Mom told me Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
premiered with a chamber orchestra playing in a courtyard
while Wolfgang and Constanze made love upstairs.
Mom grinned. “It was quite a performance.”
She insisted Beethoven wrote his Moonlight Sonata
beside a window that looked out on the Vienna Woods
where a woman, his Immortal Beloved, cried, “Ludwig!”
Mom ahemmed. “At that point he wasn’t deaf.”
No composer escaped her: Tchaikovsky hated
nutcrackers, Mussorgsky envisioned a Moscow
gallery that was the model for every exhibition
gracing Greenwich Village and Soho.
Dad lingered, helped by inhalers, though his voice
could no longer handle “La Donna è Mobile.” Mom belched,
“Giuseppe Verdi? Joe Green? He invented the sweet pea.
He was the original Jolly Green Giant.”
Rising up out of a grave
of dull-colored rocks,
a scattering of sticks, and
dead leaves, crisp as kindling,
comes a smiling cactus flower.
It is fresh as dew birthed by
a sea-green prickly cactus
that dares me to reach down
and touch this one thing of beauty
he can claim as his own, this piece
of sun on loan to the earth.
I recall blue water
in my elaborate dreams.
On a hot day near the ocean
under a delirious summer sky,
lazily, we talk of rain,
hear its musical pattering.
We sit, our legs tired
from swimming in the sapphire sea.
Still, after the grapes and wine
we run, drunk, under the moon.
We become two islands
joined by waves of desire,
clutching fistfuls of wet sand.
We lie breathless,
sprawled on foreign beaches.
Now I awaken,
stare into the black night.
Through the barren trees
blows a bitter wind.
Winter feels enormous without you.
There is a woman who goes to my church who
worked part-time at the local library. She’s got
a nice husband and an adorable little girl. One
time I was checking out an art book about Diego
Rivera, and most people at the library are
usually pretty grouchy, but she was very friendly,
and said, “Oh, Diego Rivera? How interesting!
I did a study on his wife Frida in college!”
It made me feel intelligent, like I wasn’t
bugging a librarian or something.
A couple of weeks later, she became a pastoral
intern at my church. I went up to her and told her
how I was impressed at her performance at the library,
and how I thought she’d do a good job as a pastoral
intern. She seemed grateful for the feedback.
A while back, she did the communion part of
the service, and she said, “I have a confession to
make. I like to read People magazine. Don’t judge
me. I am interested in the lives of celebrities
off camera, who is getting married, who is having
children, and so forth. But have you ever noticed
the first thing about the North Shore people ask
you when they meet you?
‘What do you do for a living?’”
She went on to say that God doesn’t judge us
by what job we have or don’t have, but by our character,
and what is in our heart.
I recently came across a writing contest on
the internet which was a story contest to do a satire
on someone famous. They said it could even be a parody
of revenge, getting back at a celebrity you don’t like.
I racked my brain for an idea. Not one to keep
up with politics, media or anything, I was struggling
with an idea.
Then out of nowhere, a name popped into my head,
To tell you the truth, I couldn’t remember who
he was. At first, I thought he was a Russian during
the Cold War, with a name like Caspar.
But I was talking to a friend over the weekend,
and he said he was the secretary of defense under
Ronald Reagan. Then we turned on the television,
and there was a program on PBS about space aliens,
and there was Ronald Reagan, in his own little
“Star Wars” world, saying, “If we are attacked as
a country by space aliens, we are simply not prepared.”
Did I miss out on something in the eighties?
I was a teenager back then. Was our president really
So I came up with an idea for the short story
contest, Caspar Weinberger meets Casper the friendly
ghost. I haven’t written the story, but I ordered
a book written by Casper Weinberger called “Chain
of Command,” which is pretty much your average
political thriller. It has to do with the president
getting shot, and terrorism. I guess it is a pretty
serious topic, I shouldn’t joke around. But I don’t
even know if Caspar Weinberger is even alive anymore,
and no one else seems to know, either.
I also ordered a book from the children’s library,
a graphic novel with some of the early strips of the
Casper comics. I went up to check out the books, and
the person who checked me out was the same librarian,
the pastoral intern, the one who confessed to the church
that she likes to read People magazine.
I normally don’t give much thought to what
the librarian thinks of you when you check out a book.
Shouldn’t they be happy that anybody is reading
anymore? But checking out these two books on
Caspar and Casper was kind of embarrassing, in
a weird sort of way. It was like her admitting
she likes People magazine. Who cares, anyway?
One time, I wrote a story that took place
on the East Coast, and one of the characters
was the Boston Strangler. The librarian who
checked the book out for me looked frightened,
like I was reading about the Boston Strangler
so I could become a strangler. I was just doing
research, that’s all. But I’m not a
Speaking of strangling, there used to be this
man in Evanston who got strangled in the city,
and it made him lose his voice. He would go
around and tell everybody in Evanston his story.
The last time I saw him, he was in Taco Bell,
telling these kids his strangulation story,
and he was really freaking them out. I don’t
know whatever happened to him, but I can’t
say I miss him.
If Caspar Weinberger can write
a dime-store novel, who says I couldn’t write
a better one? I think it was Ray Bradbury
who said, “If you want to be a writer,
read. Read classics, read westerns, read
science fiction, read terrible books.
Read bad books to see how you don’t want
Or, if you really want to, read
People magazine. If nothing else, you
can take a look into the Orwellian matrix,
where celebrities are trapped even more than us.
every morning when he gets up
there is always a small cluster of hair
at the back of his head
raising a rebellious flag
as a libertarian
he insists on never using
any placating wax
or hot air blower
only a comb
You have asked and asked again,
beating nightly at my door. Clenched
fist, raised hand, questioning, insistent--
Why did I leave? Look at my eyes:
corn-yellow, barn-brown, irises shot
through with dust. How can you believe
I've succeeded? In this city I exhale
your landscape, my breath misty and fogged, hair
tangled, a bale of hay. I've left, and I've
left myself behind.
My great-grandfather slammed my
grandfather's palms against the farm's
border: rock, oak, post--slammed until his
blood smeared across barren stone, seeped
into old wood. Three months for his hands
to heal. My fingers are calloused,
lightly, at the tips. Still, I've memorized: This
is the northwest corner, the granite rock.
This is the southwest, the upright row of
devil's walking sticks.
In sleep I walk deep in your
interior where pollen drifts
like rain, and creeks swirl with the quick silver
tails of minnows. I step into
your rivers, your limerock streams, clay banks.
Who says geography is the soul?
I know the answer: each time returning,
I return with nothing more than the dust
in a drowned man's pockets. I am that dust,
scattering, then lost.
(Originally published in Sixfold magazine)
on a wall
near a door
is such a problem
over bulky furniture
or fall down
maybe it is hidden
inside my head
just beneath the surface
between the eyes
really bright light
would be great
in so many ways
I just need
more time looking
was replaced by
a circular dimmer control
on or off
it has to be here
Wind and rain
signal a Midwestern storm.
shelter for the duration.
Humans turn on
candles, change plans.
Sky puts on a show,
shades of gray clouds
buffering the wind.
Lake waters roil,
wear their white caps.
Fish dive deep to hide.
Only the trees stand ready.
The thrust of a leaf through the brown-crusted grass,
a shudder of wind through a sheer mountain pass,
coyotes that howl as the moon skirts the trees,
sharp memories of laurel or pink peonies,
the patter of raindrops on broad fields of corn,
and chirping of robins and wrens newly born
to picture a biblical genesis morn.
A shadowless noon and the honeybee’s drone,
the essence of lawns when they’re prudently mown,
and fragrance of jasmine perfuming the night,
the words from an old song remembered just right,
the sweat of a work day that makes movements slow
allowing a pause under cloud’s softening glow
to ponder at nature’s incredible show.
The sweetness of cocoa, the tartness of lime,
the heat of the sun melting through frosty rime,
hard crunching of autumn leaves under your feet,
convivial smiles from the strangers you meet,
the honking of geese when preparing for flight,
and harvest moon shining with silvery light
to add a caress with each salient sight.
The snowflakes that sparkle with glistening display
adorning the walkways in white appliqué,
the warmth of the fireplace to shake winter’s chill
as glowing red ashes drift down from the grill.
No need to seek meaning or what it implies,
these self-contained offerings a gentle surprise
to sanctify grandeur in homely disguise.
I measure my moments by the teaspoonful,
a quarter here, a quarter there,
a pinch for plotting,
a dash for design,
another for derring do.
At one time my days ran like salt
while sugar spilled across my nights.
All now carefully doled
by precious spices,
I stir my broth, resonant
with cherished memories.
From the Shakespeare and I Chapbook
Some boys stay hidden
like the pennies in fountains
while others walk around and see
copper circles in the sky
they open their eyes
and find coins in the oddest places
one penny on top of a thermostat,
another balanced against a fireplace
a third nestled in the nose
of a wooden Indian.
Instead of amassing a fortune,
they close their eyes and make a wish,
making their lives and spirits rich.
(This poem was a winner in the Poetry
that Moves contest sponsored by Highland
Park Poetry in 2013, and was featured
for the month of June on buses in the
north suburbs of Chicago.)
because the day you asked me,
the sun sifted down memories
Because love has no past tense
Because the roar of the sea
muted all but desire
Because you carried my unlived life
and I didn’t believe in limitations
Because the pain I knew was better
than the pain I didn't know
Because I idealized you at sixteen
with tasseled loafers
I was tired of Art History
and 7th grade projects
because it was ordained
Because I believed in free will
I said yes
A muddy bank to leave behind
a river to swim across
Past shallows for future shallows
a near-even exchange
but for this drowning tow
midway between shores
even strokes becoming endless tread
Lay yourself down
Lay it all down
till the heavy head leans back
arms gentle cumbersome legs lifting
twig of soul floating flowing
easy flowing no-effort flowing
shallows and muddy banks peripheral
I am the deep center
the sparkling river
My bookcases I peruse
looking for the perfect font.
Garamond I choose
when semiformal I want.
Papyrus is often used
by novices without daunt.
Calibri is overused
when I wish to flaunt.
Times Roman is safe
if I want to be bland.
But I am a dancing waif
yearning for a Tattoo font.
Trees, weighed down
by parkas of snow,
line the road.
Silence owns the woods
on this cold January night.
The lake wears a poncho of ice.
My fingers tingle in too-thin gloves.
My boots no longer
keep out the cold.
There has always been warmth
awaiting my return,
Dad wanting to carry my suitcase,
Mother offering hot chocolate.
I trace the path back
to an empty home.
(First published in The Four
Seasons, edited by A.J.
Huffman and April Salzano [Kind
of a Hurricane Press, 2015], p. 196)
this pinpoint of light
widens over bread, fruit
and a board of cheese
this echo of bells
this garden that blooms
in winter this bird that sings
all November this sofa
of damask roses
this vase of brown hydrangeas
this spill of church bells
in the early morning air
noon in Verona, dusk in Brescia,
night in Bergamo, a sojourn
that never stops to breathe
our inner streets remain unmarked
in the turning of the mountain
this suitcase this ticket
this airport wedged in the hills
this gusty fog
(First Published in After Hours)
private breaths cloud the windshield
roll down the erotic vapors
slip your kisses into my pocket
and i will drive down some balmy boulevard
lips tingling, the scent of your tires
running across my cheeks
with tender influence
you don't have to pry my heart
from between the tread,
i gladly give in to the urges
and twist the steering wheel in your direction
because any road i'm on with you
is a perfect place to park.
I live on the third floor
of an apartment building
situated in a working class town
near Bridgeview, IL.
I'm not rich mind you,
but from my balcony,
if I use my imagination correctly,
I can see the Eiffel Tower...
it's just an electrical tower.
On a clear day I can see
the pine trees of Yosemite Park...
um, those pine trees
are part of the miniature golf course
across the street.
I listen carefully
and I can hear the roar of the ocean...
ok, ok, ok, ok, ok,
it's really the sound
of automobile traffic whooshing by.
I close my eyes
and I can smell
the sweet fragrance
of wild mint and rose
blooming from the meadow below...
ugh!, it's the redolence of exhaust fumes.
I feel the spray of water
from the Mediterranean Sea
right off the coast of Spain
where the balcony of my chateau lies...
back to reality.
That "ocean spray" was from
my landlord screaming in my face.
I'm late with the rent again :(
An age in Time
Would I return
A year sublime
Prime time they say
Our days rolled by
With play and fun
Mud pies and kool-aid
Calls to meals but free
To roam and run and jump
Our legs so supremely strong
They climbed and raced the Wind.
Cool water metallic from metal dippers
Brings berry tastes of summer days
Long gone almost seven decades now
Glimpses memory fleeting shadows
Now and then a smell or taste or color
Hurls me down a rabbit hole to past
Safe play and worries none but feeling
Warm and fun and hopes for more
Not sensing limits to these days of sun
And love and carefree reveries no more
With age we face the final truths of life
That pre-school is a special time indeed
in my clearing
in the forest
from a smoldering fire
listening to song birds
talking to each other
up in the trees
I feel the draw of nature
the lure to the wild
the longing for
nothing but this
Only later I would remember
a night when I was ten, and you, just home from the hunt,
were cleaning game birds, feather-fat on the basement floor
and in one duck a pliant rubbery egg
soft shelled as a science trick decalcified in vinegar.
You eased it hot with blood into my hands.
I carried it to my room and a nest of towels
where it cooled and hardened to gleaming under a reading lamp.
And if you were with me now
you might not remember, though each of us knew,
how most intentions neither breathe nor wing.
(Published in Shot Glass Journal Issue #15 January 2015)
I reached for a shiny red hair,
hanging low, over his brow.
I thought he’d pull away,
but it seemed he leaned closer.
I lose control and find delight
as my fingers float
on a fine red sea of burnished waves.
“Hey, don’t be messin’ up my hair,”
barely escaped his lips
as they met mine.
I humbled myself with fasting; and my prayer
would return to my own heart.
The first day of Lent is preparation
when “Kali Sarakosti” or “Good Lent”
is said to all with warm affection.
The faithful await Wednesday’s advent
for communion in the Divine Liturgy
of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts and to obey.
All know Lent requires energy
with discipline, contrition, and prayer each day,
but for now, Clean Monday is a carnival—
the last day to party and taste lagana bread,
salads, shellfish, fruit, vegetables, for all,
young and old picnic outdoors, joyfully mad.
They’ve cleaned their houses to prepare the mind.
Some fly kites, others enjoy family and friends,
but all refrain from meat, dairy product of any kind.
All see Clean Monday as a start to make amends.
Clean Monday prepares our spirit to repent.
We clean our house and fast to start our Lent.
Ice of pearls valleys of snow
Floating free on
magic of violins They rise to the moon
as Piano dances without forgetting.
Her turns open like moonflowers Notes flow
through her live through her
while white doves slip to the skies.
Struck by tympani she whirls—lost in love.
Her leaps are lightning
melted to silver rivers.
Ice of diamonds daydreams of snow
Violins fly on searching ivory wings
They lift her above gravity and time
anything made of earth.
(Prairie Light Review, Fall 2015
Vol XXXVIII, No. 1)
When five hundred years warp into tomorrow
On that green planet faraway
Snow has melted
A petal of golden dandelion flower
Shines and stretches in the breeze
In our backyard
Flows the fragrance of lettuce, blueberry and rosemary
In our garden, a spreading peacock and a butterfly are playing hide and seek
Under a purple wisteria tree filled with colorful ribbons
A dragon and an eagle are playing chess
And in the field, robots are perspiring
Flashing in the air
Is a distant memory of the woods by the river bank
When my palm melted into yours
Uplifted both the sun and the moon
There’s no longer a foreign land
Only inches, perhaps a few feet,
are allowed this life – our world
stretches past that grove of trees,
maybe down the road to the mailboxes,
into the local grocery. Once a year
a vacation in a nearby state.
Perhaps the space expands and contracts,
like accordion bellows, puffing notes
of freedom low, then a jumble of wild
music when we widen our horizon. Word
comes we’re free to walk through the gates.
Filling bird feeder
at daybreak, filigree
breathes in after-scent
of snow, smoke-laced
in winter firmament.
Crested redbird sits
on ice-flecked bough,
his sweet whistle
under sepia sky
turned Giotto blue
as we both soar.
(first published in
In Search of Lode)
There are no hosts
in the Royal Cemetery
at Ur, only the ghosts.
I glanced as a
thin gold ring slipped
to the earth from the
stacked dry bones of
a very old woman's finger,
coarse and bleached
and refused to allow myself
to look down. Moments later
we were back on patrol.
Was it the M-16s we
no longer carried, or
was it all the ghosts
we'd never meet?
For some reason
neither of us looked back.
Your words of stone
left me cold
as you tried to disown
I could feel
it hung thick
in the air
it was there
the person I am
is blemished and flawed
Yet still you were awed
when your heart
was still thawed
you don’t give a damn
for who I
and want only
and walk away
Still I want
to hold on
and you want
to be gone
so its best you move on
and I stay
I need time
To make up
To not be
by what you
think of me
The café table tilts
under the elbows of the poet
dressed in eccentricities:
a muffler of metaphors
around his neck
Pushcart and Pulitzer pinned
to his sonnet-stained jacket.
His fingers work
to free the ode stuck in his teeth
while words fall like crumbs
from his beard. A verse trails unnoticed
from the sole of his boot.
In a suit of shabby similes,
the pauper draws near, pleads
“Brother, can you spare a rhyme?”
Tree limbs are still now as
The prongs on the rake that tilts
Slatternly against rough walls
In the garage. Now. It is
February in a city
That has always mixed waiting
With valentines, Mardi Gras
With a chance of some snow. Here
February is a short
Month build with the dark bricks of
More than twenty long nights. And
So my tired mind turns to
Certain reliable, long
Neglected things-- like that rake,
Called upon only to clean
Up the excesses of lost
Beauty--the leaves gathered in
Odd shapes like some ancient mound
Builders' shrine. Once loved, now gone,
faded or collapsed. Just gone.
A rake, its prongs leave no scar,
And winter trees seem dark as tar.
The sounds of tomorrow
are a silent cacophony,
have no place yet within
my memory, intrude
only in uncertain
interludes of fear or
imagined bravery, dare
to balance the woe
of choices past, which
can’t be undone, joys
ended, or hung out to dry
where crying will do
no good, with decisions
yet to be made from a
cavalcade of offers, coffers
of trinkets or that which is
in my truest interest.
A flock of Canada geese
honks are needed.
One goose veers
away on its own
to the left.
Another splits right.
Zen awareness might
say, "Ah, yes: the
goose and the goose
and the flock. This is."
A philosopher might
see three divergent
into being above.
might ahem and
expertly affirm, "Yes,
geese will do that."
According to a poet:
ecstatic with freedom, fly
straight to their unknowns."
Hunters say blam.
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