Monday, November 11, 2013

Remember This

Remember Senior Ball. You’re with the girl who had to ask you out. You were too scared of yourself to risk dating. And you'd never have thought to ask her. Of all people. But here you are. Your tux looks good. She looks great. An ivory dress. It’s antique. She makes it look new. You’ve got your arms around her waist. Your hands on that dress. On her body. And those are her arms around your neck. Her fingers brushing spasms up and down your spine. Her favorite song plays slow. Romantic to high school kids like you and her. You should kiss her. Now. But you’ve never kissed a girl. Senior year and you’ve yet to taste lips and tongue. Not that you haven’t dreamed. You’ve dreamed alright. Other than self-doubt you think of little else. You sway with the girl in the antique dress to her song. Her lips are perfect red. Her eyes say, yes. They say, I’m waiting. For you. You sway. You want to believe. You say, it doesn’t get any better than this. But she says that it could. You haven't kissed her, but now you've decided to. And you pull her just that much closer. You lean across the distance between who you have been and want to be. Remember that moment just before you kiss her. Don't you ever forget.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Buried Treasure

I’m still digging holes in the backyard. The dog sits on the steps. She can't figure it and wants to go inside. I've lost count of the holes I've dug. The map in my back pocket is stained and ripped. An ancient thing. Like the maps I drew as a child having buried some thing in a corner of the yard. Long ago. Far away. I walk off paces. Make turns. Follow vague directions. Arriving at an imagined X on the ground in a pirate font. I spear the spade into the ground, jump on with both feet, lean back hard, pull up the sod. I dig slowly now. The first holes went faster. Dirt flew. The dog was delighted. She stood close. Her whole body shook. She imagined me knowing something. Now, she tries to sleep and I rest after only a moment. Leaning hard on the shovel. I close my eyes and pass my hand over my face. Rub dirt into my eyes. The yard is a field of holes and heaps of earth. I keep hearing that Beatles song. The holes. They had to count them all. And now they know. I push the spade in again. The ground is frozen cold. Too hard. I’m getting nowhere. I sing the song to myself. Going back to the beginning, about a lucky man who made the grade. The dog whimpers. She wants out of this. I tell her to hang on. It’s alright, I say. I know it’s here somewhere. But she knows better. I consult the map. My fingers spoil it with dirt. Another crease becomes a tear. I count twenty paces in a direction that might be east. Turn ninety degrees. Walk to a patch of unturned sod. I sing the song. Dig in. Push. And pull. The dog shakes her head hard. Her tags jangling like an alarm. She lies her snout down on the steps. Sighs. We both know I'm doing it wrong. It’s getting late. And dark.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thurible, You Say

That pain in your calf. That’s a candle. You know, the kind on your birthday cake. So is the crick in your neck. The outward curve of your belly. Your carpal tunnel too. And the feeling you get around seven o’clock when you’re more than ready for a drink. Candles. Striped birthday candles. Lit. Dripping wax all over the brown frosting. You blow and blow, but why bother. You’re short of breath. And those migraines. You can’t seem to sleep and your bladder is a walnut. All those candles. And the song. Listen. It’s your friends gathered around your bed, singing “Happy Birthday.” They carry you out to a field. A priest walks ahead. He swings a thurible, trailing clouds of incense. Thurible, you say. A special type of censer. A word you just learned this morning. You say it again. Over and over. You imagine a wind carrying the incense up toward heaven. Blowing the candles out.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Story I Haven’t Written

In the story I haven’t written a man is killed. He reads a newspaper as he walks. The Daily News. A story of a boy shot dead outside a school in White Plains. The man reads and walks and is shot dead by a bus. A local travelling from Manhattan out to Queens. Moving fast. Through a construction zone. The man appears from behind a concrete barrier. The bus strikes him in profile. His body explodes against the bus. Slams into a concrete barrier. It is far behind by the time I understand that it was his glasses I saw. They picked up the light of the evening sun. Flashed as they tumbled and flew. The bus slows. My body tells me that we have hit a man. I feel it in my spine. There is no blood on the windshield. No crack in the glass. The driver says, no, no, no. My notebook is open on my lap. Today’s date. The words, I am riding on the local. That is all. No story. It just happened. There is no story. Just a man and a paper. Walking. Reading. Then a physical shock to my spine. Transmitted through metal, fiberglass, and plastic. A bus causes the sudden flight of a body. A pair of glasses. The evening light. Perhaps there is a soul floating away. A spirit telling the story of life and afterlife. But that’s a different kind of story. Not the kind I can tell. Not the kind I even know how to hear.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Man Goes on Knocking at a Door

It might be a metaphoric door. He might be me. The man goes on knocking at a door. Not pounding. Not banging it down. Soft knocks. Like clearing his throat. To say, I’m here. There is no wall to either side. No ceiling above. Just a frame, a door, a stout lock. There are probably hinges. He is on a path that led him to this door. He is sure the path goes through. To somewhere. To someone. He’s sure. As sure as he’s sure of anything he’s not sure of. He goes on knocking. Waiting for any answer. He thinks he called ahead. He remembers a letter he wrote or a vow he swore. Something. He remembers, but not clearly. Not how we expect to remember words we recite in whispers to ourselves or speak with hand on heart. He keeps knocking. Whispering again. Saying, it has been so long. His hand is cracking. He is hungry. He thirsts. He closes his eyes as if to sleep. But the man goes on. Knocking at a door.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Lull Complete

I am a child. In a too hot summer. No wind, only sweat and burning skin. This is the shore of Maine. Blue Hill Bay. The tide is far, far out. I sit with my mother on rocks. The gulls have taken the day off. But not the sailors. A sailboat race is stalled on the still ocean. In the still air. A lull complete. Our neighbor is out there. His sails slack, hanging. Sheets without wind. Others pull down their canvases. They start motors and are gone. But our neighbor is steadfast. He waits on the wind. Mother admires this. Sings his praises. She says amen. But I see a boat unmoved. A man stranded. The sun drips down the melting sky. It fades. The heat does not. The tide comes in. Mother and I move to high ground. The sailor waits. I watch. My mother sighs. Hers, the smallest breeze. My skin is crisp, roasted. I am thirsty. I blink into the setting sun and the boat is gone. The sailor too. And also my mother. Time has passed and passes. Yet there is still no wind.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


The ghosts take the bus into town. They board quietly. Perhaps silently. But that’s hard to believe. They collect transfer tickets. Take a second bus to my door. They arrive in the evening, these ghosts. Before bed. A few slip inside as I let the dog out. The rest as I let her back in. I feel their pull as I go up the stairs. Kiss my sleeping daughters. Keep myself awake. I almost see them around the bed as my wife climbs in. When I fade into sleep they cover me. Clench my jaw. Roll my body. I feel their chill through a scrim of sweat. By morning they’ve risen. Clouds of a grey day. A threat of rain. I’m tired. Clammy. My jaw aches. Am I getting sick? I’m awake to dreams and nightmares of the past. And questions. The ghosts aren’t talking. They hang in the air quiet as memory. Perhaps silently. But that’s hard to believe.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

From NPR News: How To Be The Good Guy With A Gun At School

First, resist the urge to just point it at students. You are a teacher. Aiming at students is a mistake. They’ll expect you to fire and be disappointed if you don’t. To have any authority, you'll have to take one out. Preferably without aiming. Choosing targets is too difficult. The obvious choice is that big pain in your ass of a kid. But he’s kind of funny. Shoot him and the classroom will be dull. That’s no good. What about the girl who won’t put down her phone? Tempting. But she tests well. If you take her out of the equation (so to speak) the whole school suffers. Really you shouldn’t aim. Just let loose. Fire a few times if that helps. Order must be maintained. Respect too. Fire away. In this manner, you can be a good guy with a gun at school. And if anyone argues the point, you know what to do.

(Okay, here's the obligatory note saying that this poem is ironic. It's mocking Wayne LaPierre's suggestions that teachers should be armed. Given all the pressures on teachers, the volatility of students, and the stupidity of Wayne's idea, I'm not a fan of guns in any classroom.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

From NPR News: Some People Really Can Taste the Rainbow

In fact, most of us can. It’s sherbert flavored, of course. But not rainbow sherbert. It’s some kind of berry. We don’t know which one. Tasting it is easy. Finding it is tough. You find rainbows out there but can’t track them down. Some people—scientists and meteorologists mostly but plumbers and social workers too—claim that one can’t find the end of a rainbow. The point where it touches down. And they’re right. One can’t. But if you travel in pairs and threes and fours, most anything can be tracked down. I’ve been on expeditions to the dividing moment between day and night and the point at which fog ends. Finding the ends of rainbows is easy. And when we do, we eat up its berry goodness as though it will melt away. Because it does. Leaving just the hint of some berry on our tongues. We don’t know which one.