Thursday, October 20, 2016


…I’m headed to the airport tomorrow, early, for a weekend in NYC, doing a couple of readings, one at the famed KGB Bar, and hanging with some of my favorite people on the planet.  It’s going to be epic, I’m sure.
I won’t be back on the blog until Tuesday at the earliest, so please come back then.


                                                                     The Thaw

                                                              February 14th, 2014

            On the second Tuesday in February, a raucous thaw begins.  Ruptures of ice, one after the other, crack like cannons, echoing in the snow-encrusted treetops.  The lake is no better than a defenseless animal under attack, as slabs explode and drop into her dark belly.

            Rosie ambles into the kitchen, nosing my hand to be petted, and behind her, Virginia, the woman whose home I’ve been staying at the last month.

            “Sounds like torpedoes,” she says.  “I’ll bet it’s something to see.”

            Virginia taps the edge of the counter, feeling her way toward the coffee pot, retrieving a cup from the cupboard, and filling it precisely to the brim.

            “What’s it look like out there?”

            “Destruction,” I say, “but kind of beautiful, in an angry sort of way.”

            “Beautiful and angry.  How wonderful.  More coffee?” she asks holding up the pot.

            “I’m good.”

            The night I arrived at Virginia’s house, after a five hour trek across the frozen lake, she answered her door and welcomed me in without any hesitation, as if I was a relative instead of a complete stranger.  Later I learned that she was widowed, childless and lonely.  I hadn’t expected to stay this long, but fell into a comfortable pattern of laziness.  Other than once on the phone with my wife, I haven’t spoken to anyone but Virginia and her Labrador, Rosie.

            “Now that the weather’s turning, I suppose you’ll be going soon,” Virginia says.  Her housecoat has flapped open and I can see the gleaming outline of one of her bare breasts.  She’s just past sixty, yet fit for her age, hardly wrinkled except for a smattering of crow’s feet.  Despite her being blind, I feel sleazy for staring and take Rosie’s snout in my hands.

            “Yeah.  Maybe this afternoon.”

            When I told my wife I wasn’t at our house, she said good, because she’d moved in with her boss.  She said I should be on the lookout for divorce papers in the mail.  She said marrying me was the worst thing that’s ever happened in her life, which is some kind of dagger considering she was sexually assaulted by her father for years as a child.

            As if channeling my thoughts, Virginia says, “So your marriage, it’s over then?”

            I remember the few nights we made love, when my wife’s fingernails pierced the skin of my neck, nothing kinky or erotic about it, just her distain of me being verified.

            “Over and done,” I say, realizing for once what a release it is to be finally free.

            “Relationships are quite a challenge.”

            “But you were married for thirty years.”

            “Yes, and most of the time I was miserable.  If David hadn’t died, I think I would have ended up killing him.”

            “Why stay then, in a bad marriage?”

            Virginia points to her eyes, wide as they always are.  “I’m pretty independent, but being blind is a tricky thing to negotiate all alone.”

            I stayed in my marriage because my identity was all wrapped up in being Jess’s husband, her a successful bond broker, me a failed alcoholic.

            “Would you happen to have a drink handy?” I ask.


            “Something harder.”

            Virginia’s eyebrows arch.  She likes the idea.  “Well, why not, it’s noon somewhere.  There are a few bottles in the shelf above the fridge.

            I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in five years, not since the car accident, then losing my job and not having the confidence or wherewithal to get a new one.  I thought that being sober would center me, that I’d discover my true, authentic self as they say in AA, but I only felt more lost, empty and soulless.

            I make us screwdrivers, mine mostly vodka.  The first taste is like seeing old yearbook photos.  I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m enjoying the missile of heat that slakes along my nerves, making my senses electric.  I have another and another.  As if I’m leafing through a magazine, I start to count my past mishaps and failures, picturing them in my mind, bloody and glossy.

            I don’t even realize that Virginia has gotten up and is standing behind me until I feel her hands on my shoulders.  “You’ve gotten quiet all of a sudden.”

            When she leans forward, her breasts are squeezed over my head like earmuffs, warm and plush.

            She whispers in my ear, “Before you go, do you think you could do me a favor?”

            Rosie’s asleep on her mat.  My glass is empty.  Outside the ice sounds like steel beams breaking.

             “It’s been a very, very long time for me,” Virginia says, kissing my head.  “And after all, it is Valentine’s Day.”

            I put my hands over hers, ready to push them off.  Instead I grip Virginia’s fingers, stand and walk with her toward the bedroom.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016



...A couple of years back I was asked to join a writing project whereby 30 writers were each given a specific day of the year and then we were supposed to write 12 linked stories completing a year.  My date was the 14th and this was the first piece.


                                                                Storm Lake

                                                    Tuesday, January 14th 2014


The storm hits without warning, and by Tuesday, snowdrifts as tall as four feet have already blocked the front door.

            I try to call my wife but there’s no cell service.  Today’s our anniversary: seven years.  She’s in Baltimore for a convention.  When she returns we’re supposed to make a decision about whether we’re too broken to mend, her having had an affair with her boss, me being too scared to leave her.

            Snow continues to drop, thick as mud, plates of the stuff.  Outside tree branches break every half hour or so, the wreckage sounding like thunder and gunfire.

            The power’s been out since evening.  Rotten food odors fill the kitchen.  The refrigerator leaks dirty water.   The silence in the house is so still it’s unnerving, and now I can see my breath.

            The dog stares at me, her head cocked, as if she senses doom.  When I let her piss in the house, then mop up the floor, she scampers to a corner and begins mewling.

            Outside, the lake is a white shelf, an ivory island.  Ducks--looking more like decoys than the real things--cluster in the northeastern corner.  Part of me wishes I owned a gun.

            Our house in the woods is set a mile back from any road, and I know no one will be coming soon.  Power outages in these parts can take days to be repaired.

            The dog starts to moan, as if it’s sick or injured or possessed.  When I toss a sock at her, she shreds the thing in an instant.

            The marriage counselor my wife and I tried always seemed to take my wife’s side.  He said my wife’s motivations for the affair could be numerous.  He suggested I was, in many ways, more than responsible.  He said men who ignore their spouses are asking for trouble.

            When I look over at the dog, she’s chewing the leg of a stuffed chair and staring at me, growling as she rips off splinters.  “Have at it,” I say.

            I ball up old newspapers and my wife’s Vogue magazines and start a fire in the sink.  I go to the bedroom and rummage through her dresser drawers, returning with lacy bras and thongs, most with the price tags still on.  They’re slow to catch flame, smoldering a ghostlike smoke.

            When I was a kid, my brother and I used to walk across the lake when it froze over.  He’d go out the farthest, mocking my cowardice.  I told him I’d heard another boy had fallen through the ice, but that only caused my brother to titter and call me chicken shit.

            The homes across the shore all have their lights on.  It’s a half mile trek.  I get my coat and hat and boots.  I walk through mattresses of snow, down a slope to the frozen waterfront.  I look back at the house, hooded with drifts of gleaming white.  I tell it goodbye and I think I mean it.







Monday, October 17, 2016


…What a treat to wake up this morning and find in my email a note from Bill Gates saying that he had randomly picked ten people to donate $5 million each to.  Apparently Bill is near death and can’t spell for shit.  I wonder how many people actually react to these scams.  There must be some.

…It’s raining sheets outside, but at least the weekend storm passed without much damage.

…Here are some very random things I learned last week that you may or may not already know:

-One in six people actually had a harder time parting with their car than ending their first relationship

-There are over 7,100 islands in the Philippines

-Cats sleep over half their lifetime while a giraffe sleeps less than an hour a day

-Every day 580 people try heroin for the first time

-There were more than 1,000 accidental shootings involving children aged 17 and younger from January 2014-June 2016

-Paris is the most visited city in the world and France is the most visited country in the world

-Singapore is the number one desirable location for Americans to move abroad (that surprised me)

-The last issue of Rolling Stone magazine was 52 pages, its fewest ever

Friday, October 14, 2016


Where I Am
I am not as ferocious
or unknowable as you might think.
Look at me.
No, I mean look at me.
See me.
Take my face in your hands and hold it there.
Search for the center of me,
that soft landing
pillowed place
hollowed-out space
which is neither a mustang or
a viper
but rather a little girl’s room
painted pink and soft yellow
like kind sunshine.
You are having difficulties,
I can tell.
You men make it so complicated.
I am a princess.
I am your best friend
Secret keeper
Soft shoulder
And open eyes.
Okay, then,
now take my hand
here, open it,
see the fingers uncurl
like petals.
Find the creases in the bend of my palm.
Find my life line and see if you’re not there.
You are.
You have always been there
even if you never knew it.
You’re not a fool.
Neither of us is.
And that’s why,
right now,
you need to slip your hand inside my shirt.
Go ahead,
it’s okay, I want you to.
Yes, I’m sure.
Start at the hem, go under and up
over my belly.
I want to feel skin against skin there
where it’s warm and soft
and receptive and sacred.
Reach up under my shirt and don’t stop
until you’ve reached my breast,
the left one,
but go past,
not skimming or stopping.
This has nothing to do with my bosom,
it never has.
Okay, now press your palm there.
Yes, right on that exact spot.
Do you feel it?
That’s me.
That’s where I am.
Blood pouring from a spigot,
needing a receptacle.
still, alive, yes.
waiting for love,
endlessly waiting for you.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016



                                                               At The Deep End


            At the pool, I watch the blind girl’s parents lower her into the shallow end.  She’s maybe five, and skinny as a ladder.

            The girl kicks her feet, giggling.  She wears a Hello Kitty one piece swimsuit and has floaties on her arms.

            “It would really suck being blind,” I say. 

            Gordy shoots me with a spray from one of the squirt guns we shoplifted earlier in the day.  When I tell him to knock it off, he squirts me in the eye, so I slug him on the shoulder.



            “You’re still an asshole.”

            Gordy and I have been friends our whole lives, but next Monday he and his mom are moving to Kansas.  After another “dust up”, Gordy’s dad got put in jail for beating his mom pretty bad and the divorce is all finalized now.  “Dust up” is Gordy’s term.  He’s a professional at making misery seem harmless.  Once when Gordy’s dad tried to drown his mom in the bathtub, Gordy said it was merely a “boating accident.”

            “Geez, Elaine,” the blind girl’s father says, “you’re going to break her damn arm.  Just let her go.”

            Gordy says he’s not excited about moving away.  He says life is a peach, even though he’s been in and out of trouble quite a bit this last year, starting with an episode where he broke several of our school’s windows with a crowbar. 

            The blind girl looks ridiculous.  She won’t stop grinning, nor does she stop slapping water against her face and chest.  Her mother is flustered while her father reads a magazine on a lawn chair.

            We started shoplifting a few weeks ago.  It was just candy at the start, but it’s progressed to games and toys, items that are trickier to conceal inside our clothing.  I’m pretty sure the manager’s onto us, but Gory could care less.  “What’re they going to do, toss us in the clink?” he says.

            A plump woman with marbleized thighs comes over and talks to the blind girl’s mother, and from their easy manner I can see she’s some kind of friend.  They gawk over the blind girl, then get lost in conversation.

            I watch the blind girl start to move through the water, going fast.  Gordy sees it, too.  “I hope she drowns,” he says.

            I jump up, dive in and reach the girl just before she’s about to reach the slope that leads to the deep end.  When I break the surface, holding her by the waist, there’s a crowd poolside.  The blind girl’s dad tells me to get my goddamn hands off his daughter, while the girl giggles, splashing us both, using her hands as paddles.

            When I get out of the water, Gordy says, “Smooth move, Ex-Lax.”


            Before bed that night, I lay in the bathtub under the water, holding my breath.  I look up through the murky surface thinking: Life’s like that--unclear and fluid, always moving, wavering, slippery yet certain.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016


…I’m a day late and a dollar short.

…Here are some things I like at the start of the week:

"I was told over and over again that I would never be successful, that I was not going to be competitive and the technique was simply not going to work. All I could do was shrug and say "We'll just have to see.""- Dick Fosbury, who won an Olympic gold medal at the 1968 Mexico games after he invented a revolutionary high-jump technique. (1947)

"I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving."- Oliver Wendell Holmes

"Blessed is he who carries within himself a God, an ideal, and obeys it."- Louis Pasteur

"Tough times never last. Tough people do."- Robert H. Schuller

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be."- Abraham Maslow

"The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green."- Thomas Carlyle

"A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying that he is wiser today than he was yesterday."- Alexander Pope

""I can't do it" never yet accomplished anything: "I will try" has accomplished wonders."- George P. Burnham

"The hero is the one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light."- Felix Adler

"The world is good-natured to people who are good natured."- William Makepeace Thackeray

"First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do."- Epictetus

"No man can hope to accomplish anything great in this world until he throws his whole soul, flings the force of his whole life, into it. It is not enough simply to have a general desire to accomplish something. There is but one way to do that; and that is, to try to be somebody with all the concentrated energy we can muster."- Orison Sweet Marden

"All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honor; duty; mercy; hope."- Sir Winston Churchill

"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?'"- George Bernard Shaw

Friday, October 7, 2016





She says she has a new diet, that she will only eat words from now on.  I say, “Worms?” but she corrects me.  She fills her bowl with adjectives.  She floods her plate with plurals connoting paganism.  Or maybe she means plagiarism.  I get so jealous.  She is one of a kind.


            I am lines and glyphs and a face full of folded things.  I walk on stumpy stilts.  I need a cause to fight for.  You told me once, “I believe in you.”  People used to think the world was flat and now such a notion seems silly insanity.  If you place your hand here, dip a finger into its gooey center and have a taste, you might be able to understand me.


            My trachea is a leaky boat spilling saltwater as well as my secret impulses.  These, they bob and throb beside bluewater veins and slippery shells, fragile but not yet broken.

                                                                   The Dead Sea

            She laid me down in a bed, in a bath of oily holy water stole from foreign soil.  I felt compromised.  My eyelids reflected on the surface, looked like unshut doors, windows left open for lurking burglars wearing gloves so as not to leave prints.  When I dream now I mostly float.  The salt is briny but it brings me luck.


One omen is that Mother hums now, a feline, a heater, a planet twisting wrong in its dark orbit.  She irons shirts and underwear.  Her hair is frosted, her lids glossy lime.  There was a time so long ago, when I was maybe an embryo, that she needed me.


Today I woke and learned that I can no longer speak.  My tongue is gone.  My mouth is a hole, a rictus, a well.  Drop a penny down to hear the splatter.  Make a wish for me, please.

                                                     My Confessions    

These words are my organs, pulsing and spilling sloppy over my skins and blank pages and choruses.  I have urges that frighten me.  Lean your head here and try not to tremble.


His breath tells stories, glories, never boring but always lethal.  The stains on his striped overalls are permanent.  They are.


I have possessions I want to share, little origami items with prophecies stuffed inside.  When I try eating them, they show up the next day, dry and smearless.  I wish I could find a person in need.  I wish I wish.  I wish I were more like my possessions: clearly written and meaningful.