Steinbeck and a pastry…

As we talk about others and ourselves and others
until we start back on us again across
the small coffee shop table with the whole world
rushing past us, nibbling on a pastry we share,
what Steinbeck said about having to get all our
autobiographical material out of our system
or it will hound us until we get it said
keeps interrupting my train of thought,
and yours as well as you ask me where my head is,
and am I listening, which, of course I’m not;
but that’s because we’re only pretending
to be the authors of our lives and this dialogue
we try every day – which you’re so much better at –
seems more accurate about others than us;
and I wouldn’t have it any other way
even though it doesn’t always seem so, and,
no, I’m not going to finish the pastry.

Advertisements

And they threw candy at us…

Aluminum chairs with nylon bands
stretched in their lattice weave,
blue and green and sticky and soft,
we carried to the sidewalk of Main
under the red, white and blue
banners draped on light posts
made of speckled concrete, stout
and immovable, and sat and waited
and fidgeted until we heard
a band playing, horns blowing,
people we didn’t know sitting
on the backseat of convertibles
waving like we were old friends
driving 4, 5 or 6 miles per hour,
and a clown faking a smile and laugh,
until the rumble of a fire truck
turned the corner and we stood,
eagerly, hearing parental cautions,
begging for the siren to sound,
and the firemen threw candy at us.

Chicken fat…

Great-grandma liked to use chicken fat

to moisturize her hands and she claimed

it worked better than all those expensive

creams from the drug store – a waste of

money, she’d say, and look at my hands

after so many years, with wrinkles from

hard work but imagine how rough they’d

be if not for the chicken fat; it fascinated

us although we just couldn’t bring ourselves

to try it even once, but we did notice that

the dog liked Great-grandma most of all.

What I’m not thinking about now…

The dry, deadly needles of another Christmas tree
stab my thinning skin and ornaments tumble
to their shattered end, but I’m not thinking about
years and years of cackling laughter slipping off
into the nowhere of ether and our children
slipped off to their own lives too far away.

I’m not thinking of the musk of my childhood
basement where I’d hide to play on hot summer’s
days – the cool screech of cicadas outside piercing
the quiet interrupted by the sounds of Mom loading
the washing machine, stepping back and forth
as her slippers scuff the cement floor.

She was young then like she’d never be again
so I’m not thinking of that, just like I’m not
thinking of debts I owe, how the gutters are
overwhelmed with melting snow today and
the leaves I didn’t clean from them when I could

and I’m not thinking about taking the dog
to the vet and my own visit to a doctor eager
to prescribe another thing or two to fill the
crowded pill case I swore I’d never need or use

that soothing sway and chatter of riding the
California Zephyr on a family vacation and Bob
and Phil, Betty and Judy boasting how they love
sleeping on a train in White Christmas and
returning the gift of a sweater that doesn’t fit
this year but it would have last Christmas

and I’m not thinking about the first time I ever
had a BLT and it was so good that everyone
since has paled in comparison but I keep trying

and how the touch of a hand on my shoulder
stays with me, the smell of rain in summer
and how it’s different than in the spring, and
I’m not thinking about any of these things now.

So the blank page…

It’s the sun than compels the painter to paint,
and this is obvious to everyone except
those who just can’t paint

like the silence we fill with noise and words
that destroys any hope of quiet
for those who want peace

or my dog twisting a curious head toward me
straining to understand new things
hoping for a treat

so the page, so blank and pure and empty
sends fear tearing through the heads
and hands of the writer who isn’t

and that sounds so snobby and condescending,
doesn’t it, so we all play the game of pretend
that words are hard for all

but they aren’t – hard for all – and that’s that
because they come to us so easily at times
although not always kindly

which is the real difference, the truest fear
that we being we – the you and the me –
can’t quite get us right.

A preference for blue…

Does it really matter what I think about
a color, favorite or not is just a preference,
and mine is blue; like the t-shirt and cap of
my little league uniform the year I played
shortstop, turned my first double-play or
the time I actually hit a ball over the head
of the left fielder but only made it to first
because I watched it sail so perfectly into
the blue sky while the coach yelled his
insistent ‘Run!’ but I wasn’t embarrassed;

it was the same blue of the sky above as a girl
named Jean rested her head on my chest one
summer’s day after our first awkward kisses;

it was the blue of swimming pool water
I swam every summer’s day, and it’s the
blue of the house I lived in on Hudson until we
moved to one of brick and brick isn’t blue;

I pick blue pens instead of black, blue ties
instead of red, my favorite car was a blue Nova
with a V-8 that drank gas faster than I could make
minimum wage to pay for it, and my eyes are blue
and I do enjoy being told my blue scarf brings
them out, but it doesn’t really matter what I think
about a color, favorite or not because it’s just
a preference and I always prefer blue.

On eating bacon…

If I eat this bacon will it really kill me
like the hemlock in Socrates’ final sip
or drowning as the S. S. Titanic sinks
because my doctor seems to think so

will this thick cut marble of porcine be
the straw that breaks the camel’s back
which tops my damn family’s history
of too sudden ends to too young lives

I’ve separated and discarded yokes,
taken up grains and wheat for toast
and my milk has been skimmed
of all character and flavor from fat

so over my decaffeinated cup of tea
I’m questioning whether this perfectly
prepared strip will be the very last
thing I ever eat, and if it’s worth it.

Lovers forgotten…

There’s a wonderful novel on my shelf
which once slept bedside when read daily,
over and over again as if new, old pages
still surprising, reluctant in my progress
through the confused lives of Owen and Stevie,

how Kate loved Owen but Stevie loved Kate
and nobody loved the janitor, Mr. O
which they called him because no one
could pronounce his European surname;
how I cried every time I read about
the disappointments of their sad lives

and wondered at my own insignificant ways
until another lover came to bed with me
and the pages of Owen, Stevie, Kate and Mr. O.
gathered dust, then hid in a stack
until finally becoming lost on my shelf
next to the other lovers I’ve forgotten.

Where everything is…

Either I was stupid or just too much a child
sitting with an Encyclopedia Britannica
propped open in my lap, turning pages and
nodding along, eyes darting here and there
at letters making words I couldn’t read because
I was just three, but I knew everything was here.

Do we even imagine such things as everything
anymore? On pages, in words made of letters
we can’t read because we don’t believe it’s possible
to understand in a way that includes everything –
it doesn’t seem so, does it.

But on page 127, Volume 8, Edward to Extract
there it was all about ‘entropy’ – just another
way to say there’s a degree of disorder to it all –
a lack of predictability that does not mean there
is no everything but we see a gradual decline into
disorder which is just less of the more that makes
it possible to sleep at night.

And isn’t that the everything I couldn’t read about
when everything’s were all I knew with the Encyclopedia
Britannica propped open on my lap when I, like
our sad world, was just a few years old?!

Simply an accessory…

I feel famous on days like today,
plucky and serene, unhurried by
a schedule everyone else rushes
to keep, naturally pausing to look
into a mirror, chin raised and
finger tips guiding aside a wisp
of hair that falls back lazily,
attractively; exiting into a calm
day to match just me, stepping
onto the bus without a pause or
breaking stride, smiling in response
as strangers try to get my attention,
nodding and turning toward the
window as the sun itself brightens
while other squint uncomfortably;
my uniform hiding behind my
overcoat and scarf which is so soft
and flimsy it’s simply an accessory.