A Trip to Florida
I was sitting on the screened lanai
with Joan and Bud, Aunt Helen’s cousins
people I really don’t know
her other beneficiaries.
They talked on tiptoes because I’m the one
in charge of the newly signed trust and will.
We’re brought together by trees
tangled so far overhead we no longer grasp
where the gnarled family branches are touching.
The apprehension of money
is what really ties us,
and some relation to guilt,
some association to fear
for our own future assisted-living
in some beige and lonely home (just writing that sentence
to the soft, romantic muzak here in IHOP brings almost-tears.)
Maybe it’s just my missing you
(now, me distant in Florida, but at home too,
with your days pulled up into your life,
never picking up the phone)
or the still fresh picture of Helen propped in bed
with her TV switched on but unwatched,
flipping through a Sears sale circular
power drills and washer-dryers she’ll never need.
Icilda, Helen’s paid companion, was lightly
dozing when I walked in to say good-bye.
She’s big and strong though not young.
Her size and dark Jamaican skin
made me day dream that you could be her son
though I’ve met your mother,
been thanked and kissed for the new
kitchen table and chairs I helped you buy her.
Patterson Literary Review, Issue 39 2011-2012 Honorable Mention Allen Ginsburg Contest
as I placed each stone inside my duffel bag
how heavy they would be to carry home.
An hour before on that April Sunday afternoon,
walking with the Long Island Sound,
I saw only the beauty of each glacier-polished stone.
As new, more interesting shapes or colors appeared
in the rippling water, I threw earlier finds back.
Before that I stood atop the steep cliff
from which a grayed wood staircase crept
down to the rocky beach―
like the set for a film noir classic.
An hour before I listened to early Streisand
and Polly Bergen torching Helen Morgan standards;
albums found in our hosts’ collection.
I’d never heard them before, but their low mood fit mine.
Before that I waited as long as I could for Arthur
and his new boyfriend to have breakfast with me.
The clouds kept them in bed past noon,
so I made eggs and bacon for myself.
At seven that morning I watched Bob drive off
for Central Islip and his 8:00 AM mass.
Before that I peeked from my twin bed
as he showered and got dressed;
black suit and priest’s collar.
Till then I tried to sleep the dark morning.
Before that Bob finally left me alone.
With a dirty shag carpet between us,
he snored on his back in his own twin bed.
Before that he held me pressed under his white flab,
his face too much in mine,
his breath sticky-sweet from scotch.
Before that he killed the overhead light,
only the dim street light
shining through the nylon curtains
lit the crossing from his bed to mine.
Before that he carried my bag to the attic room.
When he said we had to share,
his sports-coach voice implied conspiracy.
Before that the four of us shared
a spaghetti and meatball dinner
that Arthur’s uncle Tony left us
before he drove off to say Saturday night mass.
From the porch we watched Tony roll down
the window on his Chevy Impala
to give little Timmy a kiss before he rode home on his Schwinn.
Arthur’s uncle picked us up at noon that Saturday
from the Long Island Railroad―
North Shore line, two hours from Penn Station.
He gave us the full tour of the weekend house
he shared with Bob.
But not the attic bedroom, with the twin beds.
On the train out I read Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.
I couldn’t concentrate because I was so excited
about my first overnight trip without Mom and Dad.
Earlier that week I told my parents about our
invitation to Father Robert’s and Father Anthony’s.
The week before I turned sixteen.
Global City Review Beyond Good and Evil, Fall/Winter 2008 Number Twenty
Far from extraordinary
Wednesday follows Tuesday
the familiar envelops the foreign—
wine turned back to water
or, rather, wavering between the two—vinegar—
for the salad days to come
even if we’re flexible, though, there’s no warranty
the blues will pass the fiery crucible
drama is exaggerated
just reaching Wednesday will exhaust you.
California Quarterly, Volume 37, Number 2 2011
3 Views of the Provincetown Moon
Whitely etched to the otherwise
blue August sky.
Silvered ice in the midnight;
laying a new glacial river
down Cape Cod’s shivering bay.
from behind a black-night
patchwork of clouds;
now brilliant, now warmly
illuminating our room.
California Quarterly, Volume 37, Number 4 2012
It seemed as if the lemon yellow gladiolas were opening before her
eyes. Nélida sat in her East 4th Street flat while Linda Ronstadt sang
from the Panasonic boom-box crammed on the dressing table:
Cuando Me Querías Tú. Dusk came early on the first floor and in the
July half light the flowers glowed. She always kept yellow
gladiolas—she bought them nearly wholesale from the florist at the
Ukrainian funeral parlor—because they reminded her of the corsage
she wore to her Junior Prom in 1985. Her date was one of the
drivers from her father’s auto parts shop on Avenue C. He was
four years older and he smoked like a movie star. Her name was
Sharon then, but Francisco called her Nélida and the name stayed
even after he was gone.
Heliotrope, Volume 5, Winter 2004
Massive, like a marble table
or a sarcophagus
the jutting prow of a silver boat
tearing through the canvas’ plane.
Nothing is true to the eye—in the way
that, say, a photograph would record.
Yet my eyes are trained to read
the highlights on a patch of daisy-stem green
as the corner of a crystal vase or
the muddy taupe patch as shadow
on white marble.
These suggestions to the optic nerve—
clues to a more beautiful reality—
catch me in manufactured joy
as simply as I can believe a word, a touch
Slant XXI, Summer 2007
A thousand feet beneath our plane
tilled by winds blowing back to Paris.
Soon a runway will appear down below
where we will part after four honey days
of talking too loud, too late;
until our hotel neighbor, tapping timidly,
whispered “Tais-toi” through the door.
Now looking out the oval window
the clouds are cotton Pyranees.
Like a phone cord
a river coils off to the distance.
I sweep dinner crumbs from your empty seat
and watch you walking out of sight
to the back of the cabin.
Because of you I have written nothing
until this flight home,
and I’m suddenly frightened
looking through the window,
the six flimsy inches of this 747’s skin.
How little separates me
from Icarus and basking in you.
Slant XXIV, Summer 2010
I know where I’m going to die.
New York, in my neighborhood,
corner of Bleecker and 7th Avenue
where the taxis and delivery trucks come
barreling out at the crosswalk, aiming.
I didn’t say I knew when—
it could be the very day before I’m supposed
of old age or grief.
But my life would be full and my pockets too—
grasshoppers and ticket stubs, tootsie rolls,
pine cones, summer squash and sour poems.
You would think I’d move away, to Seattle or Spain—
or at least cross at a different corner,
but it’s nice
makes it easier to forgive myself the scoop of
Bananas Foster Häagen Dazs
as I spoon across the five lanes of traffic.
They aim, I shy back the terror—
is it now? It’s where.
Slant XIX, Summer 2005