Therapy Dog

About 10 years ago, when my daughter Allison attended the University of Pittsburgh, she’d periodically call home with updates. Her college experience—you’d be surprised, astonished, and amazed to hear—had been a roller-coaster. Good news, bad news, and the in-between (one assumes). Psycho roommates. Moribund professors. All-nighters. Part-time jobs that kind of paid you, but then … Continue reading Therapy Dog

Assurance

“You stay your age forever.”
Sign now, sit back, watch
These premiums will not change
As indemnification unfolds
October leaves drift like embers
Each snapshot freezes, then evolves
Moral hazard roils and regals
As outliers in mid-orbit pause
Dodging regression to the mean
“Love stays its age forever?”
No, it’s different looking back
That’s no stranger in the corner
Slowly waking from her nap

Chance

I sing the body electric
With whatever soul I’ve got
I sing of what comes after
I sing of what comes not
Hark! The Herald of the Trite!
Only cash accepted here
Detoured by subjective plight
Around which it’s tough to steer
My God does not forsaken
When mourning greets despair
The void that won’t be shaken
Is just daring you to stare
And if He doesn’t just exist
Then nothing’s all that matters
Where marks the stand for martyrdom?
Where marks the dark surrender?
So, let’s sing the body electric
That springs from happenstance
Let’s sing the everlasting
Let’s sing the Lord of Chance

The Chase

I reach into my back pocket, unfold both copies of the formula and hand them to him.  “Here’s the Fountain of Youth,” I say.  “Golden,” Jake says, squinting at the figures. “Cheryl, you’re amazing.” “Careful,” I say. “Looks like rain.” He leans against his car, gives me a look. He places his hands on my … Continue reading The Chase

Insomniac

Outerbridge voices
Reach from rest
Nothing lays still
In nether fog

Spread blankets
Over graves
Burgundy sipped
As midnight rises

Bloated at world’s end
Fold newspaper
Horoscope out
Dead swamp, dark layers

Save for future
Space in the attic
Like one more box
Where dust descends

Wait for deliverance
As purgatorial voices
Gather in layers
Outside rotted doors

1968

A friend’s dad is a ward leader and we get to be on the advance team for Robert F. Kennedy and that means Secret Service clearance and other privileges. When RFK arrives in Philadelphia in late March, we ride in the motorcade out to Our Lady of Czethochowa in Doylestown. Because we have college kid … Continue reading 1968

It’s Not Fair

That I should awake each day
Dream-sliding on a bed of my own
And know three meals will be consumed
Washed down with water running through
Drive to my job. Get lost in my work.
Light a votive for my sleeping wife
Praise how she graces my existence
That I can walk in October woods
While leaves descend in tongues of fire
Or by the Atlantic on a summer’s eve
Feel eternity in the soles of my feet
I can laugh (what power!); sing in the shower
And down ice-dazzled beer on Friday nights
That my health so far, so good (knock wood)
Watch my daughter grow proud and strong
Savoring experiences that her path offers
I can read great books or gossip columns
Watch TV by the light of the fireplace
Cherish the beauty of women with proper respect
Find youth-light in the withered faces of the old
And wisdom in a toddler’s pronouncement
That I can stand awestruck in kiss-ling snow
Or listen to rain romancing the streets
Look up at the star-quilt from a country road
And praise all who have hallowed my journey
For vast legions of humanity dead and alive
Aren’t so blest. And it’s not fair! It’s not fair!

The Ache

As I drag our trash
To the edge of our drive
Orange streaks our dawn
In our fortunate sky
Two gamey deer just happen
To turn quizzically my way
Then on they bound just like — Snap!
What DO we talk about
When we DON’T talk about love?
Two cats cloaked in canvas
Somehow getting on — but just
Time to decide which room
Needs a coat of paint today
And when the fumes finally settle
Our bickering takes a break
We tap water into the kettle
Never mentioning The Ache
But in that pause each clutches hope
“Please let me die fore this old dope.”

Salt

Oh Modest Goddess
Let’s spill the tea
Kick up them tunes
Dance close to me
Oh Godless Goddess
Don’t make the bed
Our culture’s caving
Our soul’s unfed
Please salt the deal
When you have time
I salt the still
You salt the vine
I salt the well
You salt the line
I salt the how
You salt the why
I salt the scream
You salt the sigh
I salt the scene
You salt the high
Oh Modest Goddess
You make me smile
Come lie with me
For just a while

Noggin’

Your hair, that hair of yours
No, of course, it doesn’t define you
Curly, bouncing, bold, boyant
Light brown with tints of red
That’s what I said (you set me straight)
People pay to look that way
You didn’t even go to a hairdresser
For ten easy years. Remember?
Perfect prelude to cascading laugh
Sways like a searchlight’s pivot
Lets your eyes shine hope, joy
Toward the children you’ve taught
To old people drawn to warmth
Never like the other girls
Wouldn’t bother carrying a purse
One — that’s right — one pair of shoes
Of the earth, by the sun, to the sea
But what feeds on you eats at me
Right here in Buddy’s Barber Shop
Where photos dim every inch of wall
Tumble down, down like a pyre’s end
“I’m not going to let this beat me. Watch!”
Not if have any say it won’t. (I don’t.)
Love discovers from now back to start
As your beautiful noggin’ steals my heart

All Right, Then, Damn It: A Love Poem

Old man next door
Dying from love
45 years married
Wife gone (what?)
About 45 minutes
We say he lost his love
But he looks for her still
Shakes out the laughs
She’s not there
The sunsets, and rain baths
Not there either
Moments of “glad grace”
Jeez, not a friggin’ trace
He stands by the memory chute
But they’re no substitute
I catch him in his car
Staring beyond the driveway
Ask him, “You OK?”
Tells me it’s day-to-day
I know what he means
Man wants to die
Dark hands his only hope
Of seeing love again
There’s nothing that rhymes
Or explains away the unending,
Sharp-stabbing grief —
Which leads me to us
That’s right, you and me
You’ve never asked
What you mean to me
If you did I’d just point
Across the way
You never asked
But for once I tell
You are air and water
And, yes, “shadows deep”
So, now, can we
Get something to eat?
And then later maybe catch
Some serious Zs by the fire?
And murmur, softly murmur,
Our incommunicable joy

Holly Bush

Outside the bay window
This gift to my late wife
Given to her by her sister
Years ago plopped in a hole
No bigger than a shovel scoop
Man, has that thing grown
Cardinals sometimes peck the branches
Pulling berries from icy weaves
And my late wife’s wonderment
Gentles me down corridors of dreams

The Masculine Virtues

“Joe Claimer. Tell us your story.” Claimer shifts in his folding chair, the squeak echoing through the recreation center’s gym. McKinley’s probably reading his body language, because that’s what shrinks do, you know. Hell, that’s what everybody does: cops, clergy, pimps, and poodles. Claimer pretends to get less fetal, uncrosses his arms. I’m ready! Ready, … Continue reading The Masculine Virtues

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Before our lives implode
I bought some flowers. Here.
And human love often erodes
In hate or drift or fear
Oh, hell, it’s a marriage man (for now)
I’ve grown some foibles, true.
While you’ve sprouted these new interests
Will we make it? Can we take it?
Here comes that cliché again
We love two beautiful daughters
We’re so enthralled by them
So let’s sacrifice happiness now
Our happiness is not the point
And set table by the dark abyss
Of stony days and brokered nights
We swore before God, remember?
Maybe His miracle can still fix us
But maybe not. Let’s tough it through
That’s all I’ve got. And you?

Flip

The world has lost its beauty
Once filtered through your eyes.
Sunset, sunrise, falling fall leaves
Shift now into a dimmer space,
But I still seek cohesion
With evidence of things not seen
And the scales that fall will weigh.
Do I really need these videos?
These unnecessary glass totems?
Memories swoon, drift and die
Then rise at the oddest moments.
My tickets on the River Styx,
But everything else needs to go.
How do you weigh stuff against spirit?
We were both such able thrower-outers,
But look here at this refinancing pack,
Long ago digested by other deals.
“I won’t ever let you go!”
I think as I dismantle
Rooms, chimneys and the backyard fence.
“I just … just cannot stand it!”
Echoes against walls that used to be.

Revolutionary War Cemetery Escapes Being Left Cold, Buried, Forgotten

It is about 325 steps, depending upon the length of your stride, from the door of the tavern, to a wedge of hallowed ground at the corner of Flowers and Bellevue avenues. Here, in Langhorne Borough, rests the gravesite of approximately — by the local historic association’s count — 166 soldiers of the Revolutionary War. … Continue reading Revolutionary War Cemetery Escapes Being Left Cold, Buried, Forgotten

Confession

“Begin.” “Father, I…” “Look down.” “Father?” “Haven’t been here for a while, right?” “Yeah.” “Well, I’m very happy that you’ve given us another chance. Giving the church another chance. “Father I…” “There’s a plastic card. Right above the hand rest. On the wall. See?” “Yeah.” “That should help.” “Bless me father for I have sinned. … Continue reading Confession