Friday, November 15, 2013

Two Riders on the Last Bus of the Night

The creep in the eye patch
resting on his cane
stares mono visioned
through the window
Passing the inane dread of
city light coronas
liquor tore signs
and hitch hikers after dark
While his welt-eyed beauty
rests her smeared tiara
and bandaged wrists against
the rattling window,
fingering the wrinkles
of the scarf he used
to wipe the stains from his seat ,

Returning from where eve
they were coming from
to whatever waited for them
after he pulled the cord
and stepped into
the unbreathing wrap of the night.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Breaking Bread

The opening of the doors
in a swing the other way
breaks the smoke
hanging there under
x-ray radiance 
stripping everything
to an embarrassing nakedness
of goods and services
doled out in hopes of 
happy returns t o lines
clanging thee tune
welcomed at any rent party
where we might break bread
or some heads
or maybe
some habits we could do without
like this brand or that staring you down the throat
with a price tag like a ticket
summoning us for some jury duty
and fast cash
ten cents to the dollar,

The opening of the doors
leads another
foray down
the aisles of low return
where I've heard
some Japanese soldiers
still lurk behind
cellar doors
waiting for word
of the descent
of The Emperor's sword.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

After I Knew It All.

The brave face
cracks under the strain
of being gracious
when yet another
pretty girl wanders by
in a dress made of breeze.

What I summon isn't
courage or good manners,
what you see
is cold sweat suppressed
and turned into the foul iron
that runs through the veins.

Should I smile
or going about my business
looking at my watch
as though I am late
for something that awaits.

You were always late for something
arranged weeks in advance,
my scalp
still has the scars of me
scratching my head for hours and months,
wondering where
you were.

I take a photo and change the landscape,
I write a poem and configure impossible probability,
I take my harmonica solos to a blues known only on obscure moons,
all my essays about what I was taught
and what I learned
after I knew it all.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Still I'm Sad

I tire of the day
that glares with
a surfeit of sunshine,
I wary of clouds
that stain my horizon,

The best ideas
are those
that bring you home
to where the table set
and messages await
your reply,

The worst notions
take you to
where the lights don't work,
gas stations and fast food joints
taunting you
from across the street
with their variations of
instant gas and pain.

I am tired of myself
so much
about matters
written on napkins
and register receipts.

What is done
has been paid before
and still
I'm sad.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sadder Than Guess Work

Sitting through the argument with the day,
I still hear the scraping
of celluloid picks
against the strings,
electric guitars hysterical
at the afternoon traffic
that feeds the habits of a nation
cursed with a million dreams of desire.

What happens
when I dial numbers
expecting you to be there,
staring at magazines
through magnifying glasses,
talk radio filling the kitchen,
the list of your medicines
taped to the refrigerator door,
your handwriting
large like loops of
loose thread?

The phone rings and,
in the emptiness,
I imagine the dining room
you'd walk through to get it.

I let it ring for minutes
on end, to make sure you' re not home.

Coming and going
on the streets
of scattered small towns
are desires driving themselves
insane, drivers behind wheels
at traffic lights
arguing against the fact
that there is no place
they have to be
when the sun sets,
a destination is
removed from their lives.

We talk back to
the radio,
snarl at dial tones,
all our phones keep
ringing forever in the orbits of atoms
threading together the fabric
and excuse of our material world.
I can't even smoke
in my own car because
nothing burns in a vacuum,
you'll never be home again,
the  fact itches like insect bites
in the seams of my shirt,
night is like a closing of eyes
when what's out there is
sadder than guess work.

Heaven of Cracks

Where nothing happens to anyone
is a heaven of
cracks to fall between

or rise up to
if you're in
bed staring at the ceiling
between fits of sleep
that grind
like gears of engines
motor-vating through sand
and replays of the last
word you didn't
with a clerk
or someone else
who looked at you funny as the elevator shut,
or the car door shut
or the
door to the men's room shut,

It doesn't matter, it's always a door that closes in your face
you're speaking.

A heaven of cracks that might a passage
 between craggy mountain ranges
to the Eden
where all the totems work,
like jars of water
on front lawns,
scarecrows in
fields of dead corn,
candles to light in church for a coin,
guns with no bullet chambers,
and gangbangers doing a crossword,
pillows that don't
like girl friends who told me to leave the apartment that had their name on the lease,
another door closing,

can't escape that,
the phone ringing,
late for work again,

can't escape that either.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Some passing thoughts on the events at work is only a grieving for the passing of notes in fifth grades when the two sisters were turned to the blackboard chalking up the High Math of The Second Coming.

It was a note Tony Graciano  penned saying that after school he was going to kick my ass because I slammed his hand in the cloak room door .I looked at Tony behind me, the note under the desk,
and he was smiling the best his gummless mouth could manage, vapors of bacon and death on his breath.

“Would you like to share that with every one, Ted?” keened a voice, piercing with a hint of whistle swirling around each slippery  ’s’ that slid against the tongue to the enamel of each capped tooth .Sister Marie, basketball tall and looking grim as grime in her stiff, consigned vestments, held out her hand, wrinkled and thick veined at the knuckles, demanding to see the note .I looked up at her, knowing   God sees everything on a too-big TV screen as wide as the sky, and then handed the note up to her.

Her. long fingers wrapped around the paper like a satchel of loving snakes.

I remember from the fourth grade that Tony had said he wanted to be a writer when asked
by a lait teacher what he wanted to be when he grew up. Why, asked the teacher, and Tony enthused over the adventure stories he liked too read, and that he wanted to write his own someday that’d be even more terrific.

Terrific, said the Teacher, Then you ought to take pride to signing your name one everything to write from now on. Tony beamed  that same gummless grin and nodded his head rapidly as though he’d just snapped a spring.

Sister Marie held Tony’s note in front of her face, an inch from her thick-lenses glasses that made her eyes seem to bulge frog like, and read the words quietly, a silent mutter moving her lips. Her face, already creased and lined with years of pure Catholic rapture, hardened even more as she lowered the paper and stared over and past me down the aisles of neatly lined school desks, her eyes finally stopping where Tony sat.

A vein popped out on her forehead. I looked back and saw Tony looking back at the sister with an innocent expression only guilty could provide. Sister Marie didn’t let him say a word.

“Mr. Graciano, into the hail, pleases, and bring your books with you” 

She walked up the aisle briskly, as Tony stood after closing his books, and turning around for a good view, all I could see was the broad sweep of her water blue cloak spread like Superman’s’ cape that seemed to absorb Tony in whole. Next I remembered the classroom door slamming, and then there was silence, one nun and a class of scared kids observing
a ceremonial gravity. It was as though Tony had not been in the class at all, not even on the planet.

Sister John Mark, whose name I never understood, picked up a rubber tipped pointer and said “We must be well behaved when we’re learning of the good news of Christ.”

Cactus Shadow (for Edward Dorn, 1929-1999)

The gun, never fired,
smokeless in its silver plated life,
is under glass,
under the dust, rust and
severing the trigger from the firing pins,
 and there’s someone laughing
in the other room, and old man with a broom and a bucket,

Something is just live long enough to rust and fade
and become part of the forgiving earth again—
I wish I were that man on the phone, laughing,
because then, maybe
there’d be something funny enough to laugh about
in this life that is fine as far as it goes but sometimes

Just has me staring at another set of things,
 free of human intervention, running down in their assemblages, their soldered being,

All moving parts become stuck , and break off,
Ed Dorn won’t be twirling the gun or turning the phrase anymore from the side of a dirt road, draped in a cactus shadow where La Jolla greets with open palms,
 the sky is closed for repairs,

There are smoke signals from hills where the big houses are , the land stretches forever after the images fall off the edge of the earth, what ever it is we were driving at,
It means that all the love stops when we’re no longer here to arrange the furniture, its no longer about us , but about the room we died in, what ever gets discovered on a desk, a shelf, old cups or rusty guns hanging from nails in the pantry.

Bus Boy

The night finds a pitch
In the buzz and fizz of
unnatural light shining
by cords over dirty lunch counters.

Count the money and
make the change, you feel
deranged and defanged
as the blades of the spinning fan
creates a slashing shadow
that cuts across the room,
Darkness falls on ashtrays
And the runny yoke
Of eggs over easy.

Dream for a moment of
music from the dishwasher’s station,
Sad guitar strums, a farina organ,
lovely women in long red dresses
cooing to you in Spanish,
a comb falls from her hair,
yes, her with the brown eyes
and lips red as rubies under
glass and stage lighting,
she says
“Pick up on number 5”.

Pick up your feet
and dream a retreat to
other lands another time,
bus stations are over flowing
with dishes rather than wishes,
it’s wise to stack the plates
and sort the forks from the knives,
all the wives the contrary world
stare daggers at husbands
who only poke their food
kids who spoke too soon
get slapped and water spills
across the  thrills of  driving

 across the state,
We need pads of butter
and clean monkey dishes
and a bladder of milk
in the machine, we never close
and driving this time of night
in this country
just keeps the stomach
growling with it’s fill
of empty threats.

Banana Boat with Watches

Each sunset is payday at the docks
When the boats have unloaded

Nets full of fruit and boxes of watches,
The glasses you wear make your face

Seem electronic and full of stray pixels,
That‘s when I go to work and roll over

and pretend to sleep when whistles blow,
What blows is working for loveless cash rewards,

What’s in the nets, what lurks in the boxes
Is a guess answered only by thieves when

They work overtime against a woeful wind
Of the watch they’re stealing, and the next

Day all that remains are banana peels and
Apple cores falling from nets, into my lunch box

Apartment Life

Perfectly fine
and tied in a tether
of dead quiet
in a small room
where we've
a rift with rehearsed dictions,
our fictions drive us crazy.

You're building
set models
for stage productions,
I type paragraphs
regarding glaciers and grime,
we've seen how the
sofa divides the room
like halves of the same brain
that's stopped sharing
what it knows.

Not a stick is touched,
there's not a dry glass in the house,
everything that is old
is wrong again.
During sleepless and stale sadness,
I hear the witless irony
and cringe in make believe shivers.
A branch breaks off from
a tree outside, crashes
to the patio, giving way
at the lightest caress of
incidental wind.
The goddamned thing just gave out.

And into dreams that come I think
that there's nothing wrong, women are bitches,
and I shake with fever,
I sleep for hours under a flashlight moon.