Another poem about my dad racing
past semi trucks on New York interstates,
another vision of his mother laid up,
this time for good — laid down, really. Soon, I’ll visit
and kneel. Give and get some hugs, that one tune goes.

Procure the checklist now. Wizard of Oz,
a must. I Love Lucy, Jackie Gleason,
all four hours of Gone With the Wind,
non-negotiable. Write that down.

I knew the phone number by heart. Why didn’t
I use it more? Afraid to talk to weird uncles,
the one caffeine sludge-goo addiction ravaged,
the other an ex-con. Afraid my path
has led too far away from roots on Seneca.

Me to me, in mirror: Look where you are,
packing a weekend suitcase, flight out at nine,
to genuflect and shed water. You sent
an Easter card, sure. She liked it, reports said.
Sign yourself. Place hand on father’s shoulder.


Imagine if Grand Central was a roller rink
and all commuters skaters in a blur
of neon panache, impromptu moves,
and quicksand highs that quake like heavy trams.

These knuckle draggers in the science wing
of human origins, closer to their
ancestors than they may realize. A sign
about fish with “video skin,” but no closer
read for meaning. There’s a poem in there?
I’ve typed those words before, too many times.
Once is even a bit much, wouldn’t you say?
Not like this is an MFA thing. Far from it.
Just me, the lager-eater, here in bed
with text as meaningless as fruited bread.

Or, Would Not A Contract Killer Also Get Bored?

Millennial tweeters say Mercury’s in retrograde,
and honestly who knows, but they’re onto something.

A pang sharpens around 25 (if
you’re lucky — 35 if not so much)
that yells in your half-awake face, “How about grad school!”
or “Quit this suck, go west!” or some dog thing.

Up to you to listen, indulge, or roll over
and lie undisturbed until the algorithm,
yet another prick, asks, “Are you still watching?”

Maybe you’ll take an acting class, bust out
of your self-made shell of quietude, and emote.
The only aspect that makes you recognize yourself
is the one you’re sick of. Try on some new faces,
the class teaches. Listen more, but shake the fear
of saying what you want — all in the book,
anyway. Sounds self-helpy, but some truth.

Maybe not you, but a young war vet, marine,
a cold-blooded hitman. Just spitballing here!
Would not a contract killer also get bored
on the job sometimes? From hotel room
to airport to parking garage, the sterile spaces
and sure, death waits, but for him too, you know?

It’s not Dante, but also yes, divine
in spirit. A beer-sipping idea for sure.
Get hammy as hell. Clear your Sunday night
queue. Walk into the wrong room just to see
what it’s like. This is not a graduation
speech, so time to close the browser, clear
cookies, pirate screenwriting software, say
goodbye. The pang lingers, yeah. But let it.

Neither one listens to “Brothers in Arms”
The Ess-dog waits tables and he sold his guitar

I come in off the highway and I park in my front yard
Fall out of the car like a hostage from a plane
Think of you a while, start wishing it would rain

Long before anxiety found me asleep in my foxhole,
my mother used to bring me shopping with her.
Not grocery treks — that was dad’s purview — but
quick lunges up Paul Road to Kmart for batteries,
drain cleaner, shaving cream, innocuous items.
She had a coupon. I’d tag along behind,
lingering in aisles, staring at the Dudley Boyz
action figures, until she’d call me up,
metaphorically retracting the leash,
and once again, I’d join her side. All the while,
the drab store speakers dribbling soft-rock ballads
genuinely sad, their grey coldness reflecting
the paltry jewelry island, depression smocks,
all manner of suck inside the windowless hole.
The muzak made me feel forty. A pleasant sad,
if such a thing, but of course there is. Kids can
sense it tepidly, like poking bugs
with sticks. Years melted like birthday candles,
ice-cream cakes when the power goes out on your 13th.
One loved sad song now would’ve sounded ripe
flooding the store, me in the toothbrush lane,
the walk-down chords deflating young love’s swell.
The other, a buzzing chess game of mixed intentions,
wouldn’t have worked: too caustic. But perfect for now,
this rain-gloom puddling on the train,
evoking bleary trips to burned-out plazas
with mom. This morning, no hot embers turning
in my chest. Thinking of her, and Jenny too.

Here found an end, Route 66
terminates at
the foggy pier
amid hot glee and ocean mirth.

First landed years ago with her
and took the pic
with love in eyes
but shattered one year down the line.

The whys don’t matter, didn’t think
of them then, just
the stark image
contrast: one sunlit, one oil black.

There lost a joy, Route 66
finds origin
at the sunny
dock amid a brunt of wavefall.

Left the house this morning, quarter past four
and curved round the lake, rank gear bag in tow.
The early ice is crisp. Who could want more?

Blood pressure’s finally fine, doc says. Only sore
to grapple now, and cold — when, fifteen below,
left the house this morning, quarter past four.

Fled the country quick for snowy north,
cheap donuts and cocoa. Rinks rats, we know
the early ice is crisp. Would could want more?

No passport at the toll, too much a chore.
My guy, Rick, knows me, but on the low.
Left the house this morning, quarter past four

fumbling with radio static, A.M. a bore,
then, good find: Old Hip tune (not “Flamenco”).
The early ice is crisp. Who could want more?

Long sticks rest on the seat down, bag on the floor.
Home still close, though can’t quite see its glow.
Left the house this morning, quarter past four:
the early ice is crisp. Who could want more?

One car houses a ruffled lunatic
threatening to burst at invisible slights
with half the lights gone.

Another plays stage for voxpop singers
hawking “Under the Boardwalk” in the light
with half the riders clapping.

A third, holy like a cathedral,
quiet save for breaths and thumbs patting
lit screens under nose.

Some treks I feel close to death, the noise
and rush a threat. But other take beauty
in stillness — relative but no less sacred.
On these pulls, destinations come too quick.

We hucked frozen sugar, her and I,
at Vince’s Tasty Swirl off Highway 10.
High school is messy, sure, but melted ice
cream is worse. I mopped, she’d slowly bend
over the counter to hand sticky-thumbed kids
their treats. There was a Vince. Some days he’s close
with us and count the cash in back, small bids.
He was barely 30. After he chose
to skip college, his father gifted him
the shack — they shared a name. I left for France,
summer exchange. She stayed. We’d called it quits,
but still, he wasted no time. It was those pants,
he later told me by way of explanation.
In Paris, they could smell my desperation.

You really oughtn’t write a poem about
Mr. Dennehy’s without a nip
out back. You’d love the patio, really.
Frankie doesn’t work there anymore
since his band booked real money up north.

A yellow cab’ll whip you down 7th
South without so much as a customary
finger toward our back deck. Fresh awning
and endless pitchers now, competitive brunch.
But you’re already in Soho, now the bridge.

Soon Brooklyn down Atlantic where pubs dry up
like dull lime slices left on crumpled napkins.
But remember Dennehy’s — you drank here once
before the burdens sailed you further up
the island. Savor that black stout in memory.