Goals

When I am dead, growing in the
ground — assuming the world goes on,
assuming they don’t end the world
after I’m 80
(or, given my family history, 67) — 
I want to be:

a multiple-choice test option.

Think about it!  That’s the way
to make it.  That’s the way to
know you matter.  Who wouldn’t
want to be Archduke Ferdinand?
Sure, he’s dead, and sure,
his death was…painful.
But he is the answer to an
important question:  
“Whose assassination caused
the first World War?”
He is remembered!

The test question, then — that’s important,
isn’t it?  They say if you don’t ask the
right question, you won’t get the right
answer.  So:

“Who is the greatest poet of their age?”

That was easy!  It just came to me.
It’s the way I want to be remembered:
not a, but the poet —   
a poet who moved women to riot
and men to tears;
who showed desire is way
better than thought;
the one who gets quoted at weddings
and funerals, chiseled on tombstones,
printed on birth announcements.

The one who freed Literature
from the puzzle-makers and
the puzzlers.
Nobody’s done that yet.
Nobody!  I’ll be unique!

Okay.  Calm down. This is the way to go.
Take it slow.
(I feel so much better now,
knowing what I want.)

Next...the other test options are important,
aren’t they — 
almost more important than the question.
Who do I want surrounding me?  
Who will share my stage?
Another conundrum!  So let’s try:

A) Sappho
B) William Shakespeare
C) Walt Whitman
D) Greg Beckman

That was easy, too. I am good at this!
They’ll all select (D), of course —
but only after much deliberation.
I want them to think,
search their souls, argue.  
You can’t just give silly options,
answers easily dismissed
like Dylan Thomas or Mitsuhashi Takajo, 
whose haiku softly hold my
whispering heart home,
but who Americans confuse with a car;
or Thom Gunn, who taught me 
how to speak honesty
but is a cricket-chirp in Catholic schools
(that homosexual thing);
or Lorraine Hansberry — 
God!  Are they all gay? — 
the much-taught playwright, right,  
who didn’t write a stitch
of searing raw-nerve 
I-can’t-get-rid-of-this-thing poetry, right? 

No.  Those options are quickly 
crossed out.  I won’t be a default.
I want students to sit
at hard-carved desks
confounded among the known greats,
those who have risen,
acceptable contenders — 

and choose me.

Why? 
Because
everybody knows
history only enshrines the greats,
and that to be remembered — 
to be studied! — 
by legions of caring, sensitive schoolchildren
and objective, contemplative teachers of story

will delight my crusting corpse.

There are more poems. After this romp, I’d try something here.

Or maybe a story….here.

My Garden

He lives in my garden;
only I have the key.
There is no gate, no
lock to un-lock like
those posh private parks,
just a tree and some
grass, balloons from a story
and maybe an old bottle of
wine we bag before law comes
spinning around, on the hunt
for happiness.  Over there is
our first kiss on the 
stone pier they said Cortés
built, stretching out into a 
tequila moon;  and where that
old lady sits, remembering or
forgetting:  a flight to
somewhere, one screen lit in
the dark, yours, watching the
same movie, three times.

He is my garden;  only I
have the key.  No sock-puppet
politician or fisting Missouri
FratBoy can trespass our
grass, mock our tree, pull
down those balloons.
He is my garden, eternally
lost except to me, safe like
drunk wine and watched movies,
invisible to those who don’t
speak love, far from parched 
howls and Christians,

close as breath.
*Dedicated to Josh Hawley,
who thought his own hand
was up in the air
as he declared war.

More? Try these.

Or maybe you’d like a book? See these.

Two for fun.

“Shower”

I am a poet
which means I stand in the shower
and think the water is too hot
and shift the faucet-thing to the right
only to be blasted by cold
reality
into a sniveling shriveling carapace
shouting silent expletives that
crash cheap tile
with all the force
of metaphor.

“Preserved”

No
     sugar in the tea.
     It's today's enemy
     (like cigarettes and
     nostalgia and eggs).

So
     what?  Now I get to
     outlive joy?

More poems here. (Some are not fun, but maybe you’re in the mood?)

And yes, there are stories. But they are not fun. They are real.

Elsie

Back by trees that stand
into sky, green against blue
or grey to steel snow,
she watches yellow grain move 
to and fro, audience to
a calm horizon and her heart.

She hears wisps of 
boots brushing stalks until 
both are silent,
resting just behind.

They sway with the field.

“You ready?”

She holds the grove,
the shade, the cross,
grave,
then heads to the house,
husband close behind until
she reaches back her hand
to find his waiting and they
wander their way
home.

More of the same? See Honor and Other Virtues here.

My style after a bit of poetry? A story. Find them here.

Words, 1988

He’d be dead in three months.  Bob.  
The big guy came walking up the 
driveway, eyes fixed on the lawn.
Dad was watering.  Same jeans
he had in the 70s.  Same brown
flip-flops.  He didn’t stop moving the
hose back and forth.  I stood watching.

“Listen, we gotta talk.  Bury
this thing.”

It’s what everyone wanted.  The whole
block.  Just make up, some said.
He didn’t mean it, others said.  He said he was
sorry.  I just wanted them to be friends again.

But I knew my dad.

“Mom, you gotta talk to him.”
She pointed to the ring not on her
finger.  She shook her head.
She went back to her coffee.
She knew him too.

“Go home, Bob.” That’s all dad said.
Bob looked at me, then back at the 
lawn.  “I said I was...You know what?
Fuck it.”
He walked away.  Home.

Dad coiled up the hose.  “He
talks too much.”

When Bob was dead, his wife
waved me over, drunk on her porch.
“I’m sorry,” she slurred.  “Bob never
should’a said those things.”
She reached for my hand.  

“Honey, it was just a joke.” Her pinkie went up.
“Honey, he didn’t care about that stuff.”
She rubbed my hand.

I shifted away.  I left.  Dad was on the
porch, standing.  I went into the house.  
He followed.
“You want to go get some new
brake pads for your car?”  

More poetry. Always, more poetry here.

And stories, for people that want to lose themselves for a bit. Here.

Pizza Port, Morro Bay, California

It was quiet until it wasn’t.
But waiting for pizza is hard
on kids. I wasn’t surprised
when the little girl started to cry.
Her brothers drank their Cokes.

Mom looked at Dad.  It’s your turn,
her eyes said, twinkling. She
watched the game on the television.
Dad picked up the crying girl,
following the game until she sat on
his leg and leaned in:

“I miss Lolly” before resting on his
flanneled chest.  It looked soft.
His hand covered her back.  
He whispered:  “I miss her too.”
“Can I get a new one?”
He was all hers.
“We’ll see.”

Pizza came.  No grace but grace.
Mom wiping her boys’ mouths,
Dad pointing out uniform colors
on the TV, on his forearm one tattoo,
his smile large, kids fed,
old truck outside, no room but room,
family,

peace.

There are more poems here. And books here.

And then some stories here.

On the Phone, 1978

My grandma stood outside the door
to the garage.  The cord went through the
crack.  I wouldn’t hear what she was
saying. The drier spun to her voice.

“Get away from the door,” my grandpa said.
“I want to hear what grandma’s talking about.
I think it’s me.”

Grandpa’s eyes changed.  He took out a deck
of cards from the drawer.  “Wanna play 21?”
He set the cards on the kitchen table.

When she finally came in, I was concentrating
on my Ace.  One or eleven.  Her hands 
surprised me.  They were on my shoulders.

“Eleven. See?” She pointed to the eight. 

I looked back and up.  Her hair was lit from the 
ceiling.  She was my grandma.

I decided right then:
she was my grandma.

More poetry here.

Or maybe a story? Here.

Reading

It begins.  It ends.
The story goes on.
Footsteps on the ceiling,
toilet flush, water rinse,
softer not-fast feet
take time now that the rush
is over,
there’s room for words and maybe
a laugh
(he never laughs, but they do).
A crunch.  Munchy-crunchy. Fun.

He must have it —  women in 
a steady stream says stud, right?
They spend the night once or twice, 
seem sated, smile in the elevator next-day.
He must have it. Yes.

But the story has another side,
an aside, something in the margin:  
the crashing lasts but a paragraph,
sometimes two if the writer is good,
mark the start and mark the finish
and then the toilet and the water
and the softer feet
another paragraph another night
another woman smashing the headboard
into sentences that end
all
too
soon

measuring exposition and completion

line-by-line

as that steady stream
is suddenly understood.

(from I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors)


Want more voyeur? Click here.

Books! Sweet, strange books. Click here!

Peephole

The dog that looked like a bear,
big and ruffled and angry like
hibernation was not going well
jumped against the wall of the hall
tore away ravenous down the way
pulling a too-small child, dragging that
child towards the elevator
but it couldn’t wait and squatted 
and pissed a lake when the
elevator doors opened so it ran
ran ran for the doors as the child
fell through the urine and shrieked
more angry than sad, and let
go of the leash and the dog/
bear jumped on Anush the 
woman in the elevator who lived
with the dog and the girl and then 
she screamed at the dog and the
girl covered in yellow urine, all
Armenian words now fighting in the
hallway so even the dog came slinking
back and the door of their apartment
opened and a fat fat man in black
velour pants and a chain around his
neck bellowed, walked out into the center,
bellowed some more until Anush 
screamed again, this time at him,
the contempt!  Oh wow the contempt!
She snarled and screamed and
two more children wandered dumbstruck
out of the door, no shoes on their feet,
shorts and t-shirts that didn’t look
real real clean, one eating cereal
out of the box until Anush screamed
at them and they ran with the unine-covered
girl into the apartment and the dog started to
quiver back on its hind legs behind the man,
started to strain and soon there was poop poop
on the floor but the man didn’t see it
and stepped backwards and stepped
right into the poop and swore:
“Shit Fuck!”
Anush backed up, he moved forward
to kill her and this is the way it
went until an even older woman
like grandmother-old came limping out of
the apartment and said something kind or
that sounded kind because the man stopped
in his shitty tracks and Anush took a 
breath and even the dog seemed better.
The old grandmother held out her arm and
her son came to her and gave her his hand
and called another name and another child,
a new one, came out of the apartment and
took the dog to the elevator and down and
they all walked inside the apartment and
closed the door and there was still piss
and shit on the floor but, finally, quiet.

Aaah! Apartment Life. More? Click here.

Unless you want stories? Click here.

Garden

Plastic lights bobble along the patio wall.
Inside multi-colored paper clips and fabric boxes,
yarn and sequins stacked in cubbies,
child’s playroom for greeting-card guru,
red construction paper and computer screen
the size of a bed, fine stiff tulips
relaxed piano notes —
she found her Santa Barbara.

Bougainvillea spills over the view
framing sunset-valley eye-level
for short-grandmother-Mavis,
magenta thin-petals and 
lighted plastic bobbles and chimes
dance and dangle,
wise-woman hands inked and painted,
record of joy and death transformed
into keep-sake.

She sits with crafted memory,
a garden only a few square feet
visited every day.

(from I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors)


Neighbors , LA-style. More? Click here.

What was that? You want STORIES? Click here.