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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas at the Cuckoo's Next


Of all the holidays that come and go
Christmas is the one that we love best.
No matter how crazy, it just goes to show
we love the yuletide in the cuckoo’s nest.

We deck the halls with scat, and shirts
and wait for Santa all month long.
Cause when we catch him he is gonna get hurt
but we all love to sing Christmas songs

Singing carols just fills up the hollow void
left by those who were able to forget me.
It does not help that they call me paranoid,
I sing “Santa Claus is Coming…to get me”

The dark end of the year makes us feel pessimistic
so we gather to sing Yule songs round the tree.
Like all of those diagnosed narcissistic
singing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing … About Me”

We try to stay busy, doing brisk calisthenics
and writing letters home to those who are so dear
and singing along with the many schizophrenics
asking musically “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Guys with sexual identity crisis, playing on the recorder
for pyromaniacs constantly re-lighting their cigar.
and because they have multiple personality disorder
singing “We Three Queens Disoriented Are”

We hung Holly because we heard we were supposed to,
but she went home, so we hung her in absentia.
“I’ll be home for Christmas”, but if I’m overdue
it will be because of my senile dementia.

The patients who are manic insist on decorating the walls.
Which I guess is better than being withdrawn,
except that they are always wanting to “Deck the Halls
and the Office, and the Beds, and the Staff and the Lawn…”

Christmas is depressing, even to those on the outside,
and the long dark days don’t bring spirits any higher.
But I've had enough of the many suicides
singing “Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire”

“I Look Like a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is a tune
that always gets sung by the anorexics,
and we hear “Tables in Boyland” every day around noon
as it gets mangled by the many dyslexics.

We may be crazy, we might be weird,
but none of us think Christmas is for fools.
In our blissful ignorance we are sometime feared,
but we still wish you all a very cool Yule!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

One Night Stanza


He is glib, smooth, his patter poetic,
they line up to hear his pretty lies.
His manner is calculatedly magnetic,
before the hello, he has practiced goodbyes.

False compliments and meaningless banter
win him closer to their sexual mysteries.
He is a wordsmith, a poet, female enchanter,
his conquest written in single’s histories.

He has a gift, a charm that transcends his form,
words drip like honeyed petals from his lips.
For the sake of her body he will perform,
the hunt, for him, will morality eclipse.

Falling on soft ears that inhale his work,
deflecting senses both common and aesthetic,
his words find a heart’s shadow in which to lurk,
from there they build a profile sympathetic.

He uses words like love, and amour
to describe what he really wants.
They are both the trap and the lure,
for all from geriatrics to debutantes.

She keeps his secret and he keeps hers,
no need to disrupt their existing relationships.
She need not reveal what later occurs,
anonymity often courage equips.

This is all about tonight, tomorrow means little,
they down their shots of liquid nerve.
For him it is all about successful acquittal,
for her it the masking of her natural reserve.

She craves knowing what will come next,
unaware that she is dancing to his tune.
His flowered speech renders even flimsy pretext,
into heartfelt verse to make her swoon.

Waiting for his unconquerable moves
so that she might feign resistance,
before his words her self-image improves
and her clothing falls to his persistence

before giving him what they both want,
his lovely words opened her heart and loins.
She takes a moment to beauty flaunt
before passion entangles and enjoins.

Tomorrow, they will both tell their mirror
that it was never meant to be;
with morning light they see much clearer
that he must always be unfettered and free.

The night burns ever after as a thought,
a memory of pleasures shared and pursed.
The passion that crafted words had bought,
a night of heaven gotten with verse.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Christmas Arraignment


Late one December evening
A sound woke me from my bed,
I grabbed a baseball bat for safety
And crept downstairs full of dread.

I must admit I was not fit
For foiling midnight burglaries.
My cousin had kept pouring eggnog,
I kept on saying, “Yes, please.”

I slunk down the stairs, bat in hand,
Jumping at yet another sound.
But never in my wildest dreams
Did I realize what I had found.

Someone was in my living room!
I could hear them moving around.
So I jumped into the darkened room
And bonked him upon his crown!

He fell face first upon my rug
As you maybe have suspected,
But when I turned on the table lamp
What I saw was quite unexpected.

Santa Claus himself lay unconscious,
My heart filled with a child’s worst fear.
I had gone ahead and clobbered
The source of all Christmas Cheer!

I had to hide the evidence
Or suffer a Christmas curse!
I could not guess how my holidays
Could possibly get any worse.

I dragged that fat elf out into the snow
And began to dig a hole.
I hoped to hide the evidence
Lest I be doomed to a lifetime of coal.

But then he awoke, and began to yell
And my neighbors began prying
To spy the source of all the noise,
The screaming, yelling and crying.

The cops showed up, and saved St. Nick
Before hauling me off to the station.
They said they hoped the judge threw the book
Like I was some inhuman abomination.

Not long after I stood up in court
While the victim showed his bruises.
I tried to tell of eggnog-induced haze
But the judge was hearing no excuses.

I hung my head in utmost shame
While the verdict was entered and read.
I got twenty long years in a state prison cell
For cold-cocking the man in red.

Then Santa’s elvish lawyers worked,
And a fireplace was magically erected,
Santa winked and vanished with a finger on his nose
Although not the one I expected.

Now when Christmas time rolls around this year
And you all have fun with your celebrations,
I sit in my gray ten-by-ten room
Fulfilling my legal obligations.

So take my advice this holiday season
As you fire up the traditional Yule log,
If your cousin is anything at all like mine
Say “No thanks” to a sixth eggnog.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Another Cycle of the Moon

Prompted by DVerse Poet Pub suggestion for a poem based on the calendar.


Another month, rent is due,
bills on the first,
auto loan on the fifteenth,
four Sunday dinners
and interest accrues.
The ritual of mikvah;
the Orthodox bath of family.
Welfare checks come due,
get your nails done, girl,
social security pays out on the third,
pensions and fiscal reports
are generated yet again.

One cycle of the moon,
from waxing to waning
back to waxing,
full and whole, round and bright
a crescent blade poised
to bleed the sky.
Ebb and flow of tides
ebb and flow of Woman
push and pull of those below,
they are not called lunatics for nothing.
The moon
pulls at us
then releases us once more,
toying with us
its cratered eyes
watching us dance to its rhythms.

Ancient marrieds drank honey wine
for a cycle of the moon
after their union night,
hence the honeymoon.
A white hare who lives there
guides the Chinese to celebrate.
American Indians sang of Tortoise
who holds the waters in check.
Authors have written of the moons majesties -
Hale, Maugham, Roth, and London
inspired by its cold blue reflected light

And the calendar -

Ticking off our lives,
one by one,
month by month,
named for gods,
clocking our spans,
turning the Great Wheel

one step closer.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hoping To Dream


His woman lies curled beside him
burrowed into his embrace for warmth,
peaceful in their common sleep.

Twelve minutes from now
the alarm will jangle,
another day begins -
another series of problems,
and argument generators,
and tension where there once was love.

The number flips,
eleven minutes now, the clock ticking,
time running out on their truce.
He luxuriates in her proximity,
loving her presence
while his mind tears at him.

When did he cross the line?
Where did he lose it?
At what point did the golden thread
that ran between their souls
become rusted barbed wire?

Ten minutes now,
he snuggles down deeper into his mind,
hoping to dream
they were still in love,
knowing this will be the best few moments of his day.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Take It Back

This was written as a result of Robert Lee Brewer's poetry prompt.

My oldest daughter and I are not quite at this point, not yet, so this is not about her directly, but still.......


I take it back, I did not mean what I said,
let me swallow my words with some crow.
I was angry and only seeing boiling red
my Irish temper pops my cork and I blow.

Give me back those last unthinking words,
let me call a do-over on moments past.
I'd pay in lifespan divided by thirds
if you had forgotten my statement, if asked.

I trust in you enough, to know you by now,
If you choose him, he must somehow be a good man.
I'll protect you to death, but I know I must allow
a father's daughter does not love along his plan.

Love has reasons that Reason know nothing about
and your heart and your mind should work as one.
I let my fear for you make me rant, rave and shout,
And I barked at you like I would bark at my son.

I only hope as a dad I showed you a man who cares,
showed you how he treats the ones he adores.
I hope the guy you look at, my values he shares,
and the only heart he ever wants, is yours.

But you must live your life, I take back my protest,
all I want is that you know love's joy and not pain.
But I've been dad all your life, joyfully blessed,
and reserve the right to maybe rant and rave again.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Gauntlet of Bells

Boxing, or the "sweet science," is an interesting contrast of brutal, basic combat tactics, and subterfuge or sacrifice. The men who excel at the sport are at once very direct people and among the gentlest souls among us. I've always felt it was the only sport worth watching on TV.

I know one such man, Vinnie "Vince" Marino, a boxer of moderate success, and then even more success as a coach and mentor, then landlord and restauranteur. A real success story, a guy with both brains and balls. A direct and straightforward man, with a love of food as big as his smile. He agreed to sponsor the last 100 Thousand Poets For Change event in Dedham last September, donated a lot of awesome Italian food, then showed up, stood up to the microphone and read this poem that I wrote for the occasion.

He was a hit.


There is a reason they call it a ring,
even though it has four corners.
Inside of it is like being the clapper of a bell;
moving from one side to the other,
a step to one side giving power to a strike in the other direction,
the first push determining the tone
and the vibration humming through to your core.

From the open to the close it is a gauntlet of bells.
Rounds counted and marked by the clash and clang of attack,
after the first bell the world turns on you with violence
that is relentless and persistent until the final chime.
The choices you made that brought you here
bring you closer to your reasons for making them.

Left to right and back again, and again,
thoughts run lightning to your glove,
impact runs through your shoulder to the bone.

Life hits you in the face outside the ring too
but in here it is more honest about it.

You better give better than you get, one hundred percent,
until the next bell, your brief moment of respite,
a chance to sit, have a sip of water, maybe stitch that cut over your eye
until the next bell sends you back,
defiant and unbroken -
dodging and swinging, picking your moments,
dancing away while looking for that sweet split-second
to leap forward and explode.

Another clang, another moment to recall how hard you hurt,
then another bell, back to protecting, attacking,
plundering your very soul for the grit to continue,
hit again, dance away, hit once more, take a shot to the head.
Refusing to think about how long to the next bell,
refusing to give in or give up,
more alive at that moment than any other.

Then it is done
and you hear the bell ring,
then the sweet sound of the count,
but whether you are carried from the ring on their shoulders
or a stretcher,
you know you rang the bell.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Musical Memories

Ah, musical memories...

We all have a musical history, a pastiche of what we heard, when we heard it, what we were doing when we heard it, and how it made us feel. I can still recall with heartbreaking clarity what I was listening to when I lost my virginity, or when my grandfather died, or when Linda Latino showed me her boobs for the first time.

I wrote the following poem as a writing exercise, and it pleased me so much to do it that it just kept going and growing, until it got to its final unwieldy length.

None the less, I hope you all enjoy it.


Paul Anka introduced me, my head on his shoulder,
And Little Richard delighted, his music was bolder

Then the Big Bopper with his sweet Chantilly Lace
A Many Splendored Thing put a smile on my face

Fats Domino crooned from atop Blueberry Hill
But Elvis was King then and he is King still.

Bill Haley Rocked us all Around the Clock
But Chuck Berry showed us how to do the Duck Walk.

The Platters, The Coasters, and of course Patti Page
Johnny Mathis and Buddy Holly all were the rage.

To Know Him is to Love Him, the Teddy Bears sang
Then Richie Valens did La Bamba and his guitar rang.

In the Sixties the Association told me Never My Love
And My Boyfriend’s Back sang the Angels above.

The Beach Boys gave Good Vibrations to add to my world
And a Surfin’ Safari to go with Barbara Ann the Surfer Girl.

The Cascades, The Chiffons, Del Shannon and Ronettes
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs was a s good as it gets.

Wilson Pickett, The Rascals, Mitch Ryder, and Three Dog Night
The Temptations, Supremes, Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night

Dionne Warwick, Percy Sledge, Neil Sedaka I loved too,
Then The Beatles came and taught us all to Love Me Do.

Ray Charles was the Man, Chubby Checker a golden boy
Sam Cooke was the equal of Mr. Orbison, the one called Roy.

The Four Seasons and Frankie V. taught me Big Girls Don’t Cry
And Mary Wells sang the praises of her and My Guy.

Sly and the Family Stone brought funk into my world
But Aretha Franklin taught all men Respect for all girls

Musical tastes changed thanks to The Carpenters and Joe Cocker
One was a pair of vanilla crooners, the other a spastic rocker.

The Doobie Brothers and Jim Croce, Chicago and Bread
The Commodores and Fleetwood Mac sang the songs that filled my head.

There was Foreigner, Billy Joel, Bob Segar and the Stones,
Grand Funk Railroad, ZZ Top and big Tom Jones.

Tavares, Wild Cherry and Donna Summer’s Last Dance
Put the boogie on the disco floor for all who took the chance.

Speaking of disco, the Bee Gees and a band called Chic
Taught us all Jive Talkin’ and how to be Le Freak.

Creedance brought their swamp music out into the light
And Rod Stewart reminded that Tonight’s the Night.

And then along came Bon Jovi, J. Geils and B-52’s
Phil Collins, The Go Go’s and those Brothers of Blues.

Frankie went to Hollywood, Jethro Tull made us bungle
But it was Guns N Roses that welcomed me to the jungle.

Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and even a Jackson named Freddie
But I relied on The Whispers to help me learn to Rock Steady.

Plus Journey, Robert Palmer, Billy Ocean and Queen
The Police, and Prince and of course Bruce Springsteen.

Van Halen, Steve Winwood, Romantics and Glen Frey
The Talking Heads and Huey Lewis and Madonna’s Holiday.

Then came the Ace of Base, Bryan Adams and INXS
Whitney Houston, Chris de Burgh sang of the Lady’s Red dress.

Heavy D, a guy called Hootie, The Cure and Counting Crows,
And the re-emergence of the Clapton that everyone knows.

Dave Matthews, Jon Secada, Bonnie Raitt and the incredible Seal
Violent Femmes, the Rembrants and Modern English were all real.

Annie Lennox has a golden voice, The Pretenders are great writers
And I loved the sounds of R.E.M., UB40 and the Foo Fighters.

Which brings us to Matchbox Twenty and of course 3 Doors Down,
Plus I buy a ticket when Christina Aguilera comes to town.

Macy Gray is unique, Creed sings from an open heart
And Britney is a lovely girl who has suffered for her Art.

Music is the common thread, it makes us jump and shout
But the Baja Men wanna know Who Let the Dogs Out!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The View From the Road

Every family is broken, in its own way. Some show the cracks and stress fractures more than others, but every family has a story of the time when someone went nuts, acted the fool, cheated and lied, broke someone's heart, or broke up a marriage. The trouble is, even though we all know it happens to everyone, we cannot often see it when it does in fact happen in another family. We have no way of knowing what goes on behind closed doors.

I personally love this poem. It was written while preparing for my first chapbook, my editor insisted on more personal pieces, family dynamic stuff, so I had no choice but to dig deep and see what I could come up with. While there is a certain amount of truth in here, this poem is an amalgamation of numerous incidents of my father being less than a family man.

It was one of the best received poems from the book "Grief Tattoos," and the great cerebralist poet Sam Peralta featured it as one of his "Poems I Wish I'd Written" series.


If you had driven past our house
on that late summer afternoon
you could be excused for thinking
that we were simply two out of three generations
enjoying the westering sun
by sharing secrets and familial whispers.

If you had not seen me
a few short minutes before,
screaming on the grass
beneath the drooping apple tree
as my grandmother ran toward me,
or my grandfather shouting “Why Chuck?”
to my father’s disappearing back
as he rushed away, slipping into
his baby blue Cadillac with the redhead
smoking in the passenger seat,
if you had not seen my mother
cupping her hands under her face
to keep blood from ruining her new carpet,
or the ambulance that drove her
and my grandmother up the hill to the hospital,
it would be natural to assume that we lived
the kind of lives that were written about
in Highlights magazine.

From the road you could not see
the torn screen door, or the frame
falling over on only one hinge,
you would have no way to know
what went on behind it.

Originally Published in "Grief Tattoos" - get the Kindle edition HERE

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Veteran's Day


Once you were mine, as kith and as kin,
but you followed your duty into war.
You gave your life for someone else’s sin
next to guys you’d barely met before.

I tell my children of you, and all the rest
make sure they know that you were ours;
our brothers, our fathers, or any of the best
that were given over to stars and bars.

Young men and women with families all
tied to each of us by birth and societal tree.
Some saw a job and some heeded a call
but because they did we are all still free.

If you returned but left parts of you behind,
or if Fate never returned you to me at all,
if you were struck dumb, or deaf, or blind,
if all I knew of you was an etching on a wall

I would thank you with everything in my heart,
show you that your gift was not in vain.
We are free to act both together and apart
because of successful military campaigns.

And even if you had clerked files back on base
or repaired jeeps, dug ditches, or cooked in the mess,
your service and sacrifice cannot be replaced,
and upon you our grateful thanks we profess.

Friday, November 8, 2013

My Heart Wants

This is a "Googlism" Poem, the result of entering a phrase into and turning the results into poetry. It was done as part of the DVerse Poets Pub Friday Forms for All. Of course, the phrase I chose was "My Heart Wants"


My heart wants what is never good for my mind.

My heart wants a new beginning.

My heart wants to be settled.

My heart wants playtime with my muse.

My heart wants everything to slow down.

My heart wants for me to walk the earth gently.

My heart wants the struggle we have endured together.

My heart wants to go for what it wants.

My heart wants the only thing that really mattered.

My heart wants you.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bike In The Mist

#3 for NaNoPoMo

The straw beneath my boots
sounds like breakfast being chewed,
my fog-wet cheeks glisten and I laugh.

Clouds kissing the earth
with foggy lush abandon
all sloppy wet exploration
as I finally capture your tongue with mine,
mere feet from the road
where your bike appeared from the mist,
a magician's trick in reverse
and you were the lovely assistant.

Your giggle gets taken by the cloud
with my reason a half second behind
when we both stop

and listen

to the sound of two hearts
beating out of sync

in otherwise perfect silence

Helping you to your feet is automatic,
as is my awkward goodbye,
and as I watch you pedal away

I think I am sure that fog is lucky.

Silent Partner


She noticed the painting
as I took her coat.

A nude, a red haired woman
bent over, one foot out of the tub
drying her feet
with a red towel.

"It is an old lover,"
I told her,
"but that isn't why I keep it.
I love the way the towel hangs
from her knee,
like fog drapes off a morning sun."

Her lips stole my next breath,
fingers tangled in my hair,
poetry scored another win.

Just as it had last time.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November Sky

It is that time of year folks, when summer's lushness has passed through the fiery splendor and turned russet, preparing to fold icy blue in slumber. There is a lot in the month of November that gets seen as a negative, a dying of the land sort of thing, and I guess that is human nature.

But we must all sleep, you and I do it nightly, the earth has a bit of a longer workday, you see what I mean.

November sky,
a mottled gray sprawled
across the heavens
like an old, dozing elephant.
Winter approaches
over sloping, low roofs,
overturned boats slumbering
along the shores of drowsiness.

Oak trees scrabble for skylight
with gnarled, empty hands
knowing that decades of life
will burn to ash in seconds
within cast iron graves.

Strangers hunch against chill winds,
eyes cast down to rhythmic feet,
never meeting the eyes of others
unless by accident,
like hairs on a pillow
after an illness.

Cities lumber to a coiled crouch,
awaiting the icy bite of year’s end.
Farmland packs away harvest yield
to sustain through lean times,
and the world sleeps, alone.

This poem is in the collection Breathing for Clouds, you can get a copy HERE

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Day The Separation Ended

How much of a poet's output is his life, and how much is his craft, observing the foibles of life and writing of them in such a way that you discover something you already knew?

When a poets uses a personal point of view, is that an invitation to assume he literally means himself? This question has been put to me more than once, both from the curious, and from those in my life who see themselves reflected in my words. To be honest (which is something important to me) I think in order for it to work, it needs some of both. But I often write from the POV of someone else in my life, or from that of an omniscient observer. My point is that while poets use their life and experiences to flavor their work, only a foolish poet tells truth bare and unadorned.

Here is my first piece for NaNoPoMo, some of it is my life, some of it is a poetic expression of what might be, and some of it is human truth. Which part is which is none of your damned business.

You let me know if it works. ;-)


Hospital room kisses hold no hint of fire
born of distance ended, romance re-lit.

As he sat in dwindling afternoon light
holding her sleeping hand, mindful of the tubes,
thinking of life's footsteps, the calendars fleeting feet
and wasted years lived in another county,
he thanked a God he only sometimes believed in,
for not taking away his second chance.

Only days before had they talked, really talked,
for the first time in a score of months,
and the first glimmer of the blaze that used to be
shone out of his eyes when he searched his reflection,
the fire only she was capable of kindling.

The after-midnight call did not scare him at first,
but the ride to the hospital did,
The tremble in her voice scared him more,
this woman whose strength he envied,
and his helplessness scared him most of all.

As he rubbed the crease between her thumb and wrist -
dove soft and tapping her pulse against his skin -
he knew that the words he vowed on that long ago beach
were truer for him now, today, than they were then,
and yet they were nothing to the truth
those words would contain tomorrow, or ever after.

His mistakes were legion, his assets meager,
but within the space between this woman and his heart
was more Grace than he had found in any church.

And in the dying daylight, while his spirit blazed
in a room where suffering had brought out the dark,
he gave way to the will of his heart, gave himself to her,