Saturday, April 6, 2024

 

Corduroy, but a little Novocaine, too 


I have new pants and I look real good in them.


Wide wale corduroy, the raw material from Portugal, 

yellow and warm as Van Gogh’s haystacks, imported, 

then expertly tailored all night by someone in New York City 

… but allow me to get back to the point.  


I’m at the dentist. Half the dental staff is crammed in here

by my chair at this moment watching my examination,

my mouth wide open, all their dental equipment down my throat

and Tesuque Novaro, my hygienist for the evening, 

calls for an x-ray which scatters the staff. 


Moments later, the staff and my jaw back in place,

one look at the x-rays on the computer and they all gasp; 

one of them, safe behind a mask, asks—My man, how old are you? 

What happened, where you been? You have many holes in your head!


They have me strapped down but I stretch my legs out way long. 


Oh but … says Tesuque. 

Oh what?  I ask. But I know.


You look so good in your pants, she says.

“Your warm, Van Gogh haystack-yellow, 

wide wale corduroy pants. Oh, mi coraz√≥n!  


The staff observes my legs, agrees, and so do I.

The chief dentist, Dr. Arturo Ipanema, walks in 

and doesn’t even have to look at the x-rays to say: 


There are no holes in his pants or his confidence. 


He only has to look at me. 




Friday, March 15, 2024


My little red wagon of beer 


It was Christmas Eve, and I needed to get the beer in. 

No cars on the street, people elsewhere, getting with people. 

Christmas in full bloom, and a little red wagon next door.


Liquor store closing in an hour, Christmas so on the way, 

I nabbed the handle of the wagon and dashed down Rockhill Road!


As I skipped along the road, red and green cars whizzing by  

nowhere near as fast as me and my little red wagon were whizzing, 

I remembered I’d never had a wagon before—but so what? 

I said, what of it? and ran even faster, because I had one now, 

was on a beer run with one—on Christmas Eve.


At the liquor store, I drove the wagon right inside. 

Did they look at me weird? No, they loaded as much beer as

they could get into my little red wagon, laughed and took photos, 

(one of them hugged me, took my cash) and I took off back up the hill. 


I was energized, but pulling the little red wagon had changed, full of beer

as it was, and yet—I felt like the sexy Italian driver of the wagon 

in the Room With a View movie, pulling that wagon of merry togetherness up 

to their getaway country resort. Even if I was only pulling a wagon of beer.


But was I lonely, just me and the beer? I was not. 

I had HER phone number on a piece of paper beneath an unlit candle

up on the mantle of my stone fireplace. She didn’t have a car either. 

So I picked her up in the little red wagon!



Friday, February 16, 2024


Two pines 

There are two different pine trees out in the front yard. 

The one on the left is planted for keeps in the ground,

the other one is an ex-Christmas tree, last month shining festive

in our house, tall, green, one of the family, went to bed with us. 


That pine says to the planted pine—mysterious, quiet so far—

“I guess I’m about to be thrown away, any minute now 

to turn brown somewhere, forgotten, no longer even festive.”


Now I get involved, get out in the yard, and that pine says to me, 

“And I suppose you’d be the guy 

that’s going to chop me up and throw me away?”  


I grip this pine by the trunk, shake it, look deep into its green eyes, 

take command of it in a strong and loving way it didn’t see coming

couldn’t have seen coming

after a childhood growing up fenced-off on a tree farm

then trashed in maybe a suburban dump way out of sight. 


So, I shake it hard in a green release and relief of free, fragrant 

needles across the yard, also close to the quiet, planted pine.


The trunk reacts, wiping its bough with a branch, seems 

less worried, but says, “Of course, now the rest of me 

goes away for sure, right? Off to the dump. Fine, I get it.” 


It’s my turn. Strongly, I say No, my friend. My pine pal. 

You and your all branches stay too. All your needles. 

I’ll trim you—I won’t hurt you—and playfully place you 

around the yard, so you’ll be able to see one another from 

where I lay you gently, for keeps. 

Welcome home, you’re not going away. 

You’re about to grow something new, right here.


Really? say both pines, pining for a happy ending. 

Really, I say, arranging one. 

Shakespeare coulda made a play about today, I say. 

Mulch Ado about Something. 


And as these forever and evergreen pine trees

especially the pine freshly shaken

seem to get greener, and as the big sky goes bluer

I tell these two tentative trees the truth. 


That Shakespeare line was corny, (quiet pine nods yes)

but nothing’s really ended and over. Or alone.

Welcome home. 




Saturday, February 3, 2024


There's no old, only ALIVE !  

I woke up bleary, real beery, and saw 

the old woman’s wig, like an oven-warm

Bundt Cake, warming on the sill in the morning sun. 


She wasn’t old, of course, and never would be, 

she only seemed so to me because I was 27 that morning 

and she was 72, that morning, and she was playing Elton John, loud. 


I was on her couch in a cold wet foggy clump 

of blue jeans and green corduroy, my Donegal cap 

still on as I yawned, and then she came in

the front room of her flat and put on the song 

“Honky Cat” because she said it had come out in 1972 

and she always played an Elton John song for every year 

of her birthday, on the year the song was released. 


What a system, I thought. 

“Happy Birthday!” I said.  


I was in her apartment because the night before she 

saw me drunk-driving my boots through the snow 

on Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay, after last call, 

and she’d inconceivably asked me if I wanted to come home 

with her for the night and get warm. 

She said I looked homeless but that I reminded her of her son. 

This woman didn’t remind me of my mother, 

who didn’t know that I was homeless or even out of town.


I like your flat, I said, and yes I’d love some coffee, 

because she’d just asked me, and it smelled so good. 


She said she saw me seeing her wig perched on the windowsill 

warming up for the day

I said no offense but it looks like a Bundt Cake, hee hee!


Hell if it does! she hollered spontaneously, but her eyes

were like Christmas twinkle lights so she wasn’t really mad. 


She said my wig looks like one of Van Gogh’s haystacks, 

alright? I said oh yes, you’re right, I stand corrected, 

I still didn’t know her name, but I doffed my cap. 

She accepted that, and dropped the needle on Elton again. 


“I had cancer a few years ago,” she said, she didn’t know 

my first name either, it wouldn’t matter in the end,

“it went into remission, but first I had the treatment, lost all my hair, 

and for some reason, my crops didn’t come back. So, I do wigs.” 


“May I see it on you?” I asked softly. Drama in the room.


“Why yes,” she said. “Ready?” 


Then she dragged the drama out, walking slowly across the floor, 

across those creaky old Back Bay Boston boards to the window, 

and she slipped on her wig. 

She looked over at me across that well-appointed Brahmin room, 

coquettishly cocked her head to the side, waited for my compliment. 


It came right away, my biggest smile all that winter. 


I could tell she was getting ready to go, 

wherever she was going

so I drank up the rest out of my coffee cup, 

getting ready to go wherever I was going. 

She knew how to walk. 

I liked watching her move around, striding across her 

hardwood floors for her coat and keys, hat and bag,

her shoes sounding like shoes should sound on a floor. 


Jingling her keys, she strode over to her stereo, 

played “Honky Cat” again, and it was still playing 

as we went all the way downstairs and out into the snow.


We got out to the Commonwealth Avenue sidewalk, 

came to the moment when she’d go one way, me the other, 

and she put her jewelry-shiny hand out for me to shake. 


“Well, maybe you won’t pass this way again,” she said, “but 

if you do, knock on my door. Otherwise, get back to Kansas City 

and get out of your homelessness ... get on back home.”


(I must have told her about Kansas City last night, probably 

in a very after midnight sort of sentimentality, I thought.) 


You know what to do. And give my regards to the Rafael Hotel!”


Then she turned, her perfume still on my hand.

I watched how she walked walking away, 

walking like she was really going somewhere. 


I copied her walk and went the other way. 



Friday, January 12, 2024

 

Borderline personality 


Not to mention a borderline sense of humor. 


Laughing out loud (or quietly, alone, driving) can save anyone’s life

but after so many of my young years in the midsection of the country—

that neighborhood’s Sunday clothes on all week, zippers up tight 

—I know what no one laughing sounds like. 


So I’m not only going to mention it, I’m gonna poetically describe it. 


Two days ago two guys approached the casita, smiling sunny and easy, 

they looked like fun, their big white delivery truck lounging on the curb. 

One of them looked like the lead singer from Los Lobos and the other 

guy looked like Frida Kahlo’s twice-cooked husband, the great Diego Rivera. 


They dollied the new oven in, unwrapped the plastic and threw it 

out the door into the after-Christmas snow; 

the Los Lobos guy hooked up the gas hose, closed his eyes, 

playfully bracing himself, testing the front and back burners, then 

the Diego Rivera guy walked dramatically to the center of the cocina. 


“Would you like to hear a joke now?” he asked, breaking the ice. 

looked around, the time seemed right, so I said yes.


“Do you know why Mexicans cross the border in twos?” 


I was new to New Mexico, and he was still looking at me, so I said no. 


“No TRESpassing.” 


Alright, that was the poetic part, and now I’m so worked up

I’m going to write the rest of it straight out.


These Mexican men, who knows, I don’t want to be a know-it-all

and assume anything—maybe they really were Diego Rivera 

and David Hidalgo—but here they were, making a high 

piece of wit in my kitchen (wittier than anything from even Noel 

Coward, who was a scaredy-cat anyway) about something insulting 

that could have happened to them, or their friends and family. 


I mean, I was enchanted. That joke was good, he did it well.  

Of course, the idea of borders between people and places 

has always been painfully hilarious (you cry until you laugh) 

but it looks as though they’re hard and here to stay. 


I come from a part of the country where the men and women

look around suspiciously, not all of them, but enough of them.

When you’re that scared out of the corner of your eye 

you don’t ever dare change your mind 

because it would sink the family boat

(and after all, they did their best, maybe)

and laughing at anything is inappropriate in that neighborhood. 


A sense of humor is almost sexual!



When it was time to go, everybody hugged those two guys, the two guys hugged 

everybody, the kind of hug where it feels like everything’s already alright, meanwhile

the truck flashed its lights at me and those guys weren’t even behind the wheel yet. 


Do I smell gas? 

No, but I’m laughing 

and my oven is HOT.