I sit on the subway and read my newspaper
Across from me is a small tough Latin lady
with a baby carriage
in which her granddaughter,
or if she was the babysitter, her charge
sits quietly, a little girl about age 3
Into the car comes this big angry snot-nosed lout
He stinks of god knows what
He screams at me
“You read, you read, how dare you read!”
I ignore him
Just another angry snot-nosed lout
But as he comes in range of the girl
The little Latin lady stands up and arches her back
She looks up at him, inhales and hisses in his face
as though to say “You come one more step
near this child and I’ll kill you”
And she would have done it too
Lives that touch mine
Howard liked to play his guitar
for the patrons of this bar
many of whom were friends of his
The owner once gave him a bowl of spaghetti
with white clam sauce (nice, hot and tasty) and much of the
sauce ended up on his t-shirt just before he went on
Mom was disappointed when she saw a photo
of the great author, Thomas Mann
I think she’d envisioned a suave,
less desultory man
Instead there he was, tall, stiff, trim
Just an old, hard, ugly German man
Our friend, Seymour, was inscrutable
He came to our party,
most amiable and talkative
Kind of just melded in
And then he left before
any of us knew he was gone
Lives that include mine
George was a smart guy
I met him in law school and before I met him
I never thought a conservative guy could be smart
He and his much-adored bi-polar wife
went to Yale together but George
was originally a farm boy from Texas
So I used to say,
“George, I got up at the break of dawn today”
And he’d ask “Yeah, what time was that, Peter?”
And I’d tell him “10 o’clock”
And George would laugh and say
“Where I come from they’d scoff at you
They’d say, ‘That Peter, he doesn’t
feed his pigs until noon’”
Next I saw George after law school
he failed to make partner at some big New York firm
and I heard later a rumor that his wife died and
that he’d given up the law and become a “born again” preacher
Lives that graze mine
The cruelty of basic relations
and the stark logic of courage mean
that sometimes you’ve got to give ‘em
your toughest face
You needn’t be a snake
but sometimes you’ve got to hiss
The hoity toity moral agents lust
with the same lusts for which they’d whip us
The ornate clothes and hand stitched suits of wealth
hide the same vices that show so obviously
through the slovenly clothes of the poor
And any shit dog can attain high office
His long brown beard in that photo,
his long brown hair, don’t much disguise
a young face within the white smoke
from his ubiquitous cigarette (not shown)
I’m not the man in that photo anymore
Why’d it take him all those many years to mature?
Lives just like mine





-March 28, 2015-