Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's A Strange Love:

In an unblemished cyan sky hung a scrap of white moon on a warm day in January. I ran through town dragging my gaze along historic rooflines, staring at the past. My shadow danced across a saltbox's crooked stoop and melting glass panes. I loved that old home.

I had once touched the smooth stones framing its fireplace where men and women cooked, kept warm, sat by its light, and lived and died to the rhythms of sunrise.


He asked if I ever got mad at my dogs.

I love those dogs, but it's a strange love that often starts with yelling and ends in exasperation.


Every morning I stare at Ann's house sitting next door on its plaster and stones, painted siding fading and chipping.

I wrote a letter to her a few weeks ago and can picture her, an old woman shuffled off to a daughter's house, staring at an unfamiliar Florida morning filled with rippling heat.

I hate the heat, Ann had said over the phone. It's boring here and there are no kids. No one on bikes or playing. It's boring and I can't go anywhere.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Muzzle, I Said:

So, I'll take you up on your idea, he said.

Short stories? I asked.


He was having a beer at closing time while a few friends stretched the night's last moments and a drunk slumped and drooled in a booth.

A short story's sentences swing on iron strands carrying concise meaning, like a needle. Constructed of imagination, glimpses, and suggestion, the story crowds a mind where phantoms and demons jump from shadows and dance.

The story's impressions remain after staring at the sun.

I told my friend I would find him some. And I will.


Lily went berserk when another dog entered the vet's office today.

I stood to face the receptionist.

Muzzle, I said.


The idea of a short story, I suppose, is to say everything without saying everything.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hello Dali:

It's only a needle, he said, and glanced at her scrubbed skin.

Will it hurt?

Think past the pinch, he said, and it will only burn.

Pushing ripples across a pool of black, he readied.

Tell me, she said.

It's only ink, he answered. It's going to burn.

If dogs could draw more than footprints, I would ask Lily for a tattoo.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A pink scar across twilight was the upturned slice of moon over Oxford's hills, hanging in the sky on a terrible night.

I am the terrible night.

Although sunset's rust stains pale clouds, night drains their color. Heavy tar darkness comes as the thin moon stretches higher -- a broken eggshell in the stars.

I am the terrible night.

Lily whimpers as our voices rage. The other dogs follow her into shadows and small pockets of quiet where they shrink against corners.

I am the terrible night.

Angry from nothing and frustrated from nowhere, I scream against a terrible night. Otherwise happy people slam doors, regret their words, and wish to forget the world until morning.

I am the terrible night.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Said They, On A Saturday

Walking to my truck on damp feet under a dying twilight I listened to a plow scrape by.

Earlier, I had stepped in their footsteps, stopping at huddled hoods, snow-pants, and laughter filled with cinnamon crumbs. Crouched around a box of doughnuts were children in the snow -- sugar on their lips and their sleds' curving lines on the church slope behind them.

Hey, I said.

Hey, said they.

I am from the newspaper. Feel like a photo?

Strawberry sprinkles surged in their hearts.

I snapped and flashed and they were ready to tell me their names.

Hang on, I have to get my ... what is that thing? I returned with my notebook.

I stepped in their footsteps again, just like a kid worried about nothing more than hot chocolate with marshmallows on a Saturday afternoon.

The kids -- a cluster of Americana in the snow -- whispered as I walked away. We are going to be in the newspaper! said they.

Later, I sat in the doughnut shop thinking about spring, which makes me as happy as coffee after a lingering, bright-colored dream.


He stutters, but not every time.

He used to visit the bar on Fridays with his rum-n-coke girlfriend. He'd blink hard a few times and stammer over vowels. Lime please, he would say.

He came in alone this week, staring at the taps and trying to form words for his beer. This must be something he wants to do. In the past his date could have said, Blue Point Winter Ale!

But standing there alone in a long winter coat with frustrated fingers tightening around money in his hand, he said, let's see. His whole body relaxed, then bent with the effort to pronounce a beer, and relaxed again as he said, let's see. OK. So, ok, let's see.

With a deep breath and his head tilted back, he said in a burst, Smuttynose!

From the far-left tap I poured a Smuttynose brown ale. Can I help him with this? Can I ask him that? The guy puts himself through hell just for a beer.

Don't we all?

I am cold in the heart of winter's frozen January, and adrift.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Love's a funny thing with a mind of its own, even when it lives in your heart:

I stood there with my feet on crumbling pavement, carrying a heap of worries and a 30 pound bag of dog food. Summer's branches lay dead on the driveway under a black winter sky. Icy stars and the sound of a faraway truck groaning up the long hill on Route 34 greeted me.

I watched Orion shift above bare tree limbs. I had a dream of tattoos in my head -- the needle filled with indelible hues staining me with buds, blooms, and bouquets stretching upward from my fingers and wrists, and decorating my arms.

From one gardener's lips tonight were beautiful words: If you have a good idea, do it. Lifetimes of space and struggle may rest between the thinking and doing. That's why we're here, I guess.

I am not good for too much now. I am tired. January and February walk off with my spirit and make it cold and small, then return it in the weeks before spring so I can bleed and strain a little more to revive it. But then the witch hazel will bloom and sunrises will push an earlier dawn. I really look forward to those ragged strands of yellow blooms.

At 5:15 pm Wednesday:
Wisps of faint blue daylight died on the horizon…

Around 3 pm on a stone bench at the skate park:
Got a cigarette? he asked.
How old are you? I said.
I’m 18. And I’m like, the only Korean hippie kid in Newtown.
Still living at home?
Yeah. Not getting along so well with my parents. It’s the acid. My dad says if I keep doing it, then I can’t live there anymore.
Yeah, I said. I visited home after college and saw the guy who used to be the smartest in my class. He was 20 years old and totally toast.
Really? he said.
Nobody home, I said.
What’s his name?
You wouldn’t know him. I am 39. This was too long ago for you.
Oh. You really don’t look it, he said. I would have said 25.
I glanced at his black hair and thin arms as he grabbed the skateboard and headed for the bowl.
Over his shoulder he said, I am a wishing well of compliments.

Sunlight was flying around the concrete then, throwing up a glare and painting long charcoal shadows behind guys hitting the ramps, clashing with the rails, and swaying through a bowl on tiny wheels. I had made a new friend. I think he was either truthful, or trying to shock me. Probably both.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Maybe you're standing there with toes wiggling in your shoes, wondering what to do. Hesitation robs you of stupid stories to tell, so go on and do whatever it is you're thinking about…


I remembered a screen door in Long Island where strands of Marlboro smoke slipped outside into a frigid, still night. Snowflakes passed between yellow porch lights at Winnie's motel where Justin kept a cheap off-season room -- the only tenant overlooking the beaches and dunes since summer's surges of city traffic and tourists were gone.

A mini refrigerator held crumbled sandwich wrappers and packets of mustard. A six-pack would emerge from somewhere every night, then disappear. Justin's counter tops held snarled guitar strings and Lou Reed album covers buried in cascading cigarette butts. He liked to light one smoke off the dying end of another -- the discarded glowing filter propped beneath a ratty ceiling fan while he kicked at his amp and moved stained fingers across the strings.

He smoked and liked thick black leather belts. I set up a bed on the couch and fetched a beer -- his number one love in the world, even since Alice. She was gone to Connecticut, but I knew he was around.

I went looking for Justin's truck on a Saturday when I told Tommy goodbye. Things had been bad and although Tommy and I were polite, the bad things stayed that way. Nobody smiled and I woke one morning knowing it was time to go. He was my boyfriend once but who was he now, and who was I?

Before Tommy went out that morning he said, see ya later.

I gave him my best rubber smile. I don't think that you will, I said.

Staring at the metal dashboard and looking at the chipped white paint on the side mirrors, I heard Lou Reed in my head. "Rock n Roll" beat out the sound of six cylinders and a bad exhaust. I stopped for a pack of Marlboro's. I wish I had Lily then.

Monday, January 16, 2012

He Would Have Been 63 This Month

His paycheck was dope money by 5 pm Friday.

He walked through gauzy days with empty pockets, carrying an anger that boiled when he spoke.

The important parts of his life came wrapped in a cinched plastic bag.

Who cared about love or friends? His Harley was chained under the porch like a dog, and I would pay his rent.

I never knew what the moods were about, or the insults and meetings in the bar bathroom. I thought the world was made of Joni Mitchell and coffee on Saturday mornings while the washing machine ran. I never knew life changed from excellent to desperate ten times a day for one Vietnam veteran who never woke up as the same man I knew the day before.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Either Do Or Don't

She's caramel in his arms

I look away

humming a song about forget me

everywhere I look is someone like me

heart in the fire


A friend called me for coffee today -- we sat in the shop and watched the world walk in for its light and sweets or cream no sugars. Kids and adults and fat women with too-red hair. Uniforms and bad pants and clicking high heels marched past.

I love caffeine.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Curdled-milk clouds covered the moon -- its sagging glow touched an old building's spire and I hunched over the steering wheel, watching my breath and remembering the girls room in high school.

I'd swim through hair spray and cigarette smoke. Haze clogged up the pretty girls' reflections. Perched on the sink with arms kinked, they slid their smokes back and forth between puckered lips and thin air.

I walked away dragging the smell of soot behind me and read the Economics lessons while they lit, sucked, and puffed through junior year.

Don't know why I'm thinking of these girls now. Where are they anyway?


I don't feel good today

happens all the time

the feeling stretches

away and back and away

Just a Rant On An Average Tuesday:

I was ranting at stars and earth and dreams dissolved to black. I hated the endless nothing of schedules and meetings and alarms and noise. Everything was on my list starting with fluorescent lights and I screamed and put a match to the long, long page when I realized no one was listening…

No echo. No other side. No valley to cross and throw back my damn voice where stones and birds and cascades of fallen hopes would not care anyway.

Take a breath, a friend said.

Monday, January 9, 2012


don't smile at love kid

that's not what it wants from you

laughing along to a tune of its own

full of freedom

and full of stones

or full of monsters and dreams and hopes

and things that break easily


I don't mean anything at all. It's January and I am cold.

But Saturday dawned so warm. Ice melted in the vernal pool and my reflection fluttered in a breeze. Up the rocks looking down past my toes I watched the pool's surface spread like glass on the forest floor. Higher up at the old foundation I stopped.

Feet in the moss and dogs everywhere. My eye caught the horizon so easily through winter's bare trees and I turned all the way around, ringed by distant hills circling me, unbroken. Here amid old ground and short trees, moss covers the stones. The foundation outlines a space where someone made conversation and dinner and sleep. Nothing else around here is manmade, except the noise.

I hear planes and a distant chainsaw. I call the dogs and head home.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Frigid Bitch

Winter’s sun drops early.
Hard candy clouds carry a dying twilight as the sky’s gray deepens. Shadows bleed away against the night. A black, cold season waits for me.
I stood today on January’s frozen ground, amazed that warmth could disappear. The darkness is like hunger.

I watched a bundled-up runner walk to the bottom of a hill today, then sprint upward. Could I make it to the top at a sprint? I did. I died a little bit. My ass hurts.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Out of Order

Sugar drenched scrap metal blues

on a cold, cold, January morning

warm a stone in my stomach that hurts every day

while pastel dawn pushes shattered light around

Blues in my ears and my head and the notes are crying

ripping my insides in a funny way

beating at my fool heart

with little hammers

Love me

i am here today

do it right away

but wasn't that you, yesterday?

That ever happen to you?

life in the wrong order


A year is a lot of days in a row right next to each other, and they're cranky and mean after the long ride to December.

A year went by while I poured messy shots and opened beer, struggled for words in a story few would read, but I needed to like it. Every time I read it. I looked at the world through wide angle lenses as children blew at dandelion fluff or carved pumpkins. I narrowed my view to a sharp 85 millimeters and stopped on a face, followed a cheek bone down to the jaw, and made crisp images of glistening lips. I did so many things this year. And I reached out and missed the rest.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

We were listening to Roy Buchanan's tasty blues.

Next to me with his shot glass pinched and lips wet with whiskey, Ray told me, Roy Buchanan was walking down a street when they picked him up for public drunkenness.

Buchanan's sounds tore through the party and accompanied Ray's Tullemore Dew.

Ray described a pioneer, a solo artist, a guitarist that died badly either on purpose or by mistake.

Buchanan was walking down the street when the police came for him. They threw him in a cell.

The deputy came in the next day and found Roy hanging by his shirt. Was the story true?

Buchanan's sounds filled the night as we toasted 2012 and laughed at ourselves.