My Poem, Resting Place, just published by The Orchards.

It is written in four line stanzas, though I can’t convince the blog it matters.

Resting Place

I often stop 

at this tiny cemetery, 

just off the state route

that trails down from Hairy John.

Pastels might do the landscape justice—

or a fine camera

in the hands of someone

with a painterly eye.

The deep dark soil

has attracted the Amish—

their farms dot the valley,

and I am often slowed

by horse and carriage

as I coast along

the gentle curves.

But this graveyard

is older than the Amish farms

and it seems unlikely

that the faded names

would spark

a recognition

in the eyes

of the living.

Wikipedia

calls those with a passion

for visiting graveyards

“Tombstone Tourists,”

although I don’t suppose

I qualify— as this spot

of peace and respite

is on my way 

from college to college.

The bones 

buried here

are past memory.

Isn’t that the way of these

monumental places?

Graveyards have always

been for the living.

I finish my coffee.

and grab a piece of the view—

undulating glen

in sun and shade

to see me home.

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Cadge

This was just published in January issue of Burningword Literary Journal (97). Here is the poem. It was written in four line stanzas, but my blog ignores spacing and I don’t know how to change it.

This was great fun to write. My mother and grandmother were great card players (oh, and me). My brother father not so good.

Cadge

I bet the four flush—

worth next to nothing

but looking to all like the key

to the kingdom of heaven.

You told me once

that poker

was half luck

and half bluff.

They had just

cleaned you out again

at the Friday night game

above the body shop on Sutter Avenue.

You and your six

unemployable friends—

passing a cheap bottle of rye

and shots at each other’s parentage,

in a room 

full of reefer

and the sweat 

of day labor.

You told me once

you had no luck—

having given it

all to me.

And I pictured a medallion

bestowed upon the younger brother—

no small burden

you’d hung around my neck—

as if the family’s fortune 

was riding on my narrow shoulders.

“What fortune?”

anyone who knew us might think to ask.

“But, you’ll never be a bluffer,

you told me,

for that you need a pair—

and in our family, I got them.”

Cold as cobra’s breath

I bet my four spades

and watched 

as the better hand folded.

You never were a judge of character—

a lifetime

of confusing 

friends and enemies.

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Bitterness

My poem, Bitterness, is in the current issue of Nixes Mate Review. From? Who knows.

I got a letter
from you
yesterday.

Handwritten
in your slanted
script

which leaned
so far right
it seemed

ready
to make
a break for it.

I thought
it strange
to get 

a letter from
the grave,
but you were

always
breaking
new ground.

I considered –
perhaps a map
of your buried 

fortune?
Some advice
from your

perch
of wisdom
on fulfilling 

my life?
I burned it
unopened

and added
the ash
to your urn.

In spring
I will scatter
your

ashes
in four
desolate

spots
in the far
woods

for fear
you might
reconstitute.

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Me and You

My poem was just published by Third Wednesday. Mary Rohr-Dann has three in this issue. Here is the link, I think.

Me and You

Friends and family

would often declare

with solemn authority

that my brother and I

were polar opposites.

Our literary cousin

Jerry, proclaimed

“Just like

Jekyll and Hyde.”

Yet the stories

they told

over the dinner table

were of your exploits—

not of my storied virtues.

I was observant.

I knew by age five

that the devil had

the best lines.

I learned 

that behind

good grades

and a mild demeanor

I could get away

with nearly 

anything.

You took the spotlight

I took the cake.

You never gave a hoot.

Told me that the North Pole

and the South 

were not so very different,

in a voice so like mine

in tone and intonation

that with eyes closed

I could imagine,

I was the one speaking.

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Automat

My poem Automat is up today at the Ekphrastic Review. Here is the art and the poem.

Automat

I imagine she looked

much like this—

abandoned 

at the Horn & Hardart

near the public library. 

The cloche is new—

always a frugal girl,

she saved her spare change

to buy it.

She has been waiting

much more than an hour—

the wretched coffee

has long gone cold.

I promised I would be there.

“To talk,” I said.

“To patch things up.”

Lonely now

in a new way,

she can only wonder

why I’ve chosen not to.

Perhaps a more

talented artist than I 

might paint

my likeness

as I sit at a similar table

crosstown.

And buried somewhere in that painting

might lie the answer—

in the worry lines

around my eyes, 

or in the tremor

captured

in the stillness of my hands?

I don’t know.

Do we ever 

really know?

It’s been years now,

and painting this picture 

has given me one last chance

to make amends—

to place myself at your table.

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Tilth

My poem Tilth has just been published in Issue 26 of the Evening Street Review. Really nice print journal (hint, you should submit there). Here it is:

Tilth

Once,

as we sat in the Skeller,

she joked 

that she could 

get pregnant from a handshake

and Charming Eddie,

that world-class weasel,

jumped up

and overturned the table—

spilling beer and peanuts—

just to be the first

to shake her hand.

I hated that he

beat me to it.

But that was

long ago—

when we were first year

medical students

and would recite for each other

the bones of the hand

the nerves of the face

the symptoms of rickets

and mispronunciation

might cause a mouthful

of beer to spray

across the table.

Today, I watch our kids

file into her stark white room

where useless instruments beep

over the rhythmic hump

of the respirator

and where we have known for months

that she has lived too long.

The kids are grown now

and scattered like 

dandelion puffs.

Together, 

for the first time in years,

we pass around 

a yellowing photo album—

and pause at a picture 

of her in her first white coat,

grinning like a caught-out child

as I reach for her hand.

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Reading virtually

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Solitaire

One more today in the Boston Literary Magazine. The editor, Robin Stratton, makes a decision within a week. I had one turned down there pre-p.

Solitaire

I knew right away,

but it was 45 minutes

before I stopped wrestling the pillow

and gave up on the night.

My approach has always been

warm milk and cookies,

although the milk is now

some fat free oat brand

with all the comfort

of rutabaga 

on yesterday’s rye.

Heart happy

the carton screams,

but there are many

ways the heart might

be made happy.

There was a time

when I would

manage the night

with a deck of cards—

I knew a dozen

kinds of solitaire,

and growing up

in a house

where you needn’t ask twice

for a cup of coffee

or a game of cards,

you could often count

on some sleepless

someone else—

my grandmother

for 500 Rummy

or my mom

for games like Spite and Malice

she seemed to make up 

on the fly.

These days I rely 

on the muted cacophony

of TV or iPad.

But tonight I find a worn old deck

that counts to 52.

Simple Canfield to start—

soothing rhythm of the mix

and half an eye for first light.

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Showtime

I’ve a new poem on MacQueen’s Quinterly. Here it is:

Showtime

My brother 
would light up a room—

take the spotlit stage 
and turn wake to party. 

I marveled 
at our differences. 

I learned, early on, 
that all knowledge 

came from books 
and lectures 

in chalky classrooms 
my brother 

would have none of. 
What alien universe 

had hosted his birth? 
Bequeathing him 

a perfect pitch 
for human interaction. 

And yes, 
he made a mash of life—

enamored of girls 
and gangs and guns 

and stuff you smoked 
or snorted. 

His parole officer 
was with us so often 

she seemed 
a member of the family. 

But, we forgave 
him all that, 

welcomed 
his easy charm 

and sat back—
ready to enjoy the show.

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Two new poems

I had two poems published by Rat’s Ass Review yesterday. Cool name, huh?

Here are the poems:

CHANCE
 
Beneath the blare
and buzz of station crowd
I thought, just now,
I caught
 
that old pet name
you used so long ago—
to torment, to tease,
and to endear.
 
Anxiously,
I scan the faces
with care—
looking for?
 
What do we
hold to
in the passing
of our years?
 
What do we
fail to?
By choice
and reason?
 
Or is it just
the pick
of a card
in a well-mixed deck?
 
If I had
a hundred lives
like this one
would I remember you
 
in one, or nearly all?
Or would I come up
as empty
as I do today?
 
 
RETICENCE
 
By now, we gravitate
to a few familiar places—
today we are camped out
in our local bar—
dark and dank.
But it’s cool,
the beer is cold,
and we have
been coming here
since we were
barely legal.
 
It’s an odd comfort
that nothing
has changed
in more
than thirty years,
the tables
still etched
with the names
of long dead loves—
hearts and arrows.
 
Have I told you
about Marty?
My old friend,
a man of few words,
prefers an occasional grunt
to sustained conversation.
And that works for me—
I love to talk
and the grunts
are enough
to convince me
I’m not talking
to myself
 
But today he is
busting to tell
me something.
So I go on and on
about the five bucks
Sal owes me
from a bet on the Mets
and watch him twitch
and try to be polite.
 
Finally,
As I pause
To drink my beer,
He says—
with a face
I’d never seen before,
“I ran into my dad
Last night in the diner.
 
And, it’s as if
a dam had burst.

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