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Since I gave up chocolate for Lent

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A little Lenten silliness to start National Poetry Month. 
This one’s in the form of a villanelle.

 

Since I gave up chocolate for Lent

I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent
on things that are frankly awful for me
since I gave up chocolate for Lent.

I’ve purchased eighteen cheese cakes, blew the rent
money on baklava and gin – honestly,
I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent,

but it’s been huge. I doubt Father Bill meant
it to go this way, but my friends agree:
since I gave up chocolate for Lent

I’ve gone downhill. This cocoa fast has sent
me to the mall to dull my misery.
I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent,

but I’ve gained sixty pounds and put a dent
in my 401k. Screw charity,
since I gave up chocolate for Lent

I have lost all virtue. I’m hell-bent
on survival. God, bring Easter quickly!
I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent
since I gave up chocolate for Lent.

 

Sonnet: Talking on the phone to the mother of two pre-schoolers

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Written with the greatest admiration for anyone who works at home looking after small children. How y’all get anything done is a minor miracle. Apart from, you know, EVERYTHING which you somehow squeeze into those odd 30-second snatches of free time.

 

Sonnet: Talking on the phone to the mother of two pre-schoolers

…so maybe we could all do a picnic
next Tuesday, unless Lauren has a thing
(don’t put that there). Let me give you a ring
when Jack gets up from his nap – he was sick
yesterday at church, you know. (Do NOT pick
at that scab). (Tomato juice). What? Oh, bring
him over, sure. He can practice climbing
the back steps. (Don’t hit Rufus with that stick).

Books? Are you kidding? Like ones with a plot?
(That’s beautiful! Don’t lick your brother’s nose).
By now I’d gladly trade everything by
Anne Tyler for a shower alone. Not
even with Brad Pitt! Ha ha…. that just shows
why I got him fixed! (Pickles). Oh Lord – bye!

 

Seventeen

Seventeen

It’s a whirlwind season in my home life. Graduations, college preparation, combing through old pictures, casting off items we forget we had and certainly will never use again.  Everyone is drifting – not in a bad way.  But we are definitely coming un-stuck from each other.  There is nothing to prepare you for this kind of pulling apart.  Everything tastes bittersweet.

In the middle of all of this, I wrote a villanelle – about change, and love, and seeing the ones we love with new eyes. For my father, for Father’s Day.

 

Seventeen

Suddenly, he won’t talk to me:
He’s become a steel curtain.
It’s just the way I used to be

with my father, too, half angry,
half amused at the old cretin.
Suddenly, he won’t talk to me

about even simple things. We
are strangers more than next-of-kin.
It’s just the way I used to be –

I remember the agony
of this age – the man-trap he’s in.
Suddenly, he won’t talk to me

except on days he needs money,
and really, is that such a sin?
It’s just the way I used to be!

I don’t take it personally –
this is a game a dad can’t win.
Suddenly, he won’t talk to me –
it’s just the way I used to be.

 

Castro Camera

Castro Camera

This past week was Harvey Milk Day.  Milk was an amazing man, a flawed hero, a great gift and a significant loss.   I wrote this short piece last November in his honor.

 

Castro Camera

He was just another Lithuanian-American
Jewish boy who played football and joined the navy
a straight-laced actuary who loved the opera
and kept private matters private.
But then came San Francisco.

He said, “I finally reached the point
when I had to become involved or shut up.”

On Castro Street he flowered
turning to his neighborhood
unflinching in his call for civil rights
Ten months a Supervisor, till his
shocking death, November 27, 1978.

He said, “If a bullet should enter my brain,
let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

After the trial, the White Nights
the riots and the beatings
they laid his ashes to rest
beneath the sidewalk at 575 Castro.
He was my age, more or less.

 

Harvey Milk Day poster

 

Drink Me

Coffee heart

Last night, there it was.  A heart in a coffee cup.  We just looked at it and rubbed our eyes.  For me, coffee and love have always gone together.  In Tanka form…

should you find my heart
floating in your coffee cup
stir the cream gently
and then drink every last drop
until I am part of you

While You Wait

Railroad tracks 2Remembering a local business that disappeared in the name of progress.  I can’t show you a picture, because it’s gone.  But here’s the general location, right next to the tracks where it sat before the new underpass went in. Written to share with friends at Poetic Bloomings and the dVerse Poets Pub.

 

While you wait

Before they built the underpass there was
an oil change place by the railroad crossing
on Main Street. Stuck waiting for a train?
their brazen candy-stripe sign inquired,
Have your oil changed while you wait!

and I often did, screwing up my courage
to sample their outrageously strong coffee,
thick as 10W30, hot as the devil’s arse,
while the train rattled slowly past and the
grease monkeys scampered around the bay.

One time I read a book on their table about
sibling rivalry. Another I remember staring
out the dirt-smeared window at the quietly
falling snow. I thought great thoughts there.
I decided straight-up: God loved the railroad.

But in the end not even God could help against
the wrecking ball of progress. Now I don’t wait
for trains any more. I get my oil changed in
a place with a stuffed bass on the wall.
It’s too clean. And the coffee has no soul.

 

Our real work

Over at Poetic Asides, the November Poem-A-Day challenge is in full swing. Last Thursday, the prompt was to talk back to a poet. I chose to respond to Wendell Berry, not in disagreement but rather in appreciation. His poem The Real Work begins:

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work.

This slightly awkward rondeau is my response.

 

Our real work

Our real work puts on a hat and knits
outside a café, takes a drag and spits
into the wind, grinning like it can see
something we don’t – about mortality,
futility, about the shoe that fits

so perfectly we love it while it splits
our soul like weathered skin, until it hits
us in this stranger’s gaze – this cannot be
our real work!

And we are empty, scared out of our wits
by ticking clocks, by love, by snake-filled pits
we never chose. The figure strikes a knee
and we both laugh at our absurdity,
and then trade hats, while on the table sits
our real work.

 

Operation Teapot

 

The 1950s were an amazing time – full of hope, fear, and bizarre scientific experiments. Here’s a true story, from a recently released government document. Sometimes you can’t make this stuff up.

 

Operation Teapot

In 1955, eight communist countries signed the Warsaw Pact
war was beginning between south and north in Vietnam
and trouble was simmering on the Montgomery buses.

Meanwhile, in the Nevada Desert, government scientists
were conducting an experiment on the possible effects
of a nuclear explosion on beer and soft drinks.

Their results, duly published with full extract and pages of data,
proved that in the event of a nuclear catastrophe, packaged beverages
would be a suitable emergency source of liquid refreshment,

though the beer might lose a bit of its flavor.

 

Success

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”  Thomas Mannn

 

Success

I wrote this morning,
which is why there is a pile
of plates in the sink
and we have no clean laundry.
But hey – I wrote this morning!

 

A dog from Hell

I was browsing books at our local Goodwill store on Saturday, and there, nestled among all the copies of “What to Expect…” and “Tax tips for the 1990s,” was a copy of Charles Bukowski’s “Love is a dog from Hell.”  I brought it home and started reading.  Bukowski can feel like the long-lost uncle you don’t really know if you want to invite to the family reunion.  He is hilarious and profane, self-centered and offensive, completely unapologetic for who he is.  He just seems to tell it like he sees it.  And in compelling style – at least to me.  After an hour with “Love is a dog from Hell” I wrote this response. (To share with friends at dVerse Poets Pub).

 

A dog from hell

He’s at it again,
chasing cockroaches across
the bathroom floor with
an ironic stream of piss

some nameless hooker
is lighting up in the bedroom
crouched on the headboard
and shouting at the television

he says he likes the ones
with personality, but I can’t
help noticing he chooses
the ones with big tits

he loves to tell about it while the
booze is flowing and the telephone rings
and he just ignores it all,
cave-painting in skeletal lines

and I hate him – the misogynistic asshole –
hate him because I am so damn jealous
of that clear, unapologetic voice.
No, I am not bored, Mr. Bukowski.

 

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