suitcases of life

suitcases of life cover

 

suitcase

you had a suitcase
packed and ready to go
brown, like the hallway
narrow
like the minds of those who tried to hold you back

there was so much of life to live
so much packed in your brown suitcase
strewn like tight jeans and wrinkled shirts
cracked belts and fractured memories

i wished for a promise to give you
a rose and a poem wrapped in pink ribbons
on parched paper
written by hand and erased twice

hungry for words and short sentences
i crawled into your life
as easily as i envisioned crawling into your suitcase
it was more narrow than the hallway
and the soiled, dingy walls reminded me of my life

as the lid closed
and the music stopped

 

 

six floors up

from my window i watched her leave
six floors up, a thousand miles away
walking slowly as if she no longer cared
and quickly as if she couldn’t stay

she carried a purse full of memories
tears in her eyes and rain at her feet
empty promises stuffed in her pockets
she was a woman, whole and complete

i wanted to call out for her from my window
but the words somehow wouldn’t come
yet when she turned and looked back at me
it all poured out like an autumn rain

from my window i watched her leave
six floors up, a thousand miles away
i traced every valley and rising hill of her body
her skin soft like sleek flowing chiffon

her steps were measured
careful to avoid the parallel lines
of the hardened cement walkway
and the green of bordering grass

beneath one she would be buried
atop the other she would make love
when words of passion whispered passed her
like a gentle breeze from a window six floors up

it no longer matters whether her hair was wild
like a free-spirited horse on unmeasured plains
or cropped like a closely trimmed rosebush
when i called from my window, she walked on

clutching her purse full of wayward memories
holding back tears in her eyes
while stuffing empty promises in her pockets
and walking to the sedated reflections of rain at her feet

 

 

ode to janis joplin

her darkened eyes were like thunder
loud and reckless
rumbling like her voice
begging for mercy while commanding the skies
in silence from the east

she wept alone
amped on desolate dusty roads
flyin’ through tuesday night
black like a fallen veil of emptiness
draped loosely
just a golden girl feedin’ on brown sugar
washed down by bitter tears

she never saw the white horse
galloping like a runaway diesel
rushing through her veins
painting a smile on her lips
where songs used to live
until one day
they were hushed
like the night through which they roamed

 

 

crystal

she held me captive with her fingers
nails rhythmically tapping on sand-colored corian
like a general marching to war
ready to go but wanting to stay

with my eyes i could taste her sumptuous lips
swallowing words was easy
snacking on syllables and punctuation
spilling juices onto her thirsty tongue before a kiss

i nearly drowned in her tears
weighted words pulled like an anchor
as she recounted her story
with talking hands and dejected eyes

i discovered the birth of tears
when the heart hurts and the mind knows
eyes can no longer endure the pain
and they cleanse the soul with wishes

i could have loved her
during days that allowed a gentle breeze
a quicker step, guilt-free innocence
and a season to nurture the blossoms of love

now we sit, fingers interlocked
the marching general no longer trudging to war
syllables and punctuation consumed
until tears mingle, wondering if love has escaped

why does life unleash prisoners of the heart,
forever trapped in yesterday
in places where seeds are planted
and in the parched heat of the noontime sun
they die?

 

 

buying a blouse on haight street

tuna with swiss cheese on white
corned beef on rye, mustard, with pickles

the order was as simple as the day
when carefully chosen words of mckuen
blended with the gentle sea breeze
as easily as did my words with yours

a crooked olive branch above you
need not be extended in peace

peace was born into the morning
and the tangerine sun peeked through the branches
as though trying to color your hair
with green-orange streaks of laughter

stanyan street had been visited once again
the street, the book…the memory
it was our first time sharing stanyan street
other sorrows were ours already

haight and ashbury still conflict with one another
the light stays red until it turns green
people stop and go…motivated more by memory
than by some desperate need to cross the street

where were you when the rose colored silk blouse
was made in your honor?
you were here…

it just took a june morning and an admiring lover
to bring the two together

 

 

she

she walked along the silken shore
crocheting thoughts and even more
morning could not unravel her
men’s lustful eyes freely traveled her

she cleaned the windows of my soul

laying together between satin sheets
she took my life and rhymed for me
those lines which had always dangled free
and in her hands i could be
an emperor of my destiny

hers was a life so freely lived
she had so much that she could give
a lady of the pauper’s dreams
more suited for the feast of kings

she played the game like none before
…gave her all and still had more

she walked amidst the forest light
where her creator marveled at the sight
surely pleased at what he had done
…defining beauty for everyone

while colors wept in a crimson sky

it was that time, early dawn
when sailors cast their anchors down
and the grace of morning gained control
as i watched her smile freely unfold

and purity revealed her milk-white skin

she enjoyed a life so freely lived
and had so much that she could give
a lady of the pauper’s dreams
more suited for the feast of kings

her knight bowed slowly to the floor
while the pawn crept out the waiting door
she played the game like none before
never caring about the final score

‘til at last she laid beneath the forest trees
and felt the gentle flowing breeze
her golden hair, a babbling brook
with soothing sounds at each turn it took

only rainbow-washed colors could compare

she answered to the distant sound
of a shepherd’s harp placed on the ground
and walked behind the towering clouds
waving goodbye to her admiring crowds

when nature brought her to her knees
oh, some crowds you can never please

til at last they laid her body down
and pulled away her tarnished crown
pushed a smile where there was a frown
and placed her with the famous clowns

and it rained

 

 

desiree

her song was frozen to her lips
melting in the midnight air
gentle like a blue ridge mountain breeze
soft flowing curls in her hair

she stood alone at the shelter door
hungry, confused, fighting back tears
weeping for the dreams yesterday held
while tightly clutching her fears

her heart was on the mountaintop,
her feet solidly planted on the ground
her song was but a whispered silence
aching loneliness the only sound

she hunched in the darkened doorway
her life’s blood flowing warmly red
it’s still an unsolved mystery
that anyone would want her dead

now her friends weep in sadness
as this little girl is laid to rest
her silent song buried with her
a red rose placed upon her breast

her song is forever frozen to her lips
eternally melting in the midnight air
gentle like a blue ridge breeze
soft flowing curls in her hair

 

 

lists

i tried to find you listed in the telephone book
suicide, results of
suicide, alphabetical list
suicide, reasons for
suicide, sort by age

where did you go
after you hung up the phone
when i thought everything was okay
and the dial tone killed the last words
we shared?

it’s an awful sound
that buzzes past your soft words
i love you
you said
and i returned the expression

like an automatic volley
a bouncing lime green tennis ball
enduring life just above the net

you never cared for lists anyway

 

 

if love was served in a candy store

i wanted to fall in love today
again
with you
while remembering a halo of whipped cream
encircling your lips
for only a fleeting second
as you swallowed chocolate
amidst the cloud of steam

it was there i devoured you…
a not so distant memory
munching on smiles
licking plump daydreams
conquering visions
of what tomorrow could be
if love was served in a candy store

i miss you
the warmth of your smile
the glow in your eyes
the way you say certain words
when an accent is involved
and you tilt your head to one side
when searching for an elusive thought

monterey flowed into pacific grove
and both poured into carmel
when time didn’t matter
and laughter went down easier
with ghiradelli chocolate-mint squares
and touches of raspberry

now i sit alone
with memories that fade
like fog suffocating the
bay at monterey
and washing to sea like polished driftwood

i wonder
where have the sweet tastes of your kisses gone
the innocence of your laughter
when the sea breeze has blown out
from the sands of carmel

where is the soft touch of your fingertips
the searching look of your eyes
when they penetrate my heart
and pierce my soul?

they
like you
have gone the way of memories
locked in yesterday’s vault
where questions and memories
stand like bookends
guarding stacked and sandwiched words
for a day when i may
once again
feel your smile

 

 

jesús

he was a big man
with a name that stopped those who knew no better
jesus to christians who spelled it out

he crawled over a wall
only a few feet closer to heaven
dressed
in faded jeans with holes where pockets once covered his past
his white silk shirt collected layers of unwashed dirt
and tear stains hid places where buttons no longer held secrets

a dark blue sports coat was an unintentional fashion statement
mismatched shoes,
one brown, one black kept his feet from the rain

yet it was in his mind where shadows and darkness co-labored;
workers in the night

he wept for freedom
a word he never understood

 

 

sin is a harsh master

i closed my eyes and watched her dance;
hair fanned out like a silk sensu
free and beautiful,
flipping and swirling with such ease
then folding back, brushed
by the silent fingers of the wind.

soft lips defined her face;
delicate in their beauty,
seductive in their innocence,
able to command a word to march
or swallow grapes and orange slices.

i watched her move;
my eyes only slightly closed
as she danced to the music of a weeping moon
and stepped across stars that never dimmed.

the structured opus from a forest orchestra surged
as her hands waved to heaven
weaving through cotton-laced clouds,
hoping someone lived there,
wishing for faith, yet having its fullness
as she began to weep in her emptiness.

i dared not open my eyes
rather i watched in awe of beauty
cloaked in the finest silk, tartan and tweed
as she listened to the music within
and watched as her feet translated it
to her heart, and transported it to her soul.

her emptiness became my own
and her tears fell onto mine
as in the quiet of a solitary moment
we danced
to no music except that which plays eternal
we danced
we wept
for sin is a harsh master

 

 

the scattering

i wanted to write a love song today
for you
before you went away
looking for coffee cups filled with clouds

your eyes smiled
behind the tears
as soothing waves broke just beyond the shore
and photographs burned in my heart
as memories of the yesterday’s i once hoped would be our tomorrows

your look of goodbye
was so much like the one you had worn
years earlier when hello sang from your lips
like a wedding song born of tradition
with white flowing garments of purity teasing my recollections of who we were
before we became us

now the words escape me
and clouds scatter in an easterly breeze
as you leave me in thousands of tiny dots
various shades of gray and white
each wearing your smile while waving ‘goodbye’
and ‘hello’
to a struggling, sorrowful soul

 

 

dead roses

i watched roses die
in right angle corners
one iconic disney mouse with his football
another holding a bat and glove

bobble head pig and a baseball
empty walls and bicycle
built for music
that plays softly like a serenade

pieces of life don’t measure too long
on any scale
adonai, acoustic, majors and minors
metrics, length, pounds, ounces, grams

in the end there is a corner
where roses die
and red fades away
and the color scale
doesn’t matter
anymore

 

 

sandlewood candles in september

i saw a candle in the corner of your bedroom
sandlewood, with a wick previously burnt
with some former lover
probably on a september night blessed with rain

i knew from the moment i first saw you
that we would grow old together
perhaps in a field covered with lilacs
where we could stand, watching the rising smoke from freight trains

your wave to the non-passenger trains somehow
seemed to help move the wind in new directions
and cube-like boxcars all looked the same
even in the reflection of your eyes

i watched the beauty of your sleep
the pre-breakfast smile you swallowed in your dreams
told me you were as hungry as i
so we would not make the bed and the scent of sandlewood lingered

i wished for a september night
when rain tickled your windowpane
and the wafting smoke of a newly lit candle
guided my fingers like a painted red and blue marching marionette

oh, to hear your wordless song
directing my fingertips as if your moans held a baton
until the candle in the corner had burned so low
that only the scent of sandlewood and passion remained

i knew from the moment i first saw you
that we would not grow old together
perhaps we would run through a field covered with lilacs
until i watched the disappearing silver cars of a passenger train

as your empty-handed wave was too far removed from mine
and the parting train took you in a new direction
yet the shiny silver cars all looked the same
and they let me see, one last time, the tearful reflection in your eyes

 

 

death of a word

while digging in the sand
i found a word
i had never known as my own
an italian prefix, french suffix
both ends ensconced in wet sand
covering memories discarded from
some distant tuesday

i held the word
precious
as though it had fallen from
the open page of a thesaurus
and redefined itself
from every conceivable direction

while staring into the open depths of the cavity
where the word, planted as a seed
celebrated its resurrection
from monday’s tomb

while watching the word fade
with the sunset
i wept
sorrow overwhelmed me
and the books were closed
as i observed the death of a word

 

 

miriam’s song

miriam’s eyes were written in words that failed to rhyme
as she sat on the marble steps of the courthouse
strumming her hand-me-down guitar;
five strings floating a melody
weeping for a song

with calloused fingertips and chapped and parched lips
she whispered in silence a nameless song with unknown chords,
her fingerpicking style drew a few who stood brokenhearted
as her song pierced their hearts;
her guitar, a soothing weapon.

mariam gathered a flat chord in her hand and stood to dance
singing a song from her youth about wide-eyed innocence
lost in the midst of broken melodies and terror-filled nights
when ashen horses and black carriages fell short of salvation.

weeping openly she searched for a song
wishing to tell of her journey with five strings on her guitar
and a half empty song cemented by a tune
and shattered by her words,
words lost in her eyes where they died, ever failing to rhyme.

 

 

the piercing arrow

fallow soil was swollen at my feet
as i waited for the son of the king to wave
before pulling back on his bow
giving flight to an arrow that would seal my fate

his young messenger stayed by his side
waiting and watching for the flight of a lone arrow
sailing freely into the vast blue emptiness
wondering would it land here…or there?

if the shot should fall on this side
then i would return to celebrate with the king
if it sailed over my head
then i would leave my life as i knew it

there is no room for pensive tears
when fallow soil gathers at my feet
and the bowstring has done its work
i may weep tomorrow but today my journey begins

as his young messenger returns with the arrow
the son of the king is broken
and though our hearts were knit together
the piercing tip of hatred has been planted deeply

(note: the story of david and jonathan. i samuel 20)

 

 

corners

i have walked around corners
when i should have stood still;
driven fast in slow zones
and sat at the apex of silent
stone walls.

i have said words i meant when i was high
and regretted when i was low;
twisted sentences until they were wrung
too dry to matter,
and left paragraphs drowning for want of a word.

my soul aches at midnight
and burns at the zenith of emptiness,
crunched and crushed like flattened cardboard;
my shelter from harsh winds,
my home under the dry blanket of arizona dust.

i have looked into the eyes of a broken old man,
seen the sadness built around his journey
and the hopelessness erected
like a still-empty cross,
awaiting his outstretched hands.

i have watched while he dries
the tears from the face of humanity,
saddened by the race of mankind
scratching to get to the same corner
i walked around…
when i should have stood still

 

 

the room

the room…
four walls, two windows, one door.
facing the door, the wall is green
like granny smith apples after they are waxed and shined.

behind me is white
the color of a freshly bleached sheet
flapping in the breeze, quieted by the sun
sterile and unperturbed

to my right is red
fire engine brilliant,
a window, dark blue frame, consoles the bright red
with hushed whispering behind clear glass panes

at last, to my left
yellow, the color of caution
hosting the final window
this one, black framed, partly open
as if to tease that there may be one way out

the door is heavy and foreboding
a gray lock, iron and silver
ornamental in its security
no one will pass in or out now
it is much too late

how did i get in?

why?
leaving

music flowed through the air
like an unbroken dream
softer than tears of joy
harsher than a folded memory

as she turned to go
i had tasted her smile
and consumed her reveries
and now could only watch and reminisce

the fallen tears we shared
were left inseparable
mingled with sadness
intimate in their joy

like water over rounded stones
soft and caressing
i felt her tenderness even in leaving
and her fingertips while she had stayed

she was the demarcation of love
separating passion from passion
as if opening a classic old novel
with pages brown and curling

i wept then…i weep still
guarding those places in my heart
while wondering if she thinks of me
and ever answered the question:

where does the white go
when the snow has melted away…?

 

 

confused mind

i sit discreetly in a dimly lit doorway
waiting for gray shades of morning
as brown paper bags swirl
spilling emptiness at my feet

tears have fallen freely
on better days when unpunctuated sentences
wrapped around my tired shoulders like a thick blanket
bringing warmth and safety to a confused, scared mind

somehow it seems as if familiar songs have died;
resurrecting a chorus of shattering silence
born in the chests of men wearing white shirts
while boasting wallets thicker than their thin black ties

looking down, they see the miracle of tomorrow
and taste the repentance of yesterday
glad that they are not me
sitting quietly in a dimly lit doorway

watching the light of day
as emptiness drips like minutes
with nowhere to go but down
and down is one place i have been

 

 

bring in the rain

her rocking chair was hushed,
the metric creaking ceased
and sprinkles fell gently
like a supple cotton blanket.

she no longer smiled.
her feeble hands were folded
while a sweet summer breeze
softly kissed her unyielding lips.

persistent raindrops fell
singing a final melody
to the old lady who waited
for the kiss of visiting angels.

her journey now complete,
the fragrance of roses
growing in a parched land
beckoned the angels
to bring in the rain.

 

 

rabboni

there was no passion
burning within his empty soul,

no whispered secret from the wind
that once cradled warm thoughts
before laying them safely on a page,
throbbing for another word.

he chose to stand alone
for a moment, if not more,
gathering blueberries and stained fingers
while waiting to hear his own heart.

some folks said go this way, others that,
until all inspiration spilled over
like fresh blood flowing onto a city street,
crimson in the black of night.

he wondered
if passion had trickled out
and returned to some hidden place
to quench the parched heart of another.

some folks still sipped
from the tarnished silver challis
while he grew thirsty waiting for words
to follow after one another.

his were sometimes tears of joy
shed to fashion a meandering trail
leading to a swollen cistern
so children might never thirst again

 

 

word

i found a word
lying in the sand, near the water;
a mere reflection of what it meant by definition
when shadows crawled across its surface.

sometimes it hurt,
other times it squeaked a humorous sound
noisier than melting ice cream;
vanilla, like the word it was.

i wondered if words
tossed carelessly to the wind
were somehow fashioned into sand dollars…
and yet more fragile.

and if the intricacies of the sea horse
were syllables or abbreviations
would we listen more closely
and hear the pain of those who need?

i read a word while waiting for whales
and as it wrapped around the bend
i missed it like an old friend
lacking forced smiles and punctuation.

when i close my eyes
i see words written in french;
and still standing alone on the beach
i wish all words formed on your lips.

sleep escapes me like a prisoner of my heart
so i am left searching for words,
holding an empty jar of broken promises…
patching my vacant soul while praying for one word.

 

 

the whisper of silence

i laughed, i cried
i lived, i died
i walked amongst the saints of old;
standing still as they opened ancient manuscripts…
blank pages, filled with the wisdom of silence.

virgins wept for their children,
tears of agony for unplanted seeds;
as multitudes looked on, looking for just one…
the anointed. the survivor, the sailor, the savior.

but the music stopped amidst the wailing
and a defiant right hand was lifted from the crowd
as one would speak but his words died…
a violent death; and his thoughts grew old
and useless
like the man he had become.

the manuscript with blank pages
was closed
and the whisper of silence
was wet, like a tear.

 

 

amelia

she clutched the ornate handle on her porcelain cup
while sitting on the corner of ashbury and oak
the trees in panhandle park wept thick tears of sap
but it was honey to her lips and soothing to her throat

her chalice was filled with only emptiness
waiting for coins and small morsels of bread
while she freely wept, marinating in memories
of nineteen sixty-eight and magic songs of the dead

her purple blouse was in need of soap
her fingernails begged for a raspy file
her face was sallow, cheeks drawn and concave
but it was a place for her tears to well-up for awhile

folks called her amelia though none knew her name
it was just a cruel joke about a pilot lost at sea
yet she sat silently holding her dainty cup
filled with emptiness, broken dreams and shattered sanity

still she smiled at passers-by, never assigning them blame
one can sit at panhandle park for only so long
till the delicate cup filled with nineteen sixty-eight
will overflow with colorful lurid psychedelic songs

amelia walked two blocks to ashbury and haight
clutched her empty cup and looked to the starlit sky
filled it with assorted colorful pills to make her fly away
and with a simple lunge from her window she died

her story was simple, she perished as she lived
seems those who mocked her and laughed as they passed
had dropped colorful pills into her porcelain cup
like stones at a harlot, their pills had been cast

there was only one who walked by without sin
but it seems her laughter was eerily quiet
and now she sits at the corner of ashbury and oak
flying high like her mother, she just had to try it…

 

 

branches

branches covered with snow
heavy with yesterday’s rain
breathe of a passing winter storm
bend like a forgotten memory

winter has fallen like a wool coat
and a shattered promise
that my sins are behind me
and repentance fills my path

a stranger walks alongside me
weeping for my past and rejoicing for my future
while holding a small vase
filled with ashes to be scattered
once the fires of hell have burned low

oh i know now
i should have lived before i died
but the winter snow fell cold
and death wears frigid and drops it
onto branches covered with snow

 

 

can’t knock anymore

the path from here to yesterday
has too often been traveled
in search of answers and street signs

darkened corners harbor memories
that reach out like a stranger
in want of a cigarette
and in need of a bath

dusty, smelly corridors
permeated with cheap wine
are more narrow than the minds
of those whiskered men who walk them

and nobody is home
when i knock on the door

the streets of last night
are covered with papers
sports pages and obituaries
honoring heroes dead and alive

homeless men and lonely women
pluck litter from city gutters
to wear as jackets and fashion as hats

somewhere in the distance
a little boy cries
and a satisfied man rolls over and sighs

and nobody is home
when i knock on the door
nobody is home

i can’t knock anymore

 

 

yellow shirt

it was easier to look at him in black and white
color would not be fair
pale ashen skin
crimson bloodshot eyes

unkempt in every way
badly stained teeth
and yet a smile that
hid his past better than a circus tent

he would have been a clown
if they had asked him
anything to help nourish his body and his soul

—the trapeze was not out of the question
he had stumbled and fallen so many times
what could one more matter

why did he have to wear a yellow shirt
when he knew folks chose to see no color in his life?

then they would have to admit he really lived
because fog couldn’t conceal the warmth of yellow
no matter what the weatherman said at six o’clock

and he didn’t know to wear black to the funeral

 

 

the view

there’s a view from my room
with a dark screen in the way
blocking broken down scenes
from yesterday

taxis aligned and ready to go
when the red light turns green
and stop turns to slow
they move

corner windows face south and east
broken breadsticks and crumbs on the sheets
but i longingly look to the crowded streets
for a friendly face

in new york city

i watched her stroll on seventh avenue
too young to vote too old to screw
she traded her smile for something new
but a powered nose was the best she could do

people stared as she walked
and from my lingering view
blocking scenes from yesterday

 

 

 

midnight shadows

midnight shadows crawl like spilled paint
onto the canvas of morning
fading from north to east to south to west
leaving only translucent memories
of yesterdays sin

splashes of red, green and blue apologize
before flaking like hard-dried resin
into gray shades of black
that drape heavy like lead weights
across the new day

who feels the belly
of midnight emptiness
except one who has tasted the bitterness
of after-hours shadows
as they spatter their gray scales onto a empty sky

do wishes for tomorrow line up
in single file folders
alphabetically waiting for the black of midnight
to camouflage the pain
of yesterday’s sorrow

there are no memories
when morning erases those midnight shadows
that crawl like spilled paint
onto the canvas of life
only questions

 

clouds

clouds circled like covered wagons
pushed by silver dipped in black

calvary men watched from a distance
while the server brought my coffee back

did you know that clouds cling to one another?
i asked as i slowly stirred

they seem to gather around the blue
like hungry vultures
converging on a fresh carcass

they do what clouds do
then move along

it doesn’t take much to scatter the clouds

just time and a light breeze

it didn’t take much to scatter us…
just time

and a friday afternoon
and thoughts about where clouds go
when the wind has whispered

she smiled

 

to smile again

today started with memories
sad limericks and rusty rhymes
about a time when we stood facing one another
offering pockets filled with smiles
and dreams of how it could someday be

our days seemed abundant with bouquets
of words
stacked neatly into lines of poetry
where punctuation was unnecessary
and private silence could be worn like a scarf
that warms the soul more than the heart

i learned to laugh
when others glanced my way
and if i needed i would wear the face of a jester
and toss words into the air
hoping they would align themselves
until i could walk out of the corner
unnoticed

no one was to know the depth of my heart
or the emptiness of the chambers
where only loneliness lived

i had hoped to someday arrange my emotions
alphabetically
until i could read them in monotone cadence
to a listening audience of none

where did the smile go
that i wanted to share with someone special

where did that special person go
who made me smile
when i was younger and more innocent

today ended with memories
sad limericks and rusty rhymes
about a time when i stood facing myself
offering no smile

only a memory
of how it could have someday been

 

darkness

darkness is a companion
that wears like a heavy winter coat
after the snowfall.

vagrant thoughts collide
like bumper cars going nowhere
on a three-minute ride.

spinning images flip-flop
like pancakes tossed into the air
just before slapping a cold, white plate.

the watchful eyes of sleeplessness
can no longer hold back…
closing at the invitation of tears.

returning to darkness
the same black from which
it escaped

 

 

new york memories

i surveyed the glare of neon lights
from the place they say is new york city
walked her streets on lonesome nights
as old men pushed carts of pity

i wept amidst the lettered street signs
and prayed beneath the subway stairs
stood for food in winding breadlines
wondering why god refused my prayers

i stood in the shadow of concrete towers
and smoked broken cigarettes cast aside
and joints that gave me super powers
refueling dreams that i thought had died

i watched the sunrise in central park
joggers and dogs all looked the same
but the sun painted over the black of dark
and soothed my aching childhood pain

so many people laughed and smiled
so many strangers seemed to understand
my time had come to travel the miles
it would take to leave this new york land

yet with fondness i recall those new york nights
when young women worked the streets for a hit
as they stood beneath flashing neon lights
hopelessly trapped in hell’s deepest pit

i felt the waves crashing on the atlantic shore
but my heart pulled me to the city by the bay
now i can’t see the new york lights no more
and i suppose that’s just how it’ll stay

i never felt new york was unkind
i suppose i never felt new york at all
so i boxed all the memories i could find
then left them scribbled on a subway wall

 

promises

there were no promises made,
none kept.
stand straight and smile. don’t drop your handbag
though empty does not scatter far.

and pennies were reserved for coat pockets.
sisters always smile on thanksgiving morning, even in toledo.

streets are repaved over the years, trees replanted
presidents come and go, keeping the secrets of their war dead in their own pockets

morning looks the same when spreading
like a soft down blanket over wheat fields in topeka
but far different when peeking over san francisco.

buildings,
once designed and constructed as monuments of hope,
now offer their doorways unwillingly to a whiskered old man
who longs to see his sister’s thanksgiving smile,

toledo…yesterday past.
repetition

there’s a view from my borrowed room
colored amber by naked streetlights
bright colored graffiti has faded too soon
replaced by the blood of midnight street fights

black from street dirt and spray-paint profanity
my window screens hold in the stench of stale air
testing the limits of my inherited insanity
as i look from the window of big city, anywhere

corner windows face south and east
broken gables hang dangerously low
but i longingly look to the crowded streets
for a friendly face wearing an innocent glow

i watched a young girl stroll on seventh avenue
she traded her smile for something new
she was too young to vote and too old to screw
but a powdered nose was the best she could do

newspapers and napkins crawled slowly in the wind
switching direction with the slightest change
they looked like paper people in search of a friend
or like wayward cattle confused on the range

deliveries were announced by the squeal of brakes
newspapers were dropped and pastries were tossed
loud voices soon filled the empty streets
and the rising sun promised all was not lost

so i closed the door to the now empty room
turned the key and locked yesterday away
walked down the stairs, dodged the sweeper’s broom
and headed west for a brand new day

big city streets look the same everywhere
they switched the direction and changed only the names
still old soldiers on horseback wave swords in the air
like weathered old heroes playing unfinished games

a new morning will come, the same morning will go
and broken people will disappear with the wind
now start back at the top, and read again, real slow
this is only the beginning and not the end

 

sand dollars

she walked slowly in front of me
as if counting her steps
looking down at the granular beach
watching for sand dollars
trapped as she felt she was

i wondered which songs played in her head
whether some one-hit wonder
born by breach birth in the sixties
just outside a hippie bookstore
where the berkeley barb overlapped
with the works of baldwin and ginsberg

when she stopped to look at her sandals
probably not unlike those worn by mary magdalene
i knew she was not looking at lodged sand dollars
she was looking through her own tears
making the ocean waves that swallowed them
thirstier

neither of us looked back at the footprints in the sand
one pair drifted to the right while the other moved left
until at last sand dollars were safe from scrutiny
and the darkness swallowed two lonely people
as ocean waves gathered timeless secrets
and only the quiet of nightfall mourned

…we wanted
new and exciting pleasures
that day, walking on the sand…
kicking water on each other,
while dreaming of far away places.

it seems like only yesterday…now
countless sand dollars have washed ashore
and only a few stayed for our selection…
time, like the tide, waits for no one.

 

worker of words

looking out over the rolling hills
morning sunlight kissed the day
christening the colors of spring laden leaves

while she watched, a teardrop formed
as she considered the glory and pleasure
of all god’s creation

a single teardrop fell, forging it’s natural path
as it made its way onto her beautiful full lips
where a smile was born

she dedicated her heart to the worker of words
who piled them like logs at her feet
then built a memory in her honor

sometimes smiles and teardrops meet
in a glorious union
he told her and grinning, she believed

for experience had become her teacher
and like two rivers whose waters merge
fullness made a beautiful melody

 

was it a carmel morning

was it morning
or the touch of your skin against mine
that caused me to think about yesterday
in carmel

sidewalk cafés and coffee clouds
invite me to those times when umbrellas first opened
and store signs were turned on glass-paned doors
by hopeful merchants

and yet we lay in bed
swallowing laughter as if it was topped with cinnamon
devoured and left sticky on our fingers
conquered by the incinerating heat of passion

your skin always amazed me
the way you wore it, even in morning
and when i moved it with eager fingertips
you so easily stretched it back to where i first found it

that magic was neither morning
nor was it carmel
enchanting is how you moved
when you thought i was not watching

but my eyes always undressed you
in carmel or san francisco
and when the winds swirled around you
i fed you chocolate

cotton-thin clouds were never ours to hold or keep
oh, but we loved them
and when laughter was to be found
our clouds were there

now i wonder, was it morning
or the touch of your skin against mine
that caused me to think about yesterday
and the feather-like touch of clouds we never owned

 

waiting

there were oatmeal cookies on the counter.
only three left
of the dozen she made just before the pot on the stove moaned,
weeping
that her coffee was done.

dark and bitter, sugarless
and of course no cream
to embezzle the deep black that made her coffee as mysterious
as it was steaming hot.

chatter from the television was more hazy
than the stale air it cut through;
crawling from the living room,
past the sleeping cat,
onto the counter
beside the once soft, now brittle cookies.

only the canned laughter from an over-played sitcom
was distinguishable
—and quite inappropriate—
for a solemn mid-week day, wednesday
in april
half-way between the start of passover
and celebration of easter.

rarely did she wear a bow in her hair—
especially her favorite, orange with yellow stripes—
her dress was soft green
a nice color for spring, she thought.
she sat properly on a dark brown metal folding chair
closer to the partially opened front door than to the aging cookies
on her kitchen counter.

she wore a metal clip
that made her feel comfortable;
assured it would not slip from her hair
even if she sneezed.

the sound of the clock on the wall
seemed to drown out the chatter of the evening news
as each passing minute brought her closer
—then took her farther away—
from the appointed time he was to arrive.

waiting (continued)

paper napkins
and half-burnt candles were in place
on top of the small round table
covered with a blue fabric that was once a sheet
but with age had become a tablecloth.
no one wondered if the stains were from the bedroom
or the kitchen.

the moon was full
as it should be
on a wednesday half-way between passover and easter;
like a shiny, polished mirror hanging on a single nail
displayed as a trophy in a case filled with gems.

‘supper at five.’
she had said and ‘supper at five’, he agreed.
that was before he changed his shirt
and couldn’t find a green one.
finally, he gave up and quit looking, thinking,
‘now i suppose she knows i’m not coming.’

there were oatmeal cookies on the counter,
only two left of the dozen she made.
the coffee was dark
and bitter,
sugarless
and of course no cream to embezzle the deep black.

she removed the bow from her hair
and sneezed
—for some reason she always sneezed
when she removed her bow—
then she looked at the stain on the sheet and remembered the night
when her smile had made her as mysterious
as the coffee.

 

trains

i remember well the dark of midnight
where old men hid behind whiskered faces

the pain of hungry lived in my belly
and made me flee to such lonely places

trains rolled into those yawning cities
slowing their pace while passing through

boxcars were filled with dreams and wishes
but dreams and wishes were never true

 

 

the watercolor rose

i paint by numbers she said in a matter of fact way
to no one standing close by
i use decimals and fractions for pale shades of gray
filling the palette with dull shades of dry

i paint by numbers she said to any who would listen
though there were very few who really did
i use red where i see nine and green is three
she paused then quietly closed the lid

her hand was shaky and her eyes were dim
as she pointed towards number eight
saying ‘that will be blue when i pick up my brush
but not now, i still have to wait’

i paint by numbers she said with pride
i am so careful which color i use
then she closed her eyes and quietly died
she had no more colors to choose and said

i painted a watercolor rose on a page that was blank
there were no numbers there to guide me
i painted from my heart while colors poured out
a rose for anyone to see…

 

 

the pain

it was there after all these years
the door, still bolted
the window, still nailed
the memory still haunting
the wall, still naked

morning was black and white
with a trace of orange in the pallid sky
reflected onto the stucco wall
as though tears had painted shades of rust
where she once stood
alone and afraid

plywood windows, weather-beaten
and painted barn-wood gray
by the stroke of time
cried in their silence
and time hid all wounds
behind the naked door

i wondered…
why did i choose to visit the pain of yesterday
knowing i could still hear her weeping
sure that i could still hear her wishing
wishing her life would go away

it did

 

 

if i tell you that i love you

if i tell you that i love you
like some romantic story of long ago
will you stroll with me
to the outer shores of monterey

will you listen to the wings of angels
whispering our names
calling to us softly
to let our love remain

if i tell you that i love you
will you touch me in the night
when only moonlight shows the way
and only the darkness hides your delight

if i tell you that i love you
will you reach out to touch the sand
and pour it like crystal
on the stones at our feet

if i tell you i love you
will your heart awaken
and sing new sonnets and poems
about mornings that start with yawns and smiles complete

if i tell you i love you
will you stay
if i tell you i love you
another day…another day

 

 

reward

god must surely smile
when he glances down
on the beauty he poured into you
and pat himself
on the back
or at least
make some new sunshine

 

 

do you have questions?

do you have questions of me?

some that will fit snugly
into my answers?

i do not know much
about why some roses die sooner
and never turn red
or why daisies have no thorns

i do not understand why
or where
the southeastern winds blow
nor how clouds become clouds

i only know the basic needs

do you have questions of me?

 

 

have i told you?

have i told you lately
just how much i love you?

have i shown you
that you are someone really special?

have i spent my time
trying always to make you happy?

if i have
let me do it now
again

have i held you
when you needed someone to comfort you?

have i listened
to the words you wanted me to hear?

have i given time
you hoped that i would have for you?

if i have
please let me do it
now

i want so much to listen to your feelings
and to hear the words you want to share with me
to spend these moments that we have together
just catching up on things you thought about today

i want to always be here for you
and to let you know that i care how you feel
about the big events
and the minor details
of our lives together

have i told you lately
just how much i love you?

if i have
let me do it now
again

 

 

diane’s memories

her hugs were warm like big red balloons
born where blackberries still grow wild
and newspapers are thin

warm, whether on an unassuming weather-beaten bench
or a beach where water laps warmly on the sand
warm where walls are usually more colorful than mornings

her hugs turned cold as a northeastern gale
then, as quickly as she came into my life she was gone
the air released, the big red balloon deflated

she made her last memory where i could not go
she always said ‘memories are made in your heart’
she buried her memories deeply, then she went away.

 

 

the song

i saw her tears from a distance
as she sat alone on a naked park bench
once arrayed with thick green enamel
now stripped bare by the fingers of time

as she looked over a tranquil body of water
eyes red from the sorrow of languishing tears
I studied her, watching her face
and that mourning was not hers alone

she stared into an abysmal nothingness
and with empty hands squeezed the moon
until only darkness remained
held together by cotton-laced cloud-like sutures

the tune in her head was hers alone
and whether violin or piano
the strings she commanded fashioned songs
able to wind around conical sand castle towers

the pigment of morning’s sunrise lived in her memory
the shade of evening’s sunset died in her belly
remembering what to forget
while forgetting that which was to be remembered

from a distance I saw her tears
she wept for the color of the rose
and as she stood to walk from her unprotected park bench
she sighed, alone except for sand castles
built around a cloudless sky