Tuesday, May 26, 2020


Perfect Sandwich

As a boy I had a very peculiar approach
To the eating of my salami and cheese sandwiches:
Start on the perimeter and suffer through the crust,
Then an inward spiral to the middle.
The goal was to save the thickest, meatiest
Bite for last, to be savored.  
Things were supposed to always get better.
That was the natural progression:
Sadness, suffering, dutiful prep work
And then a flourishing of flavor and satisfaction.
The problem was it always culminated in anti climax;
It never ended the way I hoped.
It wasn’t fair to those pitiful school lunch sandwiches
I had meticulously made myself
Before the school bus came
In those days of want and precarity.
Too much was always riding on the last bite.
And once you swallow, it's just gone.

Years later, after the attainment of sufficient wisdom
I went about constructing the perfect sandwich,
Drawing upon my decades of eating experience.
I referenced chef books and gourmet magazines,
Visited the Italian Deli:
Sliced meats and French cheeses,
Fresh breads from the bakery.
I took my time, layer by layer, like fine masonry.
By the end, it loomed regally upon the plate,
A thick, robust, perfectly distributed
Balance of salami, prosciutto, ham,
Gouda, Camembert, lettuce, onions,
Double-decker slices of rye and pumpernickel,
A dollop of mayo, lightly spritzed with balsamic.

When it was finished I promptly tossed it in the trash.
What are doing, my son asked?
I shrugged my shoulders and wiped down the knives.
You threw away a perfectly good sandwich!
Just hold on a minute, I said,
And proceeded to construct him another,
Just as lovingly, just as mouth watering.
I pushed the plate toward him and watched him eat.
He must have been ravenous
As he plowed right through it in 5 minutes.
The best bites (by my reckoning) went down
The gullet about half way through.
(Oh the joy of watching un-strategic ingestion)
You see, I said, there never was a sandwich.


Saturday, May 23, 2020



We all should wear the mask,
To filter the things we cannot see.
Not so much to keep things out
But to corral what tries to flee.

I aim to protect others from foul exhalation.
I try to be a good citizen,
Averse to the idea of contaminating others;
We are all responsible for our own pollution.

I am running my errands under the guise of cloth;
Grocery store, dry cleaners, gas station,
You can only see my eyes.
This furtive silence is a new banditry,
Passing coins and cards under Plexiglas.
I enjoy not being seen in plain sight.
The dead air trapped in front of my face
Is warm fetid discomfort, but mine alone.

Anonymous suffering is perhaps a way to atone.
We can always kneel and pray for expiation
But that’s not the same as forgiveness
Which is too personal, too intimate;
Usually requires an element of touch
And inevitably ends in a kiss.
But I’ve pinched the wire down
Over the bridge of my nose
And centered the mask over my lips.


Sunday, May 17, 2020



When you’re dead inside
You almost need to see the blood flow
To know it isn't so.
When your skin can't breathe,
Encased in this thin carapace,
There’s an urge to pierce
The merely conceptual shell
With this non abstract knife or
A broken shard of glass or,
If that’s too extreme,
A direct pointed question,
A query that echoes around
A fun house Hall of Mirrors
Where it’s just me and me and me 
In every twist I turn until,
Like a word said over and over,
(banana banana banana…)
It loses all meaning,
Reflections become being,
Existence a warped horror-show
Of comforting episodic sound,
(break the glass, the glass, the glass)
The drip drip drip of blood against the ground.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020


Red Tulips

I think I would have turned
Out the same no matter what;
Dad or no dad,
Broken home or whole,
Happy mom, bitter broken soul.
In the end I don’t feel any of it really mattered.
Father, mother, sister, brother;
They just wandered in one night
From the alley shadows of memory.
I didn't have to put them all on stage,
Give them parts in my own private play.

I have reached the age of no longer caring
About finely crafted back stories:
Turning points, betrayals and asking who’s to blame.
Every family fragments with the passage of time.
Sifted through the sieve of individual lives,
Sometimes it's the only way kinship survives.

Walking the dog one day I came upon 
A random troika of red tulips
Bursting from a strip of grassy berm
Between the sidewalk and the street.
They didn’t belong there,
So close to the cement curb.
I caught myself trying to conjure a provenance
And gave it up, let my mind go blank.
The dog was patient, accustomed by now
To my sudden unpredictable pauses.
Look at those damn flowers, I said aloud,
The way the petals caught the afternoon sun!
It was the color of half-asphyxiated blood,
Just enough oxygen to carry me home.


Sunday, May 10, 2020



Scented candles are popular for lots of reasons.
Everyone has a few; in closets, in cupboards,
Waiting patiently on bedroom dressers.
Some like the pungent waft of fragrance.
Others the quivering light in a darkened room
During a storm when the power goes out.
I prefer the gray trail of smoke
That languidly spirals away
From the black dead wick
Once you blow it out,
Like a snake easing through the grass
In its perfectly natural, inexplicable way
Or a sensuous woman who has mastered the art
Of walking away, seemingly oblivious
To the sense of being watched,
The smoke that never looks back.


Saturday, May 9, 2020



Insomniac, sleepless nights.
I can’t snooze in the glare of the cave.
What I need is the darkness in the heart of the sun.
This pillow is much too hard.
I seek the softness of a bed of rock,
The silence of a passing train,
The ear splitting din of the bottom of the pool.
I want to grasp the emptiness of love
That spills from the cup of abandonment.
I want to hold the universe in one clenched fist,
Distribute this grain of grace to every last soul.
I am the son of childless parents
Who believe in the fecundity of barren wombs.
This restless world, this gloaming without God
Becomes the soporific stillness of the holy dawn.


Wednesday, May 6, 2020



My dad used to always show me the receipts;
Birthday gifts, hotel and restaurant bills.
He liked to show how much he’d spent
As if the rows and columns of numbers meant
All the important things could be counted.
But numbers don't mean much when you’re nine or ten.
It takes a while to understand how much things cost.
You just know that something is given and something is owed,
That all things have a price
And payment is due even when the cherished things are lost.

One time I needed envelopes last minute
For the Valentine’s Day party at school.
We stopped at a drugstore but all they had 
Left was a giant box of business envelopes.
There were way too many
And they were way too big
For my little bundle of pink and red cards.
It all seemed like such an expensive waste.
(Mom ran out later and got the proper kind.)
When he dropped me off at home
I clutched the crumpled receipt and wept,
Like Daisy Buchanan rifling through
Gatsby’s closetful of beautiful shirts.

Another time, just before the big split,
I slid my only twenty dollar bill under his pillow
Folded up in a note where I’d written
Kid things like I'm so sorry daddy and please don't leave.
But he never said anything about it.
Maybe mom saw it first and threw it away in anger;
Who knows?
I never got my money back
And I never got a receipt.