Monday, August 3, 2015


…I had this story published in LitroNY the other day:

…James Tate died a couple of weeks ago.  My writer friends on Facebook did all sorts of post about his death.  I had never heard of him, but I just recently bought his poetry collection and have been reading it all weekend.  He has a different style.  Mostly it’s a blend of straight-forward writing mixed in obscurity.  It’s not my favorite type of poetry, but intriguing nonetheless.  He won A Pulitzer Prized for his work, so he must be talented, right?  Anyway, he spurred me on to write some things, which I was hoping for.  Here’s what came out over the weekend.


Did you notice
that the lake is big enough for two
and the water’s warm as baked biscuits?
Waves slop and slosh with the wind;
doesn’t it sound like messy fun?
Every boat is far away.
The sun is a kind, orange blister hanging high.
Overhead in treetops birds chatter and gossip.
Someone shore-side giggles.
My god,
what more could we want?

Yes, I know about that.
It was years ago.
This is today.
Your sister shouldn’t have taken the boat
out by herself.
It wasn’t your fault.
It wasn’t your fault.
It wasn’t your fault.

Here, take my hand.
Did you notice I said please?
Thank you.
Now, just one toe after the other.
That’s it.
When you’re ready for more
I’ll be ready, too.


Over the weekend I have become bold and spontaneous.
Did you notice?
The glasses are all nicely shattered on the tiled kitchen floor
and every plate is a rubble of shards and dust.
The windows will be next to go,
then I’ll have to decide about these walls.
Look, even your cat fears me now,
hissing like a tire under the sofa.
The real test will be your mother.
She always said I lacked moxie,
that I was a timid toad afraid of my own shadow
and yours as well.
We’ll see.
I shan’t throw nary a thing her way,
nor lay a hand on her.
I’ve been practicing the art of fire-eating
and if all goes well
I’ll have it down by the time she gets here
and I show her how I can spew flames across the room.


It is indeed exhausting
the way each day finds me
shadowboxing myself,
face beet-red,
soupy with rank sweat,
tossing a jab here,
an uppercut there,
until my arms are railroad ties
that can no longer be lifted
even if the referee was to declare me victor,
even if I’d finally out-gunned
my regrets for once.

Terrorism Right Here At Home

My son says cops are the real terrorists.
“Here, just look at this,” he says, holding his phone out
so I can see the grainy video of police officers
throwing a black teenager on the ground
while stomping on his head repeatedly without mercy.
“There’s more,” my son says.
I wave him off. 
I feel queasy and guilty for some reason.
“312 African Americans have been killed by cops so far this year.
312!  And it’s only July!”
He waits for me to reply, but I don’t know what to say
any more than I did when he was a toddler and
his mother passed away.
Finally I offer up, “It’s awful.”
He smiles then, for the first time in years.
“Yeah,” he says, “And they’re going to pay.”

Try Again

My daughter is looking for answers in
a glass ball of black ink.
For Sure.
Try Again.
I say, “Everybody’s good at something.  What
are you good at?”
Without hesitating, my daughter says, “Blowjobs.”
This is how it goes without a wife for me,
without a mother for her—
orphaned idiots.
This house is a cavern and there are things
 neither of us wants to know.
“We could go to a show,” I say.  “Movie and popcorn, gummy bears. 
“Everything sucks,” she says, her bangs a purple mop draped over her face
as she leans so close to the black ball she’s almost licking it.
“Well then, what make you happy?”
I’m ready for this.  We know each other well and not so well.
“Because I’m good at them.  At least that’s what they say.”
I come across the kitchen table and
take the chair next to her,
waiting until she looks up, looks me in the eye.
“What?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say.  “Let’s start there.”

The Kid On The Bus

has dreadlocks--
wispy orange coils that sprout and loop,
that look as if they haven’t been washed for weeks,
that look like termites might be foraging in them,
tearing down a house or the rain forest.
Around his ears he has headphones padded the size of a
toddler’s catcher mitt, though no sound escapes,
yet he writhes and sways in his seat across the aisle from mine.
He’s new, this one.  I’ve never seen him,
And still he’s the happiest person on this prison ride to the city.
He looks nothing like Sam,
yet I wonder where my son is,
what he’s doing at this exact minute,
if he’s content,
if he ever thinks of me,
or considers coming back to make amends,
restoring our family.
When I look back the kid catches my eye,
pulls one embellished headphone off his ear and asks if I said something.
I tell him, “No.”

A Change of Seasons

That summer
the winds took everything away,
every leaf plucked free like untethered goose down,
tumbleweed rolling across the highway like bony gymnasts,
pine cones clattering off windshields, though,
as I say, it was summer.
And then the sleet and hail came,
hail the size of hacky sacks and stone-hard,
breaking windows and denting doors, cars, the city center statue of Robert E. Lee.
We said our prayers.
We talked of Armageddon. 
When fall finally arrived
the world regrew
like a time lapse fast-forwarded:
We said our prayers.
We watched Mother’s boyfriend drive off in a
white-finned ’63 Caddy convertible,
taking everything he wanted with him,
the front seat empty yet loaded.
We watched the taillights wink away.
We watched for any sign of return.
We watched the street
for the rest of that fall
and into the winter.

The Man Across The Lake

has a rifle that he points my way
whenever I am shoreside.
It’s a small lake.
I can almost make out the color of his eyes,
and sound carries well.
When I ask why the gun,
he claims I’m an interloper
and so I have to go inside to look up the word.
“But this was my grandfather’s cabin,” I yell at him across the wobbly water.
“Get off this land or I’ll shoot you sure as hell.”
Something in his expression,
his fixed gaze sighting the gun
looks familiar
and I remember finding the Polaroids
of Grandpa and that man--
his lover,
touching in nearly every photograph,
though nothing than if they were friends.
“You’re him,” I say.  “The man in the pictures.”
I hear a click then,
echoing from the other side of the lake
as I start to sprint.

Friday, July 31, 2015


…It’s a hot Friday here.  Sizzling, actually.  I like it.

…I just finished picking blueberries for five hours.  Really, five hours.  I picked 22 pounds today.  I’m nearing 200 pounds.  That’s about fifty pounds over my own weight.

…Here are some things I like for the weekend:

-“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett

-"We live in this weird society lately where if somebody isn't someone’s cup of tea, they want to ban it. People don't say anymore, 'That's not for me.' They go, 'That shouldn't be for anyone. [Your perspective comes from] you and your experience, and your history, and you have to accept that. You have to know that your opinion can't be policy." Sarah Silverman

-“We come into this world crying while all around us are smiling.  May we so live that we go out of this world smiling while everybody around us is weeping.”- Persian proverb

-“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself - and be lenient to everybody else.” Henry Ward Beecher
 -“I think we have special vision as writers according to whatever wounds we’ve suffered.  We have special vision to see people who are also suffering those same wounds.” Beckett
-“Each of us, if we would grow, must be committed to excellence and to victory, even though we know complete victory cannot be obtained, it must be pursued with all one’s might. The championships, the money, the color; all of these things linger only in the memory.  It is the spirit, the will to excel, the will to win; these are the things that endure.”  Vince Lombardi
-“Goodness is a special kind of truth and beauty. It is truth and beauty in human behavior.”  H. A. Overstreet
-“True merit, like a river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes.”  Lord Halifax
 -“The meaning of life is creative love. Not love as an inner feeling, as a private sentimental emotion, but love as a dynamic power moving out into the world and doing something original.” Tom Morris
-“The life that conquers is the life that moves with a steady resolution and persistence toward a predetermined goal. Those who succeed are those who have thoroughly learned the immense importance of plan in life, and the tragic brevity of time.”  W.J. Davison
 -“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
 -“Every one of my books has killed me a little bit more.” Norman Mailer

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


…It’s Wednesday, peaceful and beautiful out on the lake where there isn’t a solitary boat anywhere to be seen.

…Today I am going to court and writing poetry.  How’s that for a mixed bag?
…Speaking of mixed bags, there’s a lot of strange stuff that goes on around the world.
See for yourself:


It's a story that's getting a lot of buzz.
A bomb squad blew up a briefcase and other suspicious items in a Pittsburgh man's car Monday after he robbed a bank, police said.
With a sex toy. Specifically, a vibrator.
Aaron Stein, 35, faces a preliminary hearing June 25 in Allegheny County Magisterial District Court on nine felony counts including aggravated assault, robbery, threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction and the unusual charge of possessing a facsimile weapon of mass destruction, according to court documents.
That last one would be the vibrator.
Stein was arrested after a PNC Bank in the Pittsburgh suburb of Crafton was robbed of an undisclosed amount of money Monday. Crafton Police Chief Mark Sumpter told NBC station WPXI of Pittsburgh that Stein "stated he had a bomb, showed the teller wires hanging out from his shirt and demanded cash."
The robber drove off in a white Toyota, which was pulled over on a ramp to northbound Interstate 79 by Robinson Township police, Sumpter said.
Officers found money in a garbage bag, and beneath the front passenger seat, they found the device Stein is accused of having used in the bank robbery — "a makeshift box he made out of a box, black tape, vibrator and cellphone," Sumpter said.
A bomb squad dog checked the device and a briefcase that officers found in the car. Both were detonated as a precaution, police said.


A squirrel has become an online sensation after it was reportedly "detained" when a woman called police to complain it was stalking her.
The panicked woman was unable to shake the rodent in the western German city of Bottrop, so turned to the authorities in desperation on Wednesday, police told Reuters.
North-Rhine Westphalia police took in the squirrel and found it was suffering exhaustion.
Officers were helping the animal recover by feeding it pieces of apple and honey tea. A video uploaded to the police force's Facebook page showing the animal being fed had been watched 400,000 times by Friday morning.
The animal will be transferred to a local animal shelter once it has recovered, according to Reuters.


MAINZ, Germany - Flour worms, crickets and migratory grasshoppers could soon be on menus in Switzerland.
The Alpine country's government is in the final stages of passing a new law which would introduce the "delicacies" as officially permitted food. Until now, insects have not been recognized in Europe as edible food products.
"Following a request in parliament by the environmental Greens party, we are evaluating whether these three insects can be incorporated in our revised law," Michael Beer, deputy director at Switzerland's federal food safety and veterinary office (BLV), told NBC News.
The political party is advocating reduced meat consumption for Swiss society.
"Insects are climate friendly and are a good protein source," said Urs Scheuss, a spokesman for the Greens in Bern.
Scheuss' party even held an insect-tasting session in parliament to support its case.


The owners of a Bay Area nudist resort have been charged with stealing water during the state's historic drought.
Seventy-seven-year old Glyn Stout and his wife 53-year-old Lori Kay Stout, co-owners of Lupin Lodge, were charged Friday with felony conspiracy to commit trespassing for the purpose of injuring a property right. Officials say they repeatedly diverted water from a section of a local creek that they did not own, according to a statement from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office.
Employees are also facing charges. If convicted, all four could face up to three years in county jail.
The resort's owners have said they are entitled to use the waterfall, which they need to keep their water tank full in case of a fire and to top off their pool for both skinny-dipping and as a backup water source for a fire. They were not immediately available for comment Friday.

Monday, July 27, 2015


                                                        You Kiss Just Like a Girl

            After all the carnage he’d left in the school parking lot, my brother, Denny, still had enough nerve to ask if he could go to the party.  Mom sat at the kitchen table, her hair stacked up lopsided like the dishes in our sink, smoking Tareyton’s down to the bud, tapping her nails on the Formica table and staring at Denny as if he was some kind of baby killer. 
“You figure out how to pay for all those windshields yet?  Huh?” she asked.  She threw a fork but Denny ducked in time and the tines clattered off the window, hitting, Gilligan, our big blind cat.  “I don’t want to hear another word from you,” Mother said, testing out her tough guy suit, unaccustomed to all this recent madness.  “Do you understand me?  Not a peep.”
            In all, fronts and backs included, Denny popped nineteen windshields.  Used the very bat Dad had taught us how to hit with. Denny was already popular enough, but because these were all faculty cars, he became a hero to fellow students.  The teachers would have pressed charges if Dad hadn’t served a seven year stint as principal before taking off on a fling with the anorexic lady who taught first year Spanish. 
            The party was at Vickie Hewitt’s house.  Vickie had a full figure, not fat, just a lot of woman for a junior.  And she dyed her hair Marilyn Monroe white.  Plus she always had a lot of black friends over, which meant the music jammed and the party would be better because in the seventies black people were the only ones who knew how to dance.
            I’m not sure what compelled me to show up.  I was Denny’s look-alike brother, but shy and younger by a year.  He had a motorcycle and a pierced ear.  I had my paperbacks.  About the only thing we had in common was a blood line and the shared hatred of our father.
            When Vickie answered the door, my hair puffed back from so much blasting bass.  Her older sister, Christy slid around the hinge and gave me gave me a squishy hug, smothering me in her waterbed breasts.  At first it felt like one of Grandma’s hugs but then Vickie pressed in from behind me and then it wasn’t anything like Grand.  I pulled away too hard, staggered off balance and slipped into a puddle of beer or urine, or both.
            “Take it easy, Peach Fuzz,” Christy said, “That’s just us loving on you.”
            “But I couldn’t breathe,” I said, realizing at once how idiotic those words sounded.
            The music was Soul Train splendid, loud, thumping through the floorboards and walls and furniture, everything moving whether it wanted to or not.  Couples were bumping on the couch and kitchen table, grinding against appliances or the Hewitt’s incandescent fish tank which was so large it consumed an entire wall.
            I knew every person at the party, but not one was a friend.  Now they beamed when they saw me.  They gave me skin and arm bumps and back slaps and offers of free, under-the-counter, stimulants.  Mostly people wanted to know why Denny didn’t come and every time I declined drugs or drink, they asked if I was sick.
            “Nah, he’s not sick,” Vickie said, curling her lip in a snicker.  “He’s the good one.  Gonna be a pastor.  Aren’t you?”
            In that moment of mimicry, I saw Vickie’s fear as clearly as the monster pimple thrumming on my cheek.  Strange as it was, Vickie and I had a lot in common.  We were both younger siblings, both blonde (me a real one) and we were both terrified not so much of the future, but of what was happening in our worlds today, and what would happen tomorrow after the party ended, when it was just another flat weekend with nothing to do.        
I don’t know why, but I took her hand and did not let go.  I led her through the crowd and then up the stairs and said, “Which one?” and she pointed at the farthest down the hall, so I turned into the room and shut the door and kissed her at once.
            She made a little electrical noise and then I realized it was just Vickie’s leather pants squawking from the pressure of my knee on them.
            We ended up on the bed.  Sitting on the edge of it.  The dresser top had doilies all over it, along with perfume bottles and different framed photographs.  “You’re a little old-fashioned,” I said.  “That’s okay.  I am, too.”
            Vickie slapped my thigh.  “You retard.  This is my folk’s room.  You picked the wrong one.”
            “Folks?  But I thought your Mom left you guys.”
It came out as blunt as that--a chainsaw to the throat.  It came out the same way I pictured my own situation--raw and serrated.  
Vickie’s eyes watered.  “Hey,” I said.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean it like that.”
            She didn’t leave or slap me or curse.  Instead she leaned into my chest, her whole body warm and damp now, shuddering, sobbing.
            When she came up for air, Vickie’s makeup was so tragically smeared that it looked like she’d been beaten with a black licorice whip. 
I gave her tissues but she shredded them.  She told me how miserable she was, that she thought about killing herself as often as boys thought about sex.
“I’m a bad person,” she told me.
I told her she wasn’t.  People loved her.  She was popular.  “Look at that crowd downstairs.”
“Those are my sister’s friends.”
“But still, you know some of them.
She blew her nose on the corner of a pillow case and asked, “Are you really going to be a pastor when you grow up?”
            I kissed her again.  It was easier now, which helped, because anytime a person brought up me being a pastor, it forced momentum down a certain direction.
            When she pulled back, she said, “You know I’m Denny’s girl, right?”
            She must have really thought I was stupid.  “Of course,” I said.  “No duh.”
            As I got up, I half-expected her to stop me, but she didn’t.  Instead she only asked, “You are gay, aren’t you?  Denny says you are.”
            I bit my lip, feeling my face flood with blood.  “Why is it if you’re shy, people always think you’re gay?”
            “Hey, relax.  I don’t care if you are.”
            “But, so you know,” she said, her eyes narrowing in seriousness, “you do kiss just like a girl.”
            I closed the door behind me and stepped out into the hall where a fire engine alarm was coming up from a stereo as The Ohio Players took on, “Fire.”
            Downstairs I found the utilities closet.  I broke a broom in half, and then a mop.  I took the sticks into the kitchen.  They felt light yet prodigious enough for the job.  They made a windy whistle whenever I whirlwinded them, which I did.
The windows exploded easily, almost self-combusting, as if they’d been waiting for this moment all along.  Pearls and husks of glass showered the air as I smashed the liquor bottles.  Ash trays.  Dishes and water glasses.  The huge television set.  Lamps.  Wall clock.  Chandelier.  And then the finale, the fish tank.
A small ocean poured forth and I thought of sailors, The Titanic, Noah.  Several slug-gray salamander-looking guppies squiggled near my toes, making it seem as if the entire shag rug were moving, scratching itself.  I apologized to the fish, but did not otherwise move save a solitary one.  I took out two lava lamps and a family portrait.
            By the time the cops arrived, I had stopped swinging.  My arms felt strapped with sand bags and my shoulders burned.
They used a blow horn, threatening tear gas.  For just a moment, I thought how easy it would be to provoke one or more of the officers into shooting me, but instead I stood where I was, hands at my sides. 
“We’re coming in!” they screamed.
Which was fine.  I’d done what I’d come to do.  I’d made my own mark.


Friday, July 24, 2015


…So there was a reading last night and I read and two of my good friends read and it all went swimmingly, as my son so often says.  (not sure how the expression swimmingly came into being.)
A friend from my corporate days surprised me by showing up.  Afterward she said, “You’re so different now.  Well, you’re the same, but you’re all lite up seem so enraptured with your new writing life.  You come alive.”
I agree and was glad she noticed and it humbled me.  I’m so lucky to be able to do the thing I always wanted to do, and to do it as much as I want.
It was a fun night spend with very authentic and nice people.

….Tomorrow night I’m going to see another of my favorite bands.  These guys:

…It’s been kind of a treasure trove of interesting commentary the last few days on Facebook.  As I’ve said before, I wish I knew what to do with FB and wish I could be so attention-grabbing:
-the Grateful Dead is hands down the best music to listen to while getting a divorce.
-Ugh. As someone who hires people, I am telling you how far a thank-you note goes. Never forget to send one. It really speaks to the quality of a candidate. 9x out of 10, it means that person is legit. Also, please don't say to people you're interviewing with, "thank god I took an adderall
-I just realized what all my troubles have stemmed from: my life was set in airplane mode.
-I'm setting the record straight now: I never ate a placenta. I did, however, keep one in the freezer for over a year, just in case.
-receiving holy messages in public bathrooms is kinda my thing
-a tiny, old man asked me how my hair got purple like that and I said "I woke up like this" so I won today.
-Last night at Little Caesar's I saw a dude in a Slipknot shirt telling his little brother that fireworks are illegal and he would go to jail if he shot any. Way to not be metal, bro.
-There is no difference between a toddler and a very, very drunk person. None.
-The neighbors are using a circular saw. In their bedroom.  WHAT. ?????