“I bought you some poison blueberries,” she said. “You can have them with your corn flakes in the morning.” She had always been everything he’d ever wanted so all he heard was: “I bought you some blueberries for breakfast.” He ate them the next day with toast and orange marmalade and tea. He went to work and smiled at customers and colleagues, sat quietly at his desk until half-past five, signed out and, still smiling, headed home to his Sweetie Pie.
The first words heard on Monday, smack in the middle of August, drifted in, distant and disembodied from the dock of the smallest cabin across the lake. An ancient couple, no doubt celebrating their golden anniversary with a coffee and a mutual toast, love-talked so softly that only their voices’ tenderness and not the content of their speech travels across the still, wide water.
This is the egg of the Void, ovoid,
egg I have come to know these 20 years on frozen flats, in dreams of egg gone
mad, unreachable egg, egg unbeaten by Time, unmapped in the flat gray clouded
frypan of Imagination, egg unreal, uneaten eggshell egg—
This is the fork I choose to torture
the egg, fork of my mother’s choosing, passing through generations, immigrant
fork that travels from Prussia, come to rest on American Formica, Breakfast In
America fork, Fork of Manhattan 2019, come to beat the egg for real, to make
the mad yellow omelet ofCentury XXI,
feed the starving mass of men standing and waiting to dig the secret bop-cabala
of omelette breakfast staring up from the ooky yolky plate with sizzled bacon
This is the milk of lost aspiration,
squeezed from the unwilling tit, small milk, spilled, useless milk propped up
by demonic farm subsidies devised by Washington to keep the dirty farmer poor,
Milk of the Mother, pilfered mechanically, milk I remember from sour nights on
the Plains, drifting toward unrequited Denver, lights whiter than mercury vapor
under the odd sad laughing western omelet moon—
O Omelet of my soul, sweet yellow
comrade omelet, come to me now, I am starved for your Grace, I await you now in
early morning America
Coffee Poems (Print Anthology) June 2019
World Enough Writers
Can I he pointed and of course
her hand replied smiling out
another coffee and otherwise
ignoring his all over her like
every yesterday and today
the same old thing but
what the hell she thought
what the hell her small tips
hung in the grinning balance
How unfortunate to be there when the power goes out at two separate places at two different times on the same day. It was one thing, the first time, when the supermarket overheads and everything else —except a few quick-witted smartphone flashlights— flickered twice and went black, flashed a blinding warning signal —a truly brilliant half-second delay— before leaving the whole sad storefull frozen in Aisle 7, startled into silence and forced into terrifying immobility for a scary seven minutes. Everyone survived. Everyone muddled through; made it out alive. Praise the Lord. But then, again, hours later…
It was almost dark and he pulled into his driveway a happy man.
He had planned to be home in time for lunch, or at least to be at home at lunchtime, home in time for his favorite talking heads to read him the news he’d missed in the morning while he showered so as to make himself presentable at his favorite café, his best black journal open, crying out for him not to allow yet another eight-day lapse without so much as a single penstroke.
It was almost dark and he was happy to have generated three whole sentences.
She sees faces in the rocks and small stones she finds in the yard, faces staring back at her, smiling or reproachful, young or old. She hands them to me and sometimes I can see them, too. The ones I can see I give names to, first and last, and hand them back to her to see if I got them right. I almost always get them right, or she says, “No, she looks more like a Pearl or a Maude to me.” Then she’d put the smallest ones in her pocket, set the larger ones aside and, later, we’d carry them up to the steps, give them a nice shower from the garden hose, let them bask awhile in the sun before bringing them inside to our box of face rocks.
Sometimes I wonder what became of them after I left. I wonder if she tossed them back into the yard and garden before she moved to the mountains, or gave them away to the kids in the neighborhood, or if she just included the box one day with the other trash, dragged to the curb.
In my office today I have a large water cooler bottle filled with corks. None of them have names, though. I have a tea canister filled with Chinese fortunes, a small galvanized pail overflowing with red plastic coffee scoops, a display case for my hundreds of tin boxes, half a dozen terracotta balls, a sizeable collection of rusty railroad spikes, and about half a million books.
She sets out for the coast, stops at the notch to admire the mountains, makes note that these are truly mountains, not the soft green rounded foothills she calls home.
Left behind, he comes home from work to an empty house and thinks about her traveling through the mountains toward the sea she loves, driving along with all the windows fully open, waiting for that first whiff of salt air.
Two or three times before the sun goes down, he steps out onto the deck to count and recount the giant hay bales in the field below the house.
Miles and miles and hours away, under a just-past-full moon, the road ceases to unfold before her. She sits, gazing out at water, satisfied, having melted her mountains in the sea.
Around midnight, before bed, he goes out to stand on the deck and count the bales one last time, the way a shepherd counts his sheep.
He stares out at the horizon, thinking about how ridgelines remind him of waves.
He does not envy the window washer, just outside the glass by his favorite street-view café table, her breath immediately vaporizing into massive sub-zero clouds blown away instantly by the wind-chill winds. It's clear, though, that she's completely absorbed by the task; that the frigid conditions (which she had, no doubt, already encountered an uncountable number of times in the past) hardly even register; almost certainly neither distract nor impede. He sits too long, watching and attempting to accurately record her persistent diligence. He's fully aware that he, too, has tasks and chores to complete; activities perhaps not as arduous as arctic window cleaning but which, once completed, should yield as much satisfaction as sparkling café glass on the last day of February in the coldest winter of the last half-century.
He knows he should get up and go about his business, but he takes one last minute to write one last sentence.
Pure Slush Books (Anthology) 7 Deadly Sins / Volume 6 / Envy (Print & e-pub) March 2019 I
see all the women who follow him around; follow
him into restaurants and bars; the
ones who never leave before closing time; the
ones he gets to choose from; the one he
chooses: a different one every night.
seen the tips he leaves the barmaid;
him sign the tab, watched him peel
off half a dozen nice crisp twenties just
for good measure; watched the barmaid, beaming,
wishing she were off the clock.
see him, always chauffeured everywhere,
in and out of his spotless limo, never
having to worry about a schedule; never
opening a door for himself anywhere; never
the tiniest smudge on his tailored suit.
could go for some of that; I could be
king of the world on only the tiniest bit. I
could be in heaven if I could only have the
merest fraction of what he’s got; one
day like his day, once or twice a year.
After the hospital, the bookstore café beckons. The geezers have already gathered. Although they still do not offer him a seat at their tables, when he comes in this time, limping, they shoot him a longer glance than usual, which seems, he imagines, to confirm the likelihood of imminent inclusion.
He just stands there, smiling, behind the ancient lady and her elderly son who reads and re-reads the billboard menu to her, explaining the items as he goes, trying his best to understand them himself.
He tells her the burgers are all the same size, but you can order one, two, or three of them all on the same bun; that “large / medium / small ” refers to the size of the drinks and the side of fries, not the burgers themselves.
Everyone in line can see that the old lady’s almost blind, but adamant, too, because she keeps insisting she just wants a burger with some fries and a soda; doesn’t want to order a combo because, “A combo’s too fancy, and it sounds like a rip-off,” she says.
Everybody in line is scowling and muttering curses under their breath, watching their lunch breaks slip away.
Not him, though; he just smiles at them both and thinks about how much he misses his mother.
7 Deadly Sins / Volume 5 / Wrath (Print & e-pub) February 2019
I had to bite my tongue. I had to bite my tongue and count to ten. Slowly. I had to take a few deep breaths and count to ten eight times. It was all I could do. I barely managed to zip my lip, keep my cool— .............—no, wait a minute; that’s not how it happened. I had no real cool to keep; I guess I let my unzipped lip remain unzipped; I guess I bit my tongue to no avail, bit my tongue and squeezed the trigger, counting the rounds and the bodies as they fell.
“That’s what I would’ve done,” he said. “I would’ve asked all the same questions; would’ve been sure exactly who I was dealing with; would’ve made certain he’d done exactly what they said. But I don’t think I would’ve pulled the trigger on him. I would’ve gone looking for his sister.”
He remembers waking up—ages ago—amid ferns, with neither a plan nor any desire to ever be waking up again at all, least of all amid ferns, which he had considered to be beautiful before he wandered into them and disappeared, hoping to disappear forever.
Now, almost a half-century later, he endures his almost unendurable insomnia in the broadest daylight his personal December has to offer. He sits with his journal at his favorite café table by the window, attempting to capture any fragment of last night’s dreams, but is sadly reminded—again—that not all attempts are successful.
It seems like half the town comes in for coffee between noon and two, most of them hooded and mittened against the cold, some of them —despite their best efforts— appear nearly frostbitten, their movement toward the café tables slow, their utterances clipped, their eyes still frozen into a sub-zero squint.
He peers at them intently from his corner table, observes them so carefully that, mesmerized, he almost ceases to exist.
Suddenly, a snow squall breaks out over by the periodicals. Small drifts build up around the travel guides, ice forms on the cookbooks.
The snow is only a paper snow
today, only a
story of snow outside the window, and the snowdrifts
I pass in the hallway are only paper snowdrifts. This morning there’s imaginary
I bask in it in bed from nine til noon, a new man
in a new year under the same old imaginary sun. The sky today is a painted sky
and the imaginary sun is only pinned to it
the way a child pins a paper dragon to a bedroom wall. Outside, I can see the air in
motion. I watch it
through the window, remembering the snow
is only paper, blowing away, forgetting to bite.
50-Word Stories (Online) December 2018 Although he’d never been officially banned from any of the many downtown establishments he frequented, he increasingly found himself isolated at one end of the bar, other patrons choosing to congregate at the other, even if half of them had to stand two-deep, reaching through the crowd for their beer.
7 deadly Sins / Volume 4 / Sloth (Print /e-pub) November 2018
meant to start mopping up the
last of that spilled and spoiled
milk a month ago last
week. I meant to start, at
least, to scrub those fugly upstairs
bathroom tiles and—while I was at it—maybe try
to unclog the toilet or open
up one of the windows, let
in a breath or two of that less
fetid outside air. I
meant to. I really did.
know I made a pledge
New Year’s Eve, a pledge to
change my ways, a pledge to
do the things that anyone else—anyone
with gumption— would
do in a heartbeat, do without
a second’s thought; but
that was then, and this is now.
I’ll get to it later. Maybe.
way I see it’s like this:
here on the couch, I’m
saving a bundle of cash at
the hardware store and the laundromat;
I’m not likely to injure
myself or wear out all my
shoe leather waiting for
I don’t have to cook.
Nothing reminds us of you now and nothing remains but these: a small stone adze and a scrap of buckskin boot. It is recorded only that you sat near fires but not that you felt the snow. Your glazed clay bowls are gone, broken by the sun; you have taken them with you to an endless spring beyond that far blue mesa.
have. And half of yours. I
mean, you’ve got plenty, eh?
Way more than you need. So
I’m only asking for half. Equal
shares, y’know? Fifty-fifty
seems right, right? And
his, too, maybe; half of his
and maybe half of hers. Half
of theirs. It’s all I need. It’s all I’m asking
Tonight the latest April sky, a sky I rarely venture out to see, is filled with smallish change: a quarter moon and stars like dimes that spend their tiny light on eyes a million billion miles away. But still, with her away, they do not seem as far.
If I could fly away, or fly at all —had wing enough or wind enough—I’d fly across the empty miles of senseless air to where I know she waits, and then I’d fall like starlight, lightly, kiss her face and eyes and never fly away again from there.
We cannot stay, but always we must go; the home we seek’s the only home we know.
It’s like when that needle hops on your favorite vinyl but it hops at just the right spot…just the right spot…just the right spot and you almost don’t want to go over and fix it because it’s just the right spot…just the right spot and it’s the snippet you could listen to forever…forever…
them, only half the trees falling
in a forest make any noise. The
trees you don’t hear you don’t hear,
and the rest of them fall silently,
often at midnight. Even when you
try and try again, like all the childish
fables say you should; even smack
in the middle of the forest, in
the middle of the night, in the middle
of winter; even though you
keep your eyes open, your ears peeled;
even then, the falling trees and
the winter’s midnight night remain
silent. All the silent night long,
all the falling trees keep falling; but
all you can hear is the nothing.
under the jeans in her suitcase before she goes away. Later, when she calls him after midnight to tell him she’s arrived, tell him that she misses him already, and he answers the phone, calls her his little turtle dove and she doesn’t react, he
knows she hasn’t yet unpacked, hasn’t found his little round travel gift.
she’ll find it nestled in the jeans shiny in the shiny morning; hopes she’ll put it in her pocket, keep their little green secret crystal close to her heart all day long; hopes it brings her safely home and
It’s freezing here & there’s
new snow. I can’t write a word
and the doctors want a second look,
another look inside, and yet
another. I’m X-rayed to death
and there’s new snow and I can’t
write a word. I’m thinking of you,
Doctor Guru, out in sweet Siouxland,
your deskful of papery lab reports,
neatly stacked and white. There’s new snow here this morning
and I’m spending my time these days
in labs and waiting rooms
waiting to hear something
I’m not wanting to hear.
I’m having my coffee on the porch;
I’m looking out at a full foot of new snow
and I’ve nothing more to say. One test leads to another, no?
Nothing speaks to me now.
and it’s hot alright, but the juicy’s really just grease that congeals pretty quickly back into fat.He’s reasonably sure he can feel it coating his cluttered arteries even before he swallows. None of this, though, keeps him from eating there four or five times a week, nor does he ever—even remotely— consider ordering a drive-thru salad or the lo-cal fruit parfait.
His wife says he’s turning into a
bacon-wrapped double cheeseburger, but all he hears is how delicious he is, how much she wants to gobble him up. He still loves her madly, but she just doesn’t satisfy him anymore. He’s always somewhat disappointed when even her tastiest dishes refuse to dribble down his chin, promise neither cardiac arrhythmia nor the ever-expanding waistline he’s come to honor and obey.