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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Leavings by Sarah Russell (PRIME MOVERS Series)

from my friend Sarah, a wonderful poet

Silver Birch Press

licensed sandor kacsoLeavings
by Sarah Russell

Leavings are untidy. Remembering
what you want to say as the car pulls away,
or the cell phone drops into your purse,
restraint in an embrace, the casual

see ya, when you ache for more.
There was that time my mother died—
a stiff, proud woman who did not touch.
She lay in bed, while her brothers and I

hovered. We asked if she needed a blanket,
if she wanted music, if she were hungry,
thirsty. At each offering, she jerked her head
from side to side, tight-lipped, angry.

Then the young, Hispanic hospice aide reached
out and took her hand. She knew what leavings
needed, what my mother couldn’t bring herself
to ask for, what we didn’t understand to give.

My mother sighed and held that gentle,
reassuring hand. The aide leaned in, caressed
a wisp of hair on her forehead. My mother smiled,
and took…

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A reading of What the Breeze Brings

Here is a link to a video of me reading my poem, What the Breeze brings, featured on Panoply this week. It’s a gentle one. Enjoy.

http://www.panoplyzine.com/

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A gentle poem just published on Panoply

What the Breeze Brings

This is the perfect spot
for daydreaming—
just the proper combination
of light and breeze
and easy chair.
I often take refuge here—
with a book for a prop,
wistful and open.

Once, in Kyoto
along the philosopher’s
walk, I imagined myself
a 15th century monk—
wandering here and there among
ancient trees and temples—
mossy breeze humming gently
of the past—
of the greening of a first spring—
when dreaming
and waking
were one.

What small misstep
of evolution
has made us a race
of make-believers?
“What’s the good of daydreams?”
I ask myself.

Something for the monk
in me to ponder
as I settle in
by the half-open window
on the easy chair
in dusk’s half light.

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What Trump left unsaid.

Early and Often

President Trump would like to remind you to take lots of hydroxychloroquine tablets and a slug of bleach before venturing out to vote twice. Stay safe! And remember, you are likely to run across a few Democrats at the polls—easily identified by their masks. They are spreading COVID on purpose—just to hurt me—because they are not true Americans. Make sure to bring your weapons.

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