Results for category "2014"

26 Articles

The ideal

The ideal breeders shown
in Madison Avenue magazine light:
She wears a rustic-like sweater all grey
and peasanty, though no peasant could possibly afford it,
and tasteful make-up that she certainly doesn’t need
All of them, including both husband and child,
in designer jeans and understated cool rich person’s dress
The husband so handsome, casual with a wisp of stubble
The blondish little boy perfect, about three years old,
with just enough resemblance to them both
All contained within that serious, spurious
Madison Avenue glow— perfect, happy, content
You sacrifice your now to look ahead
Identity is fiction
Go play at it
Her role today is the resentful, haughty bitch
There’s some cop who
can’t be more than 26
With a tight black helmet and a black
automatic rifle—Seriously?
To protect us at 51st and Lex,
from what? From what...
Children fight a bit but forget it
Adults hold grudges
Her skin really is alabaster,
truly white, like porcelain
Her small-formed breasts delight him
You play at being yourself
“Don’t stop, don’t stop
Those hands, those gentle, gentle hands”
When you’re not sure
and the criticisms come
and you’re insecure...
There was a double rainbow
Down by the river you go to dip
your ladle and drink
His self-confidence makes him blunt
Hey, I’m an intensity engine
Seems like I was
for the last four weeks at least
The queasy feeling you get when challenged
and you think you might have missed something
Could I have been wrong, even a little?
I tell you this is exhausting
The genius star would call that eminent choreographer
of elegant ballets and Broadway sass
That celebrated director of smash musicals and plays
“That putz!”
Some don’t understand these carefully wrought fictions
And if they don’t get it soon they may end up on trial
What if I’m found out they think
What about that queasy injustice
An inner river where he dips his ladle
She was distinctive
Her work owed nothing to us
She didn’t relax, couldn’t
not even for a day
That wasn’t how she was raised
She was brought up to be spare,
subtle, quiet and economical
On the telephone in the next office
and a bit too loud:
“Hi mom, hello mom
Can you hear me mom?
How are you?”
Is her mom deaf or just not all there?
“It’s me, mom, all right, mom
I have to go now”
She did say she loved him awhile
People fall in and out of love, she’d say
It happens everyday
Let’s go out to some fancy place
We ain’t nothin, if we ain’t fancy
You want to know more but we can just
glimpse at each other
Some place where the service is posh
The clouds weren’t distinguishable
They were an indistinct grey above us
The wind blew cold, relentlessly
It burns our red, gloveless hands
He wouldn’t go to work in a wheelchair
He wouldn’t go to a museum with us
He wasn’t going to show himself
or think of himself that way
Her spurious love came to him late
And when he was spurned it only marred,
it only hurt, the final third part of his life
How quickly it turned to hate






-December 20, 2014-

Then my star

In the first act she’s shy, withdrawn, trapped
Then she grows deep in inner richness
She waits, she suffers, she waits for him and
while she waits she’s a mother and a woman
You can’t play that role when you’re a girl
Maybe you can sing it but you can’t really play it
You need some lively years,
some experience, some deepness

Then my star could rise and I was still in favor

I heard some 77-year old idiot
with regal white hair and not a brain in his head,
and a rifle in his hands, accidently shot and killed his
44-year old son while the two of them hunted geese
Yesterday, I thought I saw some younger
version of you contentedly amble along these
pristine park paths to watch the ducks—
just as you used to do

Then my star would rise and I was still in favor

Poor Karen—in law school the professor gives that old hypothetical
of a man who walks by a shallow pond where a hapless child
is drowning and, he can easily save him, but must he?
“No, no, no” Karen vehemently, almost violently, screams—
“We don’t know him, he can be so fucked in the head
that the child should jump from the pond and save him!!!”
Why so vehement, Karen?—I later learned of her psychic tortures
She was they said, what the doctors called then, “schizophrenic”

Then my star could rise and I was still in favor

When I paid for my parent’s new condo
I felt at once almost all the guilt
drain from my body
Because before you know it
they’ll be gone
In this dance I must lead and
I can’t let you in
if you won’t let me

Then my star would rise and I was still in favor

Leonard, old friend, remember when
we ran into each other at random, each
compelled to go out into the urban night?
It was real late with little traffic
The New York City streets were white
in an illumination of shadow and new snow
We greeted each other happily and trudged away—
with only our footprints behind us

Then my star could rise and I was still in favor

Sometimes they treat me like grandma
They come late and leave early
and all the time there
they can’t wait to go
Jeanne used to say
“I’ll keep my own counsel on that”
If you’ve ever been betrayed
you know why she said it

Then my star would rise and I was still in favor

When Russell was a boy
Sol and Charlotte came to visit
Sol brought Russell a big white toy airplane
that seriously delighted the boy
He was all smiles
Charlotte glanced seriously, lovingly, at Sol
as she said, “My Sol always knows
just what kids like”

Then my star could rise and I was still in favor

My folks never liked it when it was “nice” out
for us kids to stay inside
Mom was especially adamant
“Get out of here, go play” because she knew
there aren’t a limitless number of fine days
Even today if it’s “nice” out, although I’m 17
years older than she was when she died
I feel a twinge of guilt if I stay inside

Then my star would rise and I was still in favor

The great Roman sage, Seneca, said
“It’s the mind that makes us rich”
The artist, Lautrec, drew his subjects
in mid-act, as though they hadn’t posed for him
But the people he drew were often celebrities
who wanted and were used to being looked at
50 degrees and a perfect day for a walk
Don’t worry, Mom, I’m outside

Then my star could rise and I was still in favor





-December 6, 2014-

We don’t see

We don’t see—
not like the hawks
We don’t hear high, like dogs
or low, like elephants
We don’t feel the earth’s magnet
like migrating birds
and our sense of smell is pitiful
compared to the wolves
We can’t be moved by rudimentary pheromones
like the ants or the bees
We don’t run very fast
and we can barely climb trees

This kind of day, again
So I walk
Late Fall, early and grey
Low clouds but no rain
She let it be known
that she wouldn’t talk about her books
or her memories
True artists are easily bored
Aren’t you?
So they embellish as they simplify
so many subtleties

Magnets have souls, he said
They’re eloquent
Their impulse for each other
is love
What do we do with the
“senior associate” who can’t be used
or removed?
And what becomes of all that know-how, anyway
when she dies—
like whether to take a bus or a taxi
and how much the kids ought
to bundle up?

You know who promoted me,
the known he’ll take the fifth
will not incriminate himself
won’t name names pseudo in his youth
communist, Marxist Leninist Trotskyite?
They were promoting all the returning Korean
war vets then but they wouldn’t have
promoted me, not if they checked
Someone was eating her lunch
or making a phone call
when this batch of promotions crossed
her desk; so she promoted me

When the sound got to be too much
she’d switch off her hearing aid in disgust
The damn thing whistled in her ear
She’d say “You men,
men always get to do what they want”
Okay then, go ahead
dance in the streets in joy,
in glee, swing your burkas
Go celebrate our innocent murdered dead
Killing the likes of you and yours
brings us no dances, no joy, no glee
Killing the likes of you is a chore

They tell of the great philosopher
of “Will and Representation”
how he sat by himself in a café one day
surrounded by pastries
He cuts and tastes first this one
then that one
then that one and that one—
Oh heaven
But there you sit and peel an orange
Many must conspire, selflessly I may add,
to bring you that orange, and yet you’re blue?
Cheer up, Bunky, you have an orange!!!

Once the limbs tangle and squish
they’re never the same
When she looked at the wedding photos
ostensibly to help us choose those to go
into our wedding album
she saw a picture of herself all decked out
old, venerable and regal
So she surreptitiously swiped it
Enjoy your practice now
because before you know it
some august group will invite you to a panel
to talk about the good old days

So Matt was an actor, see
So I’d call him on the phone to chat
and he’d pick up and say “Hello”
And without further ado I’d speak
the first line of Lear:
“Matt,” I’d say,
“I thought the king had more affected
the duke of Albany than Cornwall”
And without missing a beat he’d say:
“No shit, Sherlock”
Which I am and was quite sure is not
the next line






-November 22, 2014-

Life, that comedian

Life, that comedian
Time, that barbarian
Reason, that contrarian
Our traumatic designs, lies that hide and chide,
brutish, ignorant, rigid, unkind

Because she no longer cares
she lets his fiery mutual illusion
of unabated attraction disabuse
He slept like one who knew
he’d awaken in the morning

I never understood the fuss
you made over her
She wasn’t even pretty
They need to fight, I’d guess, to get off
It seems hot to them, it turns them on

What kind of person lets
the lemon meringue go bad?
We should all be afraid
I don’t need or want
your patronage, sympathy or charity

“We have a problem” she wrote
to us friends, via e-mail
What she meant was that Mike
had a stroke
and a few days later, Mike died

“Oh boo hoo hoo” she mocked the matrons
in her building, their sturdy regretful sadness as they cried
after they expressed some unfelt banalities,
when they first thought it was her,
the unlucky one, and not Mike, who died

It’s all your fault—
You must be a black man or a perv
to be caught for a chunk of your life
in this rash, oppressive and absurd
American gulag

It wasn’t the turn of her nose
that turned our heads
Not her physicality alone
that made her obsessively attractive
It was her irresistible character,

joined with her charm
the give and the wit of her conversation
that drew us to her
We attended to all she said and did
We were bewitched

Why do they insult the women,
fling insults and whistle at them?
Ladies, they resent that they need you,
want you, resent your pull
and their own unquenchable sorrows

There’s some very few that when they die
they leave an emptiness, a hole
We try to fill it with their stuff
and think about what they did
and can’t do anymore

This one liked old typewriters
He loved the cheap, old-fashioned kind—
their clumsy, modernistic, newish grey metallic,
the smell of their used, ragged ribbons, half red,
half black and all those words they typed

One sign of good health in the old—
you start to outlive your dental work
Another dispositive sign of good health—
you outlive your dentist
We’re taught to cling to what isn’t

Disaffected lovers are cruel
They take comfort in each other’s disaffection
Even if it exists, your god never answers
They weren’t my parents, no sir,
they were my guides

Matt and me we’d go to Mittaras
for the fried chicken, french fries, a small salad
drenched in sweet vinaigrette and a coke special
We’d go home with a bit of change
from the five bucks a piece Mom gave us

Two light purple trees
gleam and lean in the low autumn sun,
lean and gleam together in the void
No, the work wasn’t finished
until both of us said it was

He keeps souvenirs, juvenilia, pictorial notes,
burnished favorites of loves, triumphs, and traumas
His life that comedian, time that barbarian
reason, that contrarian—
the soulful souvenirs of this wondrous, godless life




-November 8, 2014-

He Politely

He politely waves goodbye
   before he jumps to his death
   from the Washington Avenue bridge
It was that kind of cold autumn into winter
   that kind of free fall, I guess
Are you okay?
   Last night there was something awful,
   something woeful, between us
Not sure, but I felt it
   Not sure what it was
Every actress is told
   You’re not pretty enough,
   tall enough, thin enough
You’re not even fat enough
   Baby, you’re just not enough
Melancholy and tough
   she never gives up
   She became moody and affectionate
A long, lanky actress type—
   this was her night
Aggressive, unthinking, wrought
   Our wondrousness, our luster—
   In a cosmos so vast
everywhere and everyone is the center
   Each day’s spin, spin, spin and pleasure
He falls, he tumbles
   He bashes himself against the hard water
   All the river gleams grey in the autumn
Not given to self-doubt, to restraint
   he hits this river hard
What you obsessively pursue is you
   If we shame ourselves within ourselves
   we’ll never come back
Smallish acts of violence smack us
   When liars die we lose little
Necessity is the past
   Whatever he achieved he achieved
   through his force, through his fortune,
through his passion and his focus,
   through his luck




-October 25, 2014-

Dragon Dreams

Dragon lust, dragon dreams
   Her two adopted Korean sons were
   her real purpose, her true loves but to me
she was just another bull-shitter
   Chimeras go vanish

We suffer an ignorance of politics
   Politics, no longer the good citizen’s concern
   There was a time to worship kings on earth
and all the gods in heaven
   Chimeras go vanish

There’s only so much work you can do
   food you can eat
   pressure you can sustain
All the old-fashioned rigorous obligations
   Chimeras go vanish

Washington’s false teeth
   weren’t made of wood
   Wood wouldn’t do, so they used instead
the human teeth of the dead, the teeth of slaves
   Chimeras go vanish

By the time they take the reins
   our rulers have been bought and paid for
   Let’s hear no more of president worship
Let’s stop this dolorous hate
   Chimeras go vanish

There’s a time I look at that old picture
   of Matt and I think
   You’re done with it poor Matt
Are you so much better off than we are?
   Chimeras go vanish

Who will next interfere with her ecstasy
   with her short attainments of utopia?
   He was deathly afraid when we told him
his subterranean train runs under rash rivers
   Chimeras go vanish

She anticipates disappointment
   like one used to having her pleasures
   summarily yanked away
The absent mother, the kindly father
   Chimeras go vanish

When occurrence is in accordance
   with individual, ineluctable purpose
   and everything you do just falls into place
To touch, to really touch
   Chimeras go vanish

Small pleasures strung together
   make for the lusciousness of life
   Love so intense and prescient
doesn’t happen twice
   Chimeras go vanish



-October 11, 2014-

What I Know

She didn’t want to listen that day,
she wanted to talk
   to expand her ego, to kind of explain
   to tell me where she’d been
“You’re really very good at this”
   She meant the sex
She liked sex and was good at it herself
   but on any other level, even the physical,
   she didn’t want to be touched

Sometimes people just decide
it’s time to be a couple,
   so they try
   And then they may decide
it’s time to get married
   so they try
People are so damn fickle
   They have heart attacks, cancer, accidents and,
   almost for the hell of it, will simply change their minds

Old grandma Dora, why so inefficient?
You trudge up the steps at your advanced age
   (at the time she was 62, my age now)
   to get the milk and then you trudge down
You trudge up the steps to get the dry oatmeal
   and then you trudge down
The same fucking breakfast each day, dear, remember?
   Then you trudge up the steps to get the lemon juice,
   the sugar cubes and the coffee and then...

A difference between reality and fiction
is that in fiction, you get to taste, feel
   to actually experience (okay, vicariously) revenge
   In our lives actual revenge would cost too much
I warn you, you’ll pay and pay and pay
   for the mad intensity you crave
The organized vicious, violence of states
   isn’t revenge—it’s our essential mediocrity,
   inhumanity, brutality and disgrace

My old boss, Mel, was a true adult
I could tell because at lunch
   he always ordered hot coffee to start
   while I (you jolly, jolly kid you!) just had a fizzy diet drink
It was as though he needed that coffee
   to get through the afternoon
We never drank liquor at lunch
   True, John M, did
   but he was just a drunk

People die, said the ancient Roman sage,
for the wrong reasons,
   in the wrong places,
   in the wrong seasons,
in the wrong order...
   Sagely spoken as though people can control
when and how they die
   I would dismiss this as mere error except for one thing—
   I think of us as the elitist grandsons of Roman decadence

I couldn’t find the word for cactus in Spanish
(a bad Spanish/English dictionary and no internet then)
   So I wrote my Spanish essay
   about a “prickly plant”
which I said was always with me
   and is with me to this very day
My Spanish teacher thought this a hoot
   and told my mother “your son is a genius”
   She looked at him quizzically and smiled

Gene could take his right arm
put it over his head
   reach under his chin
   and touch his right ear
Are these the kind of artificial thoughts
   that account for too much?
It’s not what you said
   it was your tone, she chided
   She cared about my tone

She tells me not to compliment her too much
It will make her blush
   A small yellow flower erupts
   from the usual, habitual greenery
The fine women I get to really know
   often bring out the best in me
Hybrids don’t often survive
   but when they do, tough as they are,
   they rarely breed



-September 27, 2014-

And the bird

He sees Mom push the empty stroller
Dad, in front, carries their little daughter
on his shoulders, a big smile on the little girl’s face,
and as she leans her arms encircle his neck
Why wasn’t it always just like this?

Why should anyone give a shit
about what you say?
Their bodies are so much hotter than yours
and their psyches are nowhere near
as beaten and sadly damaged

She was strident, old, witty, funny, gaudy, unhappy
She thought she could make us laugh forever—
that it would go on forever
No dope, she knew that it wouldn’t, couldn’t
but thought, really thought, that it would

Once at the top of the game,
each time he goes out there
he concedes a new, odd, diminishment
that he cleverly must compensate for
It’s not at all like perfection like it was before…

With the idiots in control,
we grow indifferent to public affairs
It’s extraordinary that he can still get so far
against the lesser likes of dumber pros but
the best no longer play their best to beat him


Notoriety requires power, elements of compulsion,
resources, a certain indifference to sentiment,
a stridency, indifference to hurt vanities, feelings
and, of course, the best of health
Openness and some avarice also help

When I asked the old lion, the lawyer,
my boss at the time, Mr. Castle (his real name folks)
how he was today, he’d say “I’m not going to tell you”
When I said “Good morning, Mr. Castle” he’d say
“What’s so good about it?” and smile

Shrill, strident, happy to live in a vulgar penthouse
she’d travel a lot but preferred to sleep in her own bed
Happy to pick up a check, darling,
she has a great life she says
Happy to spread her wealth around a bit

When she speaks and hears nothing back—
no laughter, no shrill attacks
that’s like spitting in the wind, she says
Her pet dog, Squeaky, is devoted only to her
the way a pet dog usually is

Everyone rejected her
at one time or another, or so she said
She heartily, faithfully, chiseled a career
out of insulting them all
She joked about death and feared nothing


We see hawks soar on TV, owls prey
and we have the temerity to think
this is freedom
But what if to fly like a hawk, kill like an owl
is just something they do to eat?

Like when I write a legal memorandum
It’s of mild interest to me and a few others but
hardly the “epitome of free”
He froze in that journey, lonely, feverish, broken
His gift, a token, the ring from the King finally arrives

Whether he died this way or that in 1827
hardly matters now, don’t you think?
He’d be dead now, anyway
It wasn’t much of a ring, that token, hardly kingly
Did the King’s messenger steal the real one on the road?

At 5 in the evening it grew dark with
masses of blackness and the most violent,
noxious storm broke over us– thunder, lightning,
wind, snow, howls—hailstones
the size of grapes and in March!!!

The lightning flashed, the thunder clapped so loud
it seemed to wake the deaf man, the maestro, the hero
Deathly ill, he opens his eyes— conscious for a moment
he lifts his right hand high which was cupped as though he
held a small bird and the bird was his permission to die





-September 14, 2014-

It comes to our eyes

“Disappointed! You’re kidding, right?
Disappointed is when you get mayonnaise
instead of mustard on your ham sandwich
That word doesn’t bear weight, you damn fool
Yeah, that’s it, I’m disappointed” and softly,
“Where is she, why has she gone?”

This is the city of rare illuminations, hallucinations
A hard rash music seethes in the heart of its noise—
It shouts through the poverty, the nastiness;
fervent, inevitable, furious
Every steely detail, comes to our eyes alive
in a remnant of light, survival

“Tonality—why it should be thrown out for good,
I can’t see
Why it must always be present,
I can’t see”
“They wanted us to write this crazy, creepy music
I told them to go to hell”

A hard, acidic intelligence
not at all good natured, easy going, or American
He stood up—his face inscrutable, blank
A proud, melancholy guy, he gets along, just
A psychologist, I’m told, taught him
just enough charm for his job

Lots of stuff going on among the hypocrites
the intellectually proper,
the blatant brown-nosers
It’s almost their busy season, the fall
Almost two in the morning and he’s awake
He thinks about his latest, blatant, fuck-up

“They say I’m pretentious, arrogant
when I affirm it
but I’m lying to you if I don’t”
We know it plays long, it’s expansive
and sometimes we can hear it—
changeable, vital, and long


When Matt was young he was sensitive
to insults—he’d cry and say someone “inselted him”
One day Mom saw him cry and said,
“Matthew, who ‘inselted’ you?”
He replied “I inselted myself”
A tactic he’d continue to use throughout his short life

When people who are attracted to each other meet,
they overlook their differences to yearn together, to fit
They seek concordance in the spice and swirl, the dissonance
When young the image of indestructible man
lodged inside him like a virus—
acidic and austere

What could we be if we tried hard enough,
practiced long enough,
thought straight enough?
We are one of a select and fascinating company, right?
The struggle hides and hits hard—
hits and hides

It will infallibly hit sometime in your lifetime
or in the lifetime of your young
That is what nature does
Her heart beats a bit quick when she thinks of him
Their sensuality, reciprocity, their closeness—
close as they can come

When grandma, always old, got really old
she lost a few inhibitions, like humming
Damn it if she didn’t hum to herself a lot
whether you were there or not
Nauseous with fatigue and grief,
she didn’t sing, she hummed

Sweet like the soft light they, in each other, delight
This is an air not meant for study
It must be experienced, seen
When light like this pierces the mean
it comes to our eyes alive from so far,
it comes to our eyes alive




-August 30, 2014-

You must


You must take it while you can—
   what’s granted by your acumen, by chance or grace
Millions upon millions of us learn
   this crafty, slight life owes us nothing
She was glamorous—
   He would want to stand straighter, taller for her
despite his ragged, basic intransigence
   Here things devolve soon enough to the primordial
and then become inert


What matters to him is her—
   not her religion, people, or where she’s from
How she thought, how she felt
   what kind of person she is— that matters
The terrors, the boredom, the meanness,
   the triumphs, planned and unplanned,
her ruthless losses and fiery gains became
   attuned, entwined within their boundaries,
their freedoms, perfections, depths and failures


I enter the room and am surprised to see
   that although we are to move the next day
nothing has been packed
   The books, cds, collectibles, family knickknacks
are all still on pale wood shelves, that proud
   family records of ourselves are still displayed
Large TVs play in the background but no one listens
   I don’t actually see anyone but instead
I feel their presence


My dead mom is there taking an inventory
   She seems unconcerned about packing
“All can be moved while still on the shelves”
   I hear her think, “but I’ll get you some boxes
if you disagree”
   My dead dad is there and I sense
that he agrees with me—“By all means, preserve the past”
   I think to ask him why he’s been away so long but
then again think, “I’ll ask him where he went later”


Oh no, it wasn’t about money
   True, he no longer had “crazy-big” money
“Divorces,” as Vincent Price once said,
   “are expensive but worth it”
and he had a few of those
   The coffers, however, were still full
And true, he thought we’re all brutal, murderous, liars
   who put on masks of civility only for civilization’s
sake, but that fact made him laugh


Believe me, that wasn’t why he had to die
   by his own hand— it was he needed to move,
to laugh, to dodge, to leap, to bounce, to escape,
   to deal with the tireless endless vicissitudes,
the shocks that penned him in, to move at all times
   He couldn’t endure the idea
of a life as a helpless paralytic—
   when it’s impossible to work, to move
“and then, I know, they won’t let me die”




-August 16, 2014-