Friday, January 31, 2014

For Pete

Sing Out!

This morning to mark his passing
I accompanied the coffee maker
in a song about dawn, that shimmering
moment between cup and lip,
sting of intoxication like hammered
banjo strings, sun leaning in to lay on
high buttery harmonies. 

We drowned out the tepid choir
droning radio news, me and my greasy
trio, frying up a cooking little number
about eggs over easy, hash browns,
bacon and toast. Skillet, knife and chopping
block taking a new swipe at a sly
old tune with more than one meaning. 

Later on we sang a round that circled
back so often we all got carried away;
a glass, some paper, the pencil I cling to
like a trapeze, set free to watch the world as it
turn, turn, turns below, a hootenanny  
of voices that worry the hairline cracks
in the tone deaf walls of Jericho.    


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Final Reader


I’m here from the future to say you don’t
make it in the end.  At least it looked
that way as I slipped the hacksawed shackles
of linear time and cracked the spine
on this dog-eared remainder, droning on,

page after page, dusty chapters sifting
down, narrative arc in a lazy slope,

a Great Plains of exposition
extending out in all directions
relieved only by the scrawniest trees
of character development, plot
a trammeled fence row, lyrical

passages snagged on barbs, snapping white
pennants in a windy onslaught of words.

The prayers you launched degrade in low orbit
winking out in turn on the rotating
sanding drum of the mesosphere, conquests
sit forlorn at the far end of the groaning
board, knee to knee under sagging bunting. 

Denouement is assured, tidy or
otherwise; already I’ve said too much.

The black and white jacket photo, when was
that taken?, the dedication the truest
part, but the margins crammed with smudgy
doodles and profane retorts, your defaced  
gap toothed smile, were by far my favorite bits.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gospel Noir


Jesus loved us and gave himself up for us
caught my eye on my way home from the bank,
trailer marquee in front of a church canted 
like a ship on a wedge of snow.

My grandparents had a picture of Him 
on their wall, WASPY, aquiline nose 
framed by wavy brown hair, earnest beard 
of the singer-songwriter, cornered,

desperate in this telling, a version 
I made up at the long light at Main
and Rochester, parting torn curtains 
with a snub nosed pistol on the second 

floor of an abandoned building, maybe 
a defunct sheet music publisher or 
actuary decamped to Boca Raton.   
Search light beams casting shadows on exposed 

lathe, bullet stopping properties of a 
four drawer file a matter of faith. “Amscray", 
he says, jabs a thumb toward the back stairs, 
"steer clear of the train depot", flips us a stack 
of double sawbucks, blames tear gas for his 
waterworks.  We melt into the night, 
“don’t shoot, don't shoot, I’m coming out!”
trailing us like a high hosanna.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hold It By The Edges, Man!

Ten Records I Want On A Desert Island

There are no outlets for one thing, walls
if there were any, little more than gaps
between reeds, a fifty foot extension
cord useless except perhaps as an orange
SOS paid out across the beach, too
elegantly understated to draw
attention from the air, the phonograph
and other components I remembered
to pack curiosities for cargo
cults, rectilinear gods with dangling
cords sitting in silent judgment atop
stacked coconuts while I hold a gospel
record by its thin edge madly angling
toward the noonday sun.  Sacrificially
minded faithful nod politely to my  
best rendition of Pop Staples, closing
the ring a little tighter with every
verse, the most discriminating among
them barely stifling their laughter, passing
my nine other selections hand to hand. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Out in the sticks


Clutching at straw is undignified
at best, madly snatching at phantom
butterflies on the wing, fatal 
at worst for a man headed over 
the shaggy eaves of a storied thatch 
roof house, a lazy stutter of chaff 
cross-hatching his lifeless, mangled form, 
cooling hands closed around the memory 
of stout sticks, exquisitely suited 
through natural selection to 
grip and hold, grab and wield. 

Draw a line in the sand with a sharp stick,
dare all those pencil neck chumps, hands 
shoved in their pockets to take a giant
step and join the rest of us beavering 
away in the batter’s box or carving 
a morning wake, stabbing paint on canvas 
or snaring themselves in the soft shoe 
brushwork of an old jazz standard.
Tell them they can find me if they follow
the trail left behind by Peter, the boy  
in Ezra Jack Keat’s The Snowy Day,  
an old guy leaning on a shovel 
with a worn handle, hands yearning 
with desire for a stick; oak but ash 
would do, with which to bar the door 
to the incessant tapping of time.