Friday, November 24, 2017

Last therapy session 
at 30,000 feet,
and dropping 

We arranged for it to happen on a jet plane
both of us going to San Francisco
on the same day
(my psychotherapist for the Gay Pride Parade, me
for the reenactment of the Great 1906 Earthquake)
but five minutes after 
we started the session up there
tray tables down, jet swung out over the sea
(me misty, our final session, 
him taking notes)
the Fasten Seat Belt light came on in RED
the jet ding-donged disaster 
and the pilot said we were going

Lots of smoke out the window
we strapped in, scared stewardesses
turned Pacific-blue in the face
(cleverly color-coordinating the collision)
and my shrink asked one last question:

“Did your mother read to you when you were a kid?”

“Yes,” I said. “The Riot Act.”

He said, at 500 feet:
“Well, I can see why you're holding onto hating
her as hard as you're holding onto your tray table.
Oh, you probably should put that table up. So, 
have we've reached closure?”

I’ll say,” I said at 100 feet. “In more ways than one.” 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fuck the AARP 

Zero to sixty in six decades 
and I’ve still got it floored; 
I’ll get it up to 100 
if I don’t get pulled over. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pants in the Pines, Part 1

The woman who said she was my mother
took me down to Macy’s 
the goddamn White Sale, of all things 
went almost all the way inside 
the fitting room with me, where she had one,
then she bought me yellow On sale! polyester slacks. 

Naturally I didn’t like it, she said:
Simmer down!
I kept talking anyway, drowning out
her sad sad sad sad silence staring ahead at 
her sad sad sad sad past.

But I had my hidden Red Corduroys.
That’s right, red corduroys! 

Up on the roof of the Holiday Inn  
up the street from our apartments
in a trash bag, tucked behind humming metal boxes,
some sort of heating & cooling equipment.

“Mom” ironed and laid out the polyester pants 
then, being a little laid-out herself,
she laid out and went to sleep. 

I snuck out of the apartment in moonlight,
climbed up the decorative white cinder block wall
of the Holiday Inn; climbed around the green-glowing
Holiday Inn sign, feet and hands in the honeycomb
design, got the hidden pants, climbed back down,
back home, back in my bedroom;
my cell down the hall from her sherry-flavored
and then, 
starting to snow ... 

I opened the bedroom window, took aim,
threw my pants into the pine tree outside. 
They landed in the top branch, hung there 
a second, slid off, down down down
to the ground, up against the trunk. 
I waved at my pants: see you in the morning. 

Awake at 6 a.m.; the Today Show coming through
the cardboard doll house walls; breakfast 
with Mrs. Mother (I think that was her name), we shared
blue-yolk eggs and lard-oozy bacon; out the door and down
under the pine tree; 30 degrees, early blue morning light. 

Yellow polyester off, static popping on my teen-boy thighs 
blue in the cold, school bus headlights flashing me, BUT! 

Then, the RED Corduroys. 

Wide wale wild and on the way to school! 

Where I got beat up and flunked anyway
but this was just the beginning.  
Later, I’d learn a lot, drink a lot,
sober up, look back clearly.

But back then, that morning
and a few more years of them,
with the help of the pines
these pants—these red corduroys  
would walk me away.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mona Lisa on the loose

The Mona Lisa Smile is mysterious, 
he said? No. It's not true. 
Only a curator would say that,
at the head of the family dinner table
no one else moving. 

Mona wasn’t being ethereal 
or even “Earth Mother-esque” 
(I heard that one in a midwestern “school”). 

The Mona Lisa smile was for a guy 
like Harvey Weinstein. 
And all those other nice guys
in disguise. 

That’s a damn confident smile, 
that Mona Lisa smile. 

As in, 

"Hey, you slimy sexist rapist
bar mat of a man, Hey 
Jerkoff—and it turns out that
I mean that literally—you may be 
a big hot shot Hollywood producer 
but who’s in the Louvre?"

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It’s so easy 

Van Gogh painted what he wanted 
to, painted like no one else, and
sold one

But he painted what he wanted 
like no one else. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Great Expectorations 
White men in charge
are like boxes of Kleenex. 

They sort of look like that,
and while they’re pretty ubiquitous 
in that way, 
they’re not very interesting
in that way. 

I think maybe the 21st century
will blow her nose on all of them. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Teddy Bear from London 

Beneath the family reunion
in a room at the far corner 
of the long tall house of many empty rooms
under the arguing, and under
the even louder silence

I got close to the basement window. 

The glittery but velvety 
blue and white of the night, 
stars and moons and undiscovered planets
came washing through the glass, cold 
as a silver pan of water right in the face
and there he sat, looking at me—my
Teddy Bear from London. 

He’d been there when I was two,
riding with me in the pram 
under Big Ben and the Parliament,
the Beatles and the Rolling Stones 
somewhere around town, and then
two months later
making me two years and two months old
my dad died. Wham-o!

Well, I was two (and two) so 
I didn’t know him anymore 
than I knew the Beatles and the Stones. 
But he died, so I didn’t know him anymore. 

The Teddy Bear was there, though
in full consciousness. 
His little black eyes shining, 
but things—life, and death—getting in them; 
he saw it happen. 

I had him perched on white pillows
in the moonlight, the black eyes glittering
like they were coming in from the next galaxy, 
but still, a pal, a friend from the baby years. 
By this night, he was a 60-year-old Teddy Bear, 
all his British-made inner works
springs or coils or whatever brass he has inside
must be about to break, so ... 

... with that in mind, I looked him the eyes
snuggled him closer, 
touched the brass twist knob 
in his dirty furry back 
and began to wind him up. 

Silence. Then ... 
Tink   tink   tink   tink   tink, 
trying for a song, but only 
tink   tink       tink                         tink. 

I hugged him, poor little guy, trying
then he started talking. 
In full sentences; I was incredulous, naturally. 
(You'd use that word, too!) 
But when I looked over Teddy's shoulder
out the basement window into the velvet blue and white wash 
of forever, I thought: hell, anything’s possible!

I looked at Teddy. He was talking—

"Your Father had headaches day and night
way before you came to London with your mother and sister. 
I was alone with him, I'd sit with him by the fireplace 
at night (him lighting cigars off the flames, 
my fur warmed up by themafter he bought me for you, 
for your first London Christmas. 

"He'd walk around the flat, through all the rooms,
missing you all, sheets of paper in his hands maybe
from his new job; he didn't look at them, didn't sit down. 
He'd prop me up in the window so he could see me, 
wave up at me, when he came back from his walks 
around London all night. I saw him go up the alley,
shaking his head, talking to himself. 

"Then you all came over and he was better. But not his head. 
I saw him down the hall in the bathroom 
one morning after Christmas
he fell off the toilet, hit his head on the bathtub
on the way down to the floor (it must have hurt him),
you had me by the arm, and you bounced down the hall, 
dragging me down toward him. On the floor he rolled over,
smiled up at us, and said a word to you—PUCK.
He looked at me and said: Tell him! He's puckish! 

"Then, his eyes got like mine.
Your sister and mother came down the hall, crying.
But not us; you stood there, looking at him
I was in your hand, watching you both
and your father was on the floor dead but smiling, at you."

The Bear was finished. We heard the family reunion 
arguing upstairs—measured, precise, and dull. 
Lifeless, and annual.

I got dressed and wound up the bear.

We (mostly me) tiptoed upstairs, down the long 2nd floor
hall to my step-father's (or whoever he is) room,
heard the discussion from the dining room below—

I hear what you're saying but I must do what's good
for me/I respect your boundaries, but I feel abandoned/I'll 
need to process that, oh just a moment, let me get that text/ um,
excuse me, but 

—I found my step-father's car keys, and tiptoed
back downstairs, past the dining room, out to the garage.

The Bear said TINK, I agreed, saw the fusebox, and inside,
the Main Power Switch for the long, tall house.
I waited for a lull in the dining room, noticed the garage door
was wide open. I threw the switch.
DARK. nothing.Yet.

I got into the Porsche, sat Teddy down on the black leather,
sat down next to him, and turned the key.

The car roared out of the house like a rocket with a lion inside,
and the Bear went TINK! tink tink tink tink tink tink
(a song, I think, not sure—maybe a beddy bye lullaby)
his eyes blinking under the space ship streetlights flying by

We were many miles and a state away
before I threw the angry-ringing car phone out the window
and turned on the radio.
Out popped a Beatles song—HELP! 

The Teddy Bear was wound up, singing Rolling Stones—
You Can't Always Get What You Want


Then, he took a turn driving.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Two flies on the ceiling

Two flies on the ceiling, one of them contemplating 
suicide. Together, they look down to the floor. 

Ok, that does it, I’m gonna kill myself now, says the fly
on the right, I've had it up to here. 

The fly on the left looks up from the floor and over 
to his pal.

We’re only 10 feet up, you know, he says. The suicidal fly 
shrugs his wings. 

I don’t care, I’m jumping. That’s a hard concrete floor 
down there. Don't try to stop me. 

Well—it's linoleum, says the other fly. But think about this: 
how much do we weigh? 

There's a long pause as they both consider that, and rotate
counter-clockwise, on their tiny black feet. 

Oh yeah. I hadn't thought of that. 

Once they start laughing, they can't stop. 
But now the fly on the left stops, takes a breath,
and looks into the other's eyes, trying not to compound anything. 
And trying to keep a straight face. 

Anyway, suicide? What the fuck? Why so serious? 
You need to lighten up. 

The once-suicidal fly glitters his green bottle eyes,
and says, Lighten up? How?  

Now they can't stop laughing
and they can be heard laughing all the way 
to the no-fly zone!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Testosterone of Time 

Centuries of War
Centuries of MEN!       ... uh, where was I? 
got a bit intimidated there for a sec, I hope I’m man 
enough to finish this poetry ... oh yeah, I remember, 
whew—that was close ...                         IN CHARGE. 
Centuries, War, Men in charge. 

I do believe I see a pattern here. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sis boom bah 

As a little then bigger boy 
I lived in an apartment
(roach-brown walls, overhead lighting)
with some woman I didn’t know
(she had a name tag—
Hello! My name is  your mother.)
and the apartment felt like the waiting room
to a dental office
(screaming in the next room). 

I couldn't get air inside my dirty plastic bag 
of worrying but I was dreaming, trying 
to see the rosy, musical, merchant ivory mansions of England
in the tv dinner, laugh track, garden apartments of Kansas. 
Dreaming, worrying—life and the future were both
vague, but—there were facts. 

I could see the high school football field from 
our apartment through dusty white lace curtains
(getting roach-brown and greasy, lacy snares for roaches) 
and I knew I could catch touchdown passes
from myself, after playing catch with myself
in the nursing home parking lot, waving!
at Grandma in there.

So, I tried out
got on the team
there was an hour between
school's out and team practice,
so, the apartment being convenient
and me worried about playing football
with other people
and me already into the   your mother  Sherry
I'd go home first, drink a six pack of Budweiser,
go to practice.

No one knew or smelled this for awhile,
I ran fast because I was thin and terrified
I made a touchdown that won a big game
and broke my nose (I ran into the goal post, even
the perfumed pom pom girls loved me that night!),
but by the Homecoming Game, I was drinking
two sixes
before practice
and sort of wandering into the locker room.

Coach Taylor, ex and always U.S. Marine
kicked me off the team in front of the team
telling every player to get in line and
come smell my breath.

The coach took me outside
by hand
and with both arms
shoved me into the chain-link fence
between football and the apartment.
He said—I don't give a rat fuck
about poor you, no father. Go get character,
though I think it's too late—he said
and shook me against the fence again.

I'll go get something alright, I thought—
bloody hands from the fence, halfway crying—
so I went and got more beer
called my one friend, Jerry
who was cross-eyed and gay
(1974, neither of these accepted yet)
and we went driving around.
That night was the Homecoming Game,
and I was out of uniform

Another fact: Coach Taylor didn't like Jerry, either:
sissy, faggy, abnormal, "it's just too bad for his folks,"
etc etc etc etc, the usual.

So, we weren't nuanced—Revenge
was on our minds, driving around with Elton John
(glamour-eyed, not yet officially gay)
on the radio.

Then, I saw it. How we'd go get the coach.

While the football game was being played
(we stayed in the neighorhood, hearing the cheering),
we stole real estate signs out of front yards
jammed them into my big back seat and trunk Chevrolet,
waited until after the game
after the Homecoming Dance
after the victory celebrations
past midnight,
lights out in houses
lights out in the Chevy
both of us real drunk,
and planted all the signs, at least 30 of them
in the coach's front yard.

Drove off laughing
headlights still out
then ON
beer cans rattling on the floor,
75 mph in the 35 mph zone.
Then, even faster
into the rest of that Wizard of Oz night,
passing English mansions flying by—
on both sides!

No one stopped us, no one
tackled us, not even close.

I got out of that apartment.
The coach was upside down
in that house, and anywhere else.

And me and my friend, we
got character that night. Maybe.
We thought. Anyway, we were
on the way.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Jesus swings both ways

I’m in North Carolina and my bathroom 
is open 

But look—before you go ape, "Christians"
(sorry to bring up monkeys, "Christians")—
you should know that Jesus just came by 
with fresh toilet paper, Mr. Bubble, and He
put a disco ball up over the bathtub. 

He did it with love. So, 
cool it. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Escape Artist  

(I can't sleep, the coast is clear—
so, I'll try to describe it ...)

In the middle of America
and the outside of any family
or friendliness
or even something a little bit interesting
I'd hide out in the art gallery;
FREE! colorful, lively, smart ... quiet. 

It was gray marble cool
(the dim blue Henry Moore room, a/c jets flying green ribbons)
in the hot, slow, sun-blind, rattling box-fan, all tv sets on
and laugh-tracking through the apartment house
(upstairs downstairs, left and right) walls—
noisy summer.

And, it was

yellow haystack warm
(the red Van Gogh room, heat-vents humming like toasters)
in the snow-buried time going on and on
tv still always ON
Hamburger Helper hovering
in the unventilated dragging on and on and on and cold—
muffled winter.

By some big miracle or maybe small crime
I got out of the middle of America
and across the sea to Paree.

I found out about the Musée d’Orsay— 
I loved it so much I wanted to live there!
In the 80s, I hid in the bathroom for 7 months 
(the one downstairs, killing time at night
reading French political magazines) 
before they caught me, and even then 
I told the cops 
that I was an installation piece. 

Then they deconstructed me. 

Later, I threw away the political magazines
and my mother finally died.
An election, a family reunion—just temporary.

But I'll never give up on art. 

(Uh oh, gotta go. I hear the night guard 
coming this way, clicking his clicker. Later ...) 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What to say to ICE 
agents if they drop by

I’m a gentle guy (gal), more or less, 
but my question is
what kind of wall do we put up 
against Radical Caucasian Terrorism? 

(They may move closer, not answer, but go on ... )

If I can answer that, boys
I’d say it would be equal parts these:
crisp, forest-scented animal skins
moonlit and sunlit
crackling, new, bold black and yellow
the sentences and the parchment—
the Constitution. 
With that new tar smell, glued
lavishly with a lush brush onto 
the sliding dry wall of dry wit! 

(Don't worry, these men
are loud 
but thick 
also temporary; 
since they won't get any of this 
they won't get any of us. 
We'll never be this scared and lonely again, amigos.)

Let yourselves out, fellas.
I'm not that gentle.

Monday, February 6, 2017

I was a teenage light bulb

So much of my childhood I felt like an exposed light bulb. 

Up on the ceiling in a musty basement,
either not screwed in or not turned on,
or waiting for someone to pull the chain. 

But didn’t I pull it, way back then? I did! 
Didn’t I? 
Still ... this flickering feeling lingers. 

A couple of weeks ago my mother died, and she’s dead
she’s cremated, and ashes can’t pull chains, 
that's for sure. 

She isn’t going to pull it now. 

So, guess what? 

Yes, and I see the light 
and in the light, I see—the stairs up, 
out of the basement. 

I'm out of here. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Civil worn out

Hungry and blue 
the sky all grey
I walked into the cold, curdy, sour-smelling,
hillbilly food store. 

There were people inside—also milky,
but still breathing. I asked,

“Any crackers in here?” 

And they all turned red.