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)


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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)


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Layover

Down from clouds
night-sky Atlanta/LAX
arriving not-home
beer for beer-bellies
tucked under flesh folds.
“Cleaning girl did a nice job.”
Two waters on counter
microwave popcorn.

Beasts circle fat and bald
thin black sock-hose in beige carpet
flight bags lean on table
beer cans crack.
Bald one experts TV
checks watch
enters Animal World.

“Text your daughter” says 
sweaty navigator leaning at table.
Bald now-greasy pilot nods 
drifts back to TV:  
what would win — alligator or lion?
“Alligator.”
Happy B-day text
phone slips inside couch
“Marjorie gonna bring chips?”

“Wishful thinking.”

Alligator kills lion
as sleepy-not sleepy drink
rolly fingers grip cans
no chips no attendant
no return-text.

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


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Deal

His phone vibrates.  He looks at it.
His little girl tries to stay straight on a pink bike.
He hardens, hangs onto the pink seat.
“Fuck.” 
Undertoned
so his daughter doesn’t hear.
She peers at him, waits. She knows 
riding is over.  She holds the handle-bars.
They have plastic streamers.
“Just gonna be a minute, okay?”
He knows he’s hoping. She doesn’t care.
“Just a minute” as she puts her feet
permanently on the ground.

“Don’t got it.”
“Don’t know.  Comin’ clean wit-chu, man.”
“Don’t know whadda tell you.  Don’t got it.”
“What?  The fuck you say to me?”
“You threatening my family?”
“I’m gonna fuck you up!”
“You threatening my kid?”

The bike lays on the cement.  He spins around
desperate for his daughter.
She’s down the breezeway
talking to a baby palm tree
in a huge gray planter.
She waits for it to talk back.
He softens, turns:

“You get your fuckin’ money, okay?”
“Soon.”
“Not gonna happen, man.”
“Don’t got it, plain.”

Now he looks scared.  
It covers him like darkness.
He sweeps windows,
scours for signs.
Turning around and around
scanning, hurried,
stumbles toward his little girl,
touches her head,
she looks up at him,
she’s happy, points to the palm tree,
the gray planter,
tugs at his shorts.

“The tree wants Daddy.”
He says: “Yes, baby. It is.”
He keeps his hand on her head.

“I’ll get you your fucking money.”
The girl digs in the potted palm,
tries to climb in.
“Tomorrow.”
She’s looking for worms 
saying, “Here, worm, here, wormy-worm.”
“Tomorrow.  Stay away from my girl.”

It’s over.  The phone goes into his shorts.
He picks up his little girl.  He walks past the bike,
stops, looks at all the windows,
goes back, picks up the bike in his other hand,
leaves.

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


In twelve years in Los Angeles, have you ever seen a neighbor?

Death Becomes Her

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