Friday, November 28, 2014

poem of the day 11.28.14

black friday 1991

seventeen years old
pressed against the wall
in a sports retail store
to try to shield
yourself from the masses
a hangover from pilfered beer
on thanksgiving
it seems that these customers keep
coming from out of nowhere
demanding hats
and jackets
trinkets to shove into stockings
on christmas morning
discarded items marked down
treated like gold found in a pan
packs of teenage girls
who don’t have to work
coming in to give you a look
or to laugh at you
arm in arm with your wealthy classmates
who don’t have to work this shit either
as the store manager runs around
targeting you and only you
pull up your pants!
tuck in your shirt!
you better shave tomorrow!
why aren’t you selling anything, you bum?
knowing that he’ll be
cutting your hours come january 2nd
as he roams around
his little kingdom
kissing ass
and taking names
an inept drill sergeant
fifteen years older than you
but in the same clown outfit
and you’re supposed
to take orders from this guy?
as the old beer beer
and turkey dinner
rises in your stomach
like a harbinger of doom
you wade through the crowd
past the t-shirts
and sweatshirts
and sweatpants
that have fallen from their racks
trampled on
mounds of goods you’ll spend
your twilight steaming
so that they are as good as new
before another day of this hell
to reach
the staff bathroom
needing sweet vomitus relief
but finding it occupied
with another fallen soldier
so you have no recourse
but to head out into
veins of the mall
secret gray corridors
smelling of rotten food
from the food court
echoing silver bells
silver bells
sil-ver bells
it’s christmas time
and i fell shitty
an open garbage can
outside a taco bell
into which you hurl
bile and turkey
and mashed potatoes
and beer
like a roman
wiping your mouth
as some pimple-faced
pokes his head out a doorway
shouts at you
hoping that he didn’t see
the logo of your brand
on your right breast
as you
start to run away.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

PoemS of the day 11.27.14

three brand new poems (never on WineDrunk SideWalk) over at Dead Snakes!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"best of" poem of the day 11.26.14

fiscal cliff

there was a time
when my old man
had to work two jobs to help support us
between he and my mother that was three jobs
struggling to pay rent and bills on time
packing lunches and making dinner
buying new clothing
for two oblivious boys who wouldn’t stop growing
who they’d chosen to shove into catholic school
for a dose of morality
i don’t even remember what the old man did
at this second job
except that he didn’t have to wear a shirt and tie
like he did for the morning one
which i thought was getting off easy
because i had to wear dress clothes in the fifth grade
and there was a time
that my mother didn’t have enough money for bread
and had to bum it off of me and my piggy bank
promising to pay me back by friday
as we marched through the january cold
to catch the grocery store before it closed
she promised me
as if i were her bookie or something

oh, those blessed fridays of paycheck salvation

my brother and i, we didn’t know nike or polo
from a hole in the ground
but there was always thanksgiving and christmas
a hot meal on the table every night
so neither of us had a clue
we thought the tears and the arguments were about something else
when i got older and shed my immortal coil
over-educated and unmarketable
dodging student loan sharks
tact that worthless piece of university paper on my wall
when it was my turn to wonder
now what?
there were bad paychecks and good ones
the good ones meant decent friday night
maybe a used book or a used cd to sell again when money got tight
the bad ones meant the rent got paid
and you kept a count of your cigarettes for the next two weeks
but ghetto smokes on balconies could last a lifetime
watching the city an amusement unparalleled
and the laughs kept on coming through the low bank balances
and cheap pasta dinners
it never seemed as bad as it was
as child or as an adult
i never felt broke or that i was lacking
it always seemed like no matter what
that we were getting there
my family
my love and my friends
all of us hard and honest people
putting food on tables and punching clocks
struggling for rent and small joys
the ones who built this country up from the ground
this troubled promised land that our leaders
with their expensive suits and pensions
those pretty corporate chains around their necks
so hungrily want
to mash back into


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"best of" poem of the day 11.25.14

talking turkey

i feel like
a big sentimental dope doing this
and i don’t want anyone
to see me dancing with you
in the living room
to smooth jazz coming
out from the television
what would they think?
a loud mouth like me
letting you lead
laughing whenever you giggle
dipping you with
the greatest of ease
after you pull on my hair
and tug at my goatee
my dance partner
you sweet child
you little angel
the way you light up a room
turns my soul to butter
there are so many things
that i want to tell you
like you are better
than beethoven or the beatles
but you haven’t even
said a word
or tried thanksgiving turkey yet
you just giggle again
and let me spin you
we stay quiet
moving toward the front door
where we’ll watch
a brand new snow
that has started to fall
and where we’ll write your name
in the thick condensation
fogging up the window
we’ll write it backwards
as the late afternoon
aches to show us
the whole world
in one vast and verdant scope.

Monday, November 24, 2014

"best of" poem of the day 11.24.14

i'm tired. i'm worn out. this has been a wretched year and no one seems to be reading this blog anymore.  so....i'm going to do a "best of" WineDrunk SideWalk week, while we all prepare to stuff our faces with turkey and the retail clerks of the world wait to be stampeded upon by a herd of bargain hungry elephants.


she says, you hate tradition, don’t you

i tell her that i hate it from auld lang syne
all the way down to silent night

she says, you’re nuts
you just don’t want to like what others like

i tell her that may be so, but i’ll be damned if i choke
on another thanksgiving turkey
or memorial day hot dog again

she says, you won’t have a choice

i tell her i know
i’m trapped in a situation perpetuated by fools

easter ham in april
and fireworks every fourth of july

she says, tradition makes people happy
that it gives them something to look forward to

i tell her that tradition makes people complacent and dull

she says, go hang on a string of christmas lights
and i tell her how about a cross instead

there’s something wrong with you, she says

i’m just like everyone else, i tell her
now give me a pint of green beer and a red heart full of chocolate
carve me into a pumpkin
and wake me when it’s election day

she says, there’s just no talking to you

i tell her that many have tried and failed

so i guess you won’t be coming to my next oscar party, she says

nor your labor day barbeque, i add

impossible, she says, getting up
and storming into the cafeteria

where they serve a mean fish fry
to the devout and hungry
every friday afternoon
during lent.


Friday, November 21, 2014

poem of the day 11.21.14

happy hour

sitting here
in froth’s tavern
trying to carve out
some semblance of a night

the last seat available in the joint
by a tv blaring college football
watching sweat collect
on my $5 jack on the rocks

playing mathematician against my will

calculating all of those mistakes
and the things that never should’ve been

how one of the bills
that came in the mail was for $50

how that one didn’t bother me
as much as the one that came for $700

along with a note from the company
casually mentioning their friends
the collection agency

yes just sitting here
waiting for my wife to walk in

the both of us tired
from the tail-end of another
thankless six-day work week

waiting for her to smile
and ask me how i am

waiting patiently
for her to take off her coat
and order a drink

so that i can talk a fiscal filibuster
and ruin her night too

before she even has
that first glorious sip.                            

Thursday, November 20, 2014

poem of the day 11.20.14

entertainment capital of the world

two black kids on the train
slap box up and down the car in real-time
not this simulated video game action bullshit

the white people let their jaws drop
like white people are supposed to do in these moments

they take out their cell phones
to take pictures of the two boys in action
suddenly becoming rogue photographers behind enemy lines

all so that they can post the images online
before we even hit the next stop

so that their other white friends can post messages

kids these days
that’s why i live in the suburbs

so that their racists friends can write

f***n n*****s
with all of the asterisks in the right places

but it’s when one of the black kids closes his fist
and roundhouses the other one that shit gets real tonight

then the blows and kicks come
the falling into the good people’s laps
cell phones getting jostled and pictures blurry

online friends writing

what is that?
where are you?

the two black kids in a huddled mass
on a dirty train car floor that has caked trails of coffee
and candy wrappers littered about

their girlfriends clutching barbecue chip bags
screaming and shouting

no one here can tell if it’s cheering or not
one of the ace photographers turns to me and asks
is this for real?

but i don’t answer her

i just crank up the dylan
bob singing about rubin carter in oh-so-long-ago new jersey

and as the two boys roll off each other
kick at each other like a couple of violent cripples
thrown from their wheelchairs

i think about all of those people who’ve asked me
why i haven’t left new york city

i think maybe it’s because i’d miss the action
or i’ve just gotten too old and have run out of places to go

the prospect of lying to another employer
in another dirty city
telling them how much i want to work for them
when i’ve never wanted to work for anyone
seems too much the hassle at my age

maybe because new york city is still
the entertainment capital of the world

this train as alive as the neon lights tonight on broadway

and we’re all just waiting on these two black kids
to kill or kiss each other

shit or get off the pot

as the legs keep flailing to cell phone clicks
dylan sings to me about burning cities and injustice

while i watch a mexican day laborer
taking it all in with one eye open and the other closed

getting up the nerve
to do another hard eight

freezing his ass off on 18th avenue

in a country that keeps trying to kick him out
slaving for the city that never sleeps

for the beautiful violence in a moment like this

carrying us home
to alcohol and conversations

another mediocre dusk
turning itself over
into another cracked and hopeless dawn.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

poem of the day 11.19.14

pondering the motivation
of the girl who keeps looking my way
on the N train or….a poem fragment
about my own vanity

if they give you
a second look


you don’t feel
exactly good

or attractive

bestowed of
some magic

but wonder
like a fool

just how much longer
those second looks
will keep coming

in this life of yours

before you become
a ghost to them

forgotten about


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

poem of the day 11.18.14

my face

my face is a thankless vessel
it does me no service

i try to be hard and aloof
but my face is affable by nature

it smiles instead of spits on strangers
it says sit down my good man
and tell me your tale of woe

it’s an affliction of mine
home to many a drunkard’s yarn

a welcoming beacon
to some lunatic on the train or bus
who has to unburden themselves of their life story
lest they burst into a million pieces

this plagued visage
trusting and honest
a boy scout’s face
the face of american good will

all green eyes and rubbery nose
and strong white teeth

a face that says
i’ll be your best friend
your baby tonight
your shoulder to cry on

instead of what it should be saying tonight
to this asshole in rudy’s bar
who keeps asking me my name

so that he can sit and spin
another novel of his own design

which is
please brother please

just leave a guy
the hell alone.

Monday, November 17, 2014

poem of the day 11.17.14

in december 1992

the wild
the innocent
the e street shuffle
playing through grainy headphones
on a tapped-up
that has seen the face-end
of more concrete
than me
one foot of snow on the ground
covering feet
and shins
springsteen’s voice
right like youth
like me
youth incarnate
for now
eighteen years old
boosted cigarette in my mouth
heading toward
the campus of a million coeds
from lowly
coming with a bullet
that’ll turn out to be
just another nothing year
with my heart
broken all over the city
of pittsburgh
but i
don’t even know it yet
in this
a portrait of the artist
december 1992
my old man’s menthol kool
as the snow
consumes me
waiting at
the bus stop
freezing the good year
peering into warm cars
stopped at red lights
looking for
another saint
but laughing
laughing like a drunk
after an old lady
glares at me
locks her door
yells to her husband
to run the
red light
of course


Friday, November 14, 2014

poem of the day 11.14.14

celebrity skin

celebrity cunt
and ass

on the internet

and everyone here
is up in arms

over celebrity cunt and ass

they covered pink stars
over the naughty bits
caught up in newspaper ink

causing a hundred tisks

a million dollar smile on her face
reveling in the audacity of

celebrity cunt
and ass

as happy as a child naked
and streaking into a playroom
full of toys

celebrity cunt
and ass

and everyone here
is acting like hitler
rose himself up from the grave

celebrity cunt
and ass

telling us
that it’s better to be beautiful
rather than smart

and since so many of us are neither

it’s best that we
keep our mouths shut
and our clothes on

they can land a rocket on a comet
any old day

but celebrity cunt
and ass

greased up and served
american style


will always make
the news


Thursday, November 13, 2014

poem of the day 11.13.14

not getting served at the subway inn

ten minutes before this
we were still in the hospital room
watching my mother-in-law wrestle
with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
just something, the nurse told her
to get in her stomach to take away the nausea
we were dressed like hazmat techs
in gloves and smocks and something to cover our mouths
the steelers were losing to the jets
two minutes left in the game and my wife shut the tv off
so her mother could get some sleep
but that was all right
the football gods will always live to see another day
and besides i stopped watching the NFL
almost two years ago
i have ceased tying my fate
to that of any sports team
only here in the subway inn they have televisions all over
playing games in between commercials
for SUVS, luxury cars or joining the marines
the few people in here are shouting
some drunk chick keeps screaming
but i don’t know at which screen
and though it may seem sexist
i’ve always held a special hatred for the female football fan
my wife and i aren’t getting served in the place
we probably need a drink
more than any two people in manhattan this sunday afternoon
only the bartender is gone
or he’s one of the people sitting at the bar
watching football and waiting us out
most likely he’s changing a keg or taking a shit
the bar has signs hanging
asking people to help save it from
twirling moustache landlords
and the inevitable new york city rent hike
you can tweet or twit or join facebook
to spread the word
at the end there’s a banner proclaiming the bar saved
the same legendary subway inn
only now it’s moving four avenues away
where the rent hikes will take another ten years
to make their way east
and they’ll have to do this shit all over again
still, while we continue to wait
on the first drink of the day
i consider the subway inn and its change in venue
how it really won’t be the same
no matter what these people fool themselves into believing
like my mother-in-law in her hospital bed
telling us that she feels like an old person
or how i’m forty and wondering where in the hell
the tiredness and all this gray hair came from
human beings
we change and morph and never realize it
because we’re too hung up just trying to live
i think it would be nice if human beings could shed their shell
just like buildings or locusts
put up signs asking people to help them get a new body
to tweet or twit or join facebook
until we can hang a joyous banner around our necks
proclaiming ourselves saved
the same mortal coil that you’ve always known
only now four streets down
and ten blocks away
free of stress and all tangible worry
a fresh pint before us as our favorite team scores
a new legacy sprung from the ashes of the old
a living and breathing phoenix
at least until the landlord finds us out
and comes knocking


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

poem of the day 11.12.14

machu picchu

i have no interest
in inca ruins
but i have a well vested interest
in your happiness
i’m more interested in
the ruins that people are making
of the here and now
than some past dangling
8,000 ft above sea level
but i’m not adverse to the idea
of macho picchu
after all isn’t the point of life
to collect any and all experiences
until death?
or is that debt?
anyway in peru
they have a drink
called a pisco sour
made with liquor
lime juice. syrup and egg whites
i can imagine us
somewhere in cuzco
beneath the shadow of the behemoth
or maybe on the coast of lima
drinking them by the ocean
free of the burdens
of altitude sickness
just as well as i can imagine us
drinking a cold beer
in a dark bar
here in good old brooklyn
where the air may be compromised
the edge of the ocean
right here at our feet
my love for you
never in question
at any height.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

poem of the day 11.11.14

a healthy man’s lunch

at work
eating a bowl full of salad

because i am reaching the age
where i can no longer eat
what i’d like to eat for lunch every day

i am told a meal of mixed vegetables
could keep me around for a long time

but looking around this room at the bored faces
buried in books and their phones
people also indulging in salad and their own health

colleagues crawling toward
another american retirement

i think, keeping me around for what?
oh…yes…i may one day see peru

but the salad is cold
it’s wilted from chemicals
every third bite there’s something hard
like grit in my mouth

when i pull a bit out
it’s small and white and crystal
like salt or sugar or glass

then i am just another character in a prison film
being served his poison

so i dump the salad
gleefully watch all of the longevity
mix with the other trash

fall back into my chair
to watch time move toward the afternoon

vistas of pepperoni pizza

and wide rivers
of coca-cola.                                        

Friday, November 7, 2014

poem of the day 11.07.14


the derelict kids
keeping running up and down
the subway can length

they’ve made it their own marathon

there are four of them
they sound like elephants

although their old man is able to sleep peaceably
having done is job by spreading his rotten seed

the mother keeps trying to calm the kids
she’s sitting across from dad
shouting in a voice that i can only compare
to rusted metal scraping off of sandpaper

and i’m a man who hates metaphors

but of course the kids aren’t listening
they are breathless at mile eleven

one of the kids has taken to squeezing
the other one’s head
his scream is piercing and defies
all that i’ve ever known about the human voice

i suppose it’s wrong to condone violence these days
but i wish the mother would just grab one of the kids

or have the dad wake up
grab the slow one, no, the oldest one
and whack them until they start to cry

it would send a nice message to the other kids
and to us poor saps stuck here with them

but dad keeps sleeping and mom keeps yelling
the kid getting his head squeezed is on the verge of passing out

while two of the others
start swinging on subway poles

while in a desperate act of self-preservation
i take my vodka bottle from down between my feet
and hold it to my chest

like a helpless infant or a lover

as the train conductor whispers
sweet nothings into my ear

by calling out the name of my stop.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

poem of the day 11.06.14

stuck inside of brooklyn
with the san francisco blues again
--for kristofer collins

at work we were
talking about travel

people reminiscing
about italy and germany

places they’d like to go
like the amazon or to some beach in the caribbean

i was talking about the places that i’d been

doing it more for myself
than for the sake of conversation

then i was talking to the nineteen year-old part-timer
about what she’s going to do when she graduates

she’s a history major
like we were english lit majors

maybe or maybe not
there’s a long road ahead for her

but hopefully not

when she mentioned
wanting to move to san francisco

the bells went off in my head
something had been awakened

i was back on that campus with you
like twenty years hadn’t gone by

and we’re skipping class like usual
we’re on forbes avenue picking at dry bagel lunches
looking through used records and cds at jerry’s

or in the bee hive drinking cappuccino

showing each other poems
talking about nineteen year-old girls
acting like we knew a thing or two about the world

the west coast and jazz and kerouac
and all of the dreams that we’d put on hold
until we finally got to see the pacific
floating around in the haze of afternoon cigarette smoke

the after graduation road trip
with pittsburgh burning behind us like some
sodom and gomorrah of the mind

but time has shown me, old friend
that things worked out differently
no worse and maybe even better than we’d hoped

only we never made it out west together

and this morning i’m sitting here
stuck inside of brooklyn with the san francisco blues again

visions of you
visions of me

so glad that i didn’t tell that kid
the sad old man shit that i started to tell her
about how expensive everything is

about dashed dreams
and how plans change on a dime

i’m glad i stopped myself and didn’t do that
i just said, go to san francisco
go live in that glorious city
like some hapless benediction that she didn’t even need

because who in the hell am i, old friend?
except some guy sitting here
trying to write my heart out to you

about time and the promise of golden cities

a few fleck of gray in my hair
a few dreams still stashed in a frayed pocket

my years a deluge of memories
hoping that this levee doesn’t break.                                        

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

poem of the day 11.05.14

to an unsatisfied customer

i should thank you
for bothering to read the book in the first place
even though you won it for free
and it cost me two bucks to mail it to you
while all you just had to do was
sit on your ass and wait for the postman
maybe you don’t read enough poetry
to “get it”
but you certainly took the time out of your day
to trash me on
oh…and goodreads too
a two star review?
i’m not up to your standards for sure
obviously where you come from
adorable eats adorable and
some captivated cannoli: a charmed bakery thriller
are proustian in nature
at least that’s what your reviews have lead me to believe
i’ll have to check them out
the next time someone offers to give me a lobotomy
or stick a hard cold pole up my ass
i probably shouldn’t bitch
i mean you did say
that the book was okay
granted it was no shitake happens
or squashed: why men don’t have to make our break you
you know, the kind of shit that can really speak to you
but how can i keep up with those masters
hanging around on your book shelf?
i guess you get what you pay for in this life
and you struck out this time
maybe the next time
you sign up for another handout on another web site
another freebie sent to you
from some broke jack-ass like me
trying to hustle up just one more reader
in order to make my daily suicide
in front of this machine more palpable
read the fine print, babe
see if it’s something that matches your wit
your verve
you keen discerning eye
for great literature
instead of just saying, gimme gimme gimme                              

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

poem of the day 11.04.14

dave the pimp

was kind
when we ran into him
two in the morning
outside of the liberty avenue porn shop

he wasn’t panhandling us white boys
he was understanding
dave the pimp wanted to know our needs
instead of just pushing product

although he did ask if we liked black girls or white girls

but pittsburgh was a cultural wasteland
when it came to latina women
and there weren’t many asian hookers around
in western pennsylvania
so there really weren’t a lot of other options

calvin said that it didn’t matter
because when it came to sex what did it matter?

spoken like a true virgin, i said to steve

as we headed up toward the ramada
dave the pimp asked if we liked music
calvin said that he liked new edition

i hear that, i hear that, dave said

he stated pushing concert tickets and bootlegs on us
he seemed less a friend than before

secretly i wanted dave the pimp
from back at the porn shop and not this hustler
but i wasn’t paying for it anyway that night

when we got to the ramada i officially opted out
dave the pimp thought that i was a bitch, i could tell
he said, i ain’t even talking to you
even when i tried to tell him about the girl i’d been seeing

he told calvin and steve
that he could do the two of them for thirty
really hot girls just waiting for them inside the ramada
so calvin handed over forty dollars

dave the pimp shoved the cash in his pocket
because he knew a good deal when he saw one
he could spot a sucker from a mile away

when steve said, wait, where’s our change?
like he was at the 7-11 buying a big gulp

dave the pimp said
forty, take it or leave it

he was a shell of the kind and understanding man
that we’d met outside the liberty avenue porn shop

steve said, that isn’t fair
because he was still living in a democracy

but calvin said that it was his money
so it was all right

that’s when steve opted out too
and dave the pimp told him
i ain’t even talking to you either

we let calvin go off with him
we weren’t being bad friends
the suburbs had just warped our sense of security

but before we could question ourselves
calvin and dave the pimp
came sprinting around the other side of the ramada

dave was wearing a different t-shirt
and calving was trying to take off his

jesus christ, steve said
what in the hell happened?

calvin said, they called the cops

because of his motherfucker shouting,
dave the pimp said, pointing at steve

so no pussy? steve said

no pussy, calvin said

none whatsoever, dave the pimp added

then give us back the forty bucks, steve said

what forty bucks? dave the pimp said
just as a red-jacketed security guard from the ramada
came outside on a walkie-talkie

dave the pimp sat down on a concrete flower bed
and began picking his nails
steve kept shouting at him about the money

man, the suburbs had warped our sense of entitlement as well

when the sirens sounded i took off
i ran a block away from the ramada
and then down under an overpass near the monongahela river

there were a shit-ton of shopping carts
and old clothing scattered about
like an old hooverville

i could still hear steve shouting
at dave the pimp about calvin’s money

but then soon he and calvin were with me in the hooverville

we’d never seen a thing like this in the suburbs
we hung out there for almost a half-hour
steve yelling and calvin crying about his parents

we walked back to the car quickly
because three white boys
in downtown pittsburgh in the middle of the night
was enough to make the papers

then we drove around for another hour
looking for dave the pimp

although we never found him

by the time steve dropped me off
the sun was coming up over my neighborhood
a couple of dads were coming home
from their night

one of them sleeping it off in his car
the other smoking a j on his front porch

we nodded to each other

i had one last smoke on the porch
as the leaves blew

while dave the pimp was somewhere else in the city
spending calvin’s money

then i went inside


Monday, November 3, 2014

poem of the day 11.03.14

human resilience
and the fine art of privacy

there is so much love gone wrong

on these trains
on these streets

on any given day of the week
there is a different drama being played out

some bad actor crying into her cell phone
some pouty boy shouting into his

so much love gone wrong
and played out in the public sphere

human resilience
and the fine art of privacy
being taken over by impulse and need

you see them screaming at stop lights
or shouting down the aisle in the grocery store

relationships ending between
the frozen foods and the processed meats

between tire rotations
or in line at the DMV

so many of us willing to bear ourselves
so nakedly out there

the thin line between cell phone love and hate
available for public consumption

as if we are the only ones within
one hundred miles of each other

creating and destroying
our own little universes

crowding out and contaminating
the one we’re leaving behind.