Friday, September 29, 2017

                                                     On Top of the World

My sister didn’t die.  She wasn’t strangled and left for dead in the woods as the news reported.

Instead, she left this world at age seven.  She jumped on a hot air balloon that was different than other hot air balloons.  This one took her outside the atmosphere and my sister got to visit the planets and stars close up, the ones that had brought her so much wonder from afar. 

            But now, floating in the hot air balloon, Sis window-shopped, taking her time with each one and especially Pluto who had recently been kicked out of the Big Boy Planet Club.  She told Pluto her best jokes, trying to cheer Pluto up.  She hummed and sang old ‘70s songs.  She tickled the scruff of his gray-white chin until Pluto gave in and started giggling causing the other celestial bodies to convulse with similar glee so that we on earth became the recipients of all that shimmer and light over our heads.

            My sister caused this.  Just ask Pluto or Mars or the moon or any other star or planet and they will tell you.  They will say my sister is among them right now, spinning, that she’s made of diamonds, and that now and then she can be heard humming a Carpenter’s tune while gliding the ethereal playground.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017


…Everybody has a bit of ESP if they care to listen to it.

…It usually starts sometime around midnight, but at least that’s when you can lose yourself for minute or two.

…It’s a lot to know.  It’s a lot to understand.  Sometimes it’s a war of minutes realizing that it takes a lot to live.

…Heaven’s just a long rode home.

…It doesn’t often happen, but it happened to me.  Yep.

…After I’d left home and would come back to visit my parents, my Dad would always light a cigarette and lean back in his chair with a grin, saying, “Tell me a story, kid.”  I never exactly knew what he was asking, if he wanted news of my life or fiction, so sometimes I gave him both.  I don’t think he could tell the difference.  Anyway, he never asked and usually he smiled afterward and said, “…”

…I am carried in my shadow like a violin in its black case.  All I want to say gleams out of reach like the silver in a pawnshop that’s gone out of business.

…There are a lot of things a person needs to protect, but sometimes you have to say, What the hell?  Why not?

…If you think about it, free will is both an extraordinary and confounding concept.  I try not to think about it too much.  There’s some stuff that just needs to be placed inside a jar and set on a shelf that’s out of reach.

…Recently I was with a group of good friends and someone got the idea that we should turn off the lights and each tell a ghost story.  There were eight of us.  Everyone had a good ghost story to tell, but me.  I had none.  I’ve seen ghosts.  Sometimes I still see them.  The only thing is they’re real people, so I’m not sure if that qualifies them to be ghosts.

…It’s funny how blurry things can get, or how entangled.  Sometimes it helps to find a different angle to get a better view.  Other times it takes a big fucking magnifying glass and, even then, the print might still be too tiny.

…That’s a story into itself.

…There’s no discount without a little skepticism.

…My dog is a sunbather.  The carpet in my office is her beach.  She just can’t get enough of it.

…Yesterday morning before I’d even made it to Devil’s Elbow (an incredibly sharp and nefarious bend in the road that has caused many an accident, and is only a mile from my house) I almost ran over two separate rabbits and three deer that were hiding in the early morning shaded shadows on the side of the road.  I think if I ever hit a deer, for me, it would be akin to killing a child.

…I’m a sucker for deer, a good pop hook, children, twins, someone who laughs easily, any body of water, sunsets, black and white photography, bird song...  I’m a sucker for a lot of things.  I guess that makes me a sucker
...The beaver just swam by.  It's been a while since I've seen him.  He looked like he was in a hurry.
…Some of us just made it to the other side.

…I am what staggered off the shipwreck.

…I’m somewhat stuck in the middle.  Is there an answer for that?  That's what I'm looking for.

…Being a good listener isn’t as easy as one would think.  Talking to a really good listener can be good for the soul, but also a little daunting.

...You send me right round baby right round like a record baby.

…Let’s take a walk.  I can show you around and you can tell me what you see.

…No more gloom, please.  Just love.  Lots of love, whatever kind there is.  Whatever that means.

Monday, September 25, 2017


Barbwire Forgeries

Last night the owls cried in their sleep

because there is no frame for our mad breaths,

our bleeding carousel tongues.

Our humus soaks up too much gasoline now

and is no longer a savior.

So we wither white,

we molt,

our skins becoming skeins of sticky forgeries.

You reminded me that cobalt is the taste of torture,

a water-boarded pulse.

You reminded me that crimson is lighter fluid,

the brand of your last lover wrapped in barbwire.

Soon we will return our shrill attention

to the butcher block or thirsty guillotine

while every wall screams

See what you made me do?



Friday, September 22, 2017


                                                              A Kindness

             She wants to teach you a lesson.  That’s what a parent does, she says.

            Last week your sister turned into a gecko, her leathery skin tone perfectly matching the linoleum floor.  Someone might have stepped on her, or swept her up.  No matter, because she’s gone now.

            Your brother became a window pane with glass so pristine that robins kept slamming into his chest and torso, but it was the neighbor’s baseball that did him in, that shattered and freed him.

            You are not as gifted as your siblings.  You have no flair for magic or shape-shifting, so you do as told, lowering your pants and underwear.

            As a kindness, she’s let you pick the weapon, but it burns more than you assumed it would. 

            It sings through the curved air while coming down. 
            It whistles a tune you recognize.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


The Other Side of Damage

In the frail below,

I find our bedsheets hanging,

a Scrabble board of blood

piping strong in its center with

a 70 point word score for icepick.

You have left the engine running again

and now dead crows are dropping like flies

around our anorexic rosebushes.

Which dentist implanted keys

inside your teeth?  They glow

radioactive whenever you sneeze or lie.

The cat is flirting wide-mouthed with

my confidence and conscience.

I make myself less

full by ripping out my intestines.

With a sailor’s knot here and there

it becomes a jungle gym rope for

people like me to swing from.

Whose flying monkey is that?

It keeps slamming into the picture window

going Thwack! Thwack!

like King Kong’s erratic heartbeat.

Stand still for once and I’ll

paint you without colors.

When the moon grows chubby

it will all make sense and

the machete will whistle sharp

announcing an intervention.

Monday, September 18, 2017


…This is the story of the world—pretending.

…Some of us only bleed on the inside.  Some of us are very different and we have tattoos inside our skin.

…Julia Child once said, “People who love to eat are the best people.”  I guess I’m not one of those.

…I wonder whose job it is to come up with names for storms, hurricanes and tornadoes.  I wonder how you even get a job like that.

…Someone told me this once—“Don’t let the bastards get you down.  Don’t let the assholes wear you out.”  Sounds like good advice. 

…Accessorizing before the fact is probably a bad idea.

…Sometimes when I look at the moon I forget that it’s the same moon everyone has looked at since the beginning of time.

…We are all made up of what came here and collided and allowed something to be born.  None of it is new.  That’s all we are.  Candy bars and stars.

…It’s tiny victories, like wiping off someone’s snot, that makes life meaningful.

…It’s a hell of a thing to want something so badly you’d be willing to kill everything else.  But maybe it’s worth it.

…I’d like to believe I am stronger than I am broken, yet that’s a tricky proposition.

…In truth, nobody wants a broken toy.  I mean, why would they?

…It can be a balm to write, to give a voice to what we’re unable to otherwise say.

…Whether I shall turn out to be the villain of my own life these pages must show.

…All pain comes from wanting things and believing you possess things, but we truly own nothing in this life.  Everything is slippery.

…I’m pliable, but mostly I’m porous and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

…Sometimes a flaw can go on to make someone more beautiful.

…Dude, you’re not fooling anyone.  You look just like you.

…Anyone can get laid.  Getting love is another thing altogether.  It’s a very steep climb and you have to be incredibly fit.  You have to have patience.

…Here’s an idea: let’s make each other more beautiful.  There might be a way.

…I love the idea that otters hold hands when they sleep so that they don’t drift apart.  Not much is cuter than that, and I do mean cuter.

…In many ways, the past still clings to my ankles, and so that makes today a little bit complicated.

…Easy, Sparky, this movie’s only halfway started.

…Please don’t turn the page.

…Life is something, ain’t it?

Friday, September 15, 2017

                                                      Fear Can Have A Voice

             Fear can have a voice, and sometimes it says, “Fuck you.  Leave me alone, Bitch.”

            At least that’s what you tell yourself, going blind to the hatchet in your heart, blood trickling down your ribs aphid-slow.

            “I hate you,” is Fear’s twin or Fear not being done for the night.  Often Fear’s remarkable endurance supersedes Fear itself in the catalog of what terrifies you most.

            Other people have frightened you before, other words have been jagged spires launched from a slingshot at your eyes and mouth, but you are not so young anymore.  You have grown your own set of tree rings.

            This Fear has a different energy, though.  An urgency.  It’s greedy but also inconsistent and confusing, like a Rorschach inkblot where no clear image emerges, and so you’re left waiting for more code to appear, to decipher.

            But it’s when Fear’s words fold up their tent and go mute black that you start thinking-- it might be true this time.  He might really mean it.  You revisit the tenor of Fuck you and Leave me and Hate you.  The words swell in size, becoming gigantic and menacing.  And sure his voice could walk it back in the morning, his marionette could even apologize, but you’ll still remember how his words were fists, barbed knuckle words, and so what’s left in the night’s ensuing silence is a macabre game of Scattergories being played out over the piping red coils in your brain.

            You try telling yourself you still have choices but you know that notion is no more than a hemorrhagic stroke waiting to happen.  You are a nurse.  You know these things.  You’re not stupid like Fear says.

            Still, choice only retains power when its employed, which is why after a civil breakfast where the prior night’s verbal assaults is given no mention, and after his hot coffee-lips brush your forehead before he mumbles, “Goodbye,” you become a busy fish, breaking through the undertow and currents, tossing off tangles of seaweed, avoiding the sharks that might eat you.  You even start to hum as you swim and bundle.  You find a new smile and loan it to your child.  When you ask him if he thinks you look like a fish, the boy giggles and says, “No, Mommy, I think you’re pretty.”

            You decide to believe him.  You decide to be pretty for once. 

When the bags are all loaded in the car, you give your son a long hug, then take his hand, noticing how warm it is, how small. 

You flash another smile and this time it’s not concocted.  You tousle your boy’s hair and say, “It’s time to go.”


Wednesday, September 13, 2017


…Hey you.  Wish you could have seen last night’s sunset.  She was a beauty—a floating mauve dragon with a glowing pink belly, wings outstretched and tail curled.

…I was fortunate to have a story selected in “Best Small Fictions 2017.”  Amy Hempel was the judge and only 55 pieces were picked.  The anthology is available for purchase in all bookstores, nationally and internationally, as well as at Amazon.  Here’s a review from the Pittsburg Post-Gazette where I’m lucky to get a mention:

…I had a few things published the last week or so:

Here are some things I like on a Wednesday:

“I could feel myself missing her even when I was with her.” Kevin Arnold, “The Wonder Years”

"Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young." A.W. Pinero

"The lover knows much more about absolute good and universal beauty than any logician or theologian, unless the latter, too, be lovers in disguise." George Santayana

“Patience is passion tamed.”  Rod Stillwell

“There’s a lot of sadness, but we just continue to try to make the best of every day and keep a sense of humor.”  Kimberely Woolen, Glen Campbell’s wife on her husband battle with Alzheimer’s

“I do not want my children to be worried about me.  I think it’s very important to cry in the shower and not in front of them.  They need to know that everything is going to be all right when you’re not sure it is.” Angelina Jolie

“Remember diamonds are made under pressure, so hold on.  It will be your time to shine soon.” Sope Agbelusi


Monday, September 11, 2017


Mirror to Sand

We are each other’s broken mirror,

shards our lips,

the crunch underfoot our sad song.

We glue ourselves back together,

slicing our fingers in the process

so that now blood becomes our tears

as they streak across smudged glass

which reflects nothing but

the black crib of death.

When I say, “Honey, please believe me.

It wasn’t your fault,”

you convulse and shoot splinters

around the room,

tiny spears hitting the tiny headboard

and tiny pink pillow,

hitting the kitty mobile suspended above

the basinet with its too bright colors.

After a while, you let me hug you

and we shatter again.

There will be more of this.

Of course there will.

We will clutch and shatter,

clutch and shatter,

shatter and shatter and shatter

until we turn to sand,

make a beach of ourselves,

let the ocean lap us

and bring back our baby girl,

cooing near coconut trees,

ready to held,

stared at,

or just loved.

Friday, September 8, 2017

…When you’re lucky enough to be immersed with your tribe for an extended period of time, a ragged bliss exists inside you, overtaking those things that want your breath.

When you are one, married with your tribe, your wariness erodes.  You become acutely aware of life—the depth of color, the different pitches of sounds, the jagged shape of a cloud or the flourish of a well-read sentence—that was there prior to your immersion, yet concealed by the repetitive, mundane dulling of your senses.

When you are with like-minded people who share the majority of your sensibilities, it’s akin to a rebirth, or in the least, a marked re-setting or refocus. 

Wonder returns, and it’s suddenly everywhere around you.  Your eyesight becomes keen.  Your ears get bigger.  Humbleness rumbles and roils inside of you, as does gratitude.

When we feel most alive, youthfulness returns and what mattered so much before is kept in a sealed jar on a shelf in a far off place.  You feel less burdened.  You feel safer. 

For once, it takes no effort whatsoever to be fully present in the moment.  Very little feels superfluous, while nearly everything feels vital, incredibly interesting and exciting. 
Even the small things do.

In a sense, then, you and your tribe become a glued-together glob of love for a while, attached by invisible fibers and tendons, blood and guts.  You wipe off each other’s tears.  You embrace each other’s anger knowing that this show of angst is fleeting and authentically concocted by the shrill voice of freedom and the indefensible strength of emotion that being together has unleashed.

I felt all this, experienced all this, for six days spent with nineteen other brilliant artists, writers, and needy misfits.

It was equal parts magic and stone cold reality. 

I made good use of the time.  I paid attention and by so doing so I received a plethora of gifts, many of which are hard to explain to you.

I tried to stretch myself, writing-wise.  I listened and learned and I applied those learnings in my own voice and hand.

Near the end of our time together, I wrote hard and deep.  The words both did and didn’t sound like they were mine.  But they were mine.  I know they were.
I owe a debt to many…Robert Vaughan, Meg Tuite, Nancy Stohlman, Katherine DiBella Seluja, etc…
I owe a debt.

I came away realizing that when I don’t write, don’t create, I am killing myself with all those spaces left unfilled, all those empty pages. 
I won’t do that anymore.  I’ve got my mojo back and it feels fucking great.

Here’s one of those stretch pieces I wrote on my final day in Santa Fe…

I Remember What It’s Like To Be Hungry

I remember what it’s like to be hungry,
gorging on concrete loaves, rusty jackknives,
the tips of my father’s steel-toed boots and
his manifestos carved into the backs of church steeples.

I remember what it’s like to fuck a rain cloud
in a froth, the air nutty around our thrusts and hiccups,
shooting semen all over Mars and Venus,
my cum not even sticky, just fleeting like a
newborn dying in its crib.

I remember what it’s like to slaughter a parent,
do it Watch Maker-slow, meticulously, then
fast forward lickety split, chainsaw smoking,
making chili, Borsht, and Sloppy Joes
with the remains.

I remember what it’s like to actually care about
your paper cut kisses, your anvil heart and
circumcised portfolio assembled with I.E.D.’s
and sermon paste.

I remember too much.
Every passing Greyhound bus is a crush
reminding me that
I am not legend.

But what do you remember?
Would you wager for it now?
Race for it?
Murder to have it restored in your hairy breath?
I’m willing to bet you’re still
dismembering babies and
using their chubby fists as bookmarks
for the diaries you so ostentatiously
forgot to
set on fire.