Listed below are the (weekly) poems in the order posted (most recent at top).
Click on a title below to view both the Poem and its First Draft.

 

Sabbatical

I’m taking a break from “Poem a Week.” Please feel free to reach out at robertkennedy44 AT gmail DOT COM.

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On the B Train to Brooklyn

At the station people pack themselves into the subway as if prodded by an unseen finger and a high-school aged boy shifts a basketball from his left to right hand. Then a sound booms out and the familiar rhythm that resembles an outdated office machine stuck in self-destruct mode fires Chicka! Chicka! Chika! from deep […]

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Graffiti Up (Couplet)

In fear, I withdraw graffiti up my soul.

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If You Have Your Health (emailed May 12)

Well tell that to us chronic complainers. We first-worlders who fret and cavil about needing a brand new appliance as if it were foraging atop a towering pile of waste at the landfill. We feel quite put out; it’s a focus of our daily struggles. Then warm to how our life will become better the […]

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On the Jersey City Pier (emailed May 5)

The fisherman on the pier extended his phone and the shattered screen shimmered nonetheless with forty inch stripers. Wow, that’s some catch any luck today? I asked. No I just started, the tide, the tide is going out, he said. It’s best with the tide out. He wore a torn t-shirt and grimy jeans but […]

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Aphorisms (emailed April 28)

Courage is riding the sharper edge of fear and not letting yourself get cut. Character determines whether we take our own “trash” out on the curb every morning or allow it to accumulate and dump the excess in our neighbor’s yard. We cannot give a fraction of ourselves to others and accuse the world of knowing […]

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Heard Late at a Bar (emailed April 21)

Heard Late at a Bar   Bitterness is my brew baby the entire keg, especially the drippy dregs. I shake em up and slug em down. Mmm nothing tastes better than the defeat inside defeat surrender without contest. Happening without fanfare without anyone in attendance. So bitter is my brew and so shit-shaken my gnarled […]

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Just like Dust

They are sliced and chopped and later diced and ground down until all the moisture is gone and this within the space sometimes of a single day. Sometimes you’ll pull your shoes on and say I really cannot do this. I should return to paint or sculpt or more time with kids until you dismiss […]

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The Last Executive Order

for Colin Theriot As you all know, so-called poetry or this foolish unproductive activity that goes by the same name has long been a singular scourge of our great land. It’s only practiced by the very weak often sitting in a room all alone and involves outdated, useless material like books, which people no longer […]

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On Dorchester Road*

The snow has caked my car in. From my window, a plump overstuffed donut with clumps of icing ringing it. Soon enough, I may curse the snow and God and everyone who dares to stop to hear me swear but for now I wait, stuff my face.   #### Poet’s Notes: I don’t care what […]

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Ernest’s Poem

Sometimes you don’t write but read and talk especially with friends but occasionally with others to see the sharpness of speech flung at high speed to hit hard the fatty wattled throats of the overly stuffed and effete. The morning after you arise feeling a strange hangover look in the mirror and touch your now […]

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The Church*

  She is hideous at times and it’s not merely opinion; her history tells of red hats sold families sired in secret and brave souls condemned to delight adoring masses because they did not believe as she believed. Il Duce plied her open for his sick pleasure as have too many priests who swore exactly […]

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On the Boardwalk

My daughter begged for cotton candy so I listed the various ills and getting it stuck in your hair but she would have none of it because all of my friends… You must be out of your cotton- picking mind I said as I passed a black woman holding a child by the hand who held […]

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The Slowpoke

Der emes iz a kricher. The truth is a slowpoke. – Yiddish saying The truth when not drunk (availing a legitimate excuse) is a tardy bastard. He saunters out the door in the morning pulling himself together as he slopes to touch strangers in passing; shambling by unnoticed at the station as they pause to […]

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Two Working Women

(for Louis and Steve) Now that offices are verboten the woman who sits with her back to the break room browses panties and boots but quickly clicks away when the two men alight to smile and stroke. Beside her the executive holds endless phone meetings tossing acronyms like grenades shattering the sixty foot space with […]

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Shakshuka at Mimi’s

You can eat Shakshuka at breakfast for its eggs or lunch for tomato stew and dinner for all of it and nobody will care. Nobody will tell you you’re silly for eating that at dinner or so early because it can be eaten any damn time of the day. So eat your Shakshuka and don’t […]

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The Life Sentence

In the waiting room the man nearly whizzed in his pants waiting for “x months” to live. The doctor arrived to nod clear his throat and pull a screeching chair to a halt. You have the most peculiar disorder ever found. In fact incidents are most rare. You are in amazingly good health and we […]

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Nancy Blue

Her eyes are shades for the blue in her mind (of a light crystal hue) shaping, sharpening. Not the blue you find in a pool disinfected or blue overwhelmed by an ocean’s depths. Her mind swims in blue that clarifies, enhances and never just reduces. It is a blue undiluted. #### Poet’s Notes: Written recently, […]

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Writing Poetry

It is madness if you think of it to sit and let in swirling tidal waters held suspended by some invisible wall and loosened so the whole discarded mess old sneakers and needles and building materials and love and suicide notes rushes in so that if you’re lucky or both fortunate and blessed to end […]

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Memory of the Whip

It recalls backs and buttocks and its lines mark generations settling into an open palm or closed fist or even a pistol fired by one who never felt it. The scars of the whip begin in the flesh but seep into sleep into nightmares that can sprout legs to stalk the day-lit streets because the […]

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City Apprenticeship

City Apprenticeship (1/21/2017) (for Nancy) While you were out I crushed a cockroach spinning in the sink. Complained with a neighbor about the broken stairs when the landlord waltzed in. Gave him a piece of my mind until he swore he’d fix it (‘course we know he won’t). Schlepped the trash out even though the […]

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Madness

My mind is always cloudy sometimes slightly so, other times it rains and rains. On occasion, I awake to the clearest image of a starburst sun. When I see this is a dream, clouds take their places within, actors on a shifting stage. Reminding me that madness is the total absence of rain.    

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The Miss

The Catholic priests held a special conference on sex or Sexuality in our Times aimed at college kids. So the five priests who led it waited but nobody showed. One priest began to laugh and soon they all joined him. They spoke earnestly that next time they should really try to do things differently except […]

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The Back Office of the Big Bank

There are no more paper cups or plates or creamer to be found in the pantry that is no longer a pantry but a coffee nook. Half of the desks are empty. The windows remain unwashed. The palm in the corner withers as no service waters it now. The walls feature posters from conventions held […]

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Donald Mugabe

He big man. He fly like big bird in air and swoop down on so many enemies. Golden hair flying. He so rich. He give money to poor just like Jesus. They begging at him and he always gives, always. He so smart he know more than whole school know more than professors and all […]

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The Imperfections

Some day you will leave me for my imperfections numerous and countable. You will tire of saying yes but and adding the usual counterweights. You will find yourself weighing all of it and shaking your head. It just doesn’t add up even though it remains simple to enumerate.   #### Poet’s Notes: If you feel […]

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The New Clubs

They lie in a cart online and some mornings I pull them out, weigh them, feel in my palms look down silver shafts and stand in the box at Bethpage Black or even Merion where I caddied as a boy and had no clue what it meant, what men do to chase the ineffable before […]

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Wasting Friendship

In the morning at my house my friend explained how he’d unplugged my appliances before going to bed. And why did you do this I asked. He told me it was wasteful and bothered him. I guess it trumps friendship I said. He shrugged and added but then we’ll all be dead. We’ll all be […]

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Two for the Season

Bloodlust   You want to believe the age has moved past ax and mace and menacing machete maybe nowadays we’ve just perfected pleasantries conceal our short knives and pistols tucked into our pockets and purses because we so hate blood and suffer for animals yet bloodlust for human vengeance seems unchanged. _____________ The Song of […]

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Late in Brooklyn

It is late and time for bed and I hear a siren scream past my window again and I think of where it’s not going; to the non-crimes as I look at the buildings and thousands upon thousands not doing a single thing to harm another; so who reports on damages that don’t happen on […]

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The Wolf at the Door*

The wolf at the door my mother used to say. Are you keeping him away? I wasn’t. He remained in the yard to circle on a chain. Most nights sniffing and scratching and carrying on. A cocked eye stared out as I reassured myself he couldn’t get in. He’s kept by my own terrible hand. […]

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Unbroken*

It was important to suffer quietly my parents believed. My mother and a dozen kids, uncomplaining. My father waiting in the basement. You didn’t have it as bad my older brothers said and I didn’t doubt them. I watched them mount the stairs, submit. Years after my father’s death a few brothers joke about it. […]

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Prescription

If there were an ism or I could find an ist for myriad frustrations I’d feel less like shit It would elevate me pull me out of funks that sap my energy and sully my plans And I’d take command craft a sign or march or volunteer if I could just get a handle on […]

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Perspective

(for Steve, Editor of the CCB) In three hundred years they will view us not unlike we view those who lived three hundred years ago. They’ll stalk up the steep platform of the present to look down at our silly clothes and customs. They’ll shake their heads and wag their fingers before passing laws to […]

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Clowns

My friend is a bit of a clown telling his subway stories tales of the grotesque of wacky weirdness to all who will listen I am also a little clownish for listening and laughing at stories that are sad and tragic but ultimately comical as well Are we not all clowns? Some of us insist […]

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The Restaurant on 8th Avenue

The woman tucked into the corner table is waiting for her date, I’m guessing. She looks at me then back to check her watch and picks up her phone. She could be wondering what if I might have gone out with another or I might have married five years ago or I’m middle aged and can’t […]

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Vengeance*

  We played “king of the hill” on top of great snow mounds with trashcan lids for shields firing icy snowballs broadside at unlucky heads. When the weather opposed us we fought “king of the bed” pulling and pushing grapplers off a mattress until we dented the wooden floor with falls. A game of constant […]

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Found Dead on the Step

It is a cockroach of that I am sure. An inch and a half and a perfect oval. Its abdomen is ribbed striated in exquisite insect symmetry. A similarly shaped nut gingerly glazed on a bright silver tray is second in display.   #### Poet’s Notes: It was a NYC cockroach on the step on […]

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At the Child Support Office

They stand behind thick glass not warming to goofy quips. The charm I manufacture to diffuse social bomblets is not welcome this morning. They are older black women leaning on linebacker arms. Peering out on benches where thin young men slump with pants purposely hanging down. I imagine they’ve heard it all. Hearts that have […]

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Magic Shoes

The sole of my shoe came off just a bit at the top and I thought as I paused on the stoop to inspect it it might be glued or just tossed. Then a girl appeared on the front stoop of a row house on a sweltering July night before the second great war. There […]

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Refiling the Refined

How do the highly refined do it? I listen to them, watch closely and find nothing incongruous. Shucked of all coarseness, seemingly free of appetite, curiosity about the Dollar Store. They leave the impression of being naturally combed through but I want to believe that stuck on the remotest of country roads they might just […]

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Forever 21

One day after my eleventh birthday, I walked home to see my mother ringed by aunts in the kitchen, all crying. An aunt sent me up to my bedroom. Three days later, I witnessed my older brother lowered into the earth. I was never told how he died. It didn’t seem my place to ask. […]

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From the Editor’s Desk

Flaxen hair? No, no. And strike the blue eyes. Doesn’t sound right. Boy she’s a beauty and her family like a soap commercial. So here, remove these, increase the heading put it left, page one. I’m thinking Promising. Wasn’t she a top student or athlete or something? Well, Popular, then, use that. And this other […]

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Dignity

Her dress was Caribbean possibly Jamaican though maybe from the islands or deep down Trinidad. Her skin had a sheen and her hair was braided tightly round her head and she spoke dignity. She simply announced dignity in her posture dignity in her stride without saying a word.   #### Poet’s Notes: If you feel […]

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The Discarded

I take comfort in the dinged up in dented discarded stuff that nobody seems to want chucked into a bin in the very back of the supermarket or set on the curb or stoop wearing a forlorn note. They are always useable never beyond hope and unpretentious. They want for attention and do not find […]

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Maple Tree on a Morning in May

The maple tree by the pond glowed in a kind of green phosphorescence as I watched its leaves wave like a thousand burning hands in every direction and it occurred to me that it was utterly alive and it could not be anything but a phosphorescent green. #### Poet’s Notes: If you feel strongly about […]

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The Trout

The trout are waiting as they always have finning the pebbled bottom of the stream to eat nymphs and occasionally break the foamy surface to sample the latest floating specimen Every spring they wait for the water to warm as I wait for the air to warm; I am not the young boy who happily […]

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The Most Obvious Thing

There are people who awoke this morning on a promontory in the middle of the ocean with the waves whipping about who can barely hear themselves breathe and bear no echo of their thoughts, so that “I am” is as substantial as a passing swell and only when they move about do they realize that […]

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The First Punch

My father beat his sons

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The Discipline of Dreams

Some things I do, I just don’t get

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The Death of the Cocktail Server

In the gray video a young man

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Meditation at Avenue J*

  A brown tail twitches beneath

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The Nuclear Snow Globe

There were spent fuel rods

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First Flight (with audio)

(Note: Audio seems to only appear in the Chrome browser.) Everyone knows the crust

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Nobody

Nobody’s name remains unknown.

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For Anncy

Will you dare to be imperfect with me?

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Lint

For Kacey and Chris Frustration is a kind of lint.

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?

             ? Ambiguity is your friend, she said.

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Gumboot Jackdaw Knaves

Gumboot Jackdaw Knaves For once

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The Jew and the Cart in Brooklyn

The Jew and the Cart in Brooklyn   An orthodox Jew

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The Old Slab at the Lumber Yard

The Old Slab at the Lumber Yard   The old slab is oak, two inches thick.

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The Silhouette’s Silhouette

The Silhouette’s Silhouette The man never wore a suit

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The Only Deli

The Only Deli   Murray owns the deli. The last deli, the only deli. And thousands of menus and millions of pictures on a hundred-year old wall. Germans. Romanians. Hungarians. Poles. Russians. All inside boisterous delis. The Jewish pub. A pint of gefilte. A shot of matzoh ball. The news here first, often Yiddish. The […]

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Perry Ellis

Perry Ellis Of course I never met the man he’s been gone for so long yet I feel as if he knew me or I should say my type. And this knowledge passed into the hands of designers who knew this type and how this person wanted to appear. Yes, it’s all vain but are […]

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Alternative Ant

  Alternative Ant   We are wired to work, like the ants driven by scent. Marching in kind to find new filigrees of food, some plaster to enhance shelter. When held back, we feel badly. Seeing the long lines heading out returning with smiles on their backs. They are rewarded with rest, not we. Unless […]

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The Company of the Clever

The Company of the Clever   Let me be seen as stupid and so very unclever. But let me still be read even if the clever sniff and fold the paper over their dangling legs, glance down at their fancy socks and shoes, then inventory everyone else’s in the cafe. Let them snicker to themselves, […]

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Baby in a Manger

Sunset on the Creek in Chatham Center, NY Christmas Eve, 2015 Baby in a Manger Today churches worldwide wrapped a baby in swaddling clothes, and set him in a manger beside his mother and father and beasts who looked upon him curiously, as if to ask Is he one of us? Indeed he is somehow, […]

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Commuting with Spinoza

Commuting with Spinoza So Spinoza is on my tail. Mornings in my car as I drive to the station. Jesus Christ, man, it’s the year two-thousand and fifteen. Go away, you old coot. What I want to say as he sits and strokes that beard of his. Mumbling incoherencies. He won’t ask me if I’m […]

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The Palms along Sarasota Bay

The Palms along Sarasota Bay   Lithe fingers that sway and wave long eye lashes sound like rain on touching in the brightest midday sound like secreted showers mourning the Florida sun.     Poet’s Notes #### If you feel strongly about this poem, leave a comment below! The image of the initial draft can […]

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(Two from Brooklyn) (with photo)

  At Prospect Park Brooklyn In the park alone, I stand or sit and nobody charges me a fee. No one can ask me to leave. Nobody will be dragging a mop dipped in acrid cleaner as a hint. It may snow soon; it’ll surely rain. But I can stay, there’s no curfew. The police […]

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Toolmakers

Toolmakers The tools were simple but we never mocked them. There was nothing to compare. Those stones gave us life. In shattering and skinning we loosened the vital flesh that nourished brave bones, helped us find shelter, rest. The toolmakers are now dead. A user grips something with fresh trepidation not knowing who made it. […]

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For Phillip

For Phillip   He asked me what it’s like to write a really good poem and I began but couldn’t assemble the words because we were in the office. His eyebrows rose as if to say it must be awesome if suddenly the poet should became speechless. You should write a poem about me he […]

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At the Great German University

At the Great German University*   When professor at the great German University, I’ll walk the broad halls like a God, be greeted with “Herr Professor” (answer with gentle nods) and not give a damn about the clothes I choose to wear. I’d wear the same wide corduroys let them wrinkle and soil: stains in […]

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Ghetto

Ghetto The ghetto is not the unsafe streets, strings of crazed graffiti, broken glass, ramshackle homes long abandoned, dull gazes of the homeless following sounds of echoing police sirens. The ghetto is bound within the minds of those who tend to wall themselves off, examine every conscience before their own, curse innocence with phantasms of […]

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The Goldfish

The Goldfish   It has come to the end of the night and I am tired, but not overly. Some progress today, but overall there is some deeper disturbance. The goldfish finning up silt with its tail, darkening the bowl. How can I sleep when dreams are shaped in such a foul haze? And if […]

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At the Business Conference

At the Business Conference* for Appleseed   The deer in the headlights Drank from a firehose At the end of the day: It was a win-win situation. Inside the business conference they peered out the windows, were momentarily speechless. They’d never seen anything like it. Someone asked What is it? A janitor said It was […]

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At Gaskins

At Gaskins* He arrived at the restaurant clutching something like an exquisite handbag, asked for a table for one. The hostess scanned the room, six and eight-tops and many tables of four, full. She smiled as if to say, not really, sir. But she offered a hand, led him through the din. Some remarked at […]

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The Pet Cockatoo

The Pet Cockatoo   The mirror is round and concave. The task is to remove it from its ornate frame and bend the reflection outward at such an angle that I can see and others can too. They’ll see I’ve nothing to hide and I will too. At night I’ll merely roll it aside, put […]

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Joyce

Joyce (On reading Ellman’s biography of James Joyce)   He couldn’t keep two pence in his pocket. For that he hit up his latest friends for loans on his terms of nonpayment. He drank and got drunk in religious fashion. Sometimes fished out of the gutters of strange cities he called home. He despised and […]

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The Morning After (Labor Day)

The Morning After (Labor Day) This sucks. Tuesday morning after the long weekend. Schlepped myself to the office to face the familiar pile of work that hadn’t receded much in my absence. Then I felt something in my pocket and pulled out a wad of crumpled up paper. (In rushing I merely transferred the contents […]

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Handholds

Handholds I’m sorry to say, to have to admit that your head was my foothold, sockets of your eyes, handholds. If I’d gone around, I might have fallen. But if I’d gone through you, I wouldn’t be standing here to explain, would I? Instead I went over and beyond and saw the lights that everyone […]

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The Well-Made Bed

The Well-Made Bed (for Nancy) She is like a well-made bed. Clean, crisp, and stylish and always appropriate. Syncing with the decor. Waiting for me patiently. And I am more the morning after: sheets tossed about, nothing left unmessed. With a blanket bunched up as if a body remained beneath or a shadow slunked in […]

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The Honeycomb

The Honeycomb August 21, 2015 What is it about fear that so flusters? I can sit and pick out every fiber from some, a weaver unmaking a rug. Other times, I am shaken by wells of damp and gloomy dread that wash over me when I’m most alone. Lately I have found a honeycomb of […]

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Son of Fortune

Son of Fortune When I consider all that I’ve man mangled, began and foreswore, left half-assembled, started and quit, started and quit, a kid riding a bike for the first time and bashing it for a scraped knee; All that I’ve unjustly darkened in frustration or despair, some weird wellspring of the worst animal fear… […]

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The Whistler

The Whistler At daybreak on Saturdays the enchanted music rose to my bedroom window. Deep and melodious, its origin, mysterious. One morning I leaned out as the whistler walked up the driveway. I spied an older black man and thought it my secret. Then I was a boy unbeaten. Though Selma and Montgomery had rocked […]

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She’s Gone

She’s Gone She’s no longer here. Was she let go then? Nobody knows, nobody cares to address it. Messages sent suggest she’s been reassigned or resigned, but she may have ascended into heaven. There are no agents down here. Nobody will address this except in the most glancing deferential fashion, because they don’t really know […]

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Shopping for Panties at the Mall

Shopping for Panties at the Mall   At the mall with my daughter I pause to shop for panties for my fiancé who is middle-aged like me. Why are you shopping for her? she asks, quite reasonably. She has this thing for gray, I say. Almost all of her undies are gray. But gray is […]

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While You Were Out

While You Were Out   While you were out I crushed a water bug found in the bathroom Complained with a neighbor about the stairs unrepaired until the landlord arrived Gave him a piece of my mind and he said he’d take care of it (of course, once again, he didn’t) Took the trash out […]

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Unseen Turbulence

Unseen Turbulence Of course you can see into the water for a distance. Then turbulence caused by a fish, upturned stone, who knows? Near the bottom fish and stone shift in sun and shadow. So do my feelings fold into a fish or get carried down by a stone. Unseen turbulence exists in me and […]

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My Rolling Void

My Rolling Void The lady whispered to leave you my void so I waited patiently till you had your fill, till your senses became inflamed, invective cursed my hands and name. I slipped out early by the sliding door and just before I closed it, I rolled my void into the room. I saw it […]

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Man of Arms

Man of Arms (After massacre at Charleston Church) There’s a man with a gun in his hand or his hand is a gun or his arm, yes, his entire arm is a repeating rifle and when he waves his hands it sprays everyone nearby. He needs it for protection he swears too many dangerous people […]

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The Subway

The Subway A silver bullet coated with soot ricocheting within a grimy pipe resounds like a skirmish between battalions of pots and pans. Columns of people enter and exit now and generations ago merge into a single sinew- strand and I see that it is one.   #### Poet’s Notes #### Photo of First Draft:

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Sherbet Dress

Sherbet Dress (for Nancy) You look delicious in your sherbet dress, or should I say dish?     #### Poet’s Notes #### My fiance Nancy does not wear sherbet colors. (She wanted me to clarify this…) Photo of First Draft:

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Soul

Soul She knows people, accepts them as God. Accepts their goodness and evil. Accepts their sweetness and stench. And most of all, she knows men. Knows their thoughts before them. Knows them better than their mothers. Better than strings of mothers threaded in generations. She knows men. And they avoid her. Fly from her and […]

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The Frail

The Frail So the pastor, the priest, the rabbi and imam. They hold a certain package to their breasts, bound with generations of blood, burnt flesh. The package is similar, but the within, now that is different. Each realizes the other’s box is half full at best. Nothing but centuries of wishes carved into souls […]

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In a Previous Life

In a Previous Life In a previous life, I was truly feared. Walking the streets in a gray suit, condiments staining a wide tie, belly bouncing over a black belt. They knew who I was, so they scattered, like pests from steps of the pest remover. Sometimes I couldn’t help but smile but mostly I […]

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Geraniums

It arrives in the station soon enough but leaves faster than I anticipate. It doesn’t wait. Doesn’t stop to ask where it might invest or peer over at a lot that looks good for building. No, it flies out of here as fast as it comes. And I, the conductor, have seen it so often. […]

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Counterfeit

Counterfeit The packaging is identical, down to the seal. And the instructions, duplicated exactly. Typed up verbatim by an illiterate. And the pills have been made to look the same. Only they contain baking soda animal fat and sugar. And something else. Customers purchasing online are not aware these pills are fakes, sold by unlicensed […]

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Closed Forever

The sign hanging from the shop door read “Closed Forever.” Frequently I’d drop in, hooked by junk out front. I didn’t need the plates or containers but it was a steal. Until once, a day later, I found entirely new merchandise. Another racket! They could take their time to “go out of business” but not […]

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The Bus (Preview Week)

The real is found somewhere between walking down the street completely naked and a crowd assembles (from where?) and begins pointing at your enormous member, but you’re a woman and you morph back and forth to realize you’re late for the bus. And someone stares at you and you think I must be dreaming, so […]

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The White Rhino (Preview Week)

  It fits so well in the hand, is so smooth to touch oh! the engineering in there. The men began by ambling around the California campus, a crude composite, to the ear, into a pocket. They had that vibe, that joie de vivre, as they sauntered or slouched or leaned, not waiting to explain. […]

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