Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Garbage Day

Apex of the round,
departure point for
points unknown, leaving
behind a clean slate
on which to compose
a fresh tale of need
and want met without
thought or grace or awe.
House's in a line
unmarked with the blood
of the lamb, offer
up styrofoam and
melon rinds instead
of innocent first
born sons. Sacrifice
to the off-shore gods
of low wages, buy-
in-bulk, race to the
bottom. The driver
leaves my can crushed on
the curb, lid sailing
away on the breeze.

November 3, 2011


The Backyard Haircut

Bean ran for his life. He was just out of reach of the whirling blades of a giant lawn mower. The air was thick with blue smoke and the smell of sweet cut grass. Heat from the engine glowed red hot on the back of his neck. Bean peeked over his shoulder as he ran. Yellow mower eyes gleamed above a cruel mower mouth.
Don’t slow down”, he said to himself, legs pumping like pistons. But escape was impossible. With each step his feet plunged deeper and deeper into the soft, squishy earth until only his head and shoulders remained above the long, green grass. The lawn mower was very close now. A wide ribbon of neatly cut grass unrolled behind it to the horizon and disappeared over the edge.
He was trapped, arms pinned to his sides. The ground shook and quaked around him. The whine of the blades was loud and shrill. All that shaking, quaking and whining made him dizzy. Dust and grass swirled around his head in a bristling cloud. His nose tickled. It was hard to breathe.
Bean slowly opened his eyes and rubbed his head. He was lying on the floor next to his bed, tangled in the covers. Arrow, his slobbering dog, painted his nose with her gritty tongue. A loud sputtering sound filled his room. His neighbor Mr. Cadillac, a retired weatherman, was mowing his lawn. It was a chore he did every Saturday morning.
Bean exhaled a long sigh of relief, enough to inflate a large balloon. There was no monster mower with yellow eyes and teeth. He smiled. It was Saturday. But just as quickly, his smile melted away like ice cream on a hot summer day. Saturday was Hair Cut Day. Beans balloon deflated with a loud and impolite PLZZZZZGH!
Dad pulled his big, black bag down from the shelf in the front hall closet. The bag contained every kind of hair-cutting tool and accessory ever made. It held long scissors and short ones. Inside were blunt-nose scissors that looked like dolphins, and ones with rows of serrated teeth that would make a shark give up an eye tooth. One pair had a tail attached to the round thumb hole, forming the letter Q. They seemed to be scolding “QUIET” or “QUIT YOUR SQUIRMING”.
There were combs of every color and size. One was transparent like a stained glass church window. Another was fat, purple and looked like a rake. A long, thin yellow one made a sound like a xylophone when you plinked the tines with your finger. A bone-handled modal sprang open like a pocket knife when you pressed a hidden latch.
Tubes of jell and tins of wax mingled with long chains of gigantic safety pins. A cracked mirror in a pink plastic frame reflected the cover of a book called 101 POPULAR HAIR STYLES FOR KIDS, 2nd Edition. The cover was a picture of a boy about Beans age, taken a very long time ago. His hair looked chewed by weasels.
Deep inside the bag, past the wax and scissors and combs, at the very bottom where light never reached, something else waited patiently. Dad lifted it from the bag and held it up like a newborn kitten. He whispered to it as he slid the thing from its blue velvet bag. It had a hard shell that was cool to the touch. A steel nameplate riveted to the side read DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000-THE WORLDS MOST POWERFUL ELECTRIC RAZOR-WITH SWISS MOVEMENT.
Swiss Movement? Bean couldn’t help but imagine squads of tiny mountain gnomes skiing over his head with long scythes, mowing down rows of hair.

In the backyard crates were stacked on boxes, crowned by a rickety three legged stool. The crooked tower cast a long, black shadow across Arrow asleep in the driveway. It could be seen for blocks around. A thick orange electrical cord snaked out of the garage and wound around and up the tower. Dad appeared with the DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000 cradled in his hands. He gazed lovingly at the sleek machine like a man about to speed off in a fast, red sports car.
Slowly Bean climbed the dark tower. Escape was impossible. “Arrow”, said Bean, “save me, boy!” The dog eyed the Swiss monsters’ shiny steel blades. He slunk away with a low growl.
. Dad pinned a bed sheet tightly around Beans neck like a backward cape. He peered into his black bag and sorted through a handful of chunky cutting attachments. He selected a bright red one and snapped it into place over the sharp blades of the DYNALUX. It looked like the cow-catcher on the front of a wild-west steam locomotive.
Dad connected the power cord, threw the switch and the DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000 roared to life. The air was filled with a metallic buzz. The machine snarled, “I’m gonna peel your bean, Old Bean!”, or so it seemed.
Dad pointed the razor at him. He looked very serious. “Don’t move a muscle or I’m liable to gap you”, said Dad
Bean sat still as a statue. The DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000 looked like it could cut a gap wider than the Grand Canyon in the blink of an eye.
Dad put on his glasses and opened 101 Popular Hairstyles for Kids. He studied a complicated diagram for cut number thirty-eight, the Riviera Hi-Top. He didn’t notice Mr. Cadillac approaching from the other side of the fence. The old weatherman reached across and grabbed the razor. He offered to demonstrate a haircut called the Wind Shear that could withstand gusts up to eighty miles per hour.
He lost control of the machine. The thrumming razor skipped across Mr. Cadillac’s head in a funnel cloud of grey fuzz. It left a twisted path of devastation in its wake.
Mrs. Finchpheeder, the widow from across the street, appeared and gently took the razor from Mr. Cadillac’s trembling hand.
Let me show you a style called the Rocky Mountain Avalanche ”, she said. “It was a favorite of my late husband.” Mr. Finchpheeder had been a famous mountaineer.
Mrs.Finchpheeder looked like a squat, jolly Statue of Liberty. She thrust the DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000 high above her head. The razor took off like a helicopter. It hovered and dove over the mountainous coiffure piled atop her head. It set off an epic landslide of blue hair.
Teapot, the man who delivered the Daily Blab and Cackle, came up the walk. He pointed to a front page color photograph of the Great French Chef Yves Du Declare, a man more famous for his wavy golden mane than for his Tangy Mango Flan. Teapot snatched the razor away. The Swiss machine revved like a turbo-charged blender. It grated, chopped and pureed Teapots curly tresses into a light and fluffy soufflé, which promptly fell.
Perrault, the mailman, relieved Teapot of the little machine. “Dis ting it sound like dat devil Buck” he said, “Mrs. Beaglemans beeg, bad Husky dog.” The DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000 leaped from his hand. It circled around and came in low from behind. The razor pounced on Perrault. “ By gar, eet is lek mad dog, I tell you wat”, yelled Perrault!
Give that thing to me, sailor” said old Admiral Horace W. Ledbottom, USN (Ret.). The Admiral had been tending his wife’s grape arbor up the street. “The boy needs a flat-top”, said the old salt. “Man your battle stations! Full speed ahead! Damn the torpedo’s!”
The ELECTRAGLIDE came about and mounted a surprise attack on the old gobs’ noggin. “Remember Pearls’ arbor!” cried Admiral Ledbottom.
Across the way, head-phoned Roddy Mipod stood working on a ladder. He hummed along with the music as he trimmed his hedge. The 5000 swooped in, cutting an arc through the air and tore into the junipers. While Roddy warbled “Love, love me do, you know I love you”, the DYNALUX sculpted a topiary tribute to Paul, John, George and Ringo. It was a very good likeness of the Fab Four.
Arrow tried to run, but the D.E. 5000 had legs. Faster than you could say casaba melon the poor dog stood shivering, shorn smooth as an eggplant.
Dad lunged for the razor. The ELECTAGLIDE dodged him easily. It transformed his shirt into a colorful bird’s nest of thread then shaved the words “SWISS POWER” into the hair on his chest.
Finally, the ELECTRAGLIDE turned slowly toward Bean. Hovering two inches from his nose it swayed like a mesmerized cobra. Bean sat frozen under the cape. There seemed to be no escape. With a loud BRZZZZZA the razor shot forward. Bean clamped his eyes shut. His nightmare was about to come true.
The orange extension cord Dad used was exactly fifty feet long. It wound around Mr. Cadillac, Mrs. Finchpheeder, Teapot, Perrault, the Admiral, Roddy, The Beatles, Arrow and Dad, a distance of precisely forty-nine feet, eleven inches. One inch shy of Bean’s head, the plug yanked free from the electric outlet. The 5000 had reached the end of its lifeline. It clattered to the ground and lay still and smoking.
Bean helped Dad bury the ELECTRAGLIDE 5000 in the backyard. Arrow stood by growling, wearing a warm doggie sweater. From that day forward, Bean got his hair cut at the barbershop. He never got a backyard haircut again.



Words like contemplation and
center clambor for notice.
Life, the raven, the trickster,
lifts the lid on another
unexpected stew, a meal
to savor or choke on. Let's
say grace and pass clockwise, the
dish is hot. Looking inward,
horizon distant, sky shot
with contrails trailing those with
ticket punched and one free checked
piece of luggage. Below on
the ground facing east or west
or north, sitting cross legged,
hands upturned in stillness,
contemplating the center,
my attention wandering
toward what's next in the pot.

November 9, 2011


Fridge (Form Over Function)

A sphere would be more pleasing,
a minor planet
casting shadows, reflecting
light, impending doom
just a roll away, squashed flat
for want of Pad Thai.

October 28, 2011


Knockout Blow

The Thrilla In Manila came to mind last night
after a Philip Levine poem read twice
without cracking the

Luzon, your old beat, host to high stakes TV taunts.
The Fight of the Century but we missed
the bout, the knock out

Smokin' Joe, dead, Ali, blank, looped in soft, smudged frames.
You, turned Florida soil beneath granite
markers platted in

Somewhere between a dream state and may-as-well-read,
we touched gloves and returned to our corners
to wait for the

I granted you youth to keep the fight fair, two-ten,
a long reach, lid flipped, spilling rage, grinning.
Up my sleeve, the

to mix my blood with your blood my sweat with your sweat,
absorb blows to my head, my ribs, turned cheek,
view you through cut

Then wade into your lethal right, annointing left,
injecting all I've got into one gloved
fist, my knockout

November 22, 2011


Autumn Tale

Summer's gone
stow the screens, tarp the chairs, try to recall
the joke she
told by the fire near the lake under
a low moon,
was the dog still here, were the kids gone yet?
So long to
late night swims dipped to the neck in black ink
peppered with
starlight that rode the ripples in winking
cadence while
our hands moved like unseen fish brushing by.
autumn settled softly, rounded edges,
hooded eyes,
sifted in, buried us up to the neck,
warm, amazed
that the endless adventure was only
a tale told
by a fire, near a lake, ending, sweet.

November 18, 2011

Moon Shot

Some people swore that the house was haunted. They said this in the same conversational tone they used to proclaim the merits of Burly tobacco over the Dark-fired variety. It obscured the deeper truth that the owner, Birch, was not only the most infamous man in town, but also the least known. Birch fired the imaginations of his neighbors like kerosene, but they would deny this with a level of wide eyed vehemence reserved for those questioning the certainty of the Rapture.
The Birch clan were among the towns first settlers, motivated less by opportunity than flight. Their predatory instincts made them wealthy. But as the years went by their holdings were steadily parceled off like Scrabble tiles being turned over. In the end only a B tile remained face up, the gateway to an old house from which all the paint had peeled and whose clapboards curled like pork rinds.
It was remarkable that a man who occupied the thoughts of so many in a town so small was such an enigma. His past had been swept as clean as the shiny concrete car ports of the new houses that surrounded the old Birch place. Fighting in Europe and the Pacific took many of the boys Birch ran with in high school and the ones who survived and held on to their wits had long ago left for work in Akron or Gary or Detroit. Birch’s fight had been closer to home, having been declared unfit for duty. Rumors flared for a while, ebbed, then smoldered for years like a deep seam of burning coal running underneath the town. Time passed and former teachers were taken by the cancer or sugar, kin erased by gruesome farm mishaps or late night wrecks. But Birch endured and was slowly transformed by the towns’ imagination, fueled by tent revivals and Hollywood movies, into evil pure and simple.
Birch was the gravedigger at Shiloh Chapel. He could be seen dozing on the excavator during burial services, a Lucky burning between his fingers. He never went into the chapel, not even on Easter Sunday or Decoration Day. Some said it was Holy Ghost power that kept him away. Others said it was Preacher Bobby Lark who had promised Birch a double-barrel helping of rock salt should he ever dare to enter that sanctified place. If it’s true that angels ring the grave to sing hosanna and bear the departed over the threshold to the city of gold, then Birch, smoking in the shade on the yellow excavator was there as the Devils’ grinning witness.
The conflagration that consumed the Birch place and everything in it happened late in July, the summer “they landed them boys on the moon”, as the men down at the courthouse would remember it. Birch's property had become a gathering place for local kids and ones from out of town. Sheriff Bill Atchley was up there every weekend and likened them to rail yard hobos or communists. There’d been a few smaller fires, a tulip tree, the roof of an old tanning shed, before the big one that ended it all.
By morning all that was left were two blackened chimneys. The kids had fled forsaking bedrolls and clothing. Searchers found part of a jaw and a long leg bone. Within a week they’d dozed the hill clean. By spring city water and sewer lines were laid in. Men went back to the moon and fought in faraway places. Birch had been taken up in a pillar of fire. Nothing was the same again after that.


In the same week in late October that Wal-Mart said it would stop offering health insurance benefits to new part-time employees, the retailer sent out a request for partners to help it "dramatically ... lower the cost of healthcare ... by becoming the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation." NPR, Wedneday, November 9, 2011

Wal-Mart Automated Customer Service: Hello, thank you for choosing Wal-Mart where we value your business and tolerate our employees. Please listen closely as our prompts have recently changed!

New Patient: (Suppressing a wet, hacking cough) Hello? Hello?

WMACS: Sam's Advantage Club Card holders press one. Wal-Pal Rewards Members press two. Little Sam's Savings Klub for Kids members press three.

NP: Please, can I speak to a nurse?

WMCS: For the Automotive Department, press four. Large Animal and Breeding Stock press five. Reconstructive and Cosmetic Surgery press sixty-eight.

NP: (presses random buttons, gasps for breath)

WMCS: I'm sorry, that isn't a valid selection. To hear this message in Spanish, press twelve. To hear this message in Gaelic, press forty-two.

NP: (drops phone, presses combination of buttons while retrieving from floor)

WMCS: Welcome to Wal-Mart's Hot Picks, your source for great values and money saving deals!

NP: I'm having (pant) trouble breathing.

WMCS: It's buy one get one free Side of Beef Day. These are feedlot raised Texas Longhorns with low-disease metrics and nice marbling. The first five-hundred customers will receive a marrow bone.

NP: (Loudly) I'm sick! I need a doctor! (fingers clinch during racking spasm, depressing several buttons)

WMCS: Laipni lūdzam Wal-Mart!

NP: Is that Latvian? Please, somebody help me!

WMCS: Lūdzu, klausieties uzmanīgi, jo mūsu uzvedņu ir mainījušies.

NP: (Beats chest with phone to restart heart, depressing sequence of buttons)

WMCS: Please hold for an operator. We are experiencing an unusually high call volume and apologize for any inconvenience. Your call is just as important to us as the welfare of our employees. Listen to some exciting values while you wait! (music fades in, theme from 'Chico and the Man')

NP: (Left side of body goes rigid, peripheral vision fades).

WMCS: Tuesday through Friday, senior flu shots, frozen pudding shots, 12 guage shotgun shells and oysters on the half shell, half off! Reversable men's suits, submersable women's faux Alpaca sweaters, transversable brain surgery and Nails by Felicia all thirty percent off their already low, low price! Don't forget to stop in Sam's Main Street Cafe for a delicious . . . (heavily accented voice breaks in) Thank you for holding, this is 'Jeem'. To better improve service please recite to me the Wal-Smart Hippocratic Oath and Disclaimer Clause.

NP: (prone, eyes fixed and glazed, phone under coffee table)

WMCS: Hello? Hello? Hello? Stupid Latvian's! (click)