 

The driver takes out a cell phone 
and calls someone; the others in the van, 
on broken seats behind us, are peaceful, 
smiling at me. "Nice house," one of them says.
The driver's call goes through. 

"Hello? Yeah, we crashed Morrison. 
Please send someone over with Van Gogh." 

I have no idea what's happening now. 
The driver sees that. He holds a hand 
over the phone and talks to me.

"We name all our vans after famous ones, 
Van Morrison - this one, Van Gogh, 
the one that's coming now, and so on. See?"
He points to the ceiling of the van and activates 
the moonroof - still working somehow, though 
grinding - which displays a hand-painted mural 
of the Alvin Ailey Dancers. 

"MOONroof? Get it?" 

Someone's talking on his cell again, he listens, 
says, "Right. We'll take him to the airport next, 
meanwhile, please send a team over, there's 
a lot of carpentry to do here. We can fix it all  
while he's out in Colorado. Right. Ok. Bye."

So, I'm going to the airport. The other van 
has arrived, covered in painted yellow haystacks
and when the staff slides back the side door, I see 
a bed inside - pillows and mattresses, sheets
and duvets, creating a sort of haystack bed
I'm amazed but tired. I'm going to sleep now. 

More later, from the sky. 

Part 2

Well, where am I? Oh yes, aboard a jet. 
A small one, too. In fact, I'm alone. 
This is peaceful, there's mountains out the window, 
covered in snow, and the small red sun 
way up at the north end of the mountain chain, 
… beautiful.

And now, is this the pilot coming down the aisle? 
Looks like the pilot, she has the hat on,
and her wings, and her co-pilot is with her, 
plus a stewardess, with a bubbling
champagne flute. They surround me. 

"Evening, sir," says the pilot. "And cheers!" 
The stewardess hands me the champagne, 
and sits with me. In fact, they all sit down.

The pilot takes off her hat, lots of hair waterfalls 
down her uniform, and she waves the hat 
at the window, "Pretty, eh? The Rockies are 
so dramatic! And to think that just this morning 
you were going to kill yourself. What about that?" 
She laughs. So does the co-pilot. And the stewardess. 
Well, why not, I think, and now we're all laughing. 

I look out at the Rocky Mountains and notice 
the trajectory is on a new tilt. Sort of 
downwards. I drink the flute, and let it go. 

"Who knows?" I begin, still laughing. "Well, no -
I do know. I felt bad, bored, stuck, and a bit cut-off, 
is probably the way I'd put it," I say. 

Now they're really laughing. 

The co-pilot, who can barely breathe 
for his laughing, adds: "Lonely?" They all wait.

"Well, sure," I say. "I think." 

They start laughing again. And it is funny, 
for some reason. The pilot gives me a playful punch 
on the arm, the stewardess refills my flute to the top, 
bubbles flashing to the top of the champagne like 
old-fashioned Christmas lights; I notice the top surface 
of champagne in the glass is at a radical new angle, 
spilling a bit. I look out the window, the trajectory 
seems even more tilted now, but what do I know?

The laughter quiets down and 
the three of them look seriously at me. 

"They told us you had a gun," says the stewardess.

"Yes. I did." 

The stewardess drops the bottle of champagne, 
the pilot falls out of her seat, red and shaking 
with silent laughter, and rolls down the aisle. 
So does the champagne bottle. And a food cart 
from the back of the plane.

"Say," I say, wiping the tears away and trying 
for a straight face, "I don't mean to look over 
your shoulder, Captain, but is this plane on autopilot?" 

The pilot rolls all the way down to the cockpit,
though the champagne bottle gets there first,
and I feel a sudden upward jolt of the jet. 

I look out the window and see the top of a pine tree 
go by, then the top of another cut off by the wing; 
there's an orange Home Depot sign glowing
in the middle distance; out the other window 
I see cattle - horses or cows - hard to say which; 
then there's another jolt and the jet lifts us higher. 

The pilot says something. I look down the aisle 
and see her at the controls, her hair flying back wildly. 
She turns around and smiles at me. 

"Did you say something?" I say. 

"Not on autopilot. That's why we're laughing." 

I look out the windows, blankets of snow 
on both sides stretching far away to white pillows
of foothills and mountains. 

We bump on the ground and we're skiing - the wings 
are taking out small pines on both sides, the jet lifts, 
bumps down hard again, I see down the aisle through 
the cockpit window that we're skiing on our belly 
toward a large house of many yellow-lit windows while 
the pilot works the controls, the flaps flap on the wings, 
we're not slowing down, the right wing hits BIG 
tree and the jet goes into a spin. 

The pilot is laughing in the cockpit, the co-pilot crawls 
down there to help, the stewardess looks at me and says, 
"Sometimes you just have to wait it out." 

"Is that suicide counseling?"

"Maybe it is," she says. "Actually, I was thinking
of our situation right now, but yes, it does apply." 

The left wing hits a BIG tree, and we go spinning
in the other direction, counter clock-wise. 
All sorts of scenery tableaus across the windows. 

"You're right," I say, "I mean, who knows 
where we're going to stop? Or how? Or if."

"Yes, precisely. But I'm enjoying our conversation
aren't you?" She has an idea, and reaches inside 
her flight uniform. "Care for a sip?"
She pulls a miniature wine bottle from her jacket 
and untwists it, as our jet twists in the snow.

"Yes. And yes, I am enjoying this conversation 
very much. Oh … John, by the way." 

"Jane. A pleasure." 

We're sliding on the snow … still sliding … it's a long slide,
sounds like sand pouring … a pause, we wait … NOW 
a crashing smashing metallic ripping sound
and here we are, in the great room 
- snow sifting down - 
of what looks to me like … a ski lodge. 

The front half of the jet fuselage has jetted and slid 
(with us inside it!) through the front door and wall 
of this lodge, the pilot and co-pilot 
(both still sitting behind the blinking control panel) 
plus Jane and I, still reclining with our wine 
up (and including shards of) the aisle, 
are sitting in the middle of the room, 
surrounded by:
   flickering candles
   wooden rocking chairs with red cushions
   a long cowboy bar
   a wide ROARING fireplace
   and a dozen men and women,  
   in evening wear. 

"Welcome!" says one out of the dozen. 

Part 3

The snow is piling up high outside, it's dark 
out there - sparkly, beautiful - snowflakes 
softly drift in through the front hole in the lodge, 
but no one seems to mind. 

The pilot shakes out her hair and puts her hat on,
playfully crooked. The co-pilot helps me and Jane 
out of our seats, and we all walk out of the fuselage
into the great room, to mingle. 

A circle forms around us, they're shaking my hand, 
hugging me, welcoming me. One of them, the oldest, 
sort of a Santa Claus - Burl Ives type, asks, 

"So, they say you had a gun?"

I look at the pilot who smiles sweetly at me,
trying for once to hold back her laughter. 

"Sure did. Can you believe it?"

There's a long silence, I look at every face 
smiling at me as sweetly as the pilot is. 

"Oh, of course!" says Santa. "We all do, 
ho, ho, ho! Let's have a toast to our new friend!" 

The phone at the bar rings, and the bartender 
snatches it up on the first ring. 

"Suicide Hotline Westmay I help you? Yes .. right … 
uh huh, he's here," he looks over at me, "… uh huh, ok, 
thanks, goodbye! They were checking to see if you'd 
arrived safely," he winks at me, then, "Ok, drinks! 
Drinks for a toast, coming right up!" 

He begins to line up glasses by the beer tap, but stops. 
He hears it, I hear it, a sort of slow creaking sound. 
I notice the tail of the jet has whiplashed
into the bar of the great room. 

All that end of the jet has cracked into a wall, probably 
all the joists, and the elaborately carved, western-style,
dark brown wooden columns, all around the bar … 
holding up a line of bedrooms … above. 

All this, standing and holding together for over a century, 
is sliding, slowly collapsing, the bartender is on the run,
and it all comes crashing down, pillows and sheets
from above, glasses smashing, 
liquor, wine, and beer 
geysering all over 

And now, here it comes again. Laughing. 
Getting louder, and louder. 

And louder …