Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Birthday ...

I am content with these words
On this day
For you
Because
Writing
Painting
Sculpting
Aren’t supposed to be like studying for an exam
Or training for a road race
At least not a single road race
That has a finish line
Because
In two months
I might add a line to this poem
Or take one away
Or decide that I shouldn't have used contractions
And
Because
I have a feeling
That 
While turning seventy
Might feel like reaching a milestone in a road race
It's really 
A lot more like
Writing
And 
Rewriting 
A poem

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Space Between

Sitting in class
I used to draw lines in between the words in my text books and
Handouts
Starting at the top of the page
Going from left to right
Or right to left
I would draw lines
Down
Jogging in and out
To move between the words
Later
I would fall in love with the …
Ellipsis
A way to draw out the space
To use it
To be used by it
In prose
Poetry
E-mails
A way of letting the words breathe
Without letting them fall apart
Although there is a time and a place
To feel as if things are falling apart
In the back of that two tone Astro
Sitting in the driveway
Loaded up
With words
In a taxi in New York
Crying in your lap
Unable to find them
Alone
In a youth hostel
Fastidiously listing everything I wanted to do with you
One line after the other
No space at all
And so much
That I barely even tried to fill any of it
Barely tried to lay claim
I didn’t know any better
I didn’t know
That there is space and
There is space between
If the devil is in the details
God is in the connections
One
Word
Feeding
Off
Of
The
Next
One word feeding off of the next
So
Now
When I write poetry
I seldom break it up into separate verses
And I seldom cry
When I think of how far away you are
For I know
That you
Will always be the word right in front of me on the line held together by the space between

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Footprints

Yellow siding
Spotted with the footprints
Left behind by ivy
Flower beds
Begonias
Geraniums
Concrete steps
Screen door
Usually broken
I may never actually take that walk again
But I
Obviously don’t have to
I would think
It could have been the same
For Pete Seeger
And
We shall overcome
He could have stopped performing it years ago
He knew that walk all too well
He could have inhabited only new songs
But he didn’t
If you watched him perform it over the last decade
You watched him gradually retreat from it
Cede it to fellow musicians  
To the audience
Imploring others to step in where his faltering voice was leaving off
He needed help up the driveway
Up the steps
But he never stopped going inside
I have
Because
A house isn’t a song
It can be neatly severed from what was
Is
Always waiting just inside the door
To the right
Past the basement stairs
Through the kitchen
Past
Formica
Checkered Wallpaper
Dark Lacquered cabinets
Greens
Browns
Yellows
In the three attached light-filled and professionally decorated
Squares
On eleven acres
And
Deep
In my heart
For
Your footprints
Are spotted across more than just the siding
And you aren't finished leaving them

Monday, January 27, 2014

My Mother’s Life: The Musical … You’ll Wish You’d Been Within Earshot

She’d write it
She’s written it
Diaries
Poems
Letters
Cards
Bulletins
Minutes
She’s written it all
And it’ll be great
Because it’s not always been easy
Trust me
I’ve lived within earshot

She’d choose the cast
Calling in and texting her vote as many times as it takes
Busy lines be damned
Trust me
I’ve been drafted into the election effort
I’ve been loitering within earshot

She’d direct it all
The crew
The actors
The orchestra
I can see her now
At rehearsal
Calling out missed sharps and flats
From the front row
The back row
Backstage
An office upstairs
The parking lot
Anywhere within earshot
Trust me
I’ve missed an F sharp within earshot

She’d sing lead vocals too
On every song
Whether she chose them or not
Whether she was in the cast or not
Whether she was supposed to or not
She’d sing them all
And she would sing them all
Choir style
Probably as an alto
Though she’d give the soprano line a try
It wouldn’t matter if it was
A hymn
An original country ballad or
A cover of Guns N/ Roses
Or Prince
Or Eminem
Trust me
I’ve been within earshot

She’d serve cake at the cast party
Telling everyone
As she handed them a plate with a piece of cake on it
How thankful she was
And how wonderful they’d been
And they’d believe it
Because she believed it
They’d believe it and
They would be that good next time
Even if they hadn’t been this time
Because she believed in them
I’d be cutting the cake and placing it on plates
And I’d believe it
Because
I was within earshot

Because I’ve been within earshot

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sharing Friendship

Friendship is like
Sushi
It is like the sunset at Point Reyes after a long day of hiking
It is like that promotion to assistant manager
It is like a flat tire on a dark country road
It is all of that and more
It is Success
Fear
Joy
And tired exuberance
Wrapped up in seaweed
It is
And will always be
Best when it is shared
Which is why I let my seven year old daughter go into her room
Shut the door and
Stay in there for forty five minutes
And upon being given back my phone
Simply say
Hi mom

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Mother's Braids

Arms folded
Like …
A Cossack soldier?
An airplane passenger in an emergency situation?
An undecided b-boy?
A parent expecting dissapointment?

Braids twirled up on top of her head
Like …
A young Helga secretly posing for Andrew Wyeth before he was born?
Princess Leia frolicking on Endor among the furry little Ewoks?
A woodland fairy resplendent underneath her crown?

Smiling a gap toothed smile
An impish
Reluctant
Gap toothed smile
Sitting next to her doll
Slightly slumped in a chair in her own living room
And wearing a cute little sun dress
Accentuating knobby knees and long legs
Like …
Any young girl
Like her granddaughter

Like …
Every other picture of her
From straight down over a knit poncho to afro perm to chemo smooth
From gap tooth to multiple crowns
From then to know
Seventy years worth

Defying categorization and chronology
Triggering a love in me
Like …

No one else

Friday, January 24, 2014

Learning To Swim Again

Can you drown in a stream of consciousness?
If so I am worried for my son's safety
I can throw him a rope
But I can't grab it
And screaming from the shore has not proven to be very effective
Thus
Up until now
I have given up trying to be very effective while
Watching
Directing
Cheering
Wincing
Waving
And shaking my head in amazement
In addition to screaming
But if you can drown in a stream of consciousness
I may have to give up on being ineffective
I may have to put on my swimsuit
And jump in
Just a little more often



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tracks In The Snow

Three hours in
And it's still falling
Everything still covered
Under an unbroken blanket
Not a blemish
Track or
Footprint
Anywhere
It's like the perfect blue sky
Painted onto a canvas and
Just waiting
Waiting
Waiting
For a cloud
For a bird
For a dream
And I hope it's not mine
I suppose some folks need only their own footprints
To follow
To examine
To keep them company
But that's not what I'm looking for
Waiting for
Not anymore
Not now
As the snow continues to fall
Three hours in
No hint of the blue sky that will
Follow
And Wait
For us





Sunday, January 19, 2014

I like to bake my cake ... and eat it too

I like sneaking out to the refrigerator at night and
Absconding on tip toes back to my office with a piece of cake that fills my plate
Regardless of the size of my plate or
The consequences
But                  
I get a lot more out of baking it
Which I suppose is why it shouldn’t have surprised me
To see my son and daughter there on the platform
Alternating between
Standing right on the edge of the yellow line  
Bending forwards at the waste with head cocked to the left
To peer down the tracks at anything that seemed to move
And
Bouncing about with huge smiles
To no discernible end whatsoever
Now it is true
That they were in slack jawed and open mouthed awe of New York City
But never again that day
Not emerging from the subway station into Times Square
Nor Watching taxi after yellow taxi zip past
Did I feel like I was upstairs in one of their bedrooms
About to head down the stairs
Into the darkness
On pins and needles and
Tiptoes
Eager to see up close
Just what was in the stockings
Under the tree
Bake a cake before you eat it and
You’ll understand

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Why Making Major Life Decisions Is Hard, But Shouldn't Be

I’ll have tuna and cheese
Yeah, a melt
With a little mayo
On wheat bread
What?                    
Do I want lettuce?
Sure           
But if I have lettuce
Maybe I’ll drop the melt and go with turkey
Yeah, sure, roasted sounds good
But do you have whole grain white bread
No?
Well,
What about chicken
Yeah, I’ll go with chicken
No, no tomato
Yes, keep the lettuce
No, no mayo now
I’ll go with mustard
Spicy brown mustard
What’s that?
You have Dijon too?
Ok, Dijon it is
Do you have avocado?
Yes, excellent
I’ll have avocado and chicken
Avocado and chicken
Wait a second
You know
I think turkey would go better
And hold the mustard
Yeah, mayo would be great
Right, sure
Let’s see
That would be turkey, mayo, avocado on
What kind of bread did you say you had?
Ok whole wheat
But you know
In that case
I’d like tune
Tuna and mayo on whole wheat bread
With cheese
A melt?
Sure, then drop the mayo
But keep the avocado
Yup
Sounds great
What’s that?
Chips or apple slices?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Divergence

What I wouldn’t do to find myself
Standing in the woods
At the point of divergence of two roads
Rather than standing on this hand cart
Smack dab in the middle of a switching yard
In the early afternoon
Having skipped lunch and
Having only used the extra time
To scoot around some more in the yard
Peering down the various tracks
Into the distance                                 
Into the horizon
Not a yellow wood or
Bit of undergrowth
Anywhere in sight
Peering and
Staring and
Looking and
Hypothesizing and
Dreaming
Because
I’m standing out in the sun
Not at the mercy of shadows and wild beats and
Because
After all
It doesn’t make any difference

Way always leads on to way 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Skeletal Day

Water
After breakfast
Banana
Yogurt covered pretzels
Pistachios
Toast with butter
Water
Apple juice
After lunch
Cookie
Apple
Blackberries in soy milk with sugar
Water
After dinner
Cake
More cake
Cracker
Toast with butter
Water


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Discomfort of True Love

It felt like I was lying on a small branch and
I’m sure that could you have seen my eyes
You would have seen the eyes of a Lion
When his mouth is open as wide as he can get it and
His beloved trainer’s head is inside
It was practically circus worthy
But for the look in his eyes
When he sized up my head and neck for an opening and
Then took advantage of it
It was the look that my beagle used to give me
When she was searching for a way to join me on the couch
So
Obviously
We were there like that for the entirety of the singing performance
Plus an extra minute or so
Enjoying the love
That Only
A
Dog
And
A
Cat
Can
Ever
Know

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Getting a handle on things

He’s helping the cashier bag the
Six rolls of packing tape and
The grout sealer and applicator
When he runs into a problem with the plastic bag
He fusses, sighs, and says in a noticeably annoyed whisper
That he can’t find the handle
When the cashier helps him fix it
He thanks her
I sign the electronic signature pad and
Hand in hand we head for the door
Each of us content with the illusion
That we have a handle on things

Monday, January 13, 2014

I am Five, Hear Me Roar

I like cheese
I actually love cheese
I eat pizza crusts
For dinner
As the main dish
Occasionally with a smattering of raisins, grapes, peanuts, and maybe leftover pasta to accompany it
But pizza?
Which is essentially crust
In a less chewy and challenging form
Covered in cheese
Do I eat pizza?
Well
As of today
Yes
If you cut it into bits the size of a small Lego brick
Place them directly in my mouth
One by one
And dwell on the fact that I did not need to wash each bite down with milk
Without giving much thought to what might happen tomorrow
If you don’t
Or even if you do
Going forward
You would do well to remember that
I like cheese


Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Grocery Lists

Every week I write a grocery list
On an ordinary eight by ten sheet of paper
Folded in half lengthwise
Produce on one side
Dry goods, meats, cheeses, and the like on the other
The week’s menu inside
I fold it in half again the other way to carry it in my pocket
Upon entering the first store I make marks to indicate where I might find each item
Then I usually scratch off the items on the list
One at a time
As I find them
Until every item on the list has a line drawn through it
But not always
Then I bring the list home
But not always
And refer to it throughout the week
But not always
Then I throw it away
Always
Eventually
Because
Every week I write a new one and
Age isn’t valued
Every where

Every week

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Foods Can Be Trying

Determination
Stubbornness
Inflexibility
Ridiculousness
Bemusement
And
Frustration
All intersect
At the moment
When your son
Pukes
While
Trying to force down

A piece of cantaloupe

Trapped In Winter

It's not cold enough
For me to escape the rain
So I stay inside

Friday, January 10, 2014

Happy Birthday ... With Love Baked In

A peanut butter sandwich cookie
Is not always
Just
A peanut butter sandwich cookie
A two layer carrot cake covered in cream cheese icing 
Is not always
Just
A two layer carrot cake covered in cream cheese icing
A piece of construction paper that is folded in half, covered in stickers, and scrawled across with letters
Is not always
Just
A piece of construction paper that is folded in half, covered in stickers, and scrawled across with letters
A blue Cape Cod with four bedrooms, two baths, a crumbling driveway, brand new marble countertops, dutifully made beds and emptied trash cans, and the fine aroma of juicy hamburgers and frying Brussels sprouts floating through the air
Is not always just
Levittown
And will not always be home
But
He knows that better than we do
It’s why he could look at me and solemnly dismiss my suggestion that we buy a cake
With a simple statement
Delivered as if he was a philosopher
Talking with an annoying but lovingly tutored graduate student
“Dad, we can’t buy a cake, we have to bake the love in.”

to my wife on her birthday ... a thank you for the perpetual spring

Outside rain washes
Away the remaining snow
Inside it’s always
...
flowers

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Strawberry Malt

This morning
I put him in front of the television
For thirty minutes
So I could write this poem
It’s nearly ten and
I’m still writing it
Who knows what I was really trying to do
When I failed to hammer that can of paint shut
Last year
My only can of Strawberry Malt
I certainly would have liked to know
Two nights ago
When I was planning to touch up the living room walls and
The strawberry malt
Was more like a real strawberry malt
Then it should have been
I wonder what unhappy surprise will be waiting for me
Ten or fifteen years from now and
Whether I will be able to fix that
With Windex and

A roll of paper towel

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Barry Bonds Should Be In The Hall Of Fame

Go ahead and leave
But when you come back
Check and make sure
That your top hat and her doggie are where they were when you left
That all the same houses are in all the same places and
That all the same money is in all the same piles
Because
She cheats
She’ll smile if you catch her
Roll around a bit on the floor and
Wait for you to take your turn
She won’t protest
Won’t lie to the grand jury
Won’t plead not-guilty
But
Like them
Like all of them
She really doesn’t feel guilty
She wants to win
They’re all just trying to win
At monopoly
At baseball
At life
She cheats
But I still play
She cheats
But she’s good
Whether I stay or go
Whether I choose to recognize it or not


Sibling Smiles

He’s smiling
Now
He was asleep
Thirteen seconds ago
He was groaning and moaning and rolling about
Mostly hidden underneath his covers
Six seconds ago
Now
I can see his hair
His ear
And his smile
Because
Through the spaces between the wooden dowels in his headboard he can see his sister crouching down in the two feet between the head of his bed and the wall and staring right at him
He’s smiling
Right now
Because
He is awake
Right now
And he can see
Her

Smile

Monday, January 06, 2014

Parental Vortex

Polar bears swept inside by the polar vortex
Are like parents when the power goes out
Why put on an extra layer of blubber
If you don't really need it
If it is only an inconvenience that makes you sweat
If it is easier to play with colorful beach balls and
Gawk at tourists then it is 
To scrounge for extra food
If the bills get paid
If the e-mail gets read
If Facebook is visited
If no one stays unhappy
After all
It can't stay cold forever
Not anymore

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Searching For Alternative Definitions

Tonight
As my son was screaming at me
For insisting that he eat at least half a sweet potato fry
Or surrender his customary nightly bowl of cheerios
I was wondering whether it was true
That we are defined
By the causes we champion
By what we are willing to fight for

I love what you've done with winter!

record cold and snow
forty five degrees and rain
a man made winter

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Dinner Party

You’re having a party
Your driveway is full of cars
The street in front of your house is full of cars
It’s awesome
Unless half of them belong to people who live in the house and
The rest belong to your mom and a couple of cousins
Who each drove over alone
Your son requires three plates for dinner
It’s awesome
Unless
One was used for the crusts from his sister’s pizza
One for a handful of olives and
One for a half cup of leftover macaroni and cheese
Then
All we are celebrating is modern excess and
Mess

Friday, January 03, 2014

why I tell my son I love him, would never tell him to suck it up. and have no problem when he wears a purse out in public and gives me hugs and kisses

Whenever a male Blue Bird-of-paradise is looking for a mate
He finds a quiet spot
Hangs upside down
Spreads out every feather he can
Puffs his chest in and out
Rhythmically and
Sways back and forth
Rhythmically and
Waits for something to happen
If I was a male Blue Bird-of-paradise
This is what I would do
If a male Blue-Bird-of-paradise was me
There is no telling what he would do

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Ha

Chimps produce laughter like vocalizations
Fine
But can a young chimp produce these vocalizations in response to the absurdity of signs admonishing people not to jump into the toilet
And then
Not five minutes later
Laugh even harder as he was being practically pushed into the toilet by his father’s stumbling attempt to help him urinate
If so
I’d be ready to clear out a chair at the table of civilization
For them
And their laughter like vocalizations

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Years Walk

Brisk
But downright cold when the wind was blowing
Fast          
But even faster when I was carrying him on my shoulders
Quiet
But quieter still when she picked up her American Girl traveling case rather than pulling it and its squeaky wheels behind her
Fun
But less fun when he was proclaiming in his loudest and best whine that he couldn’t stand it any longer and this was certainly not a ten minute walk
Intimate
But less so when we exited the woods and found ourselves walking alongside extensive fields watching runners go quickly by and wondering not about our own resolutions but instead about whether we would be likely to see these folks out on a Saturday in April or May
Unrushed
But for the last half mile after he declared he had to urinate and a debate ensued about how best to meet that need, a debate which ended with his pants pulled down next to the car
Successful
But with only dry underwear to point to as evidence amidst the screaming and hitting going on in the backseat
Complete
But not really, as we were all outside again after nap
New
But not really
Amazing
And ...