Friday, December 28, 2012

Frank, you magnificent bastard

It seems and it always
seems that the things
and the things have lost their
innocence through repetition,
what I make of situations
comes out repeated
and said again
in motions
like hands that clench
after I’ve already
told you off,
if you see
what I said,

It seems arrogance to assume that there
is always something left

We could be just standing
There are just standing there
in motions of the head that look
over the shoulder just to see who just walked in

and again I adjust my seat
and wonder why
it is that people
thought Sinatra
knew what to do when
a heartache he’d never let heal
fires up again, giving him the edge of hurt and angst
and a sorrow that made him the envy of
every guy who wished he could just
keep getting
laid no matter how many times
he was slapped in the face at
the end of so many evenings
in a tavern
where the juke is stacked
with sad stories you
have to pay to hear.

Sinatra, I remember,
let’s do this like Frank,
so I light a cigarette,
grab my drink
and wave to you
to offer you a seat at the
mahogany bar,
so glad to see you
that I wave too hard and slap
the woman next to me.
She drops her drink,
and her husband drops me,
and I stare at the ceiling, Formica gleaming
in a blue light of
faux grotto interior,
“Frank, you magnificent bastard,
what was it you wanted to be
when you grew up?”

Monday, November 5, 2012

Food Fight to the Death

I will not lay down my sword
until you are either dead
or eating beans and franks
at the rest stop just before
you reach the gates of Hell
where all the mayonnaise you crave
is on the other side of the 
slime crusted bars.

You will not lower your gun
until I am waist deep
in new rules that stop me
from launching paper airplanes
from my desk
or I that I am fatally wounded
staring up the cottage cheese on the office ceiling
recounting my life
and recollecting my first and worst job
in snap clarity,
stacks of dishes and
ugly , dirty pots and pans
getting taller by the minute,
closing time never coming.

We are islands of appetites
that led us to respective shores
of buffets and exotic candy wrappers
who argue over the Internet
and phone calls
about who it was
that threw the first biscuit,
who precisely
spritzed the first stream ketchup stream
from the convenient squeeze bottle.

We forgive each other's sins
at least twice a year
but our shirts,
marred by the edibles
of each other,
remind us that things done with food cannot be absolved,

and both of us are aware
that laundry does not lie.

Monday, April 9, 2012

“Insomnia Etiquette” by Rita Dove: The Beauty of the Blur

“Insomnia Etiquette” by Rita Dove. - Slate Magazine:

 know a little something about watching silly old movies late night while making my through a half dozen sloppily made drinks ; there is that smug satisfaction, that blurry clinging to a vague present tense that informs you that only this minute matters, that this giving into cravings, impulses and desires matters, that   the ridiculous black and white dramas on the television actually account for something you must pay attention to, blasted though you may be.

 I am not saying that Rita Dove's protagonist in her poem "Insomnia Etiquette" has a drinking problem like the one that nearly put me under, but the good poet does get that feeling of what it's like to be in the middle of a numbed out mood, dealing with a series of bad days or years or taking the pause before coming to terms with some life complications that will be there in the morning when the fog has lifted and the headache begins. What I am saying is that Rita Dove knows something about how  I've felt and at times recall too vividly when the memory works overtime.

Dove has a wonderful way of chipping away at the verbal excess that other poets might be tempted to smother a theme with and thereby kill the idea with a chronic reworking of cliches and tropes about drinking and heroic isolation; rather her language is spare, but not spinal, such as Charles Bukowski's tends to be. She lets the mood thrive, as it were, to define the fluid movement of the character enjoying the very fact that they in a liquid orbit, temporarily liberated from gravity and regret. Everything else in her life is a series of emotions, confrontations and decisions that Come Later.

 And I am especially glad that the poem is brief, with this lyric of half-verbalized contemplation refusing to devolve into a wallow or try to make something more of itself by transforming into an absurdly overwrought rant against an unfair chances and bad choices. Our hero is behind enemy lines, inside the experience,aware of what comes after the escape into numbness. It is mock-heroic. One raises a glass to their waning awareness of their own absurdity and then returns to the mood's muddled center.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

nothing in the cards

nothing in the cards
but the dumb luck
that allows me
a minute between fuck ups and fuck yous
to call you
by name in the day dream
I am having
in liue
of the dream
that didn't play last night
when Letterman was delivered
and Leno
parked his lantern jaw
in the garage for another sunset
til morning.
 ·  · 

Friday, March 16, 2012

poetry is dead

a lone gunman blows the smoke barrel
and afterward falls asleep on the grass
in what used to be a park surrounded by
flora with smog coated leaves.
the screams from the public sphere
are faint, only one ambulance siren
is heard under the gratuitous rigmarole
filling toothless restaurants and 
alley corners of questionable intent.
he dreams of the muse he just
shot through the dead, tired as he was
of clever words and contrary actions,
he aimed his pistol and let off a shot.
in his sleep he had no dreams
and when he woke up
he yawned and bought a newspaper,
making note that there was no advertising
no sports page either.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Movement, a poem by Wyn Cooper, is one of those poems that irritates you because it starts off  well and ends in nothing less than a gasping whimper .We are to make note of all the movement that occurs in this narrative, the countryside the narrator, speaking to a nameless companion, speaks of . The tone is nostalgic, the recounting of annoyances fondly recalled. But time goes on, life advances from one neighborhood to another, one terrain for another completely unlike it. One moves and attempts to be quickly assimilated by something more urban, bustling, impatient, impolite, a city that narrator doesn't want to discuss, not for long. 

This is the pun contained in the title, an obvious ploy from the get go; the irony, I suppose, would be that the weather, the relative stillness, the lack urgency in the bucolic ruins of fading America are not, in fact, cursed with inertia, as the speaker addresses the particulars with telling , nearly idealized detail. An implied sigh accompanies the pause between first and second stanza; this is the part of the conversation where the speaker is lost in thought and averts his eyes, falls into a melancholy that dares him to speak what he is not able to find words for.  The poem goes from being fairly specific to  vague and euphemistic. The effect is spoiled by Wyn Cooper's need to sum up the inchoate morass seething under the surface of these well mannered images; 

"...before we
settled in a city of other movements,
found new rhythms that suit us better,
we tell ourselves over and over. "

The poem is a nice if other unremarkable presentation of the low level anxiety that haunts the suburbs of John Cheever, an American master short story writer and novelist who brilliantly explored a generation of the white middle class that had to distract themselves with drugs, adultery and workaholism to deaden the collective suspicion that the lifestyle and manicured neighborhoods they chose for themselves are life less manifestations of a culture that has mistakes material gain as the point of existence. Cheever, though, was much subtler and more lyrical as he wrote of his characters attempts to fill an emptiness that will not be healed. Cooper  had some more writing to do to make this idea work; the poem just quits suddenly and the screen one imagines this  monologue being played against goes blank.  The last sentence reveals an unwillingness to see this thing through. The poet is unsure how he wants to talk about this string of related icons.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Before we start

Before we start
lets place a dime next to our plates
to tell us where the chatter stops
when the words get hard as the water
in the streaked water glass.
I could stop on a dime
back in the day
when I drove a station wagon
to the store,a trail of tread
behind me showing me
every light I skirted.
It was your skirt that turned my head
when I stopped for a paper,
fingering the dashboard ashtray
for a dime.
All those screaming headlines
never stopped coming,
the news didn't change
when we married
after months of talking about
current events as we ate
Asian take out.
Today I drive
nothing but trivial paths,
you are the keeper of the dimes
and the traction in the tread of my shoes,

I sing your name
when I buy a paper,
you are the music
the headlines never had.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A credo mislaid


Not this day or that
or even a day in spring
when I might sing
or dance three—legged across the floor
hailing the end of the night
as another eve of
hedged bets,

Not even a month of Sundays
could cajole easy praise for
proper nouns naming roads
that honor killers
stitched together with
the cheapest-oar
the pins won’t stick,
the alibis won’t adhere
to St. Peter's beard,

Never in the lightest years
would I dream denying the
truth of a
small flower blooming across the street
from a three car pile—up:

Irony is cheap
when the market bears a grudge.