Wednesday, December 31, 2014


…I like the fact that my children appreciate beauty, that they have retained their sense of wonder.  The other night the near dusk the clouds were a sensational color, something between mauve and cotton candy pink, almost glowing, and I stepped out of my office to tell my son to look out at the sky but he had already got off the couch with his camera phone in hand and was going through the screen door to take pictures.  I called down to him and he said, “Isn’t that just incredibly beautiful?”  He’s eighteen.

He also wrote a song, “A Train to Nowhere,” which he played for me while sitting in my office on the floor with a laptop open for the lyrics and a guitar.  It was quiet good.
My daughter wrote two songs the same day.
I love how much my kids appreciate music.  It makes me happy.
I have a few more days, then they’re gone again, off to college.

…I’m a useless person on Twitter and I’m nearly as bad on Facebook.  Cleverness eludes me.  Not so for these folks on Facebook last week:

-Dear Minnesota -
Why are adults wearing pajamas at Target? Are you dying? No? Then put on some damn pants.

-My daughter yelled "Dad? Who are you talking to?" through the bathroom door while I was taking a shower this morning. I yelled, "myself." Later I explained that it was either a function of 1) being a drama major and becoming accustomed to running lines by yourself and saying them out loud and not caring who hears you or 2) a deep-seated psychosis that will take potent medication and years of therapy to cure. But either way, I told her, the company is good and the conversations are pleasant, so who cares?

-I've been a keeping a secret for a long time. Even I'm surprised by my secret. Here it goes: OBSESSED with the new Taylor Swift album. There it is. To all the people I argued vehemently to that TS sucked, I'm sorry. I like malls and boys and driving in cars with them and sparkly things and I'm evil in new ways. I still think she's awful, but this album is so cheesy I just can't help it. I've let a lot of my friends down, I know, but I'm not apologetic.

-I hate it when people get me earrings for Christmas. Not because I'm horrible and ungrateful, but because I've had my ears gauged for 12 years. That's older than most pop stars.
-A mushroom walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "You can't come in here!"
And the mushroom says, "Why not? I'm a fungi!"

-Overheard this weekend...
Random person: "Who is the audience for your wife's book?"
My husband: "Anyone with $4.99."

-I'm wearing a Burberry trench coat as I speak. Totally naked underneath. Just so you know.

-went to buy milk. got jumped by a jelly donut.

-I know it seems like we’re sliding deeper and deeper into a totalitarian state, but it’s worth mentioning that the ban on ferrets has been lifted in NYC, yogurt is the official New York state snack and we are now allowed to carry wiffle ball bats and ice skates on planes! “Freedom’s just another word for nuthin’ left to lose.

-Went to a Christmas village which felt like a riot/protest/mosh pit. Almost got hot chocolate but I didn't have a sword or bayonet to fight my way into the line
-write sober, edit sober, submit drunk

-Being alive is the most time consuming thing you’ll do all day. Stick with it. Even when you lie down. Cannonballers. Scuba divers. Sidewalkers and drag racers ...

(….And then this bitter post I can’t get over…)


26 minutes ago
Marsha Wright
You fucking bitch you talk about other writers you slut. Where is that gonna get you a poets ditch. Who the fuck do you think you are you lesbo asking to be friends on facebook with Robert Pinsky you dirtbag do you think he likes you sleeze bag what kind of a writer writes lesbian poems fuck you you suck

Monday, December 29, 2014



            The fortune teller says we should keep the baby, that there are different kinds of tears. 
When I ask for clarification, the fortune teller shrugs and flaps her veiny hands—we’re done.
            We walk home in dull, sputtering rain.  There are a hundred cabs everywhere, but we both need the sting of November chill to help center us.
            “She knew about my sister,” my wife says.  “About the accident.”
            “Lucky guess.”
            “How could she know that?”
            “They have tricks.”
            “But she radiated something, a weird kind of energy.  You could feel it, couldn’t you?”
            “I think you were just nervous.  I know I was.”
“It was more than that.”
“She creeped the shit out of me.  Where were her eyelashes, her eyebrows?”
“I knew we should keep it,” my wife says.  “To hell with my mother.”
“Hey, she’s entitled to her opinion.”
            My wife’s head swivels fast and I can see how white her eyes are around her pupils.  She’d like to boil me alive right now, yet she simmers.  “My mom hasn’t exactly been supportive.”
I bite my lip.  I want to tell her that I know how horrible this has been for her, but that it hasn’t been easy on me or her family either, yet if I say that I’ll come off sounding callous, a jackass, which is how I feel every time I think about it.
Instead I take her hand and she lets me.  I give it a squeeze but get nothing back.
“Do you think I’m crazy?” she asks.
“Come on.”
“But do you?”
“Stop it.  Of course not.”
She flicks her head toward me as we walk, searching my eyes.  “It would help if you’d tell me that every once in a while.”
I look down at the dirty concrete.  “I’m sorry,” I say.  “I will.”  I squeeze her hand again, wondering if we’re broken, haplessly treading, wondering if maybe my wife is right and I am simply pitying her while cowardly wallowing in self-pity myself.
A siren goes off right next to us, making my wife jerk.  Traffic is a jammed blood clot.   The cop gets on his foghorn telling people to pull over to the side of the street, but this is Manhattan and there’s nowhere for them to go.  That’s how I think of myself, with nowhere to go, and just as soon as I think this, I hate myself for doing so.  I think: self-centered bastard.  I think: heartless sonofabitch.
The therapist we both go to tells us things we already know.  It’s expensive.  I want to quit the sessions, but I know that’s impossible.  The therapist always looks like she’s about to fall asleep.  When she does speak she says the words wounds, healing, time and trust, resetting, and it’s all a bunch of hot bullshit.
Seeing the fortune teller had been my wife’s idea.  She’d always been irrationally superstitious and into mystical stuff.  I knew before we’d gone that she’d get the confirmation she wanted about keeping the baby.  I knew it would only elongate the chasm between us.
A few weeks after it happened, word somehow got out that we were considering abortion and hordes of people lined the street below our apartment building, holding signs, calling us the worst things imaginable.  When I couldn’t take their chanting anymore, I went down and started swinging my fists.  All that did was land me in jail for a night.
A block from our place, with the rain picking up steam and slicing at an angle, my wife stops and says, “I have to know for sure.”
“Will you love it?”
“It?” I say, though I know what she’s asking, me stalling because there’s a new coil of panic running through me now.
“The baby.”
“Yeah.  Yeah.  Of course.”  The words come out too fast, too easily, and my wife begins to sob and wail, hugging her arms to her chest, looking like she’s stuck inside a strait jacket.  People pass by staring.  Car horns blare.  A cab driver slows to get a good look.
My wife swings her arm, tamping the night air with her fists, sputtering, “I’d understand if you didn’t.”
We’d always wanted children, trying the last two years, charting my wife’s ovulation patterns, but I was the problem, me with my weak sperm.  We’d just contacted an adoption agency when it happened.  My wife was jogging Central Park at night.  I’d warned her against evening runs, but she said, “It’s Central Park, for God’s sake.”  The police said he knew what he was doing, that he’d probably done it many times before.  He was fast, efficient.  He had a knife and knew where to place it, with just the right amount of pressure to ensure silence.  He was a pro.
When my wife found out she was pregnant, she went into hysterics, screaming, wouldn’t come out of the bathroom for hours, no matter how hard or how much I pleaded.  She thought it was her fault, punishment for something she’d done, and at night she’d confess every silly sin she’d ever committed, trying to get me to agree.  She couldn’t comprehend that random evil just happens sometime.
I take both of her shoulders in my palms and say, “Look at me.”
She tilts her head up slowly.  Her face is wet from rain and mucus.  She looks so much like a lost, little girl that my heart shatters.
“I love you.”
“I know that,” she says, meaning, there has to be more than love, meaning survival is going to take every single ounce of us, both of us, and do I have that much fight in me?
I wish I had the right thing to say, something strong and affirming, but I’m just as lost as she is.
I take her in my arms and hold her.  We stand there, neon light from a billboard streaking us blue, and together we weep and shudder and do our best to reset. 

Friday, December 26, 2014


Post-Christmas Morning, 4:15 am

Fog burnishes the tips of each tree
that lines our lake,
shading the air with sepia hiccups,
ghostlike in a way,
white-gray smudges clinging to darkness,
doing their best to blot away the seeping daylight
the way a protective mother might.
This is the hour when
even the geese and eagles 
are in deepest slumber
and no one notices
but me
lying akimbo beneath the shimmering strands
of Christmas lights,
tufts of wrapping paper on the floor eye-level,
wondering how I got here,
this year,
this day,
this minute
a circumspect opportunity to re-load
the chamber of my life
and boldly pull the trigger.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


            Damaged Goods

            Last week my husband threw a boot through the kitchen window, shattering glass, shattering a vase of tulips, shattering everything. 
This week he slammed his fist into my daughter’s bedroom wall, white plaster bits dusting his face and hair, making him appear mummified, an ancient ghoul.
This morning over a fragile breakfast, when I softly said I was considering therapy, he flung a newspaper across the table, and as I watched the Sports section flap toward me like a pair of dismembered wings, he said I was damaged goods.
            I have a sister, two brothers, a mother, kids, but only one friend, and she’s who I call.
            “That motherfucker.”
            “It’s just work has been really stressful for him.  His boss is awful.”
            “Stop swearing so much.”
            “Fuck that.”
            “But what’ll I do?”
            “And go where?”
“I don’t have a clue where to go.”
“You can stay with me.”
            “I have two kids, remember.  That’s three of us.  You don’t have the room.”
            “I’ll make room.  Just get out of there.”
            The therapist doesn’t seem to want to know about my husband other than his relationship with his parents, and my relationship with mine.  I tell them all I know as fast as I can.  He makes notes while nodding, his head tipped so that I can see his yarmulke bald spot.
            Aside from questions, the only thing he says is at the end of our session.  He tells me, “Anger lives in reserves, that it gets stored in emotional pockets, and that it can be triggered by moments reminiscent of the past.  He says, “Abuse is often hereditary.
            When I say, “But there hasn’t been any abuse,” he smiles at me and says, “Time’s up.  How about next Tuesday, 2:00?”
            I don’t tell my husband or my friend about the visit.  At home, when my husband’s there, I make myself small.  I only speak when spoken to.   I pretend I am a ghost, only with red hair, green eyes and freckles, a ghost with faintly breathing.
            In between the times I see my therapist, things get worse, but my husband is never so angry as to be stupid—the punches are always on the chest or stomach or back or thighs where they can’t be seen when I am clothed.  I don’t tell my therapist or friend about any of this.
            I replay the moments leading up to each episode, tapering it all down in slow motion to the point where even my husband’s screams sound slurred.  I rewind and watch what I’m doing, what I’ve done, what part I’ve played.  I can’t find my fault in any of it and, because I can’t, I only feel more stupid, more alone.
            The day he hits me in the face my son is there.  I’m washing dishes.  I let them air-dry.  That’s not good enough.  That’s what dirty people do, he says.  There are germs and airborne diseases.
            His fist is open but it’s a thick paddle nonetheless, coming out of nowhere, blink-fast, a stingray burning across my cheek, the heat and soreness lingering through the evening and still throbbing at dawn.
            The next day I buy books about the subject.  I highlight and dog-ear pages.  I am an ardent student.
            The abused spouse typically suffers eight to ten episodes before fleeing or seeking genuine help that will keep them out of harm’s way. 
            I’m on episode one, or there about.
            One night after I’ve made dinner, my husband calls and says he’ll be late.  He sounds tipsy, which is never a good sign.  But I’m relieved to have the extra time to myself.
            I sit in the living room studying the furniture, the antique chest and antique grandfather clock, the distressed sofa and distressed leather chairs, all of it damaged goods, all of them being the items I’d picked out. 
            But the books say this is a trick, too, self-identifying with slander, “irrational rationalization”, and so I try not to believe it this once.
            Instead, I call the children from their rooms upstairs.  Even after whining, they relent and bound down the steps with their pouts and cranky sighing.
            I tell them, “No questions.  Not even one.”  I tell them, “Get your coats.”  I tell them, “We’re going,” and they don’t ask where.
I’d packed some of their things while they were at school.  I have the keys in my hand and I jangle them because I want them to know what’s what, or maybe because I’m nervous.  The car is loaded and full of gas.  It’s sits out there on the curb, twenty feet away, staring at me like a steel dinosaur .  I don’t look it in the eyes.  Instead I open the door and say, “Let’s go.” 

Monday, December 22, 2014


…I’ve had Freddy Johnston’s song stuck in my head for three days now.  Can’t shake it loose.  I’m surprised no one has remade it or sampled it.  The song sounds current, like it could be a hit today.  Here, have a listen:

…I finally wrote a story with a happy ending (at least I think this is a happy ending) and it’s up at Bartleby Snopes today:

…It doesn’t feel like Monday today, but I know it is.
Here are some things I like to start off the week:

“You have such pretty brown eyes—the kind that you should make a big deal about.”
“We accept the love we deserve.”--Perks of Being A Wallflower

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses.” Allophones Karr
“There are things to be said of love that no one is saying.” Kerry Giangrande
“They put me down, man, those square people in Port Arthur. They called me a slut. They threw rocks at me in class. But all I was looking for was some kind of personal freedom and other people who felt the way I did.” -- Janis Joplin
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” Mahatma Gandhi

“The butterfly does not look back upon its caterpillar self, either fondly or wistfully; it simply flies on.”  Guillermo del Toro

“My mother drew a distinction between achievement and success. She said that achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is within you.  Success is being praised by others. That is nice but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success.”   Helen Hayes

Friday, December 19, 2014


…Sometimes the world is a scary place. 
Two days ago the Taliban invaded a school in Pakistan, killing 145 children, most between the ages of 12 and 16.
The next day Boko Haram terrorists in Africa kidnapped over 200 women and children.
Last month there was this:

Isis has executed at least 150 women for refusing to marry militants in Iraq, Turkish media has reported.
A statement released by Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights on Tuesday said the militants had attacked women in the western Iraqi province of Al-Anbar before burying them in mass graves in Fallujah.
Some of the women killed were pregnant at the time
At least 150 females, including pregnant women, were executed in Fallujah by a militant named Abu Anas Al-Libi after they refused to accept jihad marriage," the statement said.
It’s enough to make a person sick…

…But changing gears, here are some other things I learned this week:

With the drop in gasoline prices of late, it’s estimated that U.S. drivers will save a combined $350 million every day.

A loss of $10 per barrel of oil costs Russia the equivalent of $15 billion dollars a year and could send the country into a stark recession.

A recent poll  revealing 71% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country and just 49% predict 1025 will be better—the first time since 1990 that optimism for the year ahead has dipped below 50%

Americas are far more likely to kill themselves than each other.  Homicides have fallen by half since 1991, but the suicide rate keeps climbing.  The nearly 40,000 American lives lost each year make suicide the nation’s 10th-leading cause of death, and the second-leading killer for those ages 15-34

Colorado brings in $1 billion each year from elk hunting season.  The state is home to 267,00 elk, and about 43,000 are harvested each year.

Americans spend $1.09 billion on Thrillers each year, just slightly ahead of Romance novels at $1.08 billion.  86% of Romance readers are women, 16% men

The earth is headed toward its hottest year ever recorded, along with its highest level of atmospheric carbon dioxide in at least 800,000 years

Nevada is the driest state in America averaging a mere 9.5 inches of rain annually

The number of men growing mustaches in November had grown from 2,180 in 2007 to 219,953 in 2013

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


…Today feels like a good day, don’t you think?  I sure hope so.

…Here’s a video of a reading I did last Monday in Capitol Hill at The Hugo House (it’s R-Rated):

…Every day I get a different song stuck in my head.  It’s usually something form Les Miserables.  Yesterday, though it was “You Got What I Need,” by Freddy Scott.  That’s a fun one to sing along with, to groove to.  It’s awful when you get a terrible song stuck in your head, say anything by Phil Collins, or “Friday” by that one-hit wonder teenage girl.
Today’s song is “Bubbly” by Colbie Caliat.  Yikes.

…Here are some things I like for the middle of the week:

“Every experience is a form of exploration.”  Ansel Adams

 “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.”  Tracy Chapman

“I have never been a millionaire, but I have enjoyed a great meal, a crackling fire, a glorious sunset, a walk with a friend, a hug from a child, a cup of soup, a kiss behind the ear. There are plenty of life's tiny delights for all of us.”  Jack Anthony

“A wise man once said nothing.” 

“New York is something awful, something monstrous. I like to walk the streets, lost, but I
recognize that New York is the world's greatest lie. New York is Senegal with machines.”
Federico Garcia Lorca

 “Everyone in New York City thinks they are famous without being famous.” Ethan Minsker

“Your imagination is the preview to life's coming attractions.”  Albert Einstein

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

“Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Louis Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”  H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“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

"Do not go chasing applause and acclaim, that way lies madness." Ron Swanson

Monday, December 15, 2014


…It’s Monday and everything is gray—the sky, the lake waves, my shirt, the trees, the wind, my breath, the three ducks bobbing on the surface of the water, one of the eagle’s feathers floating by my window, the spider web strung across the glass.  Someone has stolen all the color, painting the world with a wide brush, muddy strokes of gray everywhere.   The sun wants to be a different shade, of course it does, but it’s burdened by the weight of the atmosphere which has betrayed it after all these centuries.  Sky the color of cinders, ash, prairie dirt, tree bark, wolf fur.  Below the lake laps, one gray wave muscling the next, on its way west, nothing to stop it, a victorious bully, no one to prevent the aggression.  Yesterday a man in a scuba suit stood atop a surf board paddling but today he’s gone and there’s not another soul around anywhere and if I listen carefully I can hear myself breathing, hear myself thinking, though my thoughts are as murky as the water, just as loose and unscripted.  I imagine a beach in Mexico but the beach and ocean are all gray.  I picture Paris, but a fire has burned the city to charcoal rubble and all the tourists there sift through the ruins for a keepsake, mumbling to themselves, wanting a refund for their effort.  In the distance a little girl in a yellow jumper walks down the street.  Everyone stares at her, notices her wavy blonde hair and dimples, her pool blue eyes, how happy she appears, as she’s completely as if she’s completely unaware of the gray world she’s surrounded by.  Awestruck crowds gather around her, asking where she came from, wanting to touch her yellow dress but afraid to.  Finally she opens her mouth and yawns.  Then she burps and giggles.  She snaps her chubby little girl fingers, skipping down the road, singing, “Follow me to the blue.  Follow me to the blue.”   

Friday, December 12, 2014


…It’s Friday but feels like Saturday.  I hardly know what day it is anymore.

…Yesterday I read a friend’s poetry manuscript and gave him some feedback.  His writing was wonderful and it put me in the mood to write some poems myself.  Also, I just got a batch of my father’s bills in the mail, so that sent me to that place again and, well, this is what came out of it:

Executor of the Will

Bills keep coming through the mail
for my dead father.
They remind me of carpenter ants dancing drunkenly in the sun.
The bank doesn’t want to go without.
The insurance company can’t stand to go without.
Every institution is ravenous and desperate.
You can smell impatience on the envelopes,
a frayed corner here,
a blood smear there.
But it’s not just them.
After we’d buried him,
interested parties kept telling me,
“I know you’ll be fair,”
as if I know what the fuck that means,
as if I’m Bruce Almighty
or the new pope.
I’m telling you,
people are really hungry.
They haven’t eaten in years.
Someone wants to swallow a car,
The other a rifle,
 or guitar,
a shiny set of Allen wrenches.
What I think I’ll do is push it all into a pile--
the collection notices and Peterbuilts,
the pyramid of rusted beer cans
and every sin I’ve ever seen.
I’ll burn it all,
throwing Dad’s will in last.
I bet that ash
is going to be the most beautiful ash in the world,
wafting in in the air like a flock of gold coins
just out of reach.
If I can,
I’ll take a picture for you.

Executor of the Will, Part 2

The lawyer eyes me across the desk,
tells me where to sign,
here and there and there, there.
It feels like I’m buying a house.
I hardly remember agreeing to do this,
be the executor of the will,
but Dad’s dead now
and there are people who want things,
even the lawyer,
him with the pointed Chihuahua teeth
that for some reason makes me think of Dad’s fake ones,
plastic jobs faded to the color of lard,
his hands grease-stained and as big as mitts,
hands that did good things and some bad
all those years ago when we were ten kids growing up in a trailer,
the world so big to us,
but no more scary than where we lived,
never knowing if Mother was in a mood,
if Dad would do her bidding,
find the belt,
have us pull down our pants
and underwear,
swing like he was at the Fair trying to win a stuffed bear
for his sweetheart,
the wicked woman he’d married,
a demon damsel
with warts on her heart.
Now as the lawyer yawns
and says, “I think we’re done here,”
I wonder if Dad knew what he was getting into,
or if he compartmentalized love from torture.
If it was the latter,
that makes him one hell-of-a Houdini,
and maybe in the end
that trumps all.

True Detective

We carry the casket hip high,
all of us looking forward
not wanting to trip
or speak or make eye contact,
old feuds quashed by the death of our father,
and a brother,
all in one week.
In a nearby tree
three black birds list on a limb,
watching us with their necks cocked
as if we’re the most interesting TV show ever,
True Detective, maybe,
maybe not,
who knows?
We set the casket on rollers
and it aligns perfectly,
the only perfect thing I’ve ever seen
in our family’s imperfect past.
The pastor asks if anyone would like to say a few words
while we stare at our shoes
and the birds fly away
frightened to hear what we confess.

Sins of the Fathers

Here we are, band of brothers,
some former soldiers,
some former felons,
together for a funeral,
the night before,
getting drunk or stoned or both
and it feels right,
maybe a little cowardly,
but who wants to face fear head-on when you can create distractions?
One of these beat me with his fists.
One of these said I would never amount to anything.
One of these taught me how to masturbate.
But it all disappears in the gray smoke
and bawdy jokes being told.
We laugh till we puke
and that, too, feels right and wrong at the same time,
laughing while our dad’s corpse lies in a coffin nearby.
Still, what else can oddballs do
but try to convince themselves
that the sins of the fathers are not passed down,
only buried under ground
until the vespers
call them out of their slumber
and ask for penance.  

The Welder

“You look skinny, hey,” my brother says.
“You’re nothing but a drink of water, hey.”
He’s on something
or else his heart is just beating too fast.
The trailer smells of cigarette smoke and cat piss
with boxes stacked everywhere
as if movers should arrive at any second,
only the boxes are filled with bills and files,
one of them containing the will which I find
while my brother asks, “What’s it say, hey?”
Later we’re at a bar,
this big brood of us,
so many we own the place even if we don’t.
There’s, “Remember the time…”
There’s, “He could be a mean cuss if…”
There’s, “Wanna smoke some pot, hey?”
One brother hands the pipe to the other,
flicks a lighter with his thumb,
and just like that
I recall Pops with a blow torch,
flame the color of orange blossoms,
wearing safety goggles that made him look like a lunatic,
welding metal together the way
he never could our family.

Don’t Leave

The summer our garage burn down
I was nine and the whole world was on fire:
Nam ;
jilted super Heroes;
volcanoes and drum barrels and lawns with pink Flamingoes.
My mother turned into a blow torch, too.
Her wig and cat-eyed glasses were a disguise,
clever props meant to trick you up
like a bear trap covered with moss.
Same with the thick white Bible kept on the mantle
by the gun rack and leather belt
that lashed out punishment.
I gave her as wide a berth as possible
but could still feel her flames
licking my face.
On Father’s Day
Dad drank to celebrate,
shooting an arrow through the window,
shards of glass clattering in the sink like tinny applause.
Mom said, “That’s it.  That’s it.  We’re leaving.  To hell with you.”
her not understanding the hell she’d created.
In the car were we frightened mice,
 holding quiet our chattering.
Our mother called us cowards,
said she wished we’d never have been born,
snapped her fingers and raised a spark,
said, “Say a word and you’ll wish you were already dead.”
 in a car with my own kids,
I check for them in the rearview,
see them with their heads bent down,
mesmerized by phones.
I say, “Hey guys.  I love you so much.”
None of them acknowledges me,
still I add, “Please don’t ever leave me.”


My brother started grass fires
the summer he realized there was no way out,
no proper future,
our future sutured by the past,
time stuck in quicksand
He burned acres
while cackling like a demon.
Head raised toward heaven,
he shouted, “How about them apples?”
The police showed up at our trailer
A few hours later--
serious, and unfriendly men
with badges and warrants--
but my brother had run away by then
with Mom saying, “Good riddance.”
My therapist runs a pen tip along his lower lip,
eyes narrowed to slits.
“And how did that make you feel?” he asks.