Friday, September 19, 2014



      Tight Rope

            I had never picked up a hitchhiker, let alone a pregnant one, and now as we drive outside of the Seattle city limits with the Olympics fading fast over my shoulder, she opens the glove compartment, rooting around with a familiarity that’s both startling and alluring.
            “Hey, what’s this?  You pack a gun?  I didn’t take you for the type.”
            It was actually my father’s pistol.  Dad was always trying to make me more masculine.  He bought me work boots and toolsets even though I am a law clerk and write poetry.
            “You probably shouldn’t play around with that,” I say.
            “You’re kind of a nervous nelly, aren’t you?”
            My fiancé had just called off our engagement.  She claimed I had no pluck.  I had to look up the word, but after I had, I realized she was likely correct.
            This girl, the pregnant one, is maybe twenty.  Maybe.  She wears a plaid shirt unbuttoned too far and she might be wearing a bra but I can’t see anything except skin and valleys, shadows and curves.  Her eyes go wider when she spots me staring.
            “Might want to stay focused on the road there, chief.”
            I have four sisters, tomboys all of them.  I was the youngest, Dad’s only boy.  But we all knew I was a disappointment from the get-go.  Even now, Mother is convinced I’m gay.
            “Seriously, you should put that pistol back.”
            “Pistol.  I like that word.”
            “Yeah, why’s that.”
            “Pistil, stamen.  Like biology.  Like sex.”
            I swallow, louder than I want.
            “You ever do it in a moving car?”
            A croak jumps out of my throat.  “That would be extremely unsafe.”
            “Don’t you ever do anything dangerous, hmm?  You ever lived on the edge?  Even close to it?”
            I want to tell her a fantastic story about me being daring, and borderless but I can’t think of one.  “I used to skinny dip in the neighbor’s pool.”
            “But I’ll bet it was only at night.  And you were alone.  And you probably only did it once, and not for more than a couple of minutes.”
            Had she been there, seen me?
            She drags the snout of the gun between her cleavage, rubbing up and down, doing it slow, in jerky spasmodic movements.  Her breathing has changed, gone deep now, gotten spicy.
            I switch the heater to AC.
            “How far along are you?” I ask just to have something to say.  My mouth is so dry the words feel like hair balls.
            She smooths the gun chamber across her belly, sighing a little.  “Seven months.”
            She nods, her eyes glassy, her mouth parted, lips glossy with sticky saliva webbed like a tightrope between the upper and lower one.
            “I think you’re really handsome.  Hot.”
            “No you don’t.”
            She nods again and the web of saliva pops in two.  “I want to have sex with you.”
            “Are you nuts?”
            “You’re driving me crazy.”
            “I just picked you up.  Ten minutes ago.”
            “I know.  That’s the nutty part about it.”
            It is hard to breathe.  The air’s too thick, as if it’s filled with sawdust or gnats.
            She licks the rim of the gun barrel, her tongue a slithering white worm.
            “Please don’t do that.”
            “You want me to stop?”
            “You do?”
            “I’m trying to drive a motor vehicle.”
            She looks down at my lap.  “That’s not all you’re doing.”
            My eyes start to water.  I hold my breath down the same way you drown someone in a shallow pool.  I’m afraid that I might combust.  My knees knock against the instrument console.  My jaw is flexed so tight I can feel one of my molars is cricking.
            When I look over, I see that she has half the gun inside her mouth, simulating a motion I’ve seen in films.  Or maybe she isn’t simulating.  Maybe she’s getting off.
            She says, “Yes.”  He
r voice is hot and high, perfect.
            She says, “Yes,” again.  One hand steers the pistol in and out and in and out of her mouth while the other hand massage her swollen stomach, the a breast, finding a nipple.
            “Holy hell,” I say.
            I am on the summit Snoqualmie Pass, at the section that always gave me the willies because the road runs right to the edge of a sheer overhang, no guard rail in sight.  I’ve been afraid of heights my whole life, even more so after Dad made me go on a hot air balloon with him at age eight, the to the top of The Space Needle where he goaded me into spitting over the edge.
            The girl is in a trance.  Drool spills down the gun metal, glistening on the trigger, pooling in her the crux of her palm, sliding down her wrist like a foamy slug.
            Her eyes inch up, latched onto mine like a pair of bronze manacles.  My legs twitch.  “Do you want me?”
            I do.  I do.  I want her.  I want her desperately.  I tell so.
            She smiles just before swallowing the gun nearly to the very hilt, gagging, then slowly withdraw it.  I’ve seen snake before, eating whole mice.  I’ve seen other things as well.
            “Do you really want me?”
            “I told you I do.”
            “How much do you want me?”
            “Come on, I’m dying here.”
            “How much?”
            “I’d do anything.”
            “Yes.  Anything.”
            “Prove it.”
            When I look at the instrument panel, I see that I’m pushing ninety.  Out the window the air is vacant except for our vehicle.  I don’t know exactly when I’d driven off the edge of the mountain, but I know that I’m flying now, that there’s no going back, that I’ve finally doing something brave or foolish.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014


…Hey Wednesday, you’re looking kind of sexy.

So I have this up at Eunoia Review today:

…Sex and money and other stuff

-57% of people ages 24 to 30 had no sex in the past year.

-In 1988, about half of boys 15 to 17 were having sex.  By 2010, that rate had been cut nearly in half.

-The average man has seven arguments a year about when to have sex

-77 million Americans own an average of $5,200 in past due, collectible debt.

-A middle-income family with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend about $245,340 for food, shelter and other expenses up to age 18, an increase of 1.8% from 2012

-Oklahoma basketball player Kevin Durant recently was offered a ten-year $250 deal with sporting apparel company Under Armour.  Apparently Nike just matched that offer.

-4 out of 5 men have traded blows defending a woman’s honor
--55% of men have had a fight with their wife or girlfriend behind the wheel.

--8% of men claim to have been sucker punched at some point in their life

--You have a 64% increased chance of developing heart disease if you hold a grudge.

--Apple reportedly spent more than $100 million dollars in making and distributing U 2’s new album free to its 500 iTune users.

…Alex Trebek set the Guinness World Record for most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter at 6,829
It’s his 31st season and he’s asked more than 416,000 questions

…Jack Ma, founder of the Amazon-like Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba Group will be worth $15 billion after the company’s IPO later this month.

Monday, September 15, 2014


…Pretty depressing sports weekend here in Seattle.  But it’s just sports, I guess.

…(Braggart alert) Stephen Ramsey had some nice things to say about my latest piece in the Pure Slush Anthology:

I’m not broke, but I’m getting there. Besides, it’s lonely on the road and strangers are never as friendly as you’d guess.
Last month our walkabout hero robbed a McDonald’s with a dwarf. We left him nearly begging to be shot. Which is one way of saying he’s losing ground in his race to run away from the pain of losing his wife, which was what started this whole antic, lonely cross-country journey. Now, with the money running out and his armor eroded, it may be time to settle down.
The manager here is an obese man who goes by the moniker Hercules. He’s so huge that it’s torture for him to breathe and any time he moves or even leans a little it’s like hearing a vacuum cleaner going full blast.
Herc gives me a test run. He has me make an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan, Dirty Martinis and even a Dirty Girl Scout, which, by the grin on his face, would be his trump recipe, yet I nail the concoction with just the right amount of Bailey’s and a dash of crème de menthe. The happy smirk on his face tells me he’s impressed.
“Start now if you want,” Herc says.
There’s that patter of sharp, specific detail that jams us into scene-any-scene-and prepares us for our monthly dose of wild ride. Plot is not the issue in these installments. We’re reading for the sheer joy of these wonderfully unique and character-penetrating details. We’ve long ago given up any sense of linkage… and then a woman walks into the bar.
She looks exactly like my wife, but with red hair.
“Hey there,” she says.
I try to speak but I’ve got rocks in my throat. She takes the center stool at the bar, staring at me, daring me to look away. For a minute we just look at each other. I feel sweat dripping down my ribs. My socks are damp with sweat as well.
“Do I know you?” she finally says.
I swallow and manage to say, “I’m not from around here.”
“Me either.” She smiles and it’s my wife’s smile , the kind she’d give me when she was in the mood for some hanky -panky.
“What’ll it be?” I say, feeling dizzy and out of sorts.
Pattern broken yet again. All this time, it turns out we’ve been building toward this encounter. The Technicolor drops away, and we’re back in Kansas again.
“Hey now, it’s all right,” the woman says, reaching across the counter and clutching my hand which is damp with what I now realize are my own tears. “It’s like they say: Time heals all wounds.”
“You think?”
“There are plenty of fish in the sea,” she says, using her free hand to unbutton her blouse.
“Momma said there’d be days like this.”
“What are you doing?”
She draws my hand across the counter and pushes it inside her bra, purring, “There’s no place like home.”
Yep, it’s Kansas, or rather Nashville, and our protagonist is right back where he began, lamenting and longing in the mundane. They have sex right there on the bar, and it’s fabulous… but is it real? There’s the rub, and there’s the power of this series, that so deftly takes us by the hand one moment, then shoves us off the roller coaster the next. It’s been an amazing ride thus far and now that we’re approaching climax and (hopefully) release, it appears that we’re going to discover it was all connected all along. We were too fully invested in the trees to see the forest. This is a most impressive cycle indeed.

…And (braggart alert once more) here’s the marketing for my upcoming reading at Uppercase Books here in Snohomish:

…I really do feel like a lucky guy.

Friday, September 12, 2014


…It’s Friday and I’ve started the weekend off by getting a ticket for not wearing my seatbelt.  That’s $120 ticket.  Never mind that I’d just come from the grocery store and had gone a mere TWO BLOCKS trying to pull into the gas station when this cop came up behind me.
What the hell?  Go catch some criminals.
Okay, enough ranting.
It’s Friday after all.
Don’t worry.  Be Happy.

…So here were some interesting things people said on Facebook this week:

-Last night's dream was really obvious; I had sex in an elevator and a bodega with Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Pattinson, respectively, of course.
-I don't care for you. Hope that helps to balance things out a bit.
-Poem title (in this morning’s submission reading) “Oh for fucks sake”
-If you become furious with your live-in female lover, make sure you live in South Africa because then you can shoot her a number of times through your shared bathroom door and be forgiven for doing so because she may have been an intruder. Also, if you punch out your fiancé in an elevator, make sure there's no camera available, and you're golden.
-I'm aghast! I just discovered my pants are on backwards. It's after midnite on a Wednesday morning. This is not good....AND suddenly I feel like I need to get my shit together ASAP and start shaving my legs, matching my undies (again), wear SOMETHING other than workout clothes, maybe brush my hair occasionally...
 -Pay money to be alone, to say "I love you" to a brick wall, to kiss that wall, that brick, to kiss nothing at all except air, fucking love that air, don’t think about anyone, think about everyone, think about air because it’s always in front of you, inside of the insides of you--
-Is anyone else going batshit crazy or is it just me?
-It sucks to be old.

…And here are a few other things I like for the weekend:

“Don't allow yourself to be intimidated! There is more than one road to joy.”  - Writing in "The Paradox of Love" Pascal Bruckner
"Life is ours to be spent, not to be saved.” D.H. Lawrence
 "Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know why I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved." Will Rogers

"Life on the open road is be alone, to have few needs, to be unknown, everywhere a foreigner and at home, and to walk grandly and solitarily in conquest of the world." Isabelle Eberhardt

"Everybody takes everybody for granted."  Joshua Ferris

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



Riming the volcano of garbage are vultures—fifty or more, their black plumage inky in the smoldering sun.  Big as toddlers, they cock their crocked necks as if they know my thoughts, but they do not, no one does.
Last week my son fought one of these evil birds.  Marco had discovered an uneaten sandwich in the heap when the creature swooped down.  Thank God Marco had the bent-up umbrella he always carries, sometimes using it as a bat (“Look, Papa, I’m A Rod!”), a dancing cane, (“I’m smooth like your favorite, Gene Kelly!”), a golf club (“Now I’m Chi Chi Rodriguez.  How do you like those apples, Papa?”)  I watched him beat the bird, heard their tangled screaming.  We were in the middle of sorting recyclables from other’s people’s discarded waste.  My wife implored me to intervene, but I knew that would only make Marco soft, and soft does not survive here.
We used to live inside the dump, among the maggots and rats, until the missionaries came.  Now we have rows of tin boxes to make our homes.  Still, a narrow, dirt road is all that separates our make-shift town from the dump.
Miles below sits Puerto Vallarta.  At night, she shimmers, a bejeweled gown.  A cruise ship glows with its windows white as American teeth.
When I was young like Marco, I often plotted an escape.  Now that I am wiser, I watch my family sleeping and feel embarrassed to be this rich. 

                                                                    The Hater’s Club

            At the ice cream store, a kid is staring at me with chocolate melt running down his lips and chin, mouth hanging open like a grotesque trapdoor.  His eyes are huge, bark-brown olives.  Worst of all, he hasn’t blinked once.
            I study my napkin for a solid two minutes.  Looking up, I see the kid’s expression hasn’t changed a bit.
            His head is oversized, a boulder atop his spindly neck and arms.  I imagine taking a baseball bat and swinging, hearing his cranium crack.  
            I read the sign that lists flavors and prices.  I look at my fingers and notice there’s gray gunk under most of the nails.
When I turn back around, I see that ice cream’s pooled around the kid’s neck, but he’s still ogling me the same way.
            I think; Okay, let’s do this. 
I stare back.  I do it until my pupils dry out and sting.
            He still hasn’t blinked.
            I sneer.
            I wiggle my eyes.
            I go cross-eyed till I’m dizzy. 
            I stick out my tongue
            I flip him off.
            He just stares. 
It’s starting to get monumentally creepy.
            His mom must be constipated, because she’s been in the can a while.
The Asian guy behind the counter helps in the sherbet section. 
I need someone to see this-- the bizarre kid who won’t stop staring.
            Oh, wait.  What?
            I’ve been so distracted by the gawking going on that I haven’t realized until now that he resembles a guy from high school named Oliver Pratt. 
            Oliver and I were in the same Hater’s Club: he hated me and I loathed him.  That wouldn’t have mattered, but one day while I was in the restroom, Oliver and his buddies jumped me, then stole my pants and underwear.
            After that, I bought a voodoo doll that resembled him, with its twiggy cloth limbs and a puffy, hacky sack pouch for a head.  I stuck a hundred needles through that ragdoll, concentrating, imagining I possessed supernatural intuition, a sixth sense that could make the pins real, puncturing Oliver’s pupils, neck, testicles.
            Two days later, Oliver was horsing around on a department store escalator, fell off, and plunged through a cosmetic counter made of glass.  He bled to death before they’d even removed all of the shards.
            Looking hard at the kid now, avoiding his goggle eyes but taking in the other features, I see how he’s an identical version of Oliver Pratt.
This guy is Oliver.
I know it.
I’ve got good intuition.  It’s what caused all this in the first place.
            When the boy’s mom finally comes out, she says, “Oh, Ollie!  Look at the mess you’ve made.”
            Each night and every morning, I wake with pinprick sensations against my skin.  I know they’re needles ready to be turned into broken blades of glass. 
I stop sleeping.  I hardly eat.  I see Oliver’s likeness everywhere.
Something tells me he’s going to get his revenge, and soon. 

I know these things.

Monday, September 8, 2014


…Oh, my.  What a weekend and last five days that was.  Truly outstanding.  I wish I could tell you about it, but then you could be charged as someone aiding and abetting.
Nevertheless I’m alive and grateful, so I guess it’s all good.

…I’m behind on a lot of things.  Need to catch up.  So I’ll leave you with these things I like to start off a week:

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”   e.e. Cummings

“So let us go forward quietly, each on his own path, forever making for the light.” Vincent Van Gogh

“The human race really only has one effective weapon, and that is laughter.” Mark Twain
“A man who makes no mistakes makes nothing.”  Winston Churchill

“The essence of intelligence would seem to be in knowing when to think and act quickly, and knowing when to think and act slowly.”  Psychologist Robert Sternberg

 "You can find on the outside only what you possess on the inside." Adolfo Montiel Ballesteros

"Finding an agent is much more difficult than writing a book." Michael Schein

"There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live." James Truslow Adams

"It's time to start living the life you've imagined." Henry James

"When you're more full of memories than dreams, your days are numbered."
"No amount of emotional energy can change what happened yesterday."
"Ninety percent of our thoughts are focused on the past, and that's a shame." Ben Daily

"If I read a book and it makes me so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry." Emily Dickinson

"If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." B.J. Marshall

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


…Okay, so I’m off to Reno and then Sin City.

…Before I go, here are some things I wrote recently…


The man on the bus
Keeps staring at me from his seat up front
Conspicuously turned around
No one else notices
It’s a vehicle filled with ghosts and stooges
All of us forgeries
This guy has problems
Let him have them
I stare out a dirty window at a city steaming in sunshine
After an earlier thunder storm
Diamonds in the asphalt glittering
Wisps of vapor snaking away like anorexic genies
That’s how my life is sometimes
A slow smolder
All the ancient stuff igniting while I
Try telling myself it was an aberration
Or I’m just exaggerating
It wasn’t that bad
Couldn’t have been
No way
Not in a million years
But I’m on my way to see you
And that’s what counts
You with your open arms
And ready ear
You who’s seen every scar
Even my hidden heart scars
As we round 82nd street
I look up front
But the guy is gone
Maybe he was never there to begin with
Maybe I can finally let go of the baggage
Stare it down
Blink it away
Sure enough
There you are
On the corner waving
As if I’m home from some war
And I’m the only person you want to see at this moment
What a feeling that is
Like being lifted on shoulders and carried triumphantly
Through a cheering crowd
Pardoned from shame
As free as

Taffy Hearts

After the fight,
we share the last Jolly Rancher,
grape-flavored or cherry,
who cares?
It’s the funniest thing in the world,
drooling purple saliva everywhere,
though anyone else would think us sick.
When you say, “We could make a jump rope out of our spit,”
we laugh like drunks
till our ribs ache
and the world evaporates.
Near dawn we’re onto taffy,
the kind of saltwater stuff you get down the shore
that’s like chewing through a picket fence.
You take a long string of it out of your mouth and spell something on my back.
“Guess what it is?”
“How the hell would I know?”
But I do know—
It’s a lopsided heart big enough for our initials and a plus sign
in between.

Winter Melon Soup

I have no fire escape
Or that winter melon soup
You used to make when we were young and poor
A bed without box springs our best friend
No time keeper
Or score keeper
Just the Ukrainian couple in 14 B
Stabbing broom handles against their floor
Whenever we’d hit fever pitch lovemaking
And afterward you’d cackled while I inhaled your sweat
Getting higher than Trump Tower
I’ve heard 99 Decision Street has a different name now
But otherwise it’s all the same without us
There are worse things
There are always worse things of course
And a boy grown into a man should know better
Than to second guess and wish
But where I am now
There are no cabs snagging the street below
No rusty water needing to be boiled pure
No annoyed Ukrainians
It’s not even cold in frigid winter
There are indoor outdoor pools
A closet as big as our entire apartment
Bedrooms for the dogs
The air is clear and clean
And I’m living like a lonely king
At the top of a stucco mountain
So I tell the servants
To bring me my things, all of them,
Line them up in rows
And go
No one needs to see this but me
The way it all smolders and burns when lit
Vanity and insanity
Riches turned to soot
Freedom listing with the ash
Leaving me with nothing
But sweet liberty
And a ticket back to
The man I once was

Okay All Right

Hey you
Chubby ballerina hanging from a bouncy seat
In my office doorway
Where did you go?
Because I’m not sure I know you as this woman
Kissing him
Snuggling him
Giggling so differently from my little girl
Oh I know I’m supposed to
Let go 
Murder my darlings as they say in the craft
But I wasn’t prepared for this
You with a man who doesn’t understand how lucky he is
Who has no passion for anything
Not even you
Okay all right
I’ll just take the advice your mother gave
Before she passed
She said
Every cloud is an elephant or mouse
Depending upon your angle in the grass
Doesn’t that sound just like her?
Are you there?
Oh you’re not
Okay all right
You’ve got my number
You know where I live
I’ve got all the time in the world for you
Always have
Just say when

 It Wasn’t Supposed To Be This Way

My mouse pad is torn again
And I’m running out of room
For all the ideas that were right on the tip of my tongue
Other people are geniuses
I’m just a crypt keeper
In a one room walk up
Trying to hold my breath
The last thing you said was
Love isn’t a spaghetti western
Just like that
Lips pursed
The last straw
And I wish now I’d never laughed
I still have your number
And the new one I convinced Courtney to give me
They burn a wide hole
The smoke makes it hard to see or breathe
I never meant to write one more poem about
Missing you
But even the pain of doing so
Is more pleasure than I’ve had in weeks
Who needs a mouse pad anyway
There are photos on my phone
Daggers I can stab myself with
A video of you drunk and giggling in Cabo
All those fish in the sea behind you
Hidden by a sky blue blanket
Around midnight my cell rings
Your face on the screen
My favorite pic
Me saying Hey there
The mirage
If it is a mirage at all
Laughing at me till dawn
Cackling like an unforgiving jackal