Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Poem of the Day 11.26.08

happy almost Turkey day to the two of you who actually read this.

white christmas

late october
still sweating in the ugly bowels
of the new york city subway system
choked on trains with everyone else,
we are pushed off at the atlantic avenue
station to the sounds
of steel drums and keyboards playing
white christmas,
and the pumpkins lining brooklyn windows
haven’t even been thrown out onto the sidewalk yet
to rot into the pavement, like dog shit.
people are humming along
and coats are held tighter,
as if the music has put a temporary chill and magic
into the scorched air of chemicals
and petroleum residue.
jesus christ, i think.
you’d expect this bullshit happiness
being trumped out so early
on the television or in the windows
of chain stores.
but musicians on a subway platform?
well, then i realize this season has become too much
we need the fake joy shot into us with the frequency
of a junkie.
what good was halloween anyway
with the cacophony of city neighborhoods
and the religious still duking it out?
i actually like halloween better than christmas.
it seems less put-on. real.
and i wish i could fall asleep november first
after a night drunk with the evening horror show,
and wake up on january second
when the real horror show has ended.
maybe the cold weather will finally be here.
if nothing else, at least people will be
done with all of this good cheer and good will toward man,
and they’ll all be back inside with their bills and holiday regret,
fat and lazy like always.
and the musicians on the platform will get back
to playing something good, like coltrane or bach.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Poem of the Day 11.25.08


i wonder if that
is you
that i see
every evening
coming off the 5 train
and heading
into the bowels
of the atlantic avenue
with the rest of
you must be twenty-five
by now.

if it is then
i want to tell you that
you look the same
as you did
at fourteen
in the carnegie library
of pittsburgh
same blonde hair
all over the place
same quick slouched
the same rail thin
and eyes that look
and far gone.

maybe you don’t
want to hear that
at this point
in your life.

but winnie
remember when
you couldn’t articulate
a thing
could never speak
when you just ran around
the humanities department
carrying an armload
of teen drama books
and shaking
your body to the soul?
we all wondered what
was wrong with you
back then
a bad home?
the outcast at school?

you were always
a lot of people’s minds
taking up
their talk.

and winnie
i hope it is you
moving around the bowels
of this station
mixing sweat and misery
with the other millions.
i don’t know
i guess it would mean to me
that you somehow got out
of pittsburgh
out of malaise of birth into death
and whatever madness
you really had as a child.

i hope you are
finally free
to smile or cry
or just pass on through.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Poem of the Day 11.24.08

it’s the thought

i told her they
were playing labyrinth
at the landmark
on a midnight showing
and wouldn’t it be fun
to go because it’s
one of her favorites
and we could maybe
make a night of it
call dale
get dinner
get drinks
get drunk
and then head down
to houston street
to check it out
and she said she’d love to
because labyrinth is
one of her favorites
then she took a drink
and smiled at me
and i said what
and she said are you
really serious about
going to the movie
and having that kind of night
and i said yes, why?
and she said
because you always
make these kinds of plans
but when the day comes
you’re the one who backs out
and i have to call everyone
and cancel.
i said yes, yes i know
but i don’t want to do
that anymore
and i don’t want to feel
like some old man anymore
i’m only thirty-four
and i think i can make
a midnight movie.
then she smiled at me again
and made us two new drinks
while i went
and started the dinner
and thought it’s still good to make
people happy in the moment
even if you rarely come
through in the end.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Poem of the day 11.23.08

look i pull no punches, right. i write in a certain style. in a certian way. well, i get rejected a lot too. most editors are okay and simply reject the poems. some, like this one i'm printing, try and be wise. so here's the rejection i received today, and here's my response, which i sent, but altered here in poetic form.

the letter:

Dear John,
Thanks for your submissions. You write well, but there’s this fella Bukowski and that’s our problem.
He nicked this shtick and beat you with it and what’s more he wrote a whole bookcase.
And I’m tired today.
Sorry. We’re nothing if we’re not inconsistent though, so send us some work for a future issue. You can write and we can change our minds.

my poem:

oh no, you got me

dear editor
yes there was a fella names bukowski,
and he did beat me to the punch
in terms of writing in a direct style..
but, if i'm correct, people are allowed
to express themselves as they see fit.
if you think i'm nicking bukowski, that's fine,
if you want to pinpoint me.
i guess i should start writing poems
about whores and the racetrack now,
to say nothing for the hundreds of poets who,
i guess, are "borrowing" styles from other poets.
and gee, i always thought i was ripping off
ray carver anyway.

you see,
i never write these notes back to editors and the like.
ive learned to take the punches and roll with them.
but i don't know.
maybe you've struck a nerve this time,
as was evident in what you wrote to me.
maybe i'm tired too, and sick of bullshit
maybe it's the wine getting to me today.
but i've read your mag,
and that's the most i can say for it.
so thanks for the compliment
disguised as a critique of my writing.
i will take it and i will think about it.
and who knows,
maybe i will send more poems to you.
or maybe i'll just send them
to a better rag next time,
or just wipe my ass with the paper.
good luck anyway,

Friday, November 21, 2008

poem of the day 11.21.08


we are happy
for the dumbest things,
for the best parking spot
at the grocery store
or for a printer to work
at our lousy jobs.

we are happy
to sit stuck in traffic
two hours a day,
listening to pundits pontificate
political nonsense,
as we drift toward our
daily death.

we are happy
and we smile a lot.

we are happy
to sit in the same seats
to stand in the same lines
to eat the same foods
in the same bad cafes.

all the day
the same thing.

we are happy
with banality and repetition
with the status quo
with everything staying as it is,
you in your corner
me in mine.

we are happy
to eat in restaurants
and drink in dismal bars
to pay for shitty hollywood films
to have the same kind of sex
(when we can get it)
to live in the same neighborhoods
and hate the same people
who have the same cars
who mow the same lawns
and who vote the same way.

we are happy
with war
and we are happy
to have the same ugly children
running and demanding,
as we watch the local nightly news,
to cheer for criminals hunted down
while murderous idiots
in positions of power
make our laws
and send our kids off to
die in some foreign desert.

we are happy
to die like fools
working for someone else’s wealth
happy to piss each day away
for two weeks of vacation
and lackluster health benefits.

we are happy
to be blind
to be cheated
to be raped
to be murdered.

we are happy
with this human jail
and we are happy
to let it all fall apart,
to let the fragile meat grinder
our flesh and bones mangled
just enough
for us to stay happy
to come home
to the quiet and absolute boredom
with nothing but the evening paper
and the blue light of television
to give us comfort.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Poem of the Day 11.20.08

.......a PROSE poem from last year

andy kaufman

ally is on my knee sleeping away new jersey and i am trying to keep awake singing r.e.m. songs when i start singing the one about andy kaufman, and suddenly andy comes to me in my head, no, no, not the jim carrey movie andy, although i liked it, but andy singing and waving in an off-white blazer with that black turtleneck he was so fond of wearing when he wanted the audience to feel comfortable, when he wanted to seem like an innocent children’s host. and something about seeing andy that way brought tears to my eyes, and i began thinking “well, this is fucking great. i’m rolling through the junklands of jersey and people are on their cell phones yapping about big nights in bars, and ally has found a way to pass the time by sleeping, and all i wanted was to hum a few bars of an old song, and all of the sudden that damned kaufman has me crying and wiping my eyes because i can’t picture anything but his dumb-child soul now. it’s a kick in the face feeling this way about a goddamned dead celebrity.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Poem of the day 11.19.08

overhead light

he’d let it go since august.
the super kept promising to come
and fix the overhead light
which we badgered him
and the landlord about whenever
one of us nearly broke a toe
on the metal edges of our bed
and remembered
that we had no overhead light
and it was mid-november now
and cold finally
and he came in smelling of coffee and smoke
with his ladder and the new light fixture
while we were having a scotch after dinner
and he apologized and told us
about how he’d taken a pipe
to the head at his construction
job just two days ago
and hadn’t been feeling well.
i never feel well, so i understood
to an extent,
although i couldn’t draw real parallels
between a pipe to the head this week
and nearly three months of darkness
for my wife and i
but i’m game for a lot of excuses.
and in his defense, he did get right to it,
moved the bed away and everything
exposing the year’s worth
of dust and tissue and lost socks
and cat hairs and cat vomit
and wine corks that we’d somehow
forgot in our rare cleanings.
it only took about fifteen minutes
and we had light again
electric mass bright enough
to illuminate the whole damned neighborhood
and he said from our bedroom,
john i got it done for you,
so i came in to check it out
because i guessed that’s what you do
when someone does the basics of
apartment maintenance for you.
and i said it looked great
then he and i looked down at all
the dust and dirt where the bed used to be
and he said, i’m sorry i had to move your bed
and i said,
i’m sorry you had to see what was under there
and we laughed
and he said, yeah my place would
be just as bad
if i’d let the wife go to work.
she has an economics masters degree, you know,
from europe,
but i told her, no, you stay home and raise the kids,
and i’m an idiot because here i am now
twenty years later
working three jobs to support us
when we could’ve had something in
this world, you know, like a home, he said.
so i said i knew what he meant
as we headed toward the door,
and after i let him out
i poured my wife and i two new scotches
and we went into the bedroom
and turned the new light fixture off and on
like two kids playing a game
while their parents were out for the night, laughing,
and letting the booze ease another small drama
that had reached its end.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

poem of the day 11.18.08

what you’ll get out of it

a nice night
in brooklyn
a good day out
in manhattan
an all right movie
some beer
in a favorite old bar
and this fine thai
along 3rd avenue.
maybe that’s what
your poetry is lacking
like you could move
away from the darker themes
and still write straightforward poems
but maybe every once
in a while it could be a little
bit bright.
not to sound like an optimist
or anything
and i know your influences
never really looked
on the bright side of things
but it’s a nice night
in brooklyn
and we had a good day out
in manhattan
the movie was actually pretty good
even if it preached to the choir
and the old bar wasn’t
as crowded with college assholes
as we thought
and this is a fine thai meal
that we are having
what’s that wine called again?
but anyway i think you should
write a poem about this moment
if you want to
and maybe look at the positive side
of it
instead of searching for the usual
stuff that ends up in your poetry.
maybe just give it a shot
this one time.
but you’ll see that couple fighting over
or you’ll think about the assholes
with their phones at the theater
or that guy that blocked our seats
in the bar
and how we had to stop a few times
so that you could take a shit
because of your stomach
or the fact that new york city
doesn’t care about it’s literary history
and that’s all you’ll get
out of any of it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

poem of the day 11.17.08

poem for a lost saturday night

sitting at the work desk
toward the close of another
fruitless night
is a bitter joy
but it has nothing on a day off,
half drunk and half naked
on the living room couch
the taste of another stolen cigarette on my tongue,
the next beer waiting for me
to crack the top,
paganini on the stereo telling me to hold on
just a bit longer;
the world not as bad
as what it looks like
sitting at the work desk
toward the close of another
fruitless night.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Poem of the Day 11.14.08

okay not one of my best. but it's fucking 60 degrees in NYC in the morning (WHAT THE FUCK?), i'm hungover and in my boxers, and frankly you're lucky i'm even up doing this, this morning.

idle life

well there is
this morning
but the news
and schubert
and the sound
of cars moving
up the rainy
i think of those people
out there so early
while i’m sitting
in this hot
during another bland
lifeless november
trying to play
at artist.
how do they
not do themselves in?
make a left
over some embankment
and end it all?
why haven’t i?
but then i realize
we cling to this
the senseless doings
of life.
it keeps us busy
keeps us away from
it is sad.
and we’ve never
been trained
any other way.
so run, good mice
because the sun
is coming up
and the cheese
keeps getting
further and further

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Poem of the Day 11.13.08

will be appearing soon in Ink, Sweat, and Tears

world’s perfect asshole

you come in from
running errands
you said that dale called
you on the cell phone
he’s wandering manhattan
he’s upset and feeling overwhelmed
so you invited him over
to watch movies on our last day off.

you come in from
running errands
and i am in my shorts
with weak knees and a week-old beard
sweat-soaked in forty-eight degrees
all the windows open
and the place a mess
with cds and dirt all over the floor.

you come in from
running errands
and i tell you like hell
i’m entertaining anyone today
i tell you like hell
and i’m half-drunk on wine
and my soul is a mess and everyone
out there just looks ugly to me.

you come
and tell me that this is your place too
and you can socialize with whomever you want
like i’m some kind of barbaric keeper
i tell you that while this is true
the place is mine as well
and we bicker like a couple of roommates
over the last slice of bread.

you come in from
running errands
you come at me and i come at you
the two of us like freight trains
on the same track, it’s so damned scary
that i wait for the impact
you come at me and apologize
i come at you, and throw you out.

you come in from dale and the bar
you come to me on the couch
where i have been drinking wine
for three hours alone
and watching television
you come to me, i’m the world’s perfect asshole
and we just know enough at this point
to let it all pass until i’m myself again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Poem of the Day 11.12.08

falling apart

my arm hurts
i tell her
no it is numb
no there’s a pain
right down by the thumb
and my chest hurts too
and she says
your gas is acting up again
because you eat for shit
and should probably
stop drinking
or at least slow down
and i say
my head hurts too
like these shooting pains
in obtuse places
but most are on the sides
and she asks
do they run down the neck
it’s your sinuses
you have bad sinuses
go see a doctor
or take some meds
i tell her i’m falling apart
i’ve been falling apart all year
legs pains
gas pains
chest pains
head pains
burred vision
high cholesterol
and i think i might be
getting early onset alzheimer’s
or diabetes
and she says you just had
your blood checked
and your memory is fine
i have high anxiety
i’m tired all the time
it’s mono
you’re a hypochondriac
i am?
but i read that hypochondriacs
are better in tune with their
than most
like they can tell things before
doctors can
where did you read that?
shit if i remember.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Poems of the day 11.11.08

a couple soon-to-bes in The winter issue of The Smoking Poet

why writers are like lovers

our dirty little sport
of friendship
still gets me.

we are children
slinging mud
and we are pound and eliot
at each other’s throats
on a rickety french balcony

(okay, for the sake of argument
i will be pound)

when will it end, old friend?
when we are codgers
throwing canes
instead of poems?

or now when the cup of
our golden daydreams
sit on etched platters
placed before our salivating mouths?

i hope never
on both accounts

because it would be a shame
to hate your beautiful words
from the nosebleed seats

float on, okay

we have a sip
on the scotch
hear the buzz
of the fan
the hum of the
the refrigerator
then i ask her
how it went
at the doctor’s
and she said
it went fine
the breasts are fine
the insides are fine
everything is fine
then i ask her
if she talked
to the doctor
about us
having babies
and she said
not based on last
night’s conversation
in the bar
and i said
then we had
another sip
on the scotch
heard the buzz
of the fan
the hum of the
and i said
maybe next year
we’ll think about
going to venice
for a week
right before the
summer comes

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Poem of the Day 11.08.08


i need a drink
she needs a drink
but instead we are up
before the damned sun
noodling with words
and our own limp legends
hanging in the balance
of another writer’s morning
in america.
i think i see the sun poking up
behind the building across
the street
if nothing else, then it is
just a faint light, a glimmer
i want to watch it
but instead I hide in the bathroom
with the refuse of last night’s
scotch binge pouring out of me
watching the flies that have infested
our home
circle around
the corroded toilet bowl
trying to land on an old shit stain.
outside she is composing a poem
and in here i am contemplating
writing a novel
or slicing my wrists
wondering which of the two is
less work for me today.
so i flush and head back
out toward the dawn
and this fucking machine
she needs a drink
i need a drink
and when i get ready to leave
this morning
she’ll say why don’t you stay
here with me a little longer
and just go to work late.
but i won’t
even though i’ll wish I did.

Friday, November 7, 2008

poem of the day 11.07.08

new president

young and golden
history making
he stands in grant park
with his young family
as the country undulates
below him
as the seas rise
and europe loves us again.
this young president
with smiles
and good health now
inheriting debt and war
rising temperatures
a fucked government
and four-hundred years of racism.
i wouldn’t want his task.
i wouldn’t want that weight on me.
and as we finish the bottle
of scotch
election night
i make a promise
to myself that i won’t
look at him
a few years from now
with regret and anger
when hysteria and the sense
of purpose have faded
when his hair has gone
all gray
when his face has turn ashen
and all of those good people
throwing adulation
his way
are calling for his head
and he wants to scream
but it won’t make a sound
over the din
of two hundred and thirty two years
of madness and genuine

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Poem of the Day 11.06.08

poem for hayden carruth

a table full
of son of a bitches
are laughing
playing uno and hitting
on women in this library
as i find out
hayden carruth
is dead.
september 29th.
today is october 29th.
a month later.
why am i only
finding this out now?
poor hayden
we have slipped
from each other.
poor me
listening to these
goddamned punks
while i read a thirty-day
old obituary
and “saturday at
the border,”
trying to catch up
with your ghost
while trying to remember
what christmas it was
that my wife bought me
“scrambled eggs and whiskey.”
she was my girlfriend then
brand new
and hayden, you,
well christ,
you were seventy-six
years old
a withered, bearded sage
still going strong.
i wondered then if i’d ever
have it in me
to last like that
to keep the words flowing
in an endless stream
to keep fighting off time and age.
i wonder it now
eleven years later
as the punks get louder
and the days get colder
as more poets die
that i never had the pleasure
of knowing
as the aches get more pronounced
and i play the writer game
to do or die
or simply fade away.
but hayden
you gave me something golden
even though our time
was brief,
and as you lay there
looking up at god’s grave
i hope you feel
that this long ride
was worth your while
once and for all.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Poem of the Day 11.05.08

patriots we

and then these two
get on the train
at grand army plaza.
i know the type
new york intellectuals
with too much time
on their hands
and bags from co-ops
or whole food stores
no bills
no irritable bowels
no nose hair
never vomiting
always with ear buds
in their ears
never shutting up
about how smart they are
what they are buying online
and i think
shit, here i am nursing
a hangover
and it’s election day
so i know where this
is gonna go
and the woman
she’s dressed in a red coat
and black slacks
looks like she hates having
her cunt eaten
she starts in before i even
finish the thought
about how proud she is to vote
how she’s making a difference
and her man
he’s dressed in a tweed coat
pressed jeans
has thick glasses
and a well sculpted shaved head
wearing an argyle sweater
probably secretly craves dick
keeps nodding
like she saying the word of god
just nodding
and fiddling with his damned
phone or ipod or sidekick or whatever
uhuh uhuh uhuh
and then he starts in about how
he’s a patriot and she’s a patriot
everyone who voted is a patriot
and listening to them
i almost can’t keep my lunch down
but there are no other seats to move to
i can’t tune them out with a book
so i suffer
and the worst part is i know i voted
for the same guy as them
early this morning
with a wine hangover
in a dank basement on bay ridge parkway
where a women with one
yellow tooth, a caldron,
and a black cat
ushered me into a line with the other dead
and we probably voted for the same
person too
and none of this makes me feel any better
when i get to my stop
so i get up
and leave
who in their right goddamned mind
wears argyle these days?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Poem of the day 11.04.08

bench warmer

at the end of the day
when the bones are sore
and the brain don’t want to work
and you’ve suffered the humiliation
of the masses
and you’ve suffered the demeaning
moans of the boss
and those afternoon beers have
worn off
and your feet are tired
and your ankles are swollen
and your thighs are chaffed
and the asshole is rough but
the shits are runny
and the car wont start right
and the music is no good
and the sky is already growing dark
and the dinner is bland
and you’re too tired to fuck so you
sit there and drink
and there’s nothing good on the
and all the books have failed you
and you can’t get the poem down
the way it sounded in your head
that morning
and sirens hiss on city streets
and the neighbor’s lights illuminate
your bedroom like searchlights
and you can’t sleep
and the unceasing pain and fear
that you are a bench warmer in this life
wakes you up at 2 a.m.
and the new day
the same day
is hours away from rearing its ugly
stop and wonder
is it worth all of this?
for just a scrap of bread and a leaking roof?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Poem of the Day 11.03.08

he didn’t know

he didn’t know
i guess he didn’t know
we were finishing beers
and we looked over
at my thin grandmother
dressed in a wig
because the chemo made
her lose her hair and weight
and we looked over at her crying,
talking to his mother
holding her elbow
because the cancer had
metastasized into her bones
and he probably didn’t know
but he looked at me and said
”looks like grandma is
already hitting the sauce.”
and i don’t think he knew
even though it was already july
and my grandmother would
be dead by november of that year
even though i talked about it a lot
even though my mother
sometimes cried to his mother
on the phone.
but he probably didn’t know
an anyway i guess the cancer
and the wig, the thin frame
made my grandmother look drunk
so i said “yeah, looks like it,”
then i got up to go into
the house
to get us a couple more beers.
i wasn’t mad
i just figured
he didn’t know.
and it was okay, i thought.
we all had too much
of our own shit to put up with
in this life
to keep kind tabs
on everyone else’s problems.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

poem of the day 11.02.08

a real old one...think i wrote this in 2003


she's the unquenchable moonlight
and i'm blind.
the ragging unsatisfied lout on her arm
in an upper east side rain.
honey, we saw picasso and matisse, the blurry
labor of chagall staring back at us like the eye
of a candied god;
van gogh and his lunatic, desperate
syphilis gaze peering from behind impenetrable glass.
we saw half the beauty in the world
and the only joy
new york city has to offer
in five hours time.
ah, but my mood is still dark!
my pallet numb and void of any words!
my heart wound up like a confused and
bloodied hemingway bull!
my mind is still fixated on another endless
f-train ride
another loud night in the darkness
of our cramped brooklyn bedroom, wondering why
the dogs bark, and the latino kids have to shout
wondering what that song is booming thru the
thin plaster of our asylum-like white walls
wondering why you still love me after i've made
manhattan a miserable gesture, and how it is
that i can sill make you smile.
it must've been the degas.